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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Around the SEC: Week 12

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Sports writer Ryne Ryskoski examines the big games of the SEC in the second to last regular week of college football.

This weekend’s Southeastern Conference play features only one ranked matchup and four inter-conference games.
This Saturday, Nov. 20, the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide will host a surging No. 25 Arkansas team, No. 17 Auburn must find a new starting quarterback at South Carolina and the winner of Florida-Missouri will become bowl-eligible.
No. 25 Arkansas (7-3) at No. 2 Alabama (9-1)
Saturday, Nov. 20 – Bryant-Denny Stadium – Tuscaloosa, Ala.
2:30 p.m. CT on CBS
Despite this past weekend’s 59-3 Alabama win over New Mexico State, the Crimson Tide have looked vulnerable, which says a lot given they’re a top-4 team in the country with only one loss.
Alabama’s offense, which averages the most points per game in the SEC, has been just fine. Heisman-candidate and freshman quarterback Bryce Young became the first Crimson Tide quarterback to throw for five first-half touchdowns against New Mexico State. However, the Tide’s defense — a signature characteristic of head coach Nick Saban’s teams — has lacked its initial strength dating back to the 2010s Alabama teams, with many blowout losses. It allowed 24 points by Tennessee three weeks ago, and nearly got upset by LSU on Saturday, Nov. 6, winning 20-14. There’s also the 31-29 win over Florida and the loss to Texas A&M in which Alabama allowed 41 points. Sophomore linebacker Will Anderson isn’t the problem, leading the country in sacks with 12. But the Crimson Tide are going to need a few more defensive players to step up in the last couple weeks of the regular season if they want to have a shot at beating Georgia in the SEC Championship and continuing the reign as national champions.
After losing three of four games in October, Arkansas has come back to win three straight, including a ranked win over Mississippi State and a close 16-13 road win at LSU. Sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson has quietly performed well during the win streak, too, with no interceptions, 440 passing yards and six passing touchdowns. He doesn’t have the yardage or passing touchdowns of a Matt Corral or Will Rogers, but his efficiency, as shown by a fourth-best SEC quarterback rating of 161, is a big reason why Arkansas has been successful this season. The defense is nothing to be overly intimidated by, but it is strong against the pass and doesn’t give up many points. Alabama should be able to take this one fairly easily if it plays like it should, but don’t be surprised if Arkansas pulls off some trickery on offense and gives the Crimson Tide something to overcome.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Arkansas 17
Florida (5-5) at Missouri (5-5)
Saturday, Nov. 20 – Faurot Field – Columbia, Mo.
3 p.m. CT on SEC Network
Herein lies another matchup of two teams trying to claim bowl eligibility. However, Florida’s program hangs in a strange position after the odd 70-52 win over Samford. The Gators have now given up 175 combined points in their last four games, an average of 44 per matchup. That tells pretty much all that needs to be known about how this season has gone for coach Dan Mullen.
Florida, now sitting at 5-5, has two weeks left to earn a place in a bowl, with Missouri and Florida State on the schedule. You’d think those would be easy wins for the Gators, but after Samford led them 42-35 at halftime and put up over 50 points, along with how the last few weeks have gone, nothing is out of the question. A positive, though, is junior quarterback Emory Jones, who threw for 464 yards and scored six touchdowns in the win. It was easily his best career game and a good way to bounce back offensively after only scoring 24 points combined in the previous two weeks.
It will be surprising if Florida doesn’t win one of its last two games, but Missouri is on that same mission of fighting to get into a bowl with a 5-5 record. It’ll face Arkansas after this weekend to finish out the season. In this past weekend’s 31-28 win over South Carolina, Missouri had a great offensive showing from its rushers and sophomore quarterback Connor Bazelak. The play-caller threw for two touchdowns as senior running back Tyler Badie ran 34 times for 209 yards and a score. The Tigers can be expected to put together several scoring drives against the Gators, but Missouri’s defense is bad in almost every aspect excluding pass defense. Florida still has the offensive personnel to dismantle the Tigers through the run or pass, but it’ll have to get some stops and figure out what went wrong against Samford to allow over 50 points to an FCS school.
Prediction: Florida 48, Missouri 30

No. 17 Auburn (6-4) at South Carolina (5-5)

Saturday, Nov. 20 – Williams-Brice Stadium – Columbia, S.C.

6 p.m. CT on ESPN

Auburn suffered a brutal blow in the 43-34 loss to Miss. St. when junior quarterback Bo Nix broke his ankle. He was in the middle of a fantastic day, throwing for two touchdowns and 377 yards before leaving the game. Auburn got held to only six second-half points with his exit as the Bulldogs put up 33 second-half points against a still-very good Tigers defense that ranks fourth in the SEC in points allowed per game.  

The Tigers went 6-2 over their first eight games but are now on a two-game losing streak, taking them out of SEC Championship aspirations. Sophomore quarterback TJ Finley will have to take over the signal-calling duties for the rest of the year to try and get Auburn to eight wins in the first year post-Gus Malzahn. Finley transferred from LSU during the offseason and has logged 17 completed passes for 275 yards and a touchdown playing behind Nix. Auburn still has its talented defense, but it will  be interesting to see how the Tigers’ offense goes to work and if it will lean heavily on its ground game with freshman running back Jarquez Hunter and sophomore running back Tank Bigsby, with the latter leading the team in rushing. 

South Carolina is another team looking for a bowl bid with five wins, but it’ll be difficult to beat one of Auburn or Clemson: the two teams remaining on the schedule. After shocking the SEC with a 40-17 win over Florida two weeks ago, the Gamecocks went to Missouri and left with a close loss. With injuries and poor play at quarterback, redshirt senior Jason Brown has become South Carolina’s starting signal-caller. Brown is a transfer from St. Francis, an FCS school in Pennsylvania, where he threw for 28 touchdowns and over 3,000 yards in 18 games played. 

The Gamecocks will need a good performance out of Brown, which will be a tough task against an angry Auburn defensive front. Expect the Tigers to come out, establish their run game against the fourth-worst SEC run defense and shut down Brown. But Nix’s absence will certainly have an effect on Auburn’s offensive production ⁠— it’s just a question of how much. 

Prediction: Auburn 28, South Carolina 14

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