Week 10 of the 2013 college football season has arrived, and Saturday’s SEC lineup is again loaded with a number of crucial matchups that hold divisional title implications.
Florida’s clash with Georgia headlines the slate, as one of the conference’s oldest rivalries continues.
Elsewhere, Missouri attempts to keep its hold on the Eastern Division, while Auburn looks to stay in contention in the West.
Following is a game-by-game preview of this Saturday’s SEC schedule:
Florida (4-3) vs Georgia (4-3)
Outside Jacksonville’s EverBank Field on Saturday, Florida and Georgia fans will gather for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Inside the stadium, the Gators and Dawgs will collide in this heated SEC rivalry. Both squads have dropped their last two games, and both are coming off open dates. The winner still has an outside shot at reaching the SEC Championship Game, if Missouri falters down the stretch.
Florida boasts one of the nation’s top defensive units, but its offense has hit a wall in the last couple of games. Quarterback Tyler Murphy hopes to rebound from tough outings against LSU and Missouri. He’ll rely on running backs Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown for support on the ground, and therein lies one of the keys to the game. If Florida can produce long, clock-eating scoring drives, then the Gators will not only put points on the board, but they’ll also keep the potent Bulldogs offense off the field.
On the other side, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will undoubtedly be primed to improve on his lackluster performance in the Bulldogs’ loss to Vanderbilt. With star running back Todd Gurley likely returning from an ankle injury, Mark Richt’s offense will be close to full strength for the first time in nearly a month.
While the Florida defense and the Georgia offense will provide the strength-on-strength portion of this contest, the other side of the ball will be important as well. Look for Murphy, Taylor and company to get on track against the suspect Bulldogs defense, and for the Gators’ secondary to keep Murray at bay.
Prediction: Florida 23, Georgia 20
Mississippi State (4-3) at No. 14 South Carolina (6-2)
South Carolina attempts to keeps its foot in the door for an SEC Championship Game berth, as the Gamecocks take on Mississippi State.
This one has all the makings of a potential upset. Steve Spurrier’s squad is just a week removed from a thrilling, come-from-behind win over previously unbeaten Missouri. The double-overtime battle was both physically and emotionally taxing on the Gamecocks, who will be attempting to avoid a letdown.
Mississippi State, meanwhile, is coming off its first conference win of the season. The Bulldogs’ triumph over Kentucky last Thursday served as a confidence builder for Dan Mullen’s team, and they also have the added advantage of two extra days of preparation.
Unfortunately for State, those two extra days won’t matter. South Carolina has too much momentum, too much talent, and too much to play for to drop this contest at home.
Prediction: South Carolina 34, Mississippi State 16
No. 8 Auburn (7-1) at Arkansas (3-5)
Auburn travels to Fayetteville riding high, as the Tigers went 4-0 during the month of October. Quarterback Nick Marshall went down with a shoulder injury last game against Florida Atlantic, but backup Jeremy Johnson proved capable in a decisive Auburn victory.
Running back Tre Mason has been highly productive all season long, and coach Gus Malzahn will make sure his primary ball carrier receives plenty of touches this Saturday.
As for the struggling Razorbacks, they’ll be fighting hard at home to avoid a sixth straight loss. The Arkansas defense has been nearly non-existent for the past month, and coach Bret Bielema is scrambling for answers. He won’t find any this weekend, however. The “Gus Bus” will continue to roll.
Prediction: Auburn 37, Arkansas 17
Tennessee (4-4) at No. 10 Missouri (7-1)
With back-to-back wins over Georgia and Florida, Missouri seized the reigns in the SEC East. The Tigers were brought back down to Earth by South Carolina in last Saturday’s fourth quarter collapse, but they still control their own destiny within the division. Gary Pinkel’s squad can tighten its grip this weekend against visiting Tennessee.
The Volunteers won’t go down without a fight, but they’ll be without the services of injured quarterback Justin Worley. If the Tigers can get steady defensive pressure on new Tennessee starter Josh Dobbs, Missouri should pull this one out.
Prediction: Missouri 31, Tennessee 17
In other contests, Kentucky looks to get its second win of the season against Alabama State, while Texas A&M should light up the scoreboard against UTEP. Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt will all be enjoying open dates.
As we enter November, nearly every contest has meaning in the SEC. Some squads are holding onto their hopes for a divisional title, while others are fighting for a spot in a bowl game. Either way, this Saturday is certain to deliver another day’s worth of action-packed football in the nation’s top conference.