Where: Fayetteville, Ark., Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
When: 2:30 p.m.
The blitz: After suffering a scare in their final home game of the season, the LSU Tigers should come out ready to go in this one. Even after giving up 35 points to Donte Moncrief and the Ole Miss offense, LSU’s defense still ranks top-10 in the country and should be able to contain the No. 88 scoring offense nationally – especially one that kills itself with turnovers. The Razorbacks are playing for little other than pride, while the Tigers have a BCS bowl bid potentially on the line. It’s unlikely Les Miles will need another inspired (and hilarious) post-game speech to media members.
Pick: LSU, 27-13
Georgia Tech (6-5) at No. 3 Georgia (10-1, 7-1)
Where: Athens, Ga., Sanford Stadium
The blitz: In terms of national importance, this game could not mean less to Georgia Tech. The
Yellow Jackets already clinched a spot in the ACC title game thanks to Miami’s self-imposed bowl ban, and, at 6-6, are simply playing for a more respectable middle-of-the-pack bowl. But for Georgia, everything is at stake, as the
Bulldogs are two wins away from playing for the BCS title. A week removed from facing Georgia Southern’s triple-option attack, Georgia’s 18th-ranked scoring defense should not be overmatched or confused by much. And points are never a problem against Paul Johnson’s defense. So it’s really a matter of avoiding injuries before the upcoming matchup with Alabama in the SEC title game.
Pick: Georgia, 41-17
Kentucky (2-9, 0-7) at Tennessee (4-7, 0-7)
Where: Knoxville, Tenn., Neyland Stadium
When: 12:21 p.m.
The blitz: It’s a shame this game took place so late in the season, because it could have provided an SEC win to bank on for both now-former coaches, Joker Phillips and Derek Dooley, each of whom were fired before logging a conference win this season. The Volunteers will have an interim coach on the sidelines for this one (Jim Chaney), and his team might just get a win against the toothless Wildcats’ offense. Kentucky is playing much more inspired than Tennesee – even carrying Phillips off the field after last week’s win – but as long as Tyler Bray gets back on track, the Volunteers’ offense will be too explosive.
The blitz: James Franklin has done one of the best jobs in the country this season, transforming Vanderbilt into an seven-win team already, so perhaps its fitting he travels to play another headman (Jim Grobe) who knows something about getting the most out of limited resources. The 2012 season has not been kind to the Demon Deacons, and the
Commodores balanced attack and disciplined defense does not spell out better news. Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews has been a matchup nightmare even for SEC opponents – 101.64 receiving yards per game, 12th nationally – so expect his quarterback, Jordan Rodgers, to find him early and often. Vanderbilt gets its sixth straight win.
Pick: Vanderbilt, 27-20
No. 4 Florida (10-1, 7-1) at No. 10 Florida State (10-1)
Where: Tallahassee, Fla., Doak Campbell Stadium
When: 3:30 p.m.
The blitz: Put this rivalry game right there with Georgia-Georgia Tech, Alabama-Auburn and Notre Dame-USC in terms of BCS implications. Both Florida schools still have a shot at the national title, especially if the No. 1 Irish are upset in Los Angeles Saturday. At No. 4 in the BCS standings, Florida has the best shot at the crystal ball, but has not played well offensively of late. Safe to say, the Gators’ performances against Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State will not suffice in keeping up with the 14th-ranked offense. Can Florida lean on its defense once more?
Pick: Florida State, 24-21
Auburn (3-8, 0-7) at No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1)
Where: Tuscaloosa, Ala., Bryant-Denny Stadium
When: 3:30 p.m.
The blitz: Let’s be honest here, nobody expects this one to be close. It will be surprising If this is even a three-score game at halftime, as the
Auburn Tigers have struggled to score on practically everyone, much less Nick Saban’s defense. With the Crimson Tide’s renewed season – Saban’s team needs just two wins to play for the national title – the home team will not take this one lightly. Barring uncharacteristic turnovers (like against Texas A&M), this one should be over quickly.
Pick: Alabama, 38-9
Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3) at Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5)
Where: Oxford, Miss., Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
When: 7 p.m.
The blitz: For the first time in years, the Egg Bowl features two intriguing teams, as Ole Miss’ revival and Mississippi State’s ongoing consistency under Dan Mullen continues. If both coaches stay put, this could be the first in a long line of interesting end-of-the-season rivalry games in Mississippi. The Rebels’ offense was clicking on most cylinders versus LSU last week, but was unable to close the game out with the upset. Mississippi State is not LSU, but the Bulldogs’ secondary will present quarterback Bo Wallace and his receivers with plenty resistance (4th-best turnover margin in the country). LaDarius Perkins’ versatility out of the backfield (10 total touchdowns) will be the key for Mullen’s squad to pull through.
Pick: Mississippi State, 31-24
No. 12 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2) at No. 11 Clemson (10-1)
Where: Clemson, S.C., Memorial Stadium
When: 7 p.m.
The blitz: A Tigers’ home game – at not-the-real Death Valley, according to Steve Spurrier – should provide all the emotional backdrop needed for a hard-fought rivalry game. The real question: Who is going to stop Tajh Boyd? With a flurry of offense in the closing weeks of the season, Boyd now has 41 total touchdowns and is the second-rated quarterback nationally, hopping right back into the mix for a wide-open Heisman race. This could be his signature moment, as long as he can avoid the dynamic pass rush of ends Jadaveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. South Carolina’s offense has (as expected) not been the same without star running back Marcus Lattimore, even being held to just seven points through three quarter against Wofford, so can quarterback Connor Shaw muster enough firepower to keep this rivalry firmly in the grasp of the Gamecocks?
Pick: Clemson. 38-28
Missouri (5-6, 2-5) at No. 9 Texas A&M (9-2, 5-2)
Where: College Station, Texas, Kyle Field
When: 7 p.m.
The blitz: This game is on the radar for one reason and one reason only: Johnny Manziel. As the freshman who is second in the country in total offense and has 38 touchdowns on his resume looks to make Heisman history, he won’t find himself on the national stage for his final game before voting takes place, so he’ll need to make it extra special against an underwhelming Tigers defense which has allowed 79 combined points over the past two games. The other conference newcomers have not had similar success as Texas A&M in its inaugural SEC season, and that is not likely to change as coach Kevin Sumlin surges forward with his National Coach of the Year campaign.