SEC Fearless Predictions, Nov. 29
Auburn QB Kodi Burns
Auburn QB Kodi Burns
Posted Nov 26, 2008

Previews and Predictions for the Week 14 SEC Games

East  Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

- SEC Fearless Predictions Aug. 30 | Sept. 6 | Sept. 13 | Sept. 20
- Sept. 27 | Oct. 4 | Oct. 11 | Oct. 18 | Oct. 25 | Nov. 1 | Nov. 8 | Nov. 15
- Nov. 22

How are the picks so far? SU: 61-18 ... ATS: 28-43

Expanded Previews ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | M-West | Pac 10 | SEC

- SEC Week 14 Predictions, Nov. 29, Part 2 (UK-TN, UF-FSU)

SEC Game of the Week

Auburn (5-6) at Alabama (11-0), 3:30 EST CBS  
Why to watch: In Alabama, everyone talks about this game for 365 days out of the year. Think that’s an overstatement? Ask any of the sports talk hosts and this game and/or this rivalry will bring in the callers every day, every show. So while this year’s Iron Bowl really doesn’t matter on a national scale, even if Alabama loses it’ll play for the national title if it beats Florida in the SEC Championship, it’s still huge to Tide fans who’ve had to hear about the six game losing streak in the series for, well, six years. That’s a long, long time when it’s being talked about and brought up day after day after day. But for the recently suffering Tide faithful, this appears to be when everything is changing. Auburn is a mess, with the offensive coordinator issues killing what should’ve been a big year, and a defense that’s doing what it can, but isn’t doing enough over a string of five losses in the last six games. It’s officially freakout time for the Tigers fans. Nick Saban appears to be building a juggernaut, LSU isn’t all that bad, even in a down year, and Arkansas and Ole Miss are improving. Meanwhile, Auburn’s window of opportunity to do anything really, really big, like be in the yearly hunt for the national title, might be slammed shut. However, with one big win over the No. 1 team in the nation, Auburn will be bowl eligible, the momentum won’t have shifted over to Tuscaloosa quite yet, there will be another 365 days of smack talk to be had. So sure, the game might not really mean anything, but it also means everything. (Sorry … the clichés start flowing around rivalry time.)
Why Auburn might win: Alabama might have great special teams, but Auburn’s return game is just good enough to change the momentum at a moment’s notice, or pull away if the Tigers get on an early roll. Kick returner Tristan Davis and punt returner Robert Dunn are special, and they might be the ones who can kickstart an otherwise dead offense at times against the nasty Bama D. For all of Auburn’s issues, the defense has still been tough throughout the year. Alabama might be great, but it doesn’t have Oklahoma’s offense; it’s not going to throw 60 on the board.
Why Alabama might win: The Auburn offense is sort of like the economy. Everyone’s trying everything to get it started, and all the efforts just seem to make things go backwards. It’s not like the attack is suddenly going to find itself this week against a very rested, very motivated defense that’s allowing nothing on the ground, just 256 yards per game overall, and is allowing a mere 12.55 points per game. It’s going to take something special for Auburn to win, so if Alabama can play the Tigers evenly on special teams and in the turnover margin, it should be off to Atlanta with a 12-0 record.
Who to watch: John Parker Wilson could turn out to be the offensive leader for a national title team (really, Bama will play for it all no matter what if it beats Florida), but if the Tide loses this week, he’ll be forever known as the quarterback who lost to Auburn three times. He wasn’t bad in the 2006 loss, throwing for 252 yards and two touchdowns before giving away the game-sealing pick, but he struggled in last season’s defeat completing 12-of-26 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. While he’s been good this year, he hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in his last four games and hasn’t thrown one in five of his last six outings. Meanwhile, he has rushed for four touchdowns in the last four games, and most importantly, the team keeps on winning.
What will happen: Welcome to Alabama’s cathartic exhale six years in the making. Saban and the Tide won’t be looking to make a statement; they just want the win. However, the defense will keep the Tiger attack from doing much of anything past the first quarter, while the Tide attack will get all the parts working early on. Auburn will hang around for about 40 minutes, and then the last 20 will be all about Bama fans enjoying the long weight being lifted off their program’s back.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 31 … Auburn 16 ... Line: Alabama -14
Must See Rating: (5 Football while eating Thanksgiving food – 1 Home movies after dinner) … 4
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Friday, November 28
Mississippi State (4-7) at Ole Miss (7-4), 12:30 EST GamePlan  
Why to watch: Far too often in recent years, the annual Egg Bowl hasn’t meant anything more than to see who’ll finish on the bottom of the SEC West. This year, the battle might not mean much of anything to the standings, it’s the final game of the year for MSU while Ole Miss will be off bowling for the first time since Eli Manning took the 2003 team to the Cotton Bowl, but it’s an important game for the momentum of the two programs. Mississippi State has to fight a bit harder to battle with the SEC heavyweights. It doesn’t have the funds or the facilities of the big boys, but under Sylvester Croom, the program has played tough defense and has occasionally been able to pull off a shocker or two. A win over the Rebels might not change the program around, but it would be something nice to build on for recruiting season; 5-7 looks a lot better than 4-8. On the other side, Ole Miss has bounced back in a big way under first year head man Houston Nutt. Former head coach Ed Orgeron did a nice job of recruiting, and Nutt has reaped the rewards, molding the Rebels into a plucky, opportunistic bunch that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and has the honor of being the team that beat Florida. A win here could mean a New Year’s Day bowl appearance.
Why Mississippi State might win: The defense really is playing well. There might not be much of a pass rush, and the run defense isn’t a brick wall, but the secondary has been tremendous all season long and it’s doing what it can considering the offense isn’t providing a lot of help. Ole Miss has a decent offense that’s balanced and will put up plenty of yards, but it doesn’t crank out a ton of points. It’s been consistently decent, but rarely special. An inspired defensive effort could be enough to pull off the upset. Croom has been able to get his defense to play at another level from time to time, while his offense is coming off its most balanced and even performance of the season in the win over Arkansas.
Why Ole Miss might win: It’s not like Ole Miss has had problems with anyone. The four losses (Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Alabama) all came by a touchdown or less. The lines are fantastic, and they’re the biggest advantage this week. MSU doesn’t have the defensive front to do too much damage in the Rebel backfield, while the stellar Ole Miss front four is among the best in America in tackles for loss. It’s a recipe for disaster for an MSU offense that needs everything to work perfectly, and that includes giving QB Tyson Lee time to work, for the attack to crank out yards.
Who to watch: The only chance MSU has is to get RB Anthony Dixon off and running. The team’s signature star, at least around SEC parts, was held in check last season with a season-low 26 yards in the win over Ole Miss, but he ran for 125 yards and a touchdown in the 2006 Egg Bowl loss. This year, MSU has beaten three FBS teams, and Dixon had 100 yard rushing days in all three wins. In the other seven games against the FBSers, Dixon was under the century mark and MSU was 0-7.
What will happen: Never discount the strange twists and turns of a rivalry game, but Ole Miss is too solid and MSU too flawed. The home team has won the last four games in the series. Make it five straight.
CFN Prediction: Ole Miss 27 … Mississippi State 10 ... Line: Ole Miss -13.5
Must See Rating: (5 Football while eating Thanksgiving food – 1 Home movies after dinner) … 2.5
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LSU (7-4) at Arkansas (4-7), 2:30 EST CBS  
Why to watch: Last year Arkansas appeared to end LSU’s world. The battered and beaten up Tigers had the national title shot there for the taking, but the Hogs pulled off the 50-48 multi-overtime thriller and the dream season was shattered. Les Miles was going off to Michigan, LSU was hoping to beat Tennessee for a shot at the Sugar Bowl, and that would be that. Of course, everything went haywire, Miles told everyone to have a great day, and LSU went on to win the national championship while Arkansas ended up imploding with head coach Houston Nutt going to Ole Miss before a lifeless loss to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. New head man Bobby Petrino is trying to rebuild the program up into a high-octane offensive juggernaut, and while that’s not exactly happening yet, his team has been interesting. With no defense and an offense that’s been surprisingly solid at throwing the ball, the rebuilding is starting to take shape, even if the Hogs have lost four of their last five and biffed away any hope of going bowling. LSU will get a 13th game, and it needs all the work it can get going into next year. The passing game has been a disaster at times, the defense has inexplicably gone into the tank, and there’s been no consistency whatsoever. A win this week could secure a New Year’s Day bowl bid for the Tigers, but that’s not a given quite yet.
Why LSU might win: Arkansas has the SEC’s worst run defense, allowing 172 yards per game, and it’s not like it’s going to suddenly become a brick wall against a great LSU offensive line. Making matters worse, top Hog D linemen Ernest Mitchell and Antwain Robinson are suspended from the team for violating team rules. The loss of linebacker Wendel Davis to a leg injury isn’t going to help the cause. On offense, Arkansas will be even more one-dimensional without star RB Michael Smith, who’s doubtful with a hamstring. In other words, if LSU can run and can be merely average in the secondary, it should win without a problem.    
Why Arkansas might win: LSU was bad with Jarrett Lee at quarterback, and it was positively dormant with freshman Jordan Jefferson trying to find his way. Lee got banged up in last week’s ugly loss to Ole Miss, after completing just 4-of-12 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown with an interception, Jefferson is a talent, but he’s very raw and he needs time, coaching, and more time. With him under center, LSU becomes one-dimensional, even though he threw for 129 yards and a touchdown in comeback mode. If Arkansas can load up everyone to stop Charles Scott, like Ole Miss was able to do, holding the Tiger star to 10 yards, the Rebel offense will sputter.
Who to watch: Next year the Ryan Mallett era will kick in at Arkansas, but for now, Petrino is seeing what he has in Nathan Dick, the younger brother of Casey Dick, the start for most of the last few years. Nathan wasn’t the reason the Hogs lost to Mississippi State last week, the defense was, as he threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. With Smith hurting, Dick will have to throw 50 times, and he’ll have to be sharp, for the Hogs to win.
What will happen: This might not be the prettiest of games. Each team has a slew of injury problems, neither is playing any defense at the moment, and the offenses have been erratic at best, and an utter liability at worst. The Hogs might not have much going on the defensive front right now, but they should still be able to slow down the LSU attack just enough to let Dick come up with another big passing game on the way to a tough, ugly win.
CFN Prediction: Arkansas 23 … LSU 20 ... Line: LSU -4.5
Must See Rating: (5 Football while eating Thanksgiving food – 1 Home movies after dinner) … 2.5
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Saturday, November 29

South Carolina (7-4) at Clemson (6-5), 12:00 EST, ESPN2
Why to watch: All things considered, Clemson has done a commendable job of getting above .500 after a horrible start, winning three of its last four ACC games. The Tigers still need to win this week’s game to become bowl eligible since two of its victories have come against FCS opponents. Beating hated rival South Carolina would salvage something from this disappointing season, while improving Dabo Swinney’s chances of removing the interim tag from his title. South Carolina gets back to action two weeks after being dressed down by Florida, 56-6. Besides the obvious desire to reverse Clemson’s recent dominance in this series, the Gamecocks are hoping to improve their chances of getting an invitation to the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Why South Carolina might win: Since Clemson won’t be confused with Florida anytime soon, the Gamecocks will get back to being one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. Despite allowing 56 points two weeks ago, they’re still 11th nationally in total defense and allow just 19 points a game. The Tigers never found their groove on offense this season, putting up just 17 points a game versus teams from the FBS. They’ll have all kinds of problems with a swarming unit led by DE Eric Norwood, S Emmanuel Cook, and CB Captain Munnerlyn.
Why Clemson might win: In many ways, these two schools mirror one another. Like their rivals to the west, South Carolina has also been inconsistent on offense, ranking at the bottom of the SEC in rushing. It’ll take more than a one-dimensional attack to move the ball on a Tiger defense that’s yielded just 10 points in the last two games and is giving up less than 300 yards a game. Clemson is fifth in the country in pass defense, which will put added pressure on that futile Gamecock ground game. The Tigers haven’t allowed more than one touchdown pass in a game since Week 2, a streak neither Chris Smelley nor Stephen Garcia appear capable of snapping.
Who to watch: With almost no help from the pass rush, the Clemson pass defense has been outstanding, picking off six passes in the last three games. One of the stars of secondary has been S Michael Hamlin, who has the dual-abilities as a run defender and cover guy that’ll translate well to the NFL in 2009. The senior not only leads the Tigers in solo tackles, but also has a team-high five interceptions.
What will happen: Anything other than a physical, close, low-scoring game will be a surprise. The two schools are fairly evenly matched, with South Carolina rating an edge on defense and Clemson having slightly more pop on offense. The difference will come from the Tiger playmakers. The ‘Cocks don’t have a back that can compare to James Davis or C.J. Spiller, who’ll help soften the South Carolina defense in a Clemson victory.
CFN Prediction: Clemson 23 … South Carolina 17 ... Line: Clemson -1
Must See Rating: (5 Football while eating Thanksgiving food – 1 Home movies after dinner) … 3
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- SEC Week 14 Predictions, Nov. 29, Part 2 (UK-TN, UF-FSU)