After last weekend’s breakfast menu gave us very few appetizing contests, we were treated to an entertaining first half from Ole Miss and Georgia before the Bulldogs ran away in the second half of CBS’ first game of its double-header.
Then, there was the rematch of THE rematch.
What we learned in Alabama’s 21-17 win over LSU was that the Tide knows how to win – no matter what happens to it for 59 minutes – and that UA is far from unbeatable as it appeared to be in the first eight contests of 2012.
Nick Saban’s crew is most likely the most talented roster he has assembled yet in Tuscaloosa. I only say “most likely” because these guys, while highly rated, still have a lot to accomplish before they can be on par with the classes before them that have assembled championships reminiscent to their predecessors did in the 1960s and 1970s under Bear Bryant.
However, a good majority of this talent is young, and the first chinks in the armor showed under the lights in Baton Rouge last Saturday.
This weekend, Texas A&M comes in with upset on its mind at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Aggies have surpassed all expectations this season and have their own bona fide Heisman candidate in Johnny Manziel. I have also never seen a team play as fast as Texas A&M in person. If you take your eyes off the field to figure out who missed a tackle on the jumbotron, you’re likely to miss multiple snaps on the field.
Saban has already voiced his displeasure with up-tempo offenses earlier this year. No one that the Tide has played has played with this amount of discipline and frequency in 2012. A&M also knows it won’t be a pushover and believes in the possibility of a victory. You cannot discredit something like that in a game like this.
CBS will televise the last needed triumph for the Tide to seal the Southeastern Conference Western Division at 2:30 p.m. CT. I think A&M will continue to show some weaknesses in the young UA defense, but it won’t be nearly enough to overcome AJ McCarron and the stable Alabama offense.
Call it now: Alabama 27, Texas A&M 14
• Arkansas at South Carolina (Columbia, S.C., 11 a.m. CT, CBS)
This game is full of intrigue. How South Carolina responds to the loss of the heart and soul of its offense in Marcus Lattimore will play a huge factor in this one, while the Hogs have absolutely no room for error to reach the postseason and earn 15 valuable practice sessions (perhaps under the guidance of a couple of new coaches?).
If there is a team that has been in Steve Spurrier’s side at South Carolina, it has been Arkansas. This is by far his best chance to get a much-needed win over the Razorbacks and remain in contention for the SEC’s second BCS bid this postseason.
Tune in early (again) to check out a fun contest.
Call it now: Arkansas 28, South Carolina 21
• Missouri at Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn., 11:21 a.m. CT, SEC Network)
The Derek Dooley watch is officially on in Knoxville as the Missouri Tigers make their first trip to Rocky Top as an SEC member.
Dooley has a chance to get some wins and some momentum to retain his job at the end of November, but there are plenty of prognosticators that claim he’s out of the job at UT no matter what happens these last three weeks. After spending the week in Nashville with plenty of Tennessee supporters, it’s hard to imagine the Doolander roaming the sidelines with his orange pants next season.
Missouri’s rocky start to SEC membership continues with yet another loss.
Call it now: Tennessee 31, Missouri 21
• Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida (Gainesville, Fla., 11:21 a.m. CT, SEC Network)
The only thing Florida can do after finishing the SEC schedule with a 7-1 mark is sit back and wait on the Auburn-Georgia results Saturday night. A win for the Bulldogs secures the East while an Auburn upset gives the Gators the division crown.
There won’t be much intrigue to this game, otherwise, unless you want to see how Mark Hudspedth (a potential SEC coach someday soon) does in the Swamp.
Call it now: Florida 28, ULL 7
• Georgia at Auburn (Auburn, Ala., 6 p.m. CT, ESPN2)
This is one of college football’s best rivalries, although the game has turned sour between the once-friendly fan bases in the past six years.
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has not been tied in the series record since 1987, with Auburn holding at least a one-game advantage every year since. Georgia has won four of the last five meetings and seven of the last 10 to get back to within one game and the chance to tie the series record that, in 2005, was separated by just one point scored between the two schools in over 100 annual scrimmages.
Aaron Murray will make a mockery of the Auburn secondary that has still not registered an interception in 2012. Jarvis Jones will demoralize a true freshman making his second start at quarterback for the Tigers in Jonathan Wallace. Georgia will win the East.
Call it now: Georgia 38, Auburn 7
• Mississippi State at LSU (Baton Rouge, La., 6 p.m. CT, ESPN)
This game is chock full of storylines for all the wrong reasons for these two teams that entered October sky-high.
Which team can shake off a tough loss the fastest will determine who leaves the Tiger Stadium turf with another victory Saturday night. LSU has more talent, but MSU has shown that it is not the pushover of old this season thanks to one of the league’s best coaching jobs from Dan Mullen.
Is LSU really as good as it looked against Bama last weekend? Is State just benefiting from an extremely easy first seven games? In closely contested games, especially those at night, you pick the home team.
Call it now: LSU 21, Mississippi State 14
• Vanderbilt at Ole Miss (Oxford, Miss., 6 p.m., ESPNU)
Saturday night could be a lot of fun for SEC football fans with this game kicking off between the hope-to-be-bowl bound Ole Miss Rebels and the hope-to-be-bowl bound Vanderbilt Commodores.
The jobs that James Franklin and Hugh Freeze have done this year will get overshadowed by Saban when the SEC Coach of the Year Award is handed out next month, but do not discount the abilities of these two rising stars.
Freeze has done as big of a turnaround in Oxford as Franklin accomplished his rookie season in Nashville, and these two should form quite a fun rivalry as they continue to build their respective programs.
The winner Saturday night in Vaught-Hemingway gets to punch its ticket to one of the lower-tiered bowls in the SEC’s tie-ins. However, either (or both) could be bowl eligible prior to Arkansas – a laughable notion in the preseason.
Enjoy the party in the Grove Saturday night, Rebels.
Call it now: Ole Miss 35, Vanderbilt 24
RUSHING’S OVERALL PICKS
Last week: 8-0