one missed point that may or may not be a factor in the a&m-la tech game is la tech basically has the 2nd worst defense in the nation behind baylor. a&m has given up yards, but not many points this season. the aggie's defense isn't great, but it's much better than la tech (assuming they aren't too depleted this week). the difference between victory and defeat will probably be a defensive stop or two, and a&m is more capable of providing that than la tech.
Here’s your weekly rundown of all the SEC action on tap for Week Seven of the regular season. As always, you’ll find everything from TV listings to the betting lines to our own predictions.
Enjoy the games, be safe, and best of luck to your favorite school this weekend.
Auburn at Ole Miss
12:21pm ET on SEC Network
Opening Line: UM -1
Current Line: UM -5.5
Storylines: Ole Miss will be looking to finally snap a 16-game SEC losing streak when the Tigers visit. Hugh Freeze continues to voice displeasure over QB Bo Wallace’s decision-making, but after a failed 4th down try on the Rebels’ end of the field helped Texas A&M race past UM last week, Ole Miss fans might not be too thrilled with their head coach’s decision-making. For Auburn, the Tigers will be looking to get their own fans (and possibly Satan, if you listen to Gene Chizik’s wife) off their backs. That BCS title two years ago was nice and all, but SEC boosters don’t like watching their teams open 1-4. Ever.
Keys for Auburn: Pick a quarterback, running back and punt returner. Then hope the old or new faces selected to will improve over last week’s horrific 24-7 home loss to struggling Arkansas. QB Clint Moseley finally saw game action last week but he performed about the same as QB Kiehl Frazier. Whoever’s behind center will need better protection from their offensive line. The Tigers have given up an SEC-worst 17 sacks on the season (including eight last week). Well guess who’s second in the SEC in recording sacks. Uh-huh. Ole Miss has gotten to the quarterback 17 times. Not a good sign for the Tigers.
Keys for Ole Miss: Run the football and protect it. The Rebels are fourth in the SEC in rushing offense while Auburn is dead last in rush defense (allowing 189 yards per game). Wallace, RB Jeff Scott and crew roll up an average of 213 yards per game and nearly five yards per carry. Tiger tackling has been a problem and Ole Miss needs to take advantage. The Rebels have turned the ball over 15 times on the season and are minus-one in turnover margin. No wonder Freeze isn’t happy. But Auburn is 14th in the league in turnover margin and has lost the ball a whopping 17 times. Run the ball and protect the ball and the Rebels should finally snap their long losing streak.
Pick: Ole Miss 27, Auburn 20
Alabama at Missouri
3:30pm ET on CBS
Opening Line: UA -17.5
Current Line: UA -21
Storylines: Missouri is beat all to hell with a hodge-podge offensive line and backup quarterback. They’ll be facing the SEC’s most physical team in Alabama. Gary Pinkel and Nick Saban have known each other for years and that might be the only thing that keeps tomorrow’s game from getting very, very ugly.
Keys for Alabama: Be Alabama. The Tide leads the SEC in turnover margin, total defense, scoring defense, and rushing defense. Their weak link? Their #2 in the league in pass defense. In other words, they have no weak links. So long as Bama doesn’t start turning the ball over or overlook the Tigers, this one should have all the suspense of watching your weird friend’s python take down a mouse.
Keys for Missouri: Pray? There’s a good debate over which SEC team has been hurt most by attrition — Mizzou, Kentucky, Arkansas or LSU. LSU, obviously, is the best equipped to deal with such hardships. Missouri? Not so much. The tried-and-true approach — run the ball, force turnovers and stress special teams sounds nice, but Alabama gives up just 65 yards per game rushing, they turn it over once every 105 plays, and they don’t give up long kick or punt returns. QB Corbin Berkstresser says he’ll be more composed than he was when he completed just nine-of-30 passes against Vanderbilt last week. If you’re not composed against Vandy, it’s unlikely you’ll stay jitter-free facing the Tide. If QB James Franklin were healthy, maybe Gary Pinkel’s up-tempo offense could put up a couple of scores on Bama a la Ole Miss. But Franklin isn’t healthy.
Pick: Alabama 38, Missouri 7
Florida at Vanderbilt
6:00pm ET on ESPNU
Opening Line: UF -8.5
Current Line: UF -9
Storylines: First, kudos to Vandy fans for selling out Dudley Field for the first time in four years. That’s a step in the right direction. As for the game, the Commodores might have saved their season with a win at Missouri last weekend. A bowl game is now back on the list of possibles for James Franklin’s squad. Florida, on the other hand, has basked all week in the glow of last weekend’s win over LSU. The Gators are sniffing rarefied air again with some computer geeks suggesting UF could be #1 in the BCS ratings when they debut. South Carolina will visit Gainesville next week and the Gators won’t play another game outside their home state the rest of the season. So might they have a let down versus Vandy?
Keys for Florida: Don’t bet on a let down. Will Muschamp has built his team in a Nick Saban fashion. Florida runs the ball, eats up time of possession, and wears down the opposition. Some numbers: Florida runs for 214 yards per game (VU allows 179 yards rushing per game). The Gators average 3.5 yards per carry in the first halves of games. That number balloons to 5.3 yards per carry in second half action. On Saturday, they simply need to do what they do best — use RB Mike Gillislee and others like a battering ram to wear down Vandy’s defensive front.
Keys for Vanderbilt: Somehow find a way to strike early, get the crowd into the game, create some confidence, and take advantage of every opportunity. Good luck with all that. The Commodores are #14 in the SEC in red zone conversions, they don’t force many turnovers (just five all season), and they aren’t known for long, quick strikes, either. On paper, this one shouldn’t be close. The best bet for the Dores is to hope the Florida fails to show up mentally.
Pick: Florida 28, Vanderbilt 10
Kentucky at Arkansas
7:00pm ET on FSN
Opening Line: UA -16
Current Line: UA -18.5
Storylines: This one’s the Crushed Ego Bowl. Kentucky because they’re playing like Kentucky again after a few bowl-bound seasons. They’ve already had to play four quarterbacks on the season and 42 of the 68 players on their travel roster will be sophomores of younger. You don’t win SEC road games with that kind of roster. Period. Not even when you’re playing a team that’s also battered and bruised… as Arkansas is. DE Tenarius Wright (a captain) and LB Alonzo Highsmith (the team’s leading tackler) were both lost this week for the rest of the year. Last week’s win at Auburn was a parachute game that stopped the Hogs’ free fall, but the Razorbacks still have, oh, so many problems.
Keys for Kentucky: Protect QB Jalen Whitlow and somehow find a way to move the ball with a short passing game. The Cats can’t run the ball (they’re #13 in the SEC ahead of only Arkansas) and their defense is giving up nearly 400 yards per contest. They can’t allow QB Tyler Wilson to pick them apart, so the best bet is to dial up a little West Coast offense and create a running game out of the short passing game. The Hogs are last in the SEC in pass defense. Trouble is, they’ve recorded 15 sacks on the year (eight last week) and UK has allowed 15 sacks on the year. The Hogs will probably bring the heat to Whitlow, which is just one more reason the Wildcats had better feature short, quick throws.
Keys for Arkansas: Let Wilson wing it. UK’s pass defense is a middle of the pack unit, but those numbers are aided by the fact that everyone runs on Kentucky. Everyone — Kent State, Western Kentucky, etc, etc. Wilson hasn’t been as good as hoped, but he’s had a whole lot of things go wrong around him. If the Hogs can throw a couple of quick haymakers at the Cats via the pass, a young Wildcat team may fold. Then even a run game as bad as Arkansas’ should be able to have some success on the ground.
Pick: Arkansas 37, Kentucky 14
South Carolina at LSU
8:00pm ET on ESPN
Opening Line: LSU -4
Current Line: LSU -3
Storylines: LSU hasn’t lost back-to-back games since November of 2008 (to Ole Miss and Arkansas). They haven’t lost at home in 21 contests, which is the nation’s longest home winning streak. South Carolina has jumped all the way to #3 in the nation and the Cocks are riding high after a thumping of Georgia last week. Things looked awfully easy for Steve Spurrier’s crew last Saturday. Was that the real Carolina team or did everything just fall into place for one big — yet deceptive — night?
Keys for South Carolina: Bring the pass rush and be ready for the Wildcat. LSU QB Zach Mettenberger hasn’t been as good as advertised this season and the Tigers have talked about trotting out some more Wildcat formations this week. With Carolina’s speed on defense, the Wildcat might not be of much help. LSU’s offensive line has been beaten up pretty good (as has the whole Tiger team for that matter). It’s hard to imagine them being able to fend off a USC pass rush that’s recorded 25 sacks — the most in the league by far — or open holes against the league’s second-best rush defense (Carolina is allowing just 83 yards per game).
Keys for LSU: Stop the run. And hydrate. LSU’s defense looked strong and mean in last week’s first half at Florida. The Tigers started losing more players — LB Kwon Alexander is done for the season — and Florida was able to run over, around and through John Chavis’ unit in the second half. Gamecock QB Connor Shaw threw just 10 passes last week (completing only six). Spurrier will likely use his legs and those of RB Marcus Lattimore to try and do to LSU what Florida did to LSU — wear them down and exploit a roster that’s just had too much dang attrition.
Pick: South Carolina 20, LSU 17
Tennessee at Mississippi State
9:00pm ET on ESPN2
Opening Line: MSU -1.5
Current Line: MSU -3
Storylines: Derek Dooley and his orange pants will be coaching from the pressbox tomorrow due to the coach’s hip surgery earlier this week. For a team that desperately needs a win, having to adjust to not having their head coach on the sideline could be an issue. Tennessee hasn’t been the toughest of teams mentally in recent years. For Dooley, this one might ultimately decide his fate in Knoxville. As for Mississippi State, we should finally get a little bit better read on just how good they really are. The Vols aren’t a great team, but they do have more weapons than most of the foes State has faced so far.
Keys for Tennessee: Protect the football. As noted above, UT appears to have more playmakers on paper than State. If QB Tyler Bray takes care of the ball, it might be tough for State to keep up in a track meet (even against the Vols’ porous D). MSU’s defense ranks near the middle of the pack in most categories but one… and that’s turnover margin. State is plus-11 on the season which ranks #2 in the SEC and #3 in America. The Bulldog secondary in particular boasts playmakers. Bray will have to make sure he doesn’t put too many balls up for grabs.
Keys for Mississippi State: MSU isn’t the zone-read team this year that they’ve been the previous three years under Dan Mullen. But with UT’s many, many communication issues on defense, the Bulldogs should use more Wildcat packages and quite a bit of misdirection. The Volunteers are equally bad — statistically speaking — at stopping the run and the pass, but their contain has been simply awful. RB LaDarius Perkins can help chew up clock and keep Bray and friends off the field. And if State can get to the outside, look out. The Vols can’t keep contain and State could have a big night.
Pick: Tennessee 28, Mississippi State 27
Texas A&M vs Louisiana Tech at Shreveport
9:15pm ET on ESPNU
Opening Line: A&M -6
Current Line: A&M -7.5
Storylines: “I went to a football game and a fireworks display broke out!” That could be the theme for this one. The Aggies come in ranked #22 and the Bulldogs are right behind them at #23. In terms of scoring offense, Tech is #3 (53 points per game) and A&M is #8 nationally (45 points per game). The teams rank 11th and 12th (with Tech on top) in the national total offense category. And both teams are fast-paced, up-tempo squads. (Nick Saban won’t want to watch this one.) Oh, and Louisiana Tech has the longest win streak in the nation right now at 12 games.
Keys for Texas A&M: Protect the football and win the quarterback matchup. These teams are both QB-driven squads. The Ags’ Johnny Manziel has passed for 1,285 yards and rushed for 495 more. The Bulldogs’ Colby Cameron has just 43 yards rushing, but he’s thrown for 1,456 yards with 13 touchdowns against zero — yep, zero — interceptions in 180 pass attempts. Thus the other key for A&M: Protect the ball. If one team has a clear advantage over the other in this game it comes in the area of turnover margin. A&M is even on the season. Louisiana Tech ranks #3 in the nation at plus-11 on the season. Manziel and Texas A&M should have a few more bullets in their gun, but they can’t afford to go shooting themselves in the foot or else a pretty good Tech team could surprise them.
Pick: Texas A&M 41, Louisiana Tech 34