Seven Southeastern Conference football teams are nationally ranked this week, which can make for some interesting football games. Of course, seven are not ranked, and when one from Column Ranked meets one from Column unranked, things can get ugly.
This week’s “Flawless SEC Football Selections” feature begins with one of those ranked vs. non-ranked.
Alabama football players asked about the importance of the Third Saturday in October this week almost had to fake it. It’s just another week, another opponent for Crimson Tide players. After all, the players and coaches on this team have known nothing but victory over Tennessee, including the last two years in which Bama has prevailed by 31 points in each game.
The two men who have done the most to take the drama out of Alabama-Tennessee will be in Neyland Stadium when the Crimson Tide takes on the Vols at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central) Saturday with ESPN televising. Former UT Coach Phillip Fulmer, who won a national championship with a tainted quarterback while working in secret to have the NCAA penalize Alabama, will be honored at halftime. Alabama Coach Nick Saban, who has beaten the Vols every year, will be on the Crimson Tide sideline, where he is best in the nation.
Tennessee’s Derek Dooley coached from the press box last week as he recovers from hip surgery. He said this week he’d take the advice of his doctor as to whether to sit in the press box or stand on the sideline. Dooley has coached at about the same level from both spots, which is why Tennessee is 3-3 overall and 0-3 in SEC games.
Alabama is 6-0 (3-0 SEC) and ranked first in the nation and it will show Saturday, keeping the 31-point margin trend going against a terrible Vols defense. Alabama 31, Tennessee a doughnut.
You have to get up early in the morning if you’re going to beat Auburn. And that’s what teams have been doing. The Tigers’ dumpster fire of a season (1-5 overall, 0-4 SEC) means they get those early telecasts, this week against Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-3) at 11:20 a.m. CDT in Nashville on the SEC Network. The teams have an all-time record of 20-20-1, and Vandy is the favorite Saturday.
There’s a temptation to pick the upset. The headline Sunday morning, “AUBURN UPSETS VANDY!” would be almost as humiliating to the Tigers as a loss. Auburn has many, many, many more athletes than the Commodores, but the Tigers must be the most poorly coached team in the nation. Vanderbilt 24, Auburn 20.
A key national game is in Gainesville, where third-ranked Florida (6-0, 5-0 SEC) hosts seventh/ninth-ranked South Carolina (6-1, 4-1) at 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 central) on CBS. Florida has been the surprise team of the league and catches the Gamecocks coming off a tough loss to LSU and possibly without star tailback Marcus Lattimore.
Surprisingly, both teams are winning primarily with defense, although both also have quarterbacks who have performed well. The winner of this game is the clear leader for the SEC East championship. This is the end of a very tough three-game stretch for South Carolina, which defeated Georgia, then lost at LSU, and now goes to Florida. Florida 31, South Carolina 14.
What do LSU (6-1, 2-1) and Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1) have in common? Both have one loss, both victims of Florida. Beyond that, they are quite a bit different. LSU, which didn’t get its quarterback problems solfed with Zach Mettenberger, is winning with defense. The Aggies definitely have a quarterback in freshman sensation Johnny Manziel.
Last week Manziel led the Aggies to a 59-57 win over a nice Louisiana Tech team. This week A&M takes on an entirely different team from Louisiana at 11 a.m. CDT with ESPN televising the game. Overall, sixth-ranked LSU probably has better players. But A&M, ranked 19th in one poll, 20th in the other, has Johnny Football and LSU has Les Miles. Our upset pick is Texas A&M 28, LSU 24.
Georgia Coach Mark Richt wins a lot of games because it seems the Bulldogs are always playing someone like Kentucky. That’s the case this week as Georgia (5-1, 3-1) is in Lexington to take on the Wildcats (1-6, 0-4). Kickoff is at 7 p.m. EDT (6 central) with FoxSports televising. Word from the Bluegrass State is that despite the record, Wildcats fans want to keep Coach Joker Phillips. Ironically, despite an overall fine winning percentage at 12th-ranked Georgia, the Bulldogs faithful include a large number who want to dump Richt. Anyone wishing to see a close race needs to pop out to Keeneland in the afternoon. Georgia 41, Kentucky 17.
Speaking of Bulldogs, 14th ranked Mississippi State (6-0, 3-0) knows something about scheduling victories, too. MSU has already played three non-conference games – against Jackson State, Troy, and South Alabama. This week the Bullies host Middle Tennessee (4-2) in their final non-conference game of the year, and this may be the toughest of the bunch of patsies. Still, if this was a schoolyard, the lunch money would be changing hands. The game is at 6 p.m. CDT on ESPN2. Mississippi State 45, Middle Tennessee 21.