The SEC offers up quite the smorgasbord of games today.
There's a little bit of something for everyone, from bad (Auburn at Ole Miss, Kentucky at Arkansas) to intriguing (Tennessee at Mississippi State, Alabama at Missouri, Texas A&M vs. Louisiana Tech, Florida at Vanderbilt) to the compelling (South Carolina at LSU).
Forget the fact that four of the games will air on TV at the same (a 6 p.m. kickoff, a 7 p.m. kickoff, an 8 p.m. kickoff and an 8:15 p.m. kickoff), when everything is done around midnight a clearer picture of the SEC race should emerge.
On to the picks:
Alabama (minus 21.5) at Missouri: Nick Saban and Gary Pinkel are good friends but that won't keep Alabama from running up a sizable victory simply because Missouri isn't very good. Add in that the Tigers will be playing with a backup quarterback (isn't that always the case against Alabama?) and it could get ugly in a hurry. Will Alabama be rusty coming out of its week off? Doubtful, and even so the Tide is good enough to win this game with ease. Alabama 38, Missouri 10
Auburn (plus 4.5) at Ole Miss: Seriously, Ole Miss a 4.5-point favorite? Raise you hand if you honestly can say that you thought Ole Miss would be a better team than Auburn this season. Arkansas has been a train wreck and the Razorbacks looked twice as good as Auburn last week. Ole Miss played Alabama pretty tough a few weeks ago and it appears Hugh Freeze has the Rebels headed in a positive direction. Auburn, quite frankly, is a mess. The offensive line is a mess, the quarterback situation is a mess. The Tigers can't decide on a running back and the players are sniping at each other. This late in the season and the Tigers are going to simplify the playbook? Really? Auburn needs something positive to happen in a hurry to salvage the season. Not today. Ole Miss 21, Auburn 10.
South Carolina (plus 2.5) at LSU: Gamecocks can take a big step toward the SEC East title with a road win. LSU, confidence shaken by three weeks of ineffective offense, needs to make a statement that it is one of the best teams in the country. Another LSU loss and the Tigers will not make it back to the national championship game. South Carolina looks like the real deal, LSU does not. South Carolina 17, LSU 7.
Tennessee (plus 3) at Mississippi State: Upset alert here. Mississippi State is 5-0 and ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25, but the Bulldogs have not exactly played a murderer's row schedule. Their two SEC wins are over bottom-feeders Auburn and Kentucky. Outside the conference, MSU owns wins against Jackson State, Troy and South Alabama. Tennessee has lost to Georgia and Florida, two pretty good teams. The Vols can score some points. Can the Bulldogs keep up? Doubtful. Tennessee 27, Mississippi State 24.
Florida (minus 7) at Vanderbilt: This is most definitely is a trap game for the Gators, whose next two games (South Carolina, Georgia) will determine if they can win the East. Vanderbilt hasn't been as good as its preseason advertising but James Franklin's team is capable of hanging in against a Florida team that is not as explosive as in years past. Florida 20, Vanderbilt 7.
Texas A&M (minus 7.5) at Louisiana Tech: This was suppsed to be a season opener for both teams but got pushed back due to Hurricane Isaac. Now, it's a dangerous game for the Aggies. Louisiana Tech averages 53 points per game. Texas A&M counters with star freshman Johnny Manziel. Expect points, lots of points in this one. Louisiana Tech 45, Texas A&M 42.
Kentucky (plus 18.5) at Arkansas: Another loss for Joker Phillips, who is one step closer to losing his job. Basketball season can't get here soon enough for the Wildcats. Arkansas 35, Kentucky 17.