After a less than impressive slate of games this week, we have made it to rivalry week. Some teams are playing their biggest conference rival, some teams are playing their biggest non conference rival. Either way, I will have a tougher time this week.
As a review, last week I went 9-3 with my picks, 8-1 in SEC games, missing the Tennessee-Vanderbilt game, and again, I struggled with the Next Best 3 segment. I went 1-2, missing Baylor over Oklahoma and USC over Oregon. My overall record over the last four weeks is now 30-9. I have now missed five of my last six Next Best 3 games. Hopefully I can improve both my overall record and my Next Best 3 record as well.
Last week was complete and total chaos. Just when we thought we had a grasp of what our National Championship Game would look, Oregon and Oklahoma took themselves out of contention, and Oklahoma State certainly didn't help their cause.
Now we sit with three teams from the SEC West ranked 1-2-3 in all polls. I've tried to go through every scenario to avoid a rematch, but now it almost seems unavoidable unless Arkansas can beat LSU, and Georgia wins the SEC Championship.
But, Oklahoma State still has a shot, even if LSU and Bama win out.
They obviously have to beat Oklahoma. That's much easier said than done, but if they beat Oklahoma, it could(and hopefully will) sway enough human voters to move them ahead of Alabama. Oklahoma State already has the computers on their side. They just need to convince enogh human voters.
If they beat Oklahoma, it would give them the title of Big 12 Champion, and to a lot human voters, that means a lot. Also avoiding a rematch could be enough to sway the voters as well.
I can't see Stanford or Virginia Tech jumping Bama unless of course, Bama loses.
Let's get to some games
The These are Rivalry Games, but Lack Being Interestings
Tennessee @ Kentucky- This is basically a battle to avoid finishing last in the SEC East. Tennessee has a lot riding on this game. If they win, they become bowl eligible, which is something I didn't think was possible atthe beginning of the season, and something they should see as a positive. For the game, Tennessee has won now 26(I think) straight games against Kentucky, and I think they are a better team all the way around this season. On offense, Tennessee now has Tyler Brey back. Tennessee's offense isn't very good, but they have shown the ability to put up points against weak defenes, and getting Brey back provided a spark for them last week. Also, Tennessee isn't a bad team defensively. They've held good offenses in check this season, and Kentucky can't run or pass to begin with. Tennessee keeps the streak alive against Kentucky, Tennessee wins 31-14
Vanderbilt @ Wake Forest- This has been a surprise season for Vanderbilt. If they lose this game, they still exceded expectations, but if they win, they become bowl eligible for the second time in five years. For most programs, that isn't very good, but for Vanderbilt, it's the best they've done in decades. For the game, I don't expect a lot of scoring. Vanderbilt has shown to be a solid defensive unit this season. It's a defense that has kept them in games against Georgia, Arkansas and Florida. On offense, Vanderbilt has been average at best. Stacey gives them a decent run game, but no where near elite, so while I do think they can hold Wake's one dimensional offense in check, I think Wake has a good enough offense to keep Vandy's one dimensional offense in check. In the end, I have to take the team that has a better defense, and the team that has the most to play for, and that team is Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt wins 17-14
Ole Miss @ Mississippi State- Last week was a perfect example of just how pathtic of a team Ole Miss is. They can't score on offense, and they couldn't stop a Pop Warner team on defense. Mississippi State isn't a great team by any stretch of the imagination, but they are better than their record indicates, and if nothing else, theydo have a good running back in Vick Ballard to go with a decent defense. They kept Bama in check. I look for the same ole same ole for Ole Mss, and that is making weak offenses look good and making average defenses look like the 85 Bears. Mississippi State wins 28-3
The This Rivalry has Seen Better Days
Florida State @ Florida- Both of these teams have severely disappointed this season. At one point, Florida State was ranked in the top 5 and were favorites to win the ACC. Three straight losses early in the season, including a loss to Wake Forest has set them back a bit. They looked to be righting the ship, then they lost to Virginia. Florida at one point was ranked 12th, looking like they were SEC East contenders. A brutal schedule, and losing Brantley for a few games set them back. Neither team is playig much other than bragging rights, both are already bowl eligible, and this game can't effect their conference standing. Florida State statistically has a top 10 defense, and a very good passing game. Florida's offense hasn't looked good, even with Brantley at QB. They do have a decent defense, but it's not on Florida State's level. I think Florida State can hold Florida's offense in check, and score enough to steal a win in the Swamp. Florida State wins 21-14
The This Rivalry has Rarely Seen Better Days
Clemson @ South Carolina- I haven't read the history book, but I don't remember the last time both of the teams came to the season finale ranked in the top 20. Clemson started the season like a house on fire with impressive wins over Auburn and Virginia Tech, but they have came back to Earth a bit with a loss to Georgia Tech and a domnating loss against North Carolina State. As you know, South Carolina has had to get things done without Marcus Lattimore the last few weeks, but aside from the Arkansas game, they haven't really fell off that much, which has been surprising to me. Their offense has taken a hit which was to be expected, but their defense played well enough to give them wins against Tennessee and Florida. For the game, South Carolina comes in the hotter team. Clemson has lost two of three. South Carolina will have the home crowd behind them, and Steve Spurrier on the sidelines. South Carolina has played very physical on defense all season, and I expect them to hold Boyd in check. Brandon Wild has done a decent job filling in for Lattimore, and I expect them to score enough to beat Clemson. South Carolina wins 24-21
Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate
Georgia @ Georgia Tech- A rivalry that dates back over 100 years, and both teams legitimately hate each other. Georgia has dominated the rivalry over the last 10 years. They've gone 9-1 in that time frame. Georgia Tech brings th triple option to the table, but Georgia was able to hold it in check the last couple of seasons with defenses that didn't have the speed or the skill this season's defense has. Georgia has one of the best run defenses in the SEC. They held Florida to -19 yars on the ground, and Auburn didn't fair much better. I know Georgia Tech has a much more dynamic running game, but they also have any passing game to speak of. Georgia should be able to focus on the run, and use their speed to slow down the option. Georgia will need to score if they want to win on Saturday, even if Georgia holds the option in check most of the game, it's almost a given that at least a couple long runs will come from the option. Georgia Tech's average defense help's Georgia's cause. I'm not sure of Crowell's status for the game, but they do have Brandon Harton, who has impressed when he's had chances to play. Plus Aaron Murray has been making a case for the best QB in the SEC. He doesn't have an elite WR to throw to, but he does have a multitude of solid recievers to throw to along with Orson Charles, an excellent recieving TE. In the end, I like Georgia's much more balanced offense and better defense to come out on top this game. Georgia extends their winning streak to 10. Georgia wins 35-28
The Iron Bowl
Alabama @ Auburn- Under normal circumstances, this would be the game of the week. After all, it is the biggest rivalry in the SEC, and argualy the biggest rivalry in the country. ESPN even made a 30-30 film about it. But, this season, Auburn comes to the game with four losses. The last real game they played was an epic beatdown by Georgia, and they have virtually no momentum heading into the game. They can't pass the ball, and good defenses hve shut their run game and Dyer down. On defense, they can't stop a good running back, and they struggle against the pass. The only thing that keeps Auburn in this game is that this is a rivalry game, so anything can happen, and they have home field advantage. In the end, I don't think that will be enough to derail Alabama's hopes for a shot at the title game. A one trick pony on offense playing against a defense like Alabama just spells disaster. Dyer, and the rest of the running game will be shut down by Alabama's number one ranked defense, you can bet that. It's not like Auburn was a threat to beat Bama through the air to begin with, but testing Bama's secondary with a bellow average QB is just another recipe for disaster. I would be surprised if Auburn scored double digits in this game. We all know that Alabama isn't exactly a juggernaut on offense, but they do have Trent Richardson, who will be looking to help his case for the Heisman. I don't think Auburn has the skill on defense to stop a great runningback like Richardson. Richardson will have a big game, rushing for over 150 yards with at least two TDs to build his resume. McCarron isn't the most gifted QB, but he doesn't have to light up the scoreboard. He just needs to make throws when he needs to and not turn the ball over. That's what he's done pretty much all season, and I don't see this game being any different. Alabama wins 42-7
Game of the Week
Arkansas @ LSU- Friday afternoon special. The number one and number three ranked teams in the country by every notable poll out there. The BCS, and SEC West division races have a lot hanging on the outcome of this game. If Arkansas wins, it would create a three way tie in the SEC West, and would likely move Bama in position to play Georgia for the SEC Championship. If Arkansas wants to jump Bama in BCS rankings, they are going to have to handily beat LSU given Bama has already beaten Arkansas pretty badly this season. For Arkansas to make the SEC Championship with the tiebreaker in place, they would have to jump Bama, and somehow, LSU would have to stay ahead of Bama. The tiebreaker states the in the event of a three way tie for a division, where all losses are against the teams that are tied, the third ranked team according to the BCS is eliminated, while the top 2 teams, assuming they are within five places of each other will be decided by head to head. What it amounts to for Arkansas is, they need to win obviously, and in all likelihood, Bama will have to lose to Auburn for Arkansas to play in the SEC Championship game. For LSU, obviously, they just need to win and not worry about what Bama does.
For the game, LSU's defense is going to have to be on their toes the entire game. Arkansas is fairly one dimensional on offense, but Tyler Wilson is arguably the best QB in the SEC, and he has plenty of weapons to throw to. He has four talented WRs to go with an underrated TE, who are all capable of having breakout games. LSU can't leave any of them open. While Arkansas' bread and butter is the pass, Dennis Johnson has been getting nearly seven yards per carry, so they can't totally ignore the run game either. Arkansas has gotten better as the season has went on. Early on, they had some scares against teams like Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, where they needed to make comebacks to win. But, they have stepped up on their first half defense the last several weeks, and they are coming off three straight dominating performances against South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State. If Arkansas plays defense like they have the last few games, they have a shot at winning this game. With that said, LSU still has the second ranked defense in the country, they have shut down virtually every team they have faced, and that includes teams with just as much fire power on offense as Arkansas in Oregon and West Virginia. Forcing turnovers has been LSU's bread and butter on defense. If they can force Wilson to make some bad throws that turn into interceptions, or force some fumbles, LSU will be extremely hard to beat. LSU wins games with an amazing defense and an average offense. On offense, LSU needs to do what they've done all season. Run the ball the majority of the time, set up managable third downs, and make passes when needed, keep the chains moving and win the time of possession battle. Winning the time of possession battle is key for LSU. The less time Arkansas' offense is on the field, the better off they'll be. In the end, I do look for LSU to win the turnover battle, and the time of possession battle. I thnk they have enough plymakers on defense to hold Arkanas' offense in check. I'm expecting a defensive TD, and the offense doing just enough to get the win. LSU wins 28-21
The Next Best 3
Notre Dame @ Stanford- I can't say that I'm an expert of Pac 12 or Notre Dame football. A better, more in depth breakdown will be found on Orac's Pac 12 and the Next Best 3 later on this week. I do know that Stanford has to win th game to keep their slim Pac 12 and BCS title gme deams alive, and I do know thy have a solid running game to go with the most hyped QB in recent memory, Andrew Luck. Stanford's defense is a bit questionable, so I see this game being a shootout, and I think Stanford comes out on top. Stanford wins 42-35
Penn State @ Wisconsin- Again, I'm not a B1G expert, a better, more in depth breakdown can be found on Rudedog's Big Ten and the Next Best 3 later on his week. The winner of this game represents the Leaders Division in the B1G Championship game, so a lot is riding on the game. Penn State still has a top defense, but on offense they have a lot to be desired. Wisconsin has enough firepower on offense to hang a crooked number on a lot of teams. Wisconsin wins 28-14
Ohio State @ Michigan- Refer to the first sentence of the Penn State-Wisconin prediction. This is arguably the biggest rivalry in college sports, so records can be thrown out the window. But, Michigan has a great defense, and Ohio State can't pass the ball. Michigan should keep Ohio State from scoring too much, and on offense, Michigan has put up some big numbers this season. Michigan wins 38-21