2009 SEC Fearless Predictions - Week 13
Auburn RB Ben Tate
Auburn RB Ben Tate
Posted Nov 25, 2009

Of all the potential curve balls thrown into the BCS mix, the most likely might be in the Iron Bowl as Ben Tate and Auburn try to pull off the stunning upset over Alabama. But that's not the only good SEC game in a strong weekend of showdowns. Check out the Previews and Predictions for the Week 13 SEC Games.

2009 SEC Fearless Predictions

Week 13 ... Nov. 28 Games

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

Alabama (11-0) at Auburn (7-4), 2:30 EST, Friday, November 27, CBS

Why to watch: After owning the Iron Bowl rivalry for several years, Auburn faltered last season in an ugly 36-0 loss to not only turn the tide (so to speak), but to also lead to a losing season, no bowl, and the end of the Tommy Tuberville reign. While the Gene Chizik hiring was controversial, and he has had some rough moments this year, the 7-4 record is a strong start and he has his team in a position to potentially throw the national title picture for a loop. If Auburn beats Alabama, then Chizik goes from being an interesting coaching prospect who's having a little bit of early success, to a hot name and a god in the state … at least for 12 months.

The Tigers have found their offense again just in time for the showdown, and it has had two weeks to lick their wounds and prepare for Bama after a rough 31-24 loss at Georgia. When all the parts are working, this might be the SEC's most balanced and dangerous attack, with Ben Tate and the ground game cranking out 220 yards per game to offset the 222 passing yards per game that Chris Todd is helping to put up. Everything will have to be working to beat Tide team fully focused on the national title, but there are two big questions for Nick Saban's club. 1) As important as beating Auburn might be, is one eye looking towards next week against Florida, and 2) if the Tide loses a close game, does that mean the end of the national title dream? From all indications, the answers are no and no.

Part of Alabama's brilliance and success comes from really and truly living the one-game-at-a-time cliché. And no, of course the focus won't be on the steps ahead, especially with small segments of the fan base more interested in getting a win this week than next. But even if Auburn stands on its head and pulls off the shocker, as long as it's close, Alabama can still play for the national title with an impressive win over Florida. But right now, it's Auburn week.

Alabama got a nice tune-up scrimmage last week against Chattanooga to prepare, and while there are several parts to the team that are playing at an elite level, it's not like there haven't been rocky points against the teams with a pulse. It was a fight to get past LSU, it was a fight (and a few blocked kicks) to stop Tennessee, and there have been other moments throughout the year when a better opponent would've made things interesting. Bama doesn't have to prove anything; all it has to do is win two games to play for the national title. Simple, right? This is the most meaningful Iron Bowl since 2004, and both teams are going to play like it.

Why Alabama might win: The Auburn defensive front struggles against tough, physical running games. Thank you very much, good night. Enjoy the veal. While the Tigers should be able to get into the backfield and will apply pressure whenever Greg McElroy tries to throw, it's going to be steamrolled over by the large, agile Tide offensive front that should thump away for RB Mark Ingram for a full sixty minutes. Offensively, Auburn has to get the ground game going to win, and that's going to be a problem against Terrence Cody and a Tide line that doesn't give up much against the run. Bama is No. 2 in the nation against the run, and there's nothing Auburn will be able to do to make a big dent in the stats.
Why Auburn might win: Greg McElroy. It's the constant issue for the Tide with everyone trying to stop Mark Ingram and the running game first, second, and third. Bama hasn't been able to take advantage of the easy coverages on a regular basis with the same to happen this week. While he has thrown five touchdown passes and just one interception over the last four games, he's hardly inspiring enough confidence. It's not like the coaching staff is hiding him, but it's not going to put him in situations where he has to do anything crazy. Auburn has just enough of a passing attack to hit some big plays against the relatively untested Bama corners, and if the Tide has to mount any sort of a comeback through the air, it's uh-oh time.
Who to watch: Julio Jones, you're up. The tremendous Alabama wide receiver has been kept under wraps this year thanks to a strong running game and the problems McElroy is having. However, Jones has become more of a factor in recent weeks with one touchdown catch in each of the last three games, highlighted by the short grab for a long score to beat LSU, and he'll have several chances against the cheating Auburn safeties. The Tigers will send everyone to stop Ingram, and if Jones has his chances down the middle of the field in single coverage, and if McElroy actually gets him the ball, he'll be a difference-making home run hitter.
What will happen: Auburn will keep this close just because it's the Iron Bowl. Alabama won't necessarily play it tight, but it's going to be ultra-conservative as it makes sure that McElroy doesn't screw things up. Auburn will get everyone excited with one big play per half, but it won't be enough. Ingram will run just well enough to set up a possible Heisman-clinching game next week.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 30 … Auburn 17 ... Line: Alabama -13.5
Must See Rating: (Charlie Brown Thanksgiving 5 … The Twilight Saga: New Moon 1) … 5
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Clemson (8-3) at South Carolina (6-5),12:00 EST, ESPN, Saturday, November 28

Why to watch: You can throw out the records when South Carolina and Clemson meet in their annual Palmetto State rivalry game; the hatred and intensity are already prepackaged into this one. The Gamecocks enter this year's edition a little more ornery than normal, having dropped three straight prior to the bye week and four of the last five. Clearly a middling SEC squad headed to a second-rate bowl game, they'd like nothing more than to take some of the wind out of Clemson's sails. The Tigers are one of the hottest teams in the country, winning six consecutive games to clinch the Coastal Division and earn a berth opposite Georgia Tech in next week's ACC title game. They've won six of the last seven in this series and haven't lost in Columbia since 2001.
Why Clemson might win: Everything has come together for the Tigers during this run to Tampa. QB Kyle Parker is no longer playing like a freshman, RB C.J. Spiller is enjoying the best stretch of his career, and the D has consistently been among the ACC's toughest. It's that defense, which will cause the biggest problems for South Carolina. The Gamecocks cannot run the ball, struggle in pass protect, and don't figure to improve on their 20-point average this weekend. Plus, the supposed strength, the passing attack, will be traveling head on into the nation's No. 12 pass defense. It figures to be a long day for QB Stephen Garcia, who'll spend a lot of time on his back or dodging speedy ends Ricky Sapp and Da'Quan Bowers.
Why South Carolina might win: When the Gamecocks raise the bar, it's often because of the play of the defense. South Carolina is No. 17 nationally in total defense and is especially difficult to navigate through the air. In fact, it's yielded just five touchdown passes over the last eight weeks. Parker has been good, but he's still a rookie, who's capable of wilting in the face of LB Eric Norwood and ends Clifton Geathers and Cliff Matthews. That Gamecock secondary, which was so inexperienced in September, has grown up around young corners Stephon Gilmore and Akeem Auguste, and will have the edge on a thin Clemson receiving corps.
Who to watch: While Garcia is making much better decisions as a sophomore, he's still prone to making poor reads that'll get his team in trouble. The Clemson secondary won't make his life any simpler. The Tigers feature a veteran group that ball hawks about as well as any in the country, picking off 15 and batting down a bunch. Garcia out to pay special attention to safeties DeAndre McDaniel and Rashard Hall, who have 13 of those interceptions between them.
What will happen: Although trends tend to go out the window in these types oames, it's hard to deny just how well Clemson is executing these days. Or how poorly South Carolina is playing, for that matter. While the Gamecock defense will keep things close for a while, Spiller or Ford will eventually give the Tigers a little breathing room, exploiting one of the worst special teams coverage units in the country.
CFN Prediction: Clemson 28 … South Carolina 20 ... Line: Clemson -3
Must See Rating: (Charlie Brown Thanksgiving 5 … The Twilight Saga: New Moon 1) … 3
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Ole Miss (8-3) at Mississippi State (4-7), 12:21 EST, Saturday, November 28

Why to watch: Ole Miss has overcome failed expectations, an ugly start, and a few major injuries to position itself for a New Year's Day bowl. After last week's win over LSU, complete with the bizarre ending, the Rebels can make the claim to being the No. 3 team in the SEC with a win in the Egg Bowl over a Mississippi State team looking to make this its bowl game. Dan Mullen has done a nice job in his first season with a team clearly outclassed talent-wise in the West. But after a few nice wins, the defense struggled against Alabama and Arkansas, the bowl hopes went bye-bye making this game everything to the season. This is a young group that could take a win over the improving Rebels, and a 5-7 record, into the offseason and use it to build on. For the Rebels, a win would keep alive hopes of a ten-win season, while closing out with a four-game winning streak and a victory over the arch-rival would be a sweet step forward for Houston Nutt and a team that could be even better next year.
Why Ole Miss might win: It's all about stopping the run when facing Anthony Dixon and the Mississippi State offense, and Ole Miss can do that. Somewhat quietly, the defense has been outstanding; it has been the offense that's had the issues. LSU was held to 40 yards on the ground last week and Tennessee was only able to come up with 99. Basically, it took Mark Ingram and Joe Webb, UAB's marvelously talented running quarterback, for anyone to over 200 yards on the Rebel D. Dixon is good enough to make that happen, but the MSU O line isn't going to bury the Ole Miss front four.
Why Mississippi State might win: Ole Miss is one of the few teams as mistake-prone as MSU. The Bulldogs don't have much margin for error, and throughout the year it has had problems in turnover margin. The Rebels are 104th in the nation in turnovers, the same as MSU, and while they don't give it away as much, they don't do enough to take it away. If MSU can somehow by +2, and that's always a possibility against Jevan Snead and the erratic passing game, it has a shot.
Who to watch: Someone's going to be left out of the All-SEC first team honor. Mark Ingram is a lock, but Dixon is sixth in the nation in rushing averaging 125.8 yards per game with 11 touchdowns, and Ingram is fifth averaging 127.18 yards and 12 scores. Dixon would be the SEC's leading rusher if he wasn't suspended for the season opener against Jackson State, but while he missed the start, he's looking to finish strong after being bottled up for 17 yards on eight carries in last year's 45-0 loss to the Rebels. As a freshman, Dixon ran for 125 yards and a score in the 2006 Egg Bowl loss, but he has only rushed for 43 yards in the last two showdowns. When it comes to all-stars, it's going to be impossible to keep Rebel RB Dexter McCluster off of any team. The hottest back in the country, the electrifying speedster followed up a 282-yard, four-touchdown day against Tennessee with 148 yards, a 27-yard touchdown pass, and three catches in the win over LSU.
What will happen: The maximum effort from MSU will mean something, but not enough. The lack of a passing game will be the Achilles heel.
CFN Prediction: Ole Miss 30 … Mississippi State 17 ... Line: Ole Miss -7
Must See Rating: (Charlie Brown Thanksgiving 5 … The Twilight Saga: New Moon 1) … 3
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Florida State (6-5) at Florida (11-0), 3:30 EST, CBS, Saturday, November 28

Why to watch: Sure, it's a lot less captivating when one of the participants is struggling, but Florida-Florida State is always going to be one of the most intense non-conference rivalries each year. Bragging rights will be at stake in Gainesville, especially for a Seminole team that's been humbled repeatedly in 2009 and hasn't won this game since 2003. The ‘Noles needed to rally to beat Maryland and become bowl-eligible a week ago, yet another indication of how far they've fallen from their once-lofty perch. With everyone fixated on next week's date with Alabama for the SEC title, it's easy to forget that the Gators still need to win this weekend to have a shot at a national championship. It'll be the last game at the Swamp for the seniors, namely Tim Tebow, which is sure to generate a fair amount of emotion from the fans and the players.
Why Florida State might win: Florida has allowed a number of lesser opponents with it this fall, typically because the offense has failed to execute. Close calls with Tennessee, LSU, Arkansas, Mississippi State, and South Carolina come to mind. In those games, the Gators averaged just 22 points, so this is not an offensive juggernaut, as history might suggest. The Seminoles do not have a great defense, but then again, neither do the Hogs or the Bulldogs. What they do have are athletes capable of running with Florida's quicker skill position players. Athletes, like linebackers Nigel Bradham and Dekoda Watson, and corners Greg Reid and Patrick Robinson, who can keep Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps from getting to the edge and bringing the crowd to its feet.
Why Florida might win: With Christian Ponder behind center, maybe. With E.J. Manuel? Forget about it. This is the worst possible time for the Seminoles to be employing a raw redshirt freshman quarterback, who just got done throwing three picks versus a bad Maryland defense. He won't stand a chance against a Gator D allowing nine points a game and ranking No. 2 nationally in total defense. From LB Brandon Spikes to CB Joe Haden, he'll quickly get introduced to Florida's bevy of defensive stars and the true speed of the college game. As prolific as Jermaine Thomas has been on the ground for Florida State in November, he's about to run into a brick wall.
Who to watch: Tebow doesn't have a ton of options when looking to exploit the porous Florida State pass defense, but when he does drop back to pass, he'll likely be looking for Riley Cooper. What Jordan Shipley is to Colt McCoy over at Texas, he's a sure-handed route runner, with a knack for getting behind the secondary. He's caught four touchdown passes in the last four games, and like Tebow, will be playing his final game in Gainesville.
What will happen: It doesn't matter that Florida State is just a game over .500. Florida will still revel in an opportunity to put the ‘Noles over its knee. The Seminoles can't win this one with such a young player under center, but it could stay competitive if the Gators keep sputtering in the red zone. By early in the fourth quarter, Tebow will have plowed ahead for a couple of scores and Urban Meyer will be thinking ahead to ‘Bama.
CFN Prediction: Florida 34 … Florida State 16 ... Line: Florida -23
Must See Rating: (Charlie Brown Thanksgiving 5 … The Twilight Saga: New Moon 1) … 3.5
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- Week 13, Part 2 (Arkansas at LSU, & more)