Tomorrow night’s SEC showdown between top-ranked Alabama and No. 10 LSU has been getting extra hype all week and ESPN gloried in an “All-Access” week that included reporter Kaylee Hartung riding to the office with Tiger head coach Les Miles on Tuesday morning.
So on-dash cameras were whirling as “The Mad Hatter” drove her through Baton Rouge on the way to the football complex and the banter was predictable before Kaylee blurted, “You just ran a red light!”
Miles looked at her with a silly expression. “I did not,” he said.
“You treated it like a stop sign,” Hartung replied.
“It just changed,” Miles explained.
“You ran it,” Hartung pressed with delight before Miles carefully explained as he would to any ordinary sideline reporter, “I anticipated the change.”
That said, here is how I am picking this week’s top football games:
* * *
No. 7 AUBURN (8-1, 4-1 SEC) at TENNESSEE (4-5, 1-4 SEC), 12:00 Noon on ESPN – It is pretty obvious that Auburn is the most improved team in the SEC while Tennessee has given up more than 30 points in six of the last eight games. The Tigers are a smash-mouth bunch that has won five straight since the 35-21 loss to LSU and, while Tennessee’s 4-1 record at home is notable, Neyland Stadium fans have to know the brick-by-brick process takes time. The biggest factor? UT has absolutely “zero” depth right now and the Tigers do indeed. Auburn is favored by 14 and knows how crucial this game and Georgia next week are before ‘Bama comes to The Plains. MY PICK? Auburn, 38-14.
VANDERBILT (4-4, 1-4 SEC) at FLORIDA (4-4, 3-3 SEC), 12:00 Noon on FSN -- “It stinks,” Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy said minutes after the 23-20 Georgia loss. “Definitely we didn’t expect to be 4-4, but sometimes that’s just the way things go. The Gators, favored by 10, lost their sixth starter – fifth on the offensive side of the ball – earlier this week when tackle Tyler Moore broke his elbow in a scooter wreck. Vanderbilt comes into Gainesville rested but here’s a hunch Florida still has more speed and talent. MY PICK? Florida, 31-17.
PENN STATE (5-3, 2-2 Big XII) at MINNESOTA (7-2, 3-2 Big XII), 12:00 Noon on ESPN2 – With coach Jerry Kill still away due to devilish seizures, the Gophers have won three is a row (by a total of 7 points!) So with Minnesota picked by 2, take a look at PSU frosh QB Christian Hackenburg who has passed for 2,024 yards and 13 TDs. If the Nittany defense can come alive, State could take a big step in salvaging the season. MY PICK? Penn State, 28-21.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-4, 1-3 SEC) at No. 11 TEXAS A&M (7-2, 3-2 SEC), 3:30 p.m. on CBS – The Aggies are favored by 20 but with Johnny Manzell playing like he is, A&M has not played a game this year without scoring at least 41 points. Yes, the A&M defense is suspect but State can’t match the points the Aggies score in front of their home crowd. A&M is idle next week before visiting LSU while State’s bowl chances may diminish with Alabama coming to Starkville. MY PICK? Texas A&M, 48-14.
NEBRASKA (6-2, 3-1 Big 10) at MICHIGAN (6-2, 2-2 Big 10), 3:30 p.m. on ABC – After last Saturday’s convincing 29-6 loss to rival Michigan State, the Wolverines host a determined Nebraska that ground out a 3-point win over Northwestern. UM is favored by 6 in The Big House but you must remember a Nebraska victory would set up the Huskers next week for what will be an epic battle against State in the Big Ten Legends Division. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah has already rushed for 1,108 yards so the karma is with the Huskers. MY PICK? Nebraska, 24-20.
BRIGHAM YOUNG (6-2) at No. 21 WISCONSIN, (6-2, 4-1 Big 10), 3:30 p.m. on ESPN – You can bet they bang the big drum at Camp Randall with the Badgers a 7 ½ point favorite but BYU has won five straight and seems more poised than two weeks ago when the Cougars slipped past once-beaten Houston, 47-46. With dual threat runners in James White (9 TDs) and Melvin Gordon (1,074 yards, 11 TDs), UW will try to grind down BYU but Badger QB Joel Stave can evermore sling it (1,630 yards, 15 TDs). MY PICK? Wisconsin, 32-23.
No. 23 ARIZONA STATE (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) at UTAH (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12), 4:00 p.m. – ASU has scored over 50 points in four of the last five games so the Utes, with losses to Marshall and Rice in the last four weeks, are in for what appears to be a long day. ASU is favored by 7, which seems pretty tasty, and, with the remaining Pac-12 games against Oregon State, UCLA, and Arizona, things are looking just peachy. MY PICK? Arizona State, 37-20.
VIRGINIA TECH (6-3) at No. 14 MIAMI (7-1), 7:00 p.m. – The Hokies have lost three straight – the worst coming in Boston just three days after the Red Sox won the World Series. Boston College made the city even more “Boston Strong” with a starling 34-27 comeback over floundering VT last Saturday. That whipping was only minor compared to previously unbeaten Miami’s “no-show” at Tallahassee where a record number 273 inebriated fans had to be removed from the stadium in Florida State’s 41-14 massacre over Miami. The worst? UM’s best running back broke his ankle so no wonder the Hurricanes – now only once beaten – are only a 7-point pick at home. MY PICK? Miami, 28-17.
No. 10 LOUISIANA STATE (7-2, 3-2 SEC) at No. 1 ALABAMA (8-0, 5-0 SEC), 8:00 p.m. on CBS – LSU receiver Jarvis Landry said it out loud: “Nobody is invincible. No team is invincible and no defense is invincible. They do a lot of great things well, but we do a lot of great things well, also. It comes down to individual guys making plays.” I agree with Jarvis but when Nick Saban has an endless string of guys who make plays “excellently,” I don’t believe the 12 points that LSU is catching will be nearly enough in front of that T-town crowd predicted to be the largest in school history. MY PICK? Alabama, 38-14.
No. 16 UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12) at ARIZONA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12), 10:00 p.m. on ESPN – These two are tied for second place in the Pac-12 South Division behind Arizona State so the Bruins are picked by 1 point on the road. If this one had been last week, when Daylight Savings Time let us “fall back,” I might have stayed up to watch because it should be a dandy. UCLA had a good win after bad back-to-back losses against Stanford and Oregon but UA has won three in a row and has the home field. MY PICK? Arizona, 26-21.
IN OTHER SEC GAMES
MISSOURI (8-1, 4-1 SEC) at KENTUCKY (2-6, 0-4 SEC), 12:00 Noon on ESPNU – One week after Missouri flattened Tennessee with 580 yards of offense we learn UK has some receivers banged up. Then we hear starting QB James Franklin is ready to go for the Tigers so the chances Steve Spurrier and South Carolina are going to get help in the SEC East chase from the Wildcats who are exactly between dim and none. MY PICK? Missouri, 48-13.
ARKANSAS (3-6, 0-5 SEC) at OLE MISS (5-3, 2-3 SEC), 12:21 p.m. on SEC TV – The Rebs were idle last week, letting rifle-armed QB Bo Wallace cool his arm, while the ‘Hogs were losing their fifth straight league game so the guess is this one will be decided early and Ole Miss will become bowl eligible by halftime. OM plays Troy next week before closing out with Missouri at home and then State in Starkville. MY PICK? Ole Miss, 39-10.
APPALACHIAN STATE (2-7) at GEORGIA (5-3, 4-2 SEC), 12:30 p.m. – The only question is whether Georgia should play Gurley. Chattanooga played hard to get a 35-28 win at Appy while Georgia held off the Gators. While I believe ASU is much better right now than the Mountaineer record indicates, I think the same thing about the Bulldogs. I believe Georgia is a Top 25 team but next week is when the Athens bunch will have to prove it at Auburn. MY PICK? Georgia, 41-15.
SEC TEAMS IDLE TOMORROW
No. 13 SOUTH CAROLINA (7-2, 5-2 SEC) will host Florida next Saturday, Nov. 16.
AND ONE MORE …
WOFFORD (5-3, 4-1 SoCon) at UT-CHATTANOOGA (7-2, 5-1 SoCon), 2:00 p.m. – Yeah, this is the biggest game for Chattanooga that I can remember, two teams nationally ranked in the FCS polls with a conference title shining like the sun. There are several good reasons for the Mocs’ never-quit style of play and their names, alphabetically, are Belew, Dockery, Dothard, Haynes, Key, Lott, Miller, Moore, Murrell, Revis, Scates, Sutton and Wise. These seniors will be honored and, if the notably-fickle fans do indeed “Fill Finley,” things could zoom from “biggest game” to “best team” in a short breath or two. MY PICK? Chattanooga, 31-23.