Last week’s record: 5-2 (71.4%)
Season record: 78-14 (84.8%)
The Predictions Dept. got the wires crossed on both of Alabama’s chief rivals last week, picking Tennessee to win and Auburn to lose and then watching as both games went the other way. Week 12 is Cupcake Week around the SEC, with few notable games and most teams taking the opportunity to rest up for rivalry games in the closing week. Florida-Missouri is mildly interesting, but Georgia-Tennessee is the unquestioned headliner.
FLORIDA at MISSOURI
The Tigers took a huge step forward by crushing Tennessee last week, something the Missouri program has been unable to do to physical SEC opponents ever since joining the league. Now they get to prove they can play at a high level multiple weeks in a row. The big question here is, which Florida team shows up? The Gators have enough talent to play competently, but also enough holes that everything can fall apart in an instant. Missouri is inside the College Football Playoff top 10 at the moment, so a loss here would be catastrophic if the Tigers want to make a statement about their program going forward. Fortunately it’s not a road game, and Florida still needs to collectively visit a psychiatrist.
TENNESSEE-CHATTANOOGA at ALABAMA
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GEORGIA at TENNESSEE
It’s a good bet that a lot of Tennessee’s struggles against Missouri were in part due to looking ahead to this game. Now it’s all moot, as the Missouri loss put Tennessee out of the running for the SEC East crown. We’ll see if the Volunteers can get up off the deck against a team that is modestly better at just about every position group. Georgia is essentially the same program as Tennessee, built the same on the field, but with a little more talent at virtually every spot. Don’t expect the Bulldogs to sleepwalk here and lose a shot at a third straight national championship.
KENTUCKY at SOUTH CAROLINA
Alabama make Kentucky look silly at times last week, shockingly so in fact. The Wildcats just weren’t ready for prime time in 2023, and there are some major issues in roster construction that Mark Stoops will have to address in the coming seasons. Are the Wildcats still better than South Carolina? Yes, but South Carolina has the potential to be explosive if everything hits, which Kentucky cannot say. South Carolina can be dynamic but also frustratingly mediocre. Columbia is an underrated home field to play on, so if Kentucky is moping after the Bama beatdown, this could turn into the week’s upset special.
South Carolina 31
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL at ARKANSAS
Florida International has beaten no one of note and has been crushed the last two weeks by MTSU and Jacksonville State. On the other hand, Arkansas is looking for a soft place to land while waiting out the inevitable firing of head coach Sam Pittman. Arkansas absolutely laid down and quit against Auburn last week. The Razorbacks still should win this game, but it wouldn’t surprise us to see this game look less like a game and more like a bar after last call.
NEW MEXICO STATE at AUBURN
Likely, when Auburn scheduled this game, it was counting on getting the historical version of New Mexico State, the one that rides into town with only one or two wins on the season and trying not to embarrass itself in a national TV stage. What Auburn is going to get, however, is an 8-3 NMSU program coached by former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, which is a bit like being an Indiana high school basketball team and looking down the court and seeing Gene Hackman on the bench. It’s unlikely the Aggies will beat Auburn – trying to pick their best win comes down to a discussion of MTSU vs. UTEP, probably – but it could make for some nervous moments nonetheless. Auburn is starting to fire on multiple cylinders, and is playing well enough that Alabama is going to have to do more than just show up in two weeks. NMSU may provide enough of a test to gauge Auburn’s development.
New Mexico St. 14
GEORGIA STATE at LOUISIANA STATE
Georgia State is bowl-eligible but the Panthers are defense-deficient and that’s a recipe for disaster against LSU. Unless LSU sits QB Jayden Daniels, and there’s no reason to believe it will, this game is going to be out of control by halftime.
Georgia State 13
LOUISIANA-MONROE at MISSISSIPPI
This might be the game that gets the most out of hand this week, even including Georgia State-LSU. Ole Miss has some frustrations to get out after being handled deftly by Georgia last week, and ULM is terrible on both sides of the ball. Terry Bowden is still fighting the good fight to make the Warhawks a respectable program, but he’s fast losing ground.
Ole Miss 55
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Somewhat surprisingly, Mississippi State went ahead and pulled the trigger on Zach Arnett, firing him only 11 games into his tenure as head coach. To be fair to the school, Arnett was promoted too quickly, and based on emotion following Mike Leach’s death, and it became clear very early on that he was not ready. Mississippi State would have to win here and against Ole Miss to get bowl-eligible, and that’s very unlikely to happen. The Bulldogs are on a month-long skid, while Southern Miss has won back-to-back games and may be starting to put something together.
Mississippi St. 20
Southern Miss 17
ABILENE CHRISTIAN at TEXAS A&M
The timing of the Jimbo Fisher firing was somewhat mind-blowing, but not so much as the amount of money Texas A&M still owes him. It was also a bit odd to see it happen the week after Texas A&M creamed Mississippi State 51-10 and actually showed a pulse. It doesn’t matter who coaches the Aggies this week; Abilene Christian rolls into town fresh off a loss to Tarleton. This one will get ugly quickly, but it won’t be as ugly as Texas A&M’s finances for a few years.
Texas A&M 55
Abilene Chr. 7
Follow Jess Nicholas on X at @TideFansJessN