By Kendall Webb
The way they’ve played the past two weeks, you wouldn’t know the Texas A&M Aggies were pretty much out of the running for either an SEC championship or a national title.
Since losing to Auburn on October 19, the Aggies have outscored Vanderbilt and UTEP by a combined 113-31, including last week’s 57-7 romp over the latter. The Aggies actually started slow against the Miners last Saturday, prompting a little meeting on the sideline led by quarterback Johnny Manziel. Leading just 9-7 after one quarter, the Aggies were mostly going through the motions before their leader’s speech sparked a quick turnaround. Twenty-seven unanswered points later, the Aggies were well on their way to victory with a 36-7 halftime lead.
Of course, Manziel didn’t just take charge on the sideline; he also took command of the field at that point, eventually passing for 273 yards and four touchdowns while adding 67 yards on the ground with two more scores. And he did all of it by the middle of the third quarter when he returned to the sideline for good with 7:39 remaining in the period. Could it be the start of another late push by Manziel for a second straight Heisman Trophy?
The win, of course, was all but guaranteed over the lowly Miners from Conference USA, who entered the game at just 1-6. And while the Aggies improved to 7-2 overall, it didn’t change their standing in the SEC West, where they remain in the middle of the pack at 3-2 heading into this weekend’s game against Mississippi State.
Week 10 Recap
On the picks, I had my second undefeated week of the season at 6-0 to improve to 68-15 overall. Most of the games were ‘gimmies’ but I did land the week’s toughest pick – Georgia over Florida came through for me despite the Bulldogs’ best efforts to give it away late.
This Coming Weekend
After a week with no real high-profile matchups (Georgia vs. Florida, after all, featured two unranked 4-3 squads), we have LSU at Alabama highlighting the schedule after both had a bye week to prepare last weekend.
Vanderbilt Commodores at Florida Gators
11 a.m. Saturday, November 9 (ESPN3)
STORYLINE: Two 4-4 teams battling to stay above .500
It’s been a disappointing season for these two programs that were looking to climb the SEC East ladder this season. Vandy has fought off-the-field distractions all season long in the form of an ongoing rape case that led to several players being kicked off the team while Florida’s troubles have mostly come on the field in the form of injuries.
PREDICTION: Only one of these 4-4 teams will emerge from this with anything to smile about, and neither of them can really afford the loss. Florida still has a road game at South Carolina and a home game against unbeaten Florida State so a loss here means bowl eligibility is anything but a guarantee. Vandy’s path is a little less treacherous, with home games remaining against Kentucky and Wake Forest, but nothing is certain in Music City either. Florida’s schedule makes this a little more urgent for the Gators, however, and they’ll have the home crowd behind them as well. That should be enough for Will Muschamp’s crew to get the win.
No. 11 Missouri Tigers at Kentucky Wildcats
11 a.m., Saturday, November 9 (ESPNU)
STORYLINE: Missouri controls its destiny in the SEC East
The storyline says it all really, and if you follow this column, you know by now that Missouri has given me fits. They are definitely one of the nation’s surprise teams, and they’ll enter this game at Kentucky most likely with backup quarterback Maty Mauk at the controls once again.
PREDICTION: The Tigers can’t afford to overlook the Wildcats with South Carolina and Georgia breathing down their necks. Their loss to the Gamecocks two weeks ago actually kept them from being able to clinch the East against the Wildcats this weekend, but I think the Tigers will get it done and take one more step toward a division championship.
No. 7 Auburn Tigers at Tennessee Volunteers
11 a.m. Saturday, November 9 (ESPN)
STORYLINE: Auburn’s rushing offense vs. Tennessee’s rushing defense
And that’s not a good storyline for Tennessee. Auburn is fifth in the country in rushing with more than 300 yards per game (306.2 to be exact) while Tennessee ranks 99th out of 125 FBS teams yielding 201.7 yards per game.
PREDICTION: And yet, my gut feeling tells me Tennessee will make a game of this. The numbers are impossible to ignore, however, and I’ll go with Auburn to get another SEC road win.
Arkansas Razorbacks at No. 28 Ole Miss Rebels
11:21 a.m. Saturday, November 9 (ESPN3/ESPN GamePlan)
STORYLINE: A must-win for Arkansas to stay alive for bowl consideration
Don’t count on it, however. If the Hogs make it to the postseason it will be because they somehow won their final three games, starting here with a road win at Ole Miss. While they could certainly beat Mississippi State at home next week, a win here or at LSU in the finale would be shocking.
PREDICTION: Ole Miss is far from flawless, of course, and it’s been a season of ups and downs for the streaky Rebels. But they’re on a good streak right now after a rejuvenating win against LSU at home two weeks ago followed by last week’s rout of Idaho. I just don’t see Arkansas standing much of a chance here, despite the fact they will be in desperation mode. I’ll take Ole Miss to win comfortably.
Appalachian State Mountaineers at Georgia Bulldogs
11:30 a.m. Saturday, November 9 (ESPN3/ESPN GamePlan)
STORYLINE: A breather for Georgia
There was a time when an Appalachian State squad might have put a scare into a struggling Georgia team (Remember Michigan, anyone?). But not this season.
PREDICTION: That’s because these Mountaineers are just 2-7 at the FCS level before starting their transition to the FBS next year, and the Bulldogs won’t have any problem with them at home.
Mississippi State Bulldogs at No. 13 Texas A&M Aggies
2:30 p.m. Saturday, November 9 (CBS)
STORYLINE: Bulldogs try to stop a red-hot Johnny Manziel
Texas A&M has dominated unranked opponents at home over the last two seasons, and Mississippi State has dropped 21 of its past 23 games on the road against ranked teams.
PREDICTION: It’s not a good combination of numbers for the Bulldogs, and honestly I think the Aggies will blow the Bulldogs out in College Station as Manziel continues another late push for his second Heisman Trophy.
No. 14 LSU Tigers at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide
7 p.m. Saturday, November 9 (CBS)
STORYLINE: Can LSU reprise its 2011 victory in Tuscaloosa?
It used to be the only things certain in life were death and taxes. These days you can add Alabama winning the national title in football to that list (or so it seems). Two years ago, the LSU Tigers came to Tuscaloosa and upset the Tide, 9-6, in a field goal fest dominated by two of the best defenses of all time. Last year it was Texas A&M beating the Tide in Tuscaloosa, but both times, Nick Saban managed to maneuver his troops into the BCS National Championship Game anyway and back to their championship pedestal. And if LSU can’t pull an upset here, then the rest of the college football world may have seen its last best opportunity to knock the Tide from its customary spot in the title game.
PREDICTION: Sure, Auburn’s only got one loss and the Tide will still have to win the season finale on the Plains. But I still feel if Alabama’s going to stumble, there’s a better chance of LSU pulling the upset than a young Auburn team that’s yet to face a beast like the Tide. And, sorry, folks, I don’t see LSU doing it either. It might be a battle for awhile as this game can be, but I expect by the middle of the second half, the Tide will start to pull away for the win.