Week 12 In The SEC: Manziel vs. LSU; Missouri Tries To Stay Alive In The SEC East
Last Saturday’s showdown on the Plains between Auburn and Georgia gave us a Hail Mary that will forever be replayed in the years ahead. While that game was finished up on South Carolina’s video board in Columbia, the Gamecocks had a tussle with the Florida Gators. Florida made the South Carolina crowd uneasy and uncomfortable after they received the help from Auburn but the Gamecocks prevailed and kept their dreams of going to Atlanta alive. James Franklin led Vanderbilt to another bowl-eligible season after the Commodores beat Mark Stoops’ Kentucky Wildcats 22-6 in Nashville. Alabama, off an emotional win against rival LSU, slogged its way to a victory over Mississippi State after the Bulldogs kept it close in Starkville. Week 13 in the SEC features a juggernaut match-up between LSU and Texas A&M, a match-up with huge SEC East implications, Missouri-Ole Miss, and a rivalry game between the Vols and the Commodores:
Mississippi State at Arkansas – 12:21 pm ET – ESPN3
Arkansas is a home underdog as the Mississippi State Bulldogs travel to play the Razorbacks on Saturday. 1st year head coach Brett Bielema is still looking for his first SEC win and this weekend will be his last chance as the Razorbacks travel to Baton Rouge next weekend. Arkansas’ 3-0 start feels like ages ago and the lone bright spot this year has been true Freshman running back Alex Collins, who has rushed for 946 yards through 10 games while splitting carries. Collins also leads the Razorbacks in rushing touchdowns and the running game will have to get going against a good Mississippi State defensive line if Arkansas wants to have a chance. Mississippi State has been banged up all year at the QB position and the availability of the two guys who have started games this season for the Bulldogs, Dak Prescott and Tyler Russell, is iffy for tomorrow afternoon. Mississippi State, 4-6 (1-5), kept it close with the two-time defending National Champions last weekend in Starkville. The Bulldogs defensive line dominated the Crimson Tide offensive line at times, but the Mississippi State offense just couldn’t produce enough points to achieve the upset.
#12 Texas A&M at #22 LSU – 3:30 pm ET – CBS
Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M start a big 2-game stretch in Baton Rouge Saturday afternoon to try and make something of this season. Earlier this week Manziel said, “I want nothing more than to win these next two games and to get into a good bowl game and go 10-2 in another regular season. I can’t even put into words how bad I want that for seniors on this team and for this team in general”. The Aggies have scored more than 50 points in its past three games, all wins, and Manziel has had 19 straight games of 300-plus total yards. The problem this season for Texas A&M has been their dreadful defense, allowing 578 yards per game and 49.2 points per game, easily leading the SEC in both categories. LSU is coming off a bye week where the hoped to shore up some of the problems on defense after allowing 38 points to Alabama two weeks ago. On offense, QB Zach Mettenberger looks to continue his phenomenal chemistry with his top two WRs, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. This game is key because the winner keeps their hopes alive for a potential bid in a BCS bowl, or at least a spot in a top-tier bowl game.
Kentucky at Georgia – 7 pm ET – ESPNU
Georgia, ravaged by injuries, has been able to keep it close and compete all year long with teams like South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn. Last Saturday’s brutal loss to Auburn on the Plains just added on to the layers of adversity the Bulldogs have faced this season. To close out their 2013, nightmare SEC season, the ‘Dawgs get a bad Kentucky team at home. Georgia QB Aaron Murray had one of his best performances of his career last season vs. Kentucky as he threw for 427 yards and 3 touchdowns, while completing close to 80% of his passes. Kentucky is 95th in the nation in passing yards and 78th in rushing, while failing to crack the top 75 in scoring offense as well. Dual-threat Kentucky QB Jahlen Whitlow leads the Wildcats in passing and rushing and has been the best offensive weapon Kentucky has been able to muster this season. On defense, the Wildcats have DE Alvin Dupree, a Georgia native, who has 9 tackles for loss this season while also adding 7 sacks to the stat book. Kentucky has no shot this Saturday as it will be a very emotional Senior night in Athens, and Georgia is still a decent football team with a star quarterback and the Wildcats have yet to beat anyone from the FBS this season.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee – 7:00 pm ET – ESPN2
Vanderbilt will head into Neyland Stadium Saturday night and try to beat the Vols for the second year in a row. The last time the Commodores beat the Vols two years in a row was 1925-1926 and Vandy has only won twice in Knoxville in the last 38 years. WR Jordan Matthews, a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation’s top receiver, was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after catching a career-high 12 passes for 141 yards in a 22-6 win over Kentucky last Saturday. Vandy’s defense has been on fire lately, forcing 16 turnovers in its last 4 games, becoming 2nd in the SEC in takeaways. Tennessee RB Rajon Neal has been vital for the UT offense this season and he’ll continue to be depended on as once again true Freshman QB Joshua Dobbs will start for the Volunteers. Tennessee’s defense is last in the SEC in sacks so LB AJ Johnson will have to be flying around for the Vols to have a chance. This summer at SEC Media Days, talented, but out-spoken, Tennessee OT Antonio “Tiny” Richardson had this to say about Vanderbilt, “I mean, give Vanderbilt credit. They went, what was it, 9-4 or something like that last year? I mean, they’re on the come up right now, but the thing is, we’re Tennessee. Us losing to Vanderbilt, that happens every so often. But it’s not happening again. I promise you that”. Vanderbilt beat Tennessee 41-18 last season in Nashville and the ‘Dores will attempt to make Richardson look like a fool on the Volunteers’ Senior Night this season.
#8 Missouri at #24 Ole Miss – 7:45 pm ET – ESPN
QB James Franklin will return from his shoulder injury this weekend in Oxford and replace freshman Maty Mauk. Mauk did a phenomenal job, winning 3 of 4 at the helm for the Tigers and keeping them afloat in the SEC East race. Missouri gets Franklin back for their final stretch that pits the Tigers versus two ranked teams and just one slip-up on either Saturday sends South Carolina to the SEC Championship game. If Franklin and Missouri can beat #24 Ole Miss and then #9 Texas A&M next weekend in Columbia, and then Alabama/Auburn in the SEC Championship game, the Tigers might find themselves in Pasadena playing for the BCS National Championship. You could say Ole Miss has three “good losses”, a 25-0 loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa and then two losses to #6 Auburn and #9 Texas A&M by a combined 11 points. Ole Miss is one of the most underrated teams in the nation and I’m glad the country will get to see that Saturday night. During the Rebels’ current four-game winning streak the offense has averaged 42.8 points per game while also gaining at least 500 yards of total offense in each game. Ole Miss will be playing the role of spoiler as they try to gain 9 wins in coach Hugh Freeze’s 2nd season in Oxford.
Coastal Carolina at #11 South Carolina – 1:00 pm ET -ESPN3
Georgia Southern at Florida – 2:00 pm ET – ESPN3
University of Tennessee-Chattanooga at #1 Alabama – 2:00 pm ET – ESPN3