This one is for bowl eligibility, because the Tigers aren’t going to knock off Texas A&M next week unless Johnny Manziel breaks his arm. Missouri will have to hope Syracuse is too caught up in its shocking upset of Louisville last week to care much about this game. But the Orange is also 5-5 at the moment, so both teams’ postseason hopes rest largely on the outcome of this one.
Tennessee (4-6) at Vanderbilt (6-4)
It’s an odd world when Vanderbilt has already locked up bowl eligibility and is favored against Tennessee. Rumors are flying about the future of Volunteers head coach Derek Dooley, and that can’t help the motivation and focus going into a do-or-die weekend against a team that is generally an afterthought. Expect the Commodores to force and then capitalize on a couple of turnovers to seal the deal.
Arkansas (4-6) at Mississippi State (7-3)
Arkansas must beat the Bulldogs this week and LSU next week to reach the postseason. While Arkansas has improved since the season started, it hasn’t been by enough or fast enough. John L. Smith is coaching out the string and surely knows what’s coming. Mississippi State is coming off three severe beatings in a row and needs to win this game just to stop the bleeding.
Alabama A&M (7-3) at Auburn (2-8)
Rumors are swirling around about Auburn head coach Gene Chizik’s future, and some wonder if this team is distracted enough or doesn’t care enough to show up for this one. That’s probably why it’ll be closer than it should but Auburn still has more talent than Alabama A&M can find answers for.
Jacksonville State (6-4) at Florida (9-1)
No one was more disappointed to see Louisiana-Lafayette get close to upsetting Florida last week than the coaching staff of Jacksonville State, who were hoping to pull a repeat of their recent upset of Ole Miss. Unfortunately for them, the Gators can now be considered completely refocused on the task at hand. Florida’s offense figures to actually put up some points this week, as Jacksonville State has one of the worst defenses at the Division-IAA level. If the Gators do have trouble in this game, it would cast doubt on the legitimacy of what otherwise appears to be a stellar season all around.
Georgia Southern (8-2) at Georgia (9-1)
Georgia gets a game to practice against a triple-option team before the annual rival contest with Georgia Tech. Expect the Bulldogs to rest a bunch of the starters.
Samford (7-3) at Kentucky (1-9)
Now that its official that Joker Phillips won’t return as head coach for Kentucky, their primary goal is avoiding a 10-loss season. To do that, the Wildcats will have to beat both Samford and Tennessee to finish the year. Kentucky must avoid stooping so low as to embarrass its conference brethren by actually losing this game. If the Wildcats have emotionally quit though, it’s possible.
Sam Houston State (8-2) at Texas A&M (8-2)
Johnny Football’s stat line gets another boost this week and Kevin Sumlin’s first year looks even brighter for the Aggies. There’s no telling how ugly this one will get.
Western Carolina (1-9) at Alabama (9-1)
Alabama is going to win this game by several touchdowns, provided the starters play any snaps whatsoever. It’s hard to imagine a scenario that would make this game close, unless the Tide decides to let its walk-ons play this one from the outset. Even then Bama would be favored.
Wofford (8-2) at South Carolina (8-2)
South Carolina is finding ways to win without star running back Marcus Lattimore, and playing a decent in-state opponent can only help the team sharpen those skills heading into rivalry week and bowl season.
There have been more nail-biters than blowouts in this series, and I don’t expect any different this time out.