The college football season finally reaches its last week of regular season play, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for in Week 13 as Kentucky takes on Louisville on the road.
1. The Iron Bowl Showdown
It’s rivalry week in the SEC which means that all eyes will focused on the famous Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama.
This game has given college football some of the best games of this decade. The unfortunate news, however, is that this year’s Iron Bowl does not have near the hype of its predecessors. Alabama is having one of the best seasons in recent memory, and they enter this matchup as 24-point favorites.
Alabama opens up a huge 24.5 favorite over Auburn. Surprisingly it is only the highest in the series in 6 years as just back in 2012 Alabama was -34.5 in the Iron Bowl and won that game and covered 49-0.
— Phil Steele (@philsteele042) November 19, 2018
ESPN’s current matchup predictor only gives the Tigers an 8.9% chance of winning this contest which is almost unheard of in a rivalry series that has been so entertaining.
There is still some intrigue to this game. Don’t forget, Auburn is the last team that defeated the Crimson Tide as they were victorious in the Iron Bowl last season. The Tigers will not be afraid of Alabama when they travel to Tuscaloosa.
Plus, Auburn still has Jarrett Stidham at quarterback. Yes, he has been incredibly disappointing this season, but Stidham may just be the best quarterback talent-wise that the Crimson Tide have seen so far this season (I’m not big on Drew Lock).
Despite these motivating factors for a Tiger victory, I don’t think they have any chance to win if Tua Tagovailoa is healthy and under center for the Crimson Tide. The most interesting aspect of this matchup is if Tagovailoa can put up large enough to stats to secure the Heisman Trophy.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 22, 2018
2. LSU Makes Its Final Case
In the only ranked SEC contest this week No. 7 LSU will travel to College Station to take on the No. 22 Texas A&M Aggies. This will be the final game the Tigers will play before the committee selects which four teams will make the College Football Playoff.
If LSU drops this matchup, they will be effectively eliminated from the playoff. If the Tigers win, they may still find their selves on the outside looking in. They will need all three of Oklahoma, Georgia, and Michigan to lose one more game, and even if that happens UCF could realistically jump over LSU if they remain undefeated. Crazier things have happened.
But let’s look at what is currently at hand. I see today’s matchup as basically an even match. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Aggies a 59.9% chance of winning, and they are also favored by three points.
Of course, LSU is the higher ranked team with more to play for so it’s easy to see why many still think the Tigers will walk away victorious.
In what will be a close game, I think the team with the best offensive player will win and that happens to be Texas A&M. In running back Trayveon Williams the Aggies have the best running back in the SEC at the moment (sorry Benny Snell).
NOTHING was stopping Trayveon Williams on this overtime TD ?
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 7, 2018
Plus, I believe that the Aggies also have the better coach with Jimbo Fisher despite Ed Orgeron having a great season. Add in the fact that this will be a night game in College Station, and I think you have a recipe for a Texas A&M victory.
3. Tennessee and Vandy Battle for a Bowl Game
In the third most important game of Rivalry Weekend (South Carolina doesn’t stand much of a chance against Clemson) 5-6 Tennessee travels to Nashville to take on the 5-6 Vanderbilt Commodores. You know what that means.
The winner will be playing in a bowl game which will be absolutely huge for either program.
Head Coach Derek Mason badly needs a big win over a rival school to keep his coaching career alive at Vanderbilt. Remember, Vandy currently does not have an athletic director. There are no guarantees that Mason will remain at the school if the Commodores turn in a losing season.
On the other hand, receiving a bowl invite for the Volunteers just one season after Tennessee failed to win a single SEC game would be nothing short of miraculous. Imagine if the Volunteers somehow manage to finish the season 7-6. That would be a program-changing type of season considering how low this program was just one year ago.
So, who has the upper hand here? To be frank, neither team does. Vanderbilt does have home field advantage, but Tennessee fans will show out in full force today. There won’t be much of an advantage for the Commodores, but don’t tell Mason that.
— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) November 21, 2018
Vanderbilt has the slightly better offense, but I think the Volunteers have a better defense. Both teams also are 1-1 in their last two games and 2-5 in conference play.
Any advice given on who to pick to win this game is likely going to be bad advice, but I’ll go with the Volunteers. There is just something about Jeremy Pruitt as the head coach of this team. I think that Tennessee has a future with him, and that begins with this victory.
4. South Carolina Travels to Clemson
The Gamecocks will certainly have their hands full today as they are taking on the No. 2 Clemson Tigers. If you thought the spread was big in the Iron Bowl, Clemson is currently a 26-point favorite against South Carolina.
Unless you are a Gamecock fan and think otherwise, no one really thinks that South Carolina has a chance to win this football game on the road.
If you are wondering why, it’s because the Gamecocks have been terrible on the defensive side of the football this season. They are currently giving up an absurd 190 rushing yards per game. That is not great considering Clemson has one of the best running backs in the nation in Travis Etienne.
Rushing TDs this season:
Travis Etienne – 17
South Carolina – 15
— Kelly Gramlich (@kellygramlich) November 21, 2018
Plus, the longer the season continues the better freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence plays. The freshman is ranked 21st in the nation in quarterback rating as he arguably has the bets raw arm talent of any quarterback in the country.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 22, 2018
All signs are pointing towards a big Clemson win, but keep your eye on Gamecock quarterback Jake Bentley. In the past two games he has thrown for nearly 600 yards and six touchdowns. If the junior plays well, I think South Carolina will have a pretty good chance at covering the spread.
5. Will Two SEC Teams Make the Playoff?
This is the question that is on the mind of many fans across the SEC. As we are just a week and a half away from the College Football Playoff Selection Show, what chance does the conference have at getting two teams in the playoff?
First off, the only two teams this could realistically be are Alabama and Georgia. As previously mentioned, a considerable amount of chaos will have to happen for LSU to be selected.
Obviously, all eyes will be on Clemson, Michigan, and Notre Dame. If Notre Dame beats USC and if Clemson wins out, then they are locks to get into the playoff. There is no question there.
The Iron Bowl is essentially a meaningless game for Alabama. If Georgia beats a bad Georgia Tech team, then the winner of the SEC Championship game is a lock for the playoff regardless of what happens in the Iron Bowl.
The College Football Playoff race is heating up. Find out which 4 teams are IN. The CFP Selection Show is Dec. 2 on ESPN pic.twitter.com/24tuq17yio
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) November 19, 2018
The crazy question that has to be answered is this: What if Michigan wins out and Alabama’s only loss is to Georgia in the conference championship? Who would be the final team, Alabama or Michigan? If Georgia wins out, then they are a lock in the playoff as well.
This is essentially the same scenario as last year. The decision came down to the Big 10 Champion and an Alabama team that did not win the SEC.
The only difference this year is that if Michigan wins out their only loss would be by three points to Notre Dame whereas last year Ohio State got slaughtered by an average Iowa team.
This is why I think the committee will make the right decision and select the Wolverines to be the fourth team. Therefore, for two SEC teams to make the playoff the following has to happen: 1. Georgia must win out. 2. Alabama must beat Auburn before losing to Georgia. 3. Michigan loses a game.
Of course, where things really get crazy is if Notre Dame or Clemson drop a game. But that’s an article for another day. However, nothing that I just said will matter if Alabama beats Georgia. And folks, that is exactly what should happen anyways.