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November 12, 2009

This week in the SEC

All 12 SEC teams are in action this week with two teams dipping out of conference and ten teams going head to head. While the SEC championship match has been decided - Florida and Alabama - there are major bowl implications for every other team playing this week, with the exception of Vanderbilt.

Here's a closer look at this week's games ...

Non-conference games:

Louisiana Tech at LSU: Louisiana Tech comes in with a disappointing 3-6 record, which includes losses to Auburn, Navy, and Boise State, but has played better than its record. LSU lost a shot at the SEC West Division championship with a controversial loss to Alabama last weekend, and along the way, lost some key players to injury. Louisiana Tech likely will play similar to what it did against Auburn, hanging tough in the first half before losing by 24. LSU 38 - Louisiana Tech 14

Troy at Arkansas: What many expected to be an automatic win for Arkansas may be a bit more of a challenge against a 7-2 Troy team. Troy's losses have been to Florida (56-6) following a season opening loss at Bowling Green. None of its wins are particularly notable. Arkansas was impressive in a win last week over South Carolina and likely will cause problems for Troy, especially on offense. Throw in an improving defense, and the Razorbacks should become bowl eligible on Saturday. Arkansas 42 - Troy 21

Conference games:

Alabama at Mississippi State: Alabama has begun to show some areas of vulnerability in a two-point win over Tennessee two weeks ago followed by a controversial win over LSU, again, courtesy of SEC officiating. Mississippi State has had two weeks to prepare for Alabama and is coming off a road win over Kentucky. Mississippi State, while still lacking in talent, has improved greatly over the course of the season and should have a respectable showing against the Tide. Alabama will have to guard against a letdown after winning the division last week. This one has all the makings of a game that could be closer than it should be. Alabama 24 - Mississippi State 17

Kentucky at Vanderbilt: Coming in at 2-8, Vanderbilt has had a difficult season and by all accounts, a 5-4 Kentucky team should become bowl eligible with a win against the Commodores. However, there's been many years where the underdog has knocked off the favorite and kept the other team from going to a bowl. But with a road trip to Georgia and a home finale against Tennessee, it may be now or never for the Wildcats. Injuries have hurt the Wildcats, particularly in the loss to Mississippi State, but after having an easy out-of-conference opponent last week, Kentucky may be healed up enough to take care of business on Saturday. Either way, this should be another close game between the two rivals. Kentucky 24 - Vanderbilt 21

Auburn at Georgia: Georgia hasn't beat Auburn four times in a row since the 1950s, but could pull off the feat with a win here. After losing three straight, Auburn is now bowl eligible with wins over Ole Miss and Furman. Georgia is still searching for its sixth win - but the forecast for that happening and finishing 6-6 after a season closing loss to Georgia Tech looks more realistic next week against Kentucky. With a win, Auburn could easily emerge from now being a Peach Bowl favorite to a Cotton Bowl favorite and finish 8-4 after a season ending loss to Alabama after a bye week next week. Georgia's defense should be challenged against a good Auburn offense while Auburn will have to be careful not to let the Dogs get loose in the secondary. Look for Auburn to put an end to a three-game losing streak to Georgia in yet another close game. Auburn 31 - Georgia 28

Florida at South Carolina: As expected, South Carolina's second half of the season downward spiral continued last week in Fayetteville. At 6-4, South Carolina's stock is dropping quickly and a bid to the Music City Bowl appears most likely unless they can pull off a win in the season finale against Clemson at home in two weeks. Florida continues to be rather unimpressive, yet effective, as they dispatched Vanderbilt last week. Florida will have to guard against a letdown to keep its national championship hopes alive, and might not have time to recover from a loss here, even if it can beat Alabama in the conference championship game. Expect former head Gator Steve Spurrier to pull out all the stops for a win, but for it to fall short. Florida 28 - South Carolina 21

Tennessee at Ole Miss: This is a game that if judged solely on how the two teams are playing, Tennessee has the edge. Ole Miss is coming off a lethargic, yet effective win over Northern Arizona, where objectives were achieved by winning by a considerable margin, staying relatively injury free, and getting some young players experience. Meanwhile, Tennessee is rolling - a big win over Memphis and standing toe-to-toe with Alabama in a two point loss. Match-ups also favor Tennessee - solid running game against a defense that has often struggled to stop the run - and talented receivers against a secondary that has some holes and one of its key contributors (Fon Ingram) questionable for the game. On offense, Ole Miss' passing game has been inconsistent and there's little doubt Tennessee's strategy will be to keep Jevan Snead off balance, which, frankly, has been easy to do with a struggling offensive line. Either team would be bowl eligible with a win. The storyline is Ed Orgeron's return to Ole Miss - and his former players want a win while the staff is brushing off any impact Orgeron would have on the game. Further going against the Rebels is history - Tennessee has won 12 straight dating back to 1984. Ole Miss is talented enough to win the game, but will have to show the emotion it had against Arkansas three weeks ago to win. Take the Rebels based on home field advantage, but don't be surprised if Tennessee pulls out the win. Ole Miss 28 - Tennessee 27

Last week: 8-0
Overall: 61-14
Ole Miss picks: 7-2

Power rankings:

SEC East: Florida (1), Tennessee (2), South Carolina and Georgia (tied for 3), Kentucky (5), and Vanderbilt (6)

SEC West: Alabama (1), LSU (2), Auburn (3), Ole Miss, Arkansas, and Miss. State (tied for 4)

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