This week brings us number one vs. number five, the oldest rivalry in the South, and a Miami vs. FSU matchup that matters. Other than that, not a whole lot going on here. Let’s break it down!
#1 Mississippi State vs. #5 Alabama
I believe Alabama is the better team here. If Alabama had played some also-ran last week like Tennessee, then I would favor them in this game. They didn’t. Instead, they played a big, bruising, LSU team loaded with NFL talent on the defense, the offensive line, and the backfield. That NFL-junior team ran the ball 56 times at the Crimson Tide defense.
That’s brutal. A team should get a month off and a spa day after enduring that. Instead, the Tide have to go toe-to-toe the very next week against the #1 team in the land. Alabama has had a history of trouble after LSU week. In fact, it was only two years ago after another LSU game, that one Johnny Football came to Tuscaloosa and upset the Tide.
Even worse, Mississippi State poses the same exact threat to Alabama that A&M posed two years ago. Just like the Aggies under Manziel, Mississippi State runs a read-option spread-style offense, which means, in addition to having to face the best, most physical team they’ve faced all year, Bama will also have to prepare for an entirely different defensive challenge from what they faced against LSU.
This game pits the SEC’s #1 offense (Mississippi State) against the SEC’s #1 defense (Alabama). So, like last week in Death Valley, something has to give here. Last week, Mississippi State played Tennessee-Martin and Alabama played LSU. At this stage of the season it matters and will tilt the scales in favor of the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State 24, Alabama 17
#9 Auburn vs. #14 Georgia
People talk a great game about the Iron Bowl rivalry between Auburn and Alabama, and it is a great rivalry. However, Auburn vs. Georgia stands as the oldest rivalry in the South, a rivalry that had it’s already insanely-high level of intensity upped last year after Auburn beat Georgia on a last second, miracle tipped ball TD reception.
Yet, the ante was upped again this year.
Because this weekend’s game will feature star Georgia running back Todd Gurley, back in action for the first time since early October. With his suspension served, Gurley returns just in time to try to help the Bulldogs make their final run at the SEC East, and potentially, crazily, maybe even winning the SEC Championship.
Auburn would like to say that their defense stops the run better than the pass, and for that reason they stand a better chance against Gurley and Georgia. However, last week against Texas A&M, Auburn couldn’t slow down the run game either. The Aggies gained 176 yards on 35 carries against the Tigers. At this point it’s hard to figure out what, if anything, Auburn does well defensively.
Auburn would also like to depend on their offense to score enough to offset the large point totals their defense gives up. Though, with wide receiver D’haquille Williams out of action after a low hit to the knee last week, their ability to do that remains very much a question.
Watch for Georgia, with Gurley and Chubb in the backfield, to be an unstoppable force. Even though Auburn’s head coach Gus Malzahn has undoubtedly paid close attention to the tape of the Florida game where the Gators pounded Georgia on the ground and racked-up 418 yards rushing. Auburn has the ability to equal that performance.
If the Tigers defense can find some way to contain Nick Chubb and Todd Gurley, then Auburn can win a shootout in Athens for the first time in almost a decade. On the other hand, a lot of “ifs, ands, and buts” still exist in there. Georgia most likely gets it done.
Georgia 38, Auburn 30
#3 Florida State vs. Miami
If I had told you a month ago that this game would feature the ACC’s leader in touchdowns, completion percentage, yards per attempt, and yards per completion, you would have probably said, “Well of course! Jameis Winston’s in the game!”
And yes, Jameis Winston will play. Yet, to congratulate the quarterback who leads the ACC in the aforementioned categories, you would have to venture over to the Miami sideline and shake hands with Brad Kaaya.
Not only has Miami gotten their act together offensively after a slow start, they’ve also started clicking defensively. The Canes have allowed 19.6 points-per game over their last five games. They haven’t yet faced an offensive juggernaut like FSU. In a rivalry game at home, though, Miami’s defense should put up quite a fight.
FSU has dominated this series recently, having won the last four games by a combined score of 142-70. I love the upset potential here. Miami has won 13 of its last 14 at home. The Canes have the Noles within striking distance as 2.5 point dogs. With that 25 game win streak on the line for FSU, rest assured the Canes will bring it on Saturday night.
I’ll take the Canes in a wild one.
Miami 34, Florida State 31