We're really coming down the stretch of the season, and most teams are still playing for something, either for championships or bowl position. Here in Week 12, only LSU's opponent, Ole Miss, cannot make it to a bowl game. Here is the preview of this week's games:
Florida Atlantic at Florida and University of Louisiana-Monroe at Bama. Bama will get to win #7 and a near-certain bowl bid unless there is a serious breakdown of epic proportions. Florida will reach win #8 and position itself for a Dec. 31-or-later bowl game. Neither Florida Atlantic nor ULM are even particularly strong cupcakes, and I expect these games to be well in-hand by halftime.
Kentucky at Georgia, 11:30am, Lincoln-Financial. Once again, Lincoln-Financial gets a huge game. Just a couple weeks ago, Georgia was an enigma of a team that got stomped by Tennessee and that beat Vandy by 3 points. Now, all of a sudden, they're one of the hottest teams in the country, having gone on a 4 game winning streak that included big wins over Auburn and Florida. They have one of the best young running backs in the country, and one of the best young quarterbacks around. I still think their defense and their offensive line are suspect though. And Kentucky, despite recent woes, still has one of the best set of skill players in the country, and a defense that surprised me with its intensity and physicality. They are more than capable of beating Georgia and ending ALL of Georgia's high hopes. A loss by Georgia means it cannot go to the SECCG, and will not go to a BCS bowl. A win by Georgia eliminates Florida from the SECCG, and Georgia would still need help from Vandy or Kentucky (in the form of beating Tennessee) to make it to the SECCG.
Mississippi State at Arkansas, 1:00pm, no television. Both of these teams sit at 6 wins and are trying to get to 7, which will make them, I think, bowl safe. Both of these teams have something to market to a bowl committee even with 6 wins, but I don't think either one of them is a safe bet to make it unless they get to 7. MSU is one of the feel-good stories of the year in the country, and Arkansas is one of the feel-bad stories. MSU is overachieving, winning for a coach who was in great danger of being fired, and is emerging as one of the fun young teams to watch. Arkansas is coming off a tumultuous offseason, has underachieved for a coach under fire, and has failed to perform around its Heisman Trophy-calibre player. And yet, both sit at 6 wins, ready for more. This is actually a pretty good and pretty even matchup, and I wish it was on television, but it isn't.
Vandy at Tennessee, 1:00pm, GamePlan. There isn't an SEC game on television after the CBS game this week. What is ESPN doing? This game is important to the SEC race and it can't get past the GamePlan schedule? Tennessee, of course, controls its destiny in the SEC East. If they win out, they're in the Championship Game against LSU. If they lose a game, that opens the door for either Georgia or Florida to make it. Vandy is sitting at 5 wins, with an uphill battle to get to a bowl game. If they lose this one, they get a decent Wake Forest team next, and only 6 wins by no means guarantees a bowl game this year. Vandy needs to play as if they MUST win this game, because honestly they probably really do need this game in order to make it to a bowl. Despite the 5 wins, Vandy is probably the most disappointing team of the season. I really expected them to be more competitive and to beat a good team or two. They beat South Carolina, but that team was in the middle of an epic collapse. I don't think either of these teams are very good, but Tennessee is better.
LSU at Ole Miss, 2:30pm CBS. There's not a single night game in the SEC this week. I find that bizarre. I usually don't talk about LSU games in this segment, but I've been distracted from talking about it until now. What do I think of Ole Miss? I think they're better than their record. They're 0-6 in the conference, but they have been in some games against teams that pushed us to the limit. They lost to Florida by 6 points, and to Bama by 3. They've also played some bad games, losing to Vandy by 14 and to Arkansas by 36. I think their quarterback is not bad at all. He has more passing yards than Matt Flynn, though he's averaging less per attempt and cannot run. He's got some young receivers who do some amazingly athletic things sometimes. Their passing game has struggled a lot in the last few games though, with completion percentages under 50%, and averaging less than 100 yards per game. I don't have any explanation for that collapse other than the possibility that the loss to Bama simply took all the starch out of them.
Ole Miss's defense has some good players. Greg Hardy and Marcus Tillman are both very good defensive linemen, and Chris Strong is going to be a very good linebacker at some point. But right now their defense lacks size and athleticism at other positions, and that means we can probably beat them with our receivers and our offensive athleticism.
Keep in mind though that Ole Miss plays its season for a chance to beat us. This is their bowl game. It's their opportunity to make a mark on the college football world this year. I think we can expect Ole Miss to come out and play its best game, particularly on defense. Of course, LSU is also playing for a lot, and I don't think the Miles rumors are going to impact this particular game. Maybe next week though.