What kind of odds could you have gotten this summer that at Thanksgiving the top three teams in the BCS Standings would be: 1) LSU, 2) Alabama, and 3) Arkansas? Here we are at the final Saturday of November and all three are capable of winning the SEC championship and all three could win the national championship. Wow!
So on that upbeat note I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving as we ponder our five burning questions for the weekend to come:
1. Will the LSU cornerbacks be able to lock down the Arkansas wide receivers? There are a bunch of keys to this No. 1 vs. No. 3 matchup, but this is the most important one to me. Because if Mo Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu can handle Arkansas’s incredibly talented wide receivers without a lot of help from the safeties, that gives LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis a lot of options when it comes to bringing pressure on Tyler Wilson, the Razorbacks’ quarterback.
One other thing: The LSU coaches must keep a close eye on special teams play because Arkansas is very good in the return game. Go back and look at the punt return of Joe Adams against Tennessee. In a game with this many talented players on both sides, the kicking game could play a big factor.
2. Will Auburn be able to run it at all against Alabama? Auburn was held to just 51 yards rushing against Georgia, which has the nation’s No. 2 defense against the run (81.27 ypg). Alabama has the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense, giving up only 74.64 yards per game and 2.53 yards per rushing attempt. Auburn is not going to be able to just line up and move Alabama off the ball. Nobody can do that. But Auburn could take a cue from Georgia Southern, whose option attack rolled up 302 yards rushing last week against the Crimson Tide defense. Don’t be surprised if we see more of freshman quarterback Kiehl Frazier in this game.
3. Can Tennessee beat Kentucky to get bowl eligible? Tennessee (5-6) needed overtime last week to beat Vanderbilt and now, after all the drama and crushing injuries of this season, the Volunteers can become bowl eligible with a win over struggling Kentucky (4-7, 1-6). Quarterback Tyler Bray got the cast off his broken thumb and started the game last week against Vanderbilt. He looked rusty with a couple of interceptions (including a 100-yard pick six) but he got the W. I expect him to play a lot better against a Kentucky defense that ranks 63rd nationally.
4. What is on the line at the Egg Bowl? In football, there are degrees of disappointment. After winning nine games last season Mississippi State (5-6, 1-6) planned on taking another step forward in its third year under Dan Mullen. It hasn’t turned out that way and all the close ones went the other way.
Specifically, Mississippi State was stopped at the one-foot line at Auburn on the last play of the game and lost. South Carolina scored late and beat the Bulldogs 14-12 at Starkville.
The season at Ole Miss (2-9, 0-7) has been nothing short of a disaster. Coach Houston Nutt has already been dismissed and he’ll coach the Rebels for the final time on Saturday in Starkville.
Mississippi State needs a win to become bowl eligible. Ole Miss needs a win for pride and to avoid its first three-game losing streak to the Bulldogs since 1942.
5. Can South Carolina win its 10th game for only the second time in history? South Carolina has been playing football since 1892. In all that time the Gamecocks have won 10 games in a season only once, that coming in 1984 when they rose to a No. 2 ranking before stumbling down the stretch. But if South Carolina can beat state rival Clemson on Saturday in Columbia the Gamecocks will finish the regular season at 10-2. “It would be another first for us and it would also give us the state championship, which is important around here,” said coach Steve Spurrier.
South Carolina is looking to win three straight against Clemson for the first time since 1968-70.