Week 9 of the 2013 college football season is here, as the all-important November stretch run approaches. The contenders have begun to separate themselves from the pretenders in the Southeastern Conference, but as last week revealed, there’s always the possibility for upsets.
Florida and Georgia have the week off, as both squads prepare for next weekend’s tilt in Jacksonville. The nation’s top-ranked team, Alabama, is in action, and will be trying to dodge an upset from hated-rival Tennessee at home.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s SEC lineup:
Tennessee (4-3) at No. 1 Alabama (7-0)
This matchup features one of the most tradition-rich rivalries in the SEC. There may not be a conference title on the line this week, but the Third Saturday in October has a buzz about it for the first time in several years.
Tennessee is fresh off a huge upset of South Carolina, as last week’s win was perhaps the biggest for the Volunteers since the Phil Fulmer regime. The challenge will be even greater this week, however, as the Orange Nation invades Tuscaloosa for a matchup with the No.1-ranked Tide.
Alabama has navigated through its schedule with no problems thus far, and should be able to manage the upstart Vols at home. Crazier upsets have happened, however, and the Alabama players may find it difficult to focus with the Nick Saban-to-Texas rumors swirling again.
But with AJ McCarron slinging the ball all over the field, and the Tide defense steadily stiffening as the season progresses, Tennessee will likely be in for a long afternoon.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Tennessee 14
No. 20 South Carolina (5-2) at No. 5 Missouri (7-0)
Following impressive wins over Georgia and Florida, Missouri attempts to complete the sweep of the Eastern Division’s “Big Three” with a win over South Carolina.
The Gamecocks, meanwhile, are coming off a stinging loss to Tennessee in Knoxville, where quarterback Connor Shaw was uncharacteristically inaccurate from the pocket. Steve Spurrier’s squad must regroup and take to the road again this week, as they cling to their divisional title hopes by a thread.
Tigers quarterback Maty Mauk turned heads last game against the stout Florida defense. He’ll receive another formidable challenge this Saturday, as Jadeveon Clowney and the Carolina defense will be highly motivated to earn a crucial win.
This one should be competitive, but Missouri has too much momentum right now, as well as the home field advantage.
Prediction: Missouri 35, South Carolina 27
Vanderbilt (4-3) at No. 14 Texas A&M (5-2)
Vanderbilt may have salvaged its season last game with a stunning, come-from-behind upset of Georgia. Thanks to the win, the Commodores are right back in the hunt for another bowl bid.
But another week means another challenge in the SEC, and James Franklin’s squad must now hit the road to face a formidable cross-divisional opponent.
Texas A&M is undoubtedly still hurting from last Saturday’s home loss to Auburn, when they were all but eliminated from contention for a division title. Johnny Manziel put up 500 yards of offense, but it wasn’t enough, as the Aggies lost for the second time this season when scoring over 40 points.
Vanderbilt doesn’t have the explosive offense needed to beat the Aggies in a shootout, and will need multiple turnovers to stay in the game. Look for Manziel and the A&M offense to pile on the points, and pull away in the second half.
Prediction: Texas A&M 45, Vanderbilt 24
Mississippi State and Kentucky kicked off the SEC slate on Thursday night, as the Bulldogs jumped into the SEC win column with a 28-22 victory over the hapless Wildcats.
Elsewhere around the league, LSU will attempt to rebound from a devastating loss to Ole Miss, as the Tigers host Furman. The Rebels, meanwhile, should make quick work of a 1-6 Idaho squad. In addition, Auburn returns home to face Florida Atlantic after the Tigers’ huge win over A&M last week. Arkansas, like Florida and Georgia, has an open date.
This week’s lineup doesn’t feature as many head-to-head conference matchups as the previous two weekends, but three important contests should make for a compelling Fall Saturday in SEC country.