No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Ohio State have taken over the top spots in the BCS standings with just one week to go before the final pairing for the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game is announced.
The Seminoles and Buckeyes are the only two remaining undefeated teams from the automatic qualifying conferences and have the inside track to play for the title.
Auburn moved up to No. 3 by winning the Iron Bowl, while Alabama dropped to No. 4, barely ahead of No. 5 Missouri.
Auburn will play Missouri on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game, but both teams will likely need either Florida State or Ohio State to lose in order to move into the top two.
Florida State is ranked first in both polls used by the BCS and is also first in the computer ratings. The Seminoles need only beat No. 20 Duke in the ACC Championship Game to remain at the top of the standings.
Ohio State needed to stop Michigan on a two-point conversion in the final minute to stay unbeaten, but the Buckeyes' ugly win doesn't seem to have hurt them too badly. They are second in both polls as well as the computers.
Jennings has the goods: Zach Mettenberger has enjoyed an exceptional senior season as LSU's quarterback, but Arkansas was still in the lead when Mettenberger left the game with a knee injury. That brought on true freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings, who was 2-for-3 for 23 yards this season before Friday. And all Jennings did was lead a 99-yard, go-ahead touchdown drive and hit Travin Dural with the winning 49-yard touchdown pass with 1:15 to play -- and he did it with a backup center and offensive tackle and with star receiver Odell Beckham out of the game. Mettenberger is a future NFL quarterback who won't be easy to replace, but the dual-threat Jennings showed that he has some impressive playmaking ability of his own.
Interesting offseason: The story of the last offseason for LSU was its mind-boggling number of losses on defense, mostly to underclassmen who entered the draft with college eligibility remaining. Their absences were evident, as John Chavis' defense dealt with consistency issues for much of the fall. The shoe could be on the other foot for the Tigers next season. Mettenberger (14-for-22 for 156 yards and one interception against Arkansas) will definitely be gone. Star receivers Beckham (one catch for 16 yards) and Jarvis Landry (8 catches for 113 yards), both juniors, could also join him in the draft pool. The Tigers should still have tailbacks Jeremy Hill (20 carries, 145 yards, TD) and Terrence Magee (7 carries,58 yards, 2 TDs), but the offense could lose a lot of firepower soon. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron might soon be in the same position as Chavis was this year.
Wrong kind of history for Hogs: Arkansas has had bad seasons in the past -- last year was no great shakes, in fact -- but none quite like this. By losing its lead late in Friday's game, Arkansas completed its first winless season in conference play since it joined the SEC in 1992. That 0-8 conference mark was part of a nine-game losing streak to close the season, with six of those defeats coming against teams that were ranked when they beat the Hogs. Arkansas couldn't have salvaged its season by winning in Baton Rouge, but it would have made the offseason much more tolerable.
The SEC saved the best for last. In the final week of the regular season, Alabama and Auburn played the game of the year in college football. The stakes were high. The rivalry is fierce. And the game was decided by a 109-yard field goal return for a touchdown on the final play of the game. How do you write a better script than that?
The matchup is now set for next weekend’s SEC title game, but let’s look back at five things we learned from Saturday’s action.
The ride continues: Auburn trailed Alabama for most of Saturday’s game, but the Tigers found a way to win in the fourth quarter, as they always do. It’s been that way all season, and it was no different against the nation’s No. 1 team in the Iron Bowl. What coach Gus Malzahn has been able to do in his first season on the Plains has been nothing short of remarkable. He took over a team that was 3-9 and winless in the SEC in 2012, and he has them playing for a conference championship. It’s reminiscent of the 2010 season, when Cam Newton led the Tigers to an undefeated season and a BCS national championship, but this isn't over yet. Saturday was a monumental victory for Malzahn and this Auburn team, but now they must start preparing for Missouri.
No three-peat: Alabama’s quest for a third consecutive BCS title fell short on Saturday, and the Crimson Tide had only themselves to blame. They had been able to overcome turnovers, penalties and other mistakes all season long, but the miscues finally caught up to them against Auburn. It started with a missed field goal. AJ McCarron and his receivers didn’t look to be in sync early in the game. Then there was a blocked punt. With all of those errors, Alabama still jumped out to a 21-7 lead. But in the second half, the Tide missed three more field goals, and the last one proved to be the difference-maker as Auburn returned it 109 yards for the game-winning score. UA kicker Cade Foster drilled one of the attempts only to see the points taken away by a false start penalty. The stakes were high, and Alabama failed to play its best football. It cost the Crimson Tide.
QBs to the rescue: LSU and Mississippi State both won in dramatic fashion this weekend, and both have reserve quarterbacks to thank for it. In Mississippi State’s case, it was regular starter Dak Prescott who took over in the fourth quarter and led the Bulldogs past archrival Ole Miss in overtime. Prescott missed the two previous games with an injury and wasn’t expected to play Thursday. But Dan Mullen rolled the dice, and it worked. Mississippi State became bowl eligible with the win. LSU turned to freshman signal-caller Anthony Jennings out of necessity when Zach Mettenberger got hurt in the fourth quarter. Jennings led a 99-yard drive in the final minutes, throwing a 49-yard touchdown to push the Tigers past Arkansas.
No SEC in the BCS: It was a wild weekend in the SEC, but Saturday’s Iron Bowl could leave the conference out of the BCS title game for the first time since 2005. Alabama was the favorite to reach Pasadena and win a third straight national championship, but the Tide’s aspirations fell short against Auburn. Now it will likely be Florida State and Ohio State at the top with both Auburn and Missouri on the outside looking in. The SEC’s only hope is that either the Seminoles or the Buckeyes lose next weekend in their conference championship games or that the winner of the SEC title game will have a strong enough résumé to overcome one loss and jump an undefeated Ohio State team. If not, the league's seven-year reign might be over.
Jarvis Landry: There likely have been better catches than the 32-yard, left-handed grab Landry made over Arkansas cornerback D.J. Dean on LSU's fourth-quarter field-goal drive, but it's a short list. Landry has made a habit of posterizing Razorbacks defenders, but this was the topper. Just an unbelievable catch -- and the capper on another outstanding outing in which he finished with eight catches for 113 yards. With running mate Odell Beckham out of the game with an injury, Landry's Tigers needed him to deliver, and he certainly did.
Anthony Jennings: The true freshman quarterback entered the game under almost impossible circumstances, and yet he delivered a winning performance. LSU was down 27-21 when Jennings entered the game after senior Zach Mettenberger went down with a knee injury on the same play where Landry made his ridiculous catch. Jennings completed the drive, which ended with an LSU field goal, so the Tigers needed at least a field goal to tie when Arkansas' Sam Irwin-Hill punted the ball to the LSU 1 with 3:04 to play. No problem. Jennings went 4-for-6 for 76 yards -- including the game-winning 49-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural with 1:15 to play -- and also ran twice for 23 yards as LSU mounted the game-winning drive.
Jeremy Hill: Almost put cornerback Jalen Mills here -- and he certainly made some big plays -- but Hill deserves the mention. LSU leaned heavily on its big bull of a tailback, and he delivered with 20 carries for 145 yards, good for an average of 7.3 yards per carry. Hill's 52-yard touchdown run in the third quarter gave LSU a 21-20 lead. It was also his fourth TD run of 50-plus yards this season, which leads the SEC and is tied with Indiana's Tevin Coleman for second in the FBS, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
- Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron can make a case for the Heisman Trophy with a strong performance against Auburn on Saturday.
- Gus Malzahn has turned Auburn’s program around in just one year. His signature gesture points the program to an even higher goal.
- Defensive end Michael Sam, a former-two-star recruit, has emerged as one of the SEC’s top pass rushers, giving Missouri’s defense an edge.
- Jadeveon Clowney took a shot at Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd over the summer, and he’ll get a chance to back it up Saturday in the Palmetto Bowl.
- LSU fullback Connor Neighbors worked his way from afterthought to playing a key role in the Tigers’ offense this season.
- Johnny Manziel expects to bounce back Saturday at Missouri.
- Dak Prescott wasn’t expected to play for Mississippi State on Thursday, but he came in during the fourth quarter and led the Bulldogs past Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.
- Georgia’s Ramik Wilson making the most of a move to inside linebacker.
- Florida State legend Bobby Bowden has coached in his fair share of Florida-FSU games, but he doesn’t remember the gap ever being this wide.
- Running back Wesley Tate eyes big finish to his up-and-down career at Vanderbilt.
And why wouldn’t we expect that? It’s not as if we had seen Manziel struggle. Not for a while, anyway. And never as badly as he did at LSU in a decisive 34-10 loss.
I spent time with Manziel and the A&M program during the bye week before the LSU game, which turned out to be his worst college performance. Team officials joked afterward that I might not be invited back to College Station. (It was a joke -- right, fellas?)
Following are some stories from that access, as a way of examining what it is that has made Manziel and the Texas A&M offense so successful these last two seasons, what went wrong versus LSU, and whether (with the Heisman race still wide open) Manziel can bounce back and lead the Aggies to a win at No. 5 Missouri on Saturday night, ruining the Tigers’ SEC title hopes in the process.
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Let's take a look at five key points in today's game in Baton Rouge:
Where did that come from?: Prior to last Saturday's dominant win against Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, we last saw LSU getting run off the field by top-ranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide pulled away in the second half and rolled up 372 yards of total offense in its 38-17 victory. Against the Aggies, however, John Chavis' defense looked like a completely different group from the one that produced mediocre results for most of the season. LSU held A&M to 299 yards, its fewest since totaling 226 in a 65-10 loss to Oklahoma in 2009. Manziel posted a career-low 14.9 Total QBR against the Tigers, and A&M's 13-game streak of scoring at least 40 points -- tied for the longest in major college football history -- also came to a screeching halt. We say all that to say this: maybe that confidence-building performance means that Chavis' young defense is starting to turn a corner as we near the end of the season.
Struggling Hogs: On that front, Arkansas' offense shouldn't pose much of a threat as long as the Tigers defend the run adequately. LSU has had its ups and downs on that front -- the Tigers rank sixth in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 145.8 yards per game -- but running the ball is all Arkansas has done with any competence. The Razorbacks are 26th nationally and fifth in the SEC with an average of 211.1 rushing yards per game, but they are an atrocious passing team. They rank dead last in the conference and 115th nationally with an average of 145.8 passing yards per game. Keep an eye on Razorbacks runners Alex Collins (179-998, 4 TDs) and Jonathan Williams (137-842, 4 TDs), who are about the only offensive players who could create any headaches for the Tigers today.
Crazy series: It was clear even before the season started that first-year Arkansas coach Bret Bielema would need time to transition from predecessor Bobby Petrino's pass-happy scheme to the personnel needed to run the ground-based attack that he employed at Wisconsin. But nobody would have predicted that Bielema's debut season would be as ugly as it has been, with the Hogs entering Friday's game on an eight-game losing streak and losing by an average of three touchdowns per game over that stretch. That said, this has been a crazy series at times in the last decade -- most notably the 2007 game, when the top-ranked Tigers lost to Darren McFadden and unranked Arkansas 50-48 in triple overtime. No. 12 Arkansas also upset No. 5 LSU 31-23 in 2010. But overall, LSU has held the upper hand in this series over the last decade, posting a 7-3 record overall and 4-1 mark at Tiger Stadium. The Tigers are 6-0 in Death Valley this season, while Arkansas is 0-4 on the road.
Bringing the heat: Part of the reason that LSU experienced so much success last weekend was that its blitzes were extremely effective when Manziel dropped back to pass. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Tigers brought five or more pass rushers on 37.3 of Manziel's dropbacks and he completed just 3 of 16 passes, tossing two interceptions. Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen has games where he has attempted 41, 36 and 32 passes, respectively, this season, so if LSU builds an early lead, the Tigers could have another opportunity to let their blitz wreak havoc once the Razorbacks have to pass more than they would prefer.
Keep it grounded: If LSU builds that early lead, it would not be at all surprising to see the Tigers grind out the win on the ground despite quarterback Zach Mettenberger ranking fourth nationally in opponent-adjusted Total QBR (87.8) and wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. (56 catches, 1,101 yards, 8 TDs) and Jarvis Landry (67-1,059, 10 TDs) ranking third and fourth, respectively, in the SEC in receiving yards per game. LSU's aerial attack can certainly be effective, but after rushing for 324 yards against Texas A&M -- 149 from Terrence Magee and 76 from Jeremy Hill -- the Tigers seem content to let the ground game put away wins in their traditional style under Les Miles. A productive running game is certainly an indicator of success for LSU. In its eight wins, LSU is averaging 242.25 rushing yards. In its three losses, its rushing average drops to 78 yards per game.
Spend some time with family. Gorge yourself until it's time to take a nap, and watch a little football. Somewhere in between, be sure you count your blessings. too.
We'll be back on the SEC blog on Friday and will spread out across the SEC on Saturday for the final week of the regular season. Hard to believe the 2013 season is just about in the books.
See everybody on the road this weekend. Save me a turkey leg.
- Saturday’s Iron Bowl will feature two defenses that clamp down in the red zone.
- Auburn leads the SEC in rushing, but the Tigers are preparing to face the "best we've played" in Alabama's run defense.
- Missouri running back Henry Josey is closing in on 1,000 yards, a milestone many thought would never happen after he suffered a brutal knee injury two years ago.
- Connor Shaw will play his final home game Saturday, and win or lose he might go down as the best quarterback to ever play for South Carolina.
- LSU has several juniors who could leave early for the NFL draft, but head coach Les Miles hopes they learn from the draft mistakes of their predecessors.
- It was reported that Johnny Manziel would make a decision on whether or not he would declare for the 2014 NFL draft before Texas A&M’s bowl game, but Kevin Sumlin says he doesn’t know when that decision will come.
- Get to know Hutson Mason, Georgia’s new quarterback, in a Q&A with reporters.
- Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease might be coaching his last game this weekend, but he believes he deserves another chance with the Gators.
- Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State will attempt to lock down momentum in Thursday’s Egg Bowl.
- Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs remains "extremely confident" despite recent struggles.
One weekend, two games to determine the fate of the SEC divisional titles. One chance for teams to punch their ticket to Atlanta.
Let's take a look at how the division races sit going into the final weekend of regular season games:
- For the first time the Iron Bowl is a play-in game for the SEC Championship game. That's helping to make it the "Iron Bowl of all Iron Bowls," with No. 1 Alabama (11-0, 7-0 SEC) heading to Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on No. 4 Auburn (10-1, 6-1). The winner takes the SEC West and goes to the championship game. The loser finishes second and gets to watch. Simple as that.
- The next grouping has LSU (8-3, 4-3) and Texas A&M (8-3, 4-3) tied for third in the division, though LSU defeated A&M head-to-head last week. LSU has last-place Arkansas (3-8, 0-7) this weekend while A&M travels to Missouri. Ole Miss (7-4, 3-4) is a game behind LSU and Texas A&M in the division and plays sixth-place Mississippi State (5-6, 2-5) in the Egg Bowl.
- No. 5 Missouri (10-1, 6-1) holds its fate in its own hands. If the Tigers beat Texas A&M, they win the SEC East and go to Atlanta for the SEC championship game. If the Tigers lose to the Aggies, South Carolina (9-2, 6-2) waltzes in and takes the SEC title game berth by virtue of its win over the Mizzou on Oct. 26, which serves as the head-to-head tiebreaker. South Carolina's conference schedule is wrapped; the Gamecocks play No. 6 Clemson this weekend.
- Georgia (7-4, 5-3) finishes in third place in the division and faces nonconference foe Georgia Tech. Vanderbilt (7-4, 4-4) closed out its SEC play last week with a win over Tennessee and the Commodores conclude the year fourth in the division and finish up against nonconference foe Wake Forest. Florida (4-7, 3-5) will conclude a nightmarish season against rival Florida State and the Gators are fifth in the league. Tennessee (4-7, 1-6) and Kentucky (2-9, 0-7) are sixth and seventh and play each other this weekend.
1. For all the marbles: Have you heard the Iron Bowl is this weekend? If not, you probably don't live in Alabama. Allow me to fill you in. Top-ranked Alabama will visit No. 4 Auburn on Saturday. It's a game with major conference and BCS implications, as the winner will represent the SEC West in the league championship game. Likewise, the Eastern Division remains up for grabs. No. 5 Missouri leads, but must defeat No. 21 Texas A&M in order to represent the division in Atlanta. With an A&M win, No. 10 South Carolina will win the East thanks to its victory against Mizzou.
2. In-state hate: The Iron Bowl, which is likely the nastiest in-state rivalry of them all, will receive the most national attention this week because of its championship implications. However, it's certainly not the only place you'll find distaste for the cross-state enemy. It kicks off with Thursday's Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Then you've got Auburn-Alabama, Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Florida-Florida State all on Saturday.
3. ACC vs. SEC: The ACC thought last season that it might finally break through in rivalry games against opponents from the mighty SEC. Then Georgia wiped the floor with Georgia Tech, South Carolina controlled its game against Clemson, and Florida used a 24-point fourth quarter to beat FSU 37-26. This weekend might be a different story, however. At 4-7, Florida is enduring its worst season in decades and enters as a decided underdog against unbeaten FSU. Georgia faces uncertainty with quarterback Aaron Murray sidelined when it visits Tech. And while South Carolina is favored by five points, No. 6 Clemson is ranked higher and is certainly capable of winning in Columbia.
5. Battle for the boot: How can it be that No. 17 LSU and Arkansas ranked first and third nationally just two seasons ago when they met? When the Razorbacks visit Baton Rouge on Friday with the Golden Boot trophy at stake, they will be 25-point underdogs. Certainly some of that point spread has to do with the Tigers' impressive 34-10 win against Texas A&M. More of it is that Arkansas has been awful for most of the season. The Razorbacks have lost eight straight games, by an average margin of 21 points, as they enter this weekend's finale. While the Battle for the Boot has often ended in crazy fashion, it would be a surprise to see this installment remain competitive into the fourth quarter.
6. Murray's replacement: For the first time since the 2009 season, someone other than Murray will start at quarterback for Georgia. The SEC's all-time leading passer underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that he tore Saturday against Kentucky. The starting nod will go to Hutson Mason, who led Georgia to four touchdowns and a field goal in five possessions against the Wildcats. Georgia Tech has to like seeing a different quarterback under center for the Bulldogs, as Murray was 48-for-65 for 738 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception in three career starts against the Yellow Jackets.
8. Bowl bid at stake in Starkville: Not only will Dan Mullen's Mississippi State club (5-6) be playing Thursday to recapture some of the in-state mojo it lost to Ole Miss in the past year, the Bulldogs must beat the Rebels in order to achieve bowl eligibility. Mullen's three-game winning streak against the Rebels ended last fall when Hugh Freeze's club won handily, 41-24, and then Ole Miss added insult to injury by signing one of the most heralded recruiting classes in school history. It would be another embarrassing blow if Ole Miss beats the Bulldogs to prevent them from reaching the postseason.
9. Clowney vs. Boyd: South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney harassed Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd in last season's win, earning Boyd 4.5 sacks as the Gamecocks beat the Tigers for the fourth time in a row. Boyd finished 11-for-24 for 183 yards and tossed two interceptions -- one of which led to Dylan Thompson's win-clinching touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington. Boyd has been terrible in two starts against South Carolina, and he'll have to perform more consistently against Clowney & Co. in order to end the losing streak.
10. Tennessee tumble: There was a point when Tennessee was 4-3 and looked like an SEC East darkhorse after the Volunteers nearly beat Georgia and shocked South Carolina at Neyland Stadium. Then came a run of lopsided losses to three consecutive top-10 teams (Alabama, Missouri and Auburn) and a last-minute defeat against Vanderbilt. With Tennessee now 4-7, we know first-year coach Butch Jones won't lead the Vols to a bowl game, but his team could at least remove some of the bitter taste from its mouth by beating Kentucky, which has lost 15 straight SEC games.
Some might say our prognostications on the SEC blog would fall into a similar category.
It was all I could do to break even and finish 4-4 for the week. Edward was 5-3, which means he extended his lead over me to two games.
The ATL Kid is now 89-15 (.856), while I’m 87-17 (.837). We both missed Georgia Southern’s upset of Florida last week. Who did get that one right? We also both whiffed on LSU’s win over Texas A&M.
In addition, I missed Mississippi State’s win over Arkansas and Vanderbilt’s win over Tennessee. Edward missed Missouri’s win over Ole Miss.
So not a pretty showing by either one of us last week.
There are several toss-ups on the docket this week as well as some heated rivalry games. It’s the final week of the regular season, meaning all that’s left are the SEC championship game and bowl games.
Unless I want to finish with the silver medal for the second straight year, I need to bring my “A” game these last few weeks. The Kid, of course, thinks he has it won. He's even talking about letting his cat pick a few games going forward.
Here’s how we see things shaking out in Week 14:
OLE MISS at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Chris Low: Mississippi State needs this game if the Bulldogs are going to extend their bowl streak to four straight years. They gave themselves a chance last week with their overtime win at Arkansas, and Dan Mullen and crew will get their biggest win of the season on Thanksgiving Night over the “school up north.” Mississippi State 30, Ole Miss 27
Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs have all the momentum after an overtime win against Arkansas and Ole Miss' dreary loss to Missouri. Mississippi State needs a win to make its fourth-straight bowl game, while the Rebels are playing for pride and a second straight win over their arch-rival. Ole Miss 27, Mississippi State 24
ARKANSAS at LSU
Low: The end of this season can’t get here soon enough for Arkansas, which has lost a school-worst eight straight games and looking down the barrel of its first nine-loss season in school history. Tiger Stadium is no place to try to get well all of a sudden. LSU 35, Arkansas 16
Aschoff: All of a sudden, LSU looks like its old self. The defense stood tall against Johnny Manziel and there's an outside chance that the Tigers could make a BCS bowl game. The Hogs have lost eight straight and just don't have the talent to match up with LSU. LSU 38, Arkansas 17
WAKE FOREST at VANDERBILT
Low: Bowl games are quickly becoming old hat for the Commodores. They’re thinking eight regular-season wins again after taking down Tennessee last week. In the past, this might have been a game Vanderbilt would lose. But not anymore. Vanderbilt 31, Wake Forest 17
Aschoff: Once again, the Commodores are red-hot in the month of November and are looking for back-to-back nine-win seasons. They'll take yet another step forward, as they head to the postseason without a blemish in November. Vanderbilt 31, Wake Forest 14
FLORIDA STATE at FLORIDA
Low: Talk about two rivals going in opposite directions. Florida has lost six in a row and is headed for its first losing season since 1979. Florida State is two wins away from wrapping up a berth in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game. The Seminoles will be doing the chomping in this one. Florida State 37, Florida 14
Aschoff: Nothing is going right in Gainesville, while the Seminoles are fighting for a spot in the BCS title game. Florida State hasn't scored less than 41 points this season. In the past four games, the Noles have scored 27 touchdowns, while Florida has just 26 touchdowns on the season. Enough said. Florida State 34, Florida 6
TENNESSEE at KENTUCKY
Low: Between them, Kentucky and Tennessee are a combined 5-41 in SEC play dating back to the start of the 2011 season. The Wildcats’ last SEC win came over Tennessee to close out the 2011 season. They’ve lost 15 in a row in the league. Both teams are limping to the finish, but the Vols will squeeze out an ugly one. Tennessee 23, Kentucky 21
Aschoff: Neither one of these teams is going to a bowl and both are in major rebuilding modes. But neither team has quit, and that's a good sign for the future. As for Saturday, Tennessee's edge in overall talent will push the Vols to their fifth win of the season. Tennessee 27, Kentucky 23
GEORGIA at GEORGIA TECH
Low: The Bulldogs will have to finish the season without senior quarterback Aaron Murray, who tore his ACL last week. It’s Hutson Mason’s show now, and he’ll get just enough help from his defense to slip out of Atlanta with a win. Georgia 34, Georgia Tech 27
Aschoff: The Bulldogs might be down Murray at quarterback, but Mason shouldn't have much of a problem filling in this weekend. Georgia Tech's defense has gotten better and they'd love to leave another dent in the Bulldogs' season, but expect Georgia's run defense to answer the call late. Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 24
TEXAS A&M at MISSOURI
Low: Seeing Johnny Manziel struggle the way he did last week at LSU was surprising enough. But good luck in shutting him down two weeks in a row. He’ll bounce back with a vintage Johnny Football performance, and Texas A&M will throw a dagger into Missouri’s Eastern Division championship hopes with a wild shootout win. Texas A&M 41, Missouri 38
Aschoff: If the Tigers win, they are headed to the SEC championship game in their second year in the conference. Manziel's slim Heisman chances could get a major boost with a win in a hostile Mizzou environment. Pressure hasn't gotten to the Tigers all season, and it still won't even with the most exciting player in the country in town. Missouri 38, Texas A&M 34
CLEMSON at SOUTH CAROLINA
Low: This is one of the more underrated rivalries in college football. And lately, South Carolina has made it a one-sided rivalry with four straight victories in the series. No team has won five straight since Clemson won seven in a row from 1934-40. The Head Ball Coach, though, has had Clemson’s number, and it sounds as though Jadeveon Clowney will be healthy for this game. That’s bad news for the Tigers. South Carolina 34, Clemson 24
Aschoff: The Gamecocks might not make it to the SEC championship game, but a BCS bowl is still on the line. South Carolina has won four straight against Clemson, but the Tigers are also fighting for a BCS berth. Clowney might not be on the same level as he was last year, but we'll find out if Tajh Boyd truly is scared of him. South Carolina 31, Clemson 24
ALABAMA at AUBURN
Low: Raise your hand if you predicted back in August that this game would determine the Western Division championship and also have national championship implications for both teams. It’s been an incredible turnaround for Auburn, but even at home on the Plains, the Tigers won’t be able to stymie Alabama’s march to a third straight national title. Alabama 31, Auburn 21
Aschoff: This is exactly what the Iron Bowl should feel like. The SEC Western Division is on the line and so is the BCS title game. Auburn has made the biggest turnaround in college football, while Alabama has been steady during its run to three straight BCS titles. The Tigers have the SEC's best running game, while Alabama has the league's best rush defense. Something has to give, but Alabama will keep the Tigers one-dimensional and continue its unbeaten run. Alabama 34, Auburn 23
Head coach Les Miles expects his seniors to be ready for Senior Day, but it’s his job to prepare the rest of the team.
It’s a group of seniors who know how to win. To put it in perspective, the LSU senior class has been a part of 42 wins, an SEC championship, a 13-0 regular season and played in the BCS title game. The fifth-year seniors have been a part of 51 wins during their tenure.
What LSU needs to do to win: Seven of the last eight games in this rivalry have been decided by eight points or less, so it’s important for LSU not to overlook Arkansas even if the Razorbacks are still in search of their first SEC win. The Tigers need to bring the same type of energy they showed against Texas A&M, and it starts up front. Running backs Terrence Magee and Jeremy Hill combined for 225 yards last week, and the duo should find similar success against an Arkansas defense that’s ranked in the bottom half of the league against the run. LSU’s defense will face a more physical style of play, but the Hogs don’t have a Johnny Manziel.
Players to watch
QB Zach Mettenberger: All eyes were on Manziel last weekend, but the reigning Heisman winner was outplayed by Mettenberger, a talented NFL prospect in his own right. The LSU signal caller has seen his share of ups and downs in his career, but he has a chance to finish on a high note beginning with Friday’s game, his last in Tiger Stadium.
LB Lamin Barrow: The LSU defense is relatively young with the exception of Barrow and safety Craig Loston. Both will be playing their final home against Arkansas, and both will be sorely missed. Barrow currently leads the team with 80 tackles, and that number could rise significantly against a run-heavy Razorbacks squad.
“I have to be honest -- I think it’s definitely the turkey with a warm gravy. Maybe it’s the last spoon or fork of food on the plate, you know, that has a little bit of salt and pepper and maybe a little bit of the turkey and gravy and some of the stuffing that would be there and maybe just a smidgen of that cranberry stuff.” -- Miles on his favorite Thanksgiving dish
Michigan’s top ranked commitment in 2014, Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), tweeted on Tuesday about a change of plans.
Imma take a couple Officials after the season myself— Breezy (@JabrillPeppers) November 26, 2013
The No. 2-ranked prospect committed to the Wolverines on ESPN back in May. At the time LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers were among the schools he was considering. It now seems Peppers will be reevaluating schools.
This is significant because Michigan coach Brady Hoke and his staff have a no-visit policy for their commitments. Any prospect who commits to Michigan is not allowed to take other visits.
If a prospect does take a visit to a different program then they are no longer considered a Michigan commit. That doesn’t preclude the Michigan staff from still recruiting that prospect, it just means they are no longer committed to Michigan.
Peppers is a five-star prospect and badly needed in Ann Arbor, Mich., so this proves to be a bad situation for Hoke if these visits do come to fruition. Peppers, however, did state he is still committed to the Wolverines.
"I am still 100% committed to the University of Michigan and that is the place where I want to go to college," Peppers said. "With the rumors about Coach Hoke possibly not being there I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places in case the University of Michigan decides to go in a different direction. For the sake of my future I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further! Go Blue and beat TDS."
Peppers’ high school coach, Chris Partridge, said he had not heard anything about the potential visits from his star athlete.