This week's college football game of the week is a no-brainer. Second-ranked LSU at number three Alabama. It rarely ever gets any better. Since Nick Saban took over the Crimson Tide program 11 years ago, Alabama has lost just four home games. Four......but LSU could be the best team to come to Tuscaloosa in that time frame. As I am writing this opening paragraph, I still haven't decided which team will win. We'll decide later.
Auburn, Mississippi State and Texas A&M are idle this week.
Vanderbilt at Florida
The Florida Gators are still reeling from their loss last week to Georgia.
That loss gives them two and means that to win the SEC East, Georgia would have to lose two more SEC games and Florida would have to win out. That's not going to happen. So, the Gators should now be playing for the best bowl game they can get. Florida is a heavy favorite to beat Vandy in the Swamp this weekend, though stranger things have happened than a Commodore upset. The Gators losses this season have both come to top-six ranked teams, LSU and Georgia. I don't see Vandy being able to come out of the Swamp alive.
Florida 42 Vanderbilt 14
Western Kentucky at Arkansas
The Razorbacks equaled last year's win total of two in the first three weeks of the season which led some to believe the Hogs would be considerably improved in Coach Chad Morris' second season. Arkansas has lost six in a row, however, and the grumbling is getting louder in Fayetteville. The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky are 5-4 overall and currently in third place in the Conference USA East division. Western is riding a two-game losing streak and, while Arkansas is a two-point favorite in the game, it will be a tough contest. Western Kentucky is a pretty good football team but I can't say as much for Arkansas. I believe, however, the Hogs will get that elusive third win of the year, but it won't be easy.
Arkansas 34 Western Kentucky 28
New Mexico State at Ole Miss
The Rebels have dropped three SEC games in a row and the last two could have gone either way. A 24-17 loss at home to Texas A&M followed by a 20-14 decision at Auburn last week proves Ole Miss is still competitive in the SEC. This week they host win-less New Mexico State and should be able to pick their score. Even after a couple of seasons on NCAA probation, Ole Miss still has some talent and, in my opinion, Coach Matt Luke has done a good job in Oxford. This one will be a literal piece of cake for the Johnny Rebs.
Ole Miss 59 New Mexico State 7
Missouri at Georgia
After a good start, the Missouri Tigers have stumbled in SEC play the last few weeks, losing to Vanderbilt and Kentucky and now they head into the meat of the SEC East schedule. Just two weeks ago, Mizzou was in first p/lace in the East and now they're just trying to keep their heads above water. Georgia could suffer a bit of a letdown after an emotional win over rival Florida last weekend but it would take a monumental letdown for the Bulldogs to allow Missouri to come to Athens and upset them, as South Carolina did a few weeks ago. The biggest remaining test for Georgia comes next week when the 'Dawgs face Auburn on the road. This one could be tough but Georgia will win.
Georgia 33 Missouri 17
Appalachian State at South Carolina
The Mountaineers are not your grandfather's Appalachian State squad. It's not the same program that upset Michigan in the 'Big House" more than a decade ago. App State is currently 7-1 and in first place in the Sun Belt East. They won their first seven games of the year, including a 34-31 win at North Carolina before bowing to long-time rival Georgia Southern last week. South Carolina has been up and down all season. The Gamecocks have beaten Georgia and lost to North Carolina. After dropping back to back SEC games to Florida and Tennessee, South Carolina bounced back with a 24-7 win over Vanderbilt last week. This game will be no push over, but South Carolina ekes out a win.
South Carolina 27 Appalachian State 24
LSU at Alabama
After much thought I have made up my mind which team I will pick to win this one. Very few games in SEC history have drawn as much interest as this year's Tide-Tigers match up in Tuscaloosa. Fans have been talking about this game since the pre-season and, while most of these contests have been defensive struggles, this year could feature a lot of offense. For instance, LSU has one of the very best offensive units in the country, led by senior quarterback Joe Burrow, and Alabama's defense simply is not as good as its been in the past. That's one big observation. Another is the fact that the normally tough LSU defense is also not as strong as usual and it will line up against an amazing Alabama offense and a tremendous group of receivers. A healthy Tua Tagavailoa is also a big factor in this year's contest. Tua was injured two weeks ago against Tennessee and did not play against Arkansas last week. The only way Alabama can win is for Tua to be healthy and play well. Is this really an upset?
LSU 38 Alabama 34
Tennessee at Kentucky
The much-improved Tennessee Volunteers must win two of their final three games to qualify for a bowl game. They play at Kentucky this week and at Missouri on November 23rd, following an off week. They close out the regular season at home against Vanderbilt on November 30th. History is certainly on the Volunteers' side. In the all-time series with the 'Cats, Tennessee is 53-14-3 and that includes an upset win over a nationally ranked Kentucky squad last year in Knoxville. Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium has always been a tough place to play for any SEC team and, when you add in the fact that the game is at night and in very cold weather, it will be even tougher. Kentucky is 4-4 overall on the year and must win two of the last four games to be bowl eligible. Coach Mark Stoops has taken the Wildcats to great success in his seven seasons. Kentucky won 10 games a year ago and might have won more this season had starting quarterback Terry Wilson not gone down with a season-ending injury earlier in the season. This game will be as tough as any on the Volunteers' schedule and would be huge if the Vols can score a second straight win over the 'Cats. In a close one..........
Tennessee 24 Kentucky 20
Last week: 5-1
Year to date: 66-14 (83%)
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org