No. 1 MSU, No. 4 ‘Bama meet in Tuscaloosa
Here are a few things to watch in Week 12 of the Southeastern Conference season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 1 Mississippi State at No. 4 Alabama. The Bulldogs are the top team in the country according to both the AP and College Football Playoff rankings, but Las Vegas sees it differently, with Alabama a touchdown favorite going into Saturday. Mississippi State’s strength is a productive running game led by quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson. Alabama (CFP No. 5) will counter through the air with quarterback Blake Sims and receiver Amari Cooper. Mississippi State ranks last in the SEC in pass defense. Said MSU coach Dan Mullen: ”There are going to be a lot of 1-on-1 opportunities across the field. We need guys to make plays when they get the opportunity.”
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi vs. Missouri pass rush. Ogbuehi, regarded at the start of the season as a potential first-round draft pick, has moved from left tackle to the right side now that teammate German Ifedi is out for the remainder of the season with a knee sprain. Ogbuehi should have a tough assignment Saturday whether he lines up against Shane Ray or Markus Golden. Ray ranks second in the SEC with 10 1/2 sacks and leads the conference with 16 tackles for loss. Golden has 4 1/2 sacks and 9 1/2 tackles for loss.
NUMBERS GAME: Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett already has broken the SEC freshman sack record previously held by former South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney. Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett also could surpass Clowney’s old mark before the end of the season. Garrett has an SEC-leading 11 sacks to shatter the total of eight Clowney recorded in 2011. Barnett has seven sacks, tied for the third-highest total in the league. Barnett also has 14 tackles for loss to rank second in the league in that category.
LONG SHOT: Arkansas hasn’t won a Southeastern Conference game in more than two years, but the Razorbacks are still a slight favorite against LSU on Saturday in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks have played several top teams – like Mississippi State and Alabama – close this season, but haven’t been able to break through. LSU is coming off an emotional overtime loss to the Crimson Tide.
IMPACT PERFORMER: Georgia running back Todd Gurley is expected to return from a four-game suspension Saturday when the 16th-ranked Bulldogs (No. 15 CFP) host No. 9 Auburn (No. 9 CFP). Gurley has rushed for 773 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 8.2 yards per carry this season. He was regarded as one of the Heisman Trophy front-runners before getting suspended for taking money for autographs.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Starkville, Mississippi, compiled this story.