What to watch for in the SEC: 'Bama, LSU edition

College Contributor Network

No. 5 Alabama at No. 16 LSU

Who knows what to think of LSU at this point in the season?

Getting dragged through the dirt 41-7 by Auburn a few weeks ago gives us reason to think this one won't be as close as the matchup has been in years past. But a 10-7 upset victory over Ole Miss leads us to believe otherwise. The Tigers left the brand of football they have been playing for years all over the Rebels last week, allowing Bo Wallace and Hotty Toddy into the end zone one time, and only one time.

Previously billed as the "Game of the Century" in 2011, this year, for Alabama, it is simply a game of necessity. The Tide will likely need this win to remain in the right kind of postseason contention.

Alabama already has one loss -- a 23-17 stunner in The Grove, in case you forgot -- and cannot afford another. Making matters worse, matchups against No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 3 Auburn still loom on the Crimson Tide's schedule. Also, Alabama is currently slated as the first team out in the College Football Committee's rankings. A win would likely bump them into the top four.

LSU has lost twice this year, but it's not like the Tigers need postseason implications to get up for this game against perennial SEC West powers. Oh yeah, and do you remember the last time Alabama came to Death Valley? LSU missed a field goal in a 17-14 game with less than two minutes left, then allowed AJ McCarron to lead a 72-yard touchdown drive in just 43 seconds to stun the Tigers.

Prediction: LSU is able to keep it close for a quarter, and maybe -- maybe -- an entire half. But Saban won't lose this one because he knows the season is on the line. I like Alabama and Blake Sims turning this one into a shootout, and LSU simply does not have the guns to keep up.

No. 17 Georgia at Kentucky

Georgia needs this one. Simple as that.

A win against Kentucky would keep the Bulldogs in SEC East contention, and would be the last game the team has to play without standout running back Todd Gurley, who was suspended by the university during an investigation. Gurley is eligible to return to the team after this weekend and could play as early as Nov. 15 against Auburn. But for that game to mean anything, the Bulldogs need to beat a reeling Kentucky squad that has lost three straight.

Kentucky's 2-1 start to conference play from the beginning of the season seems to look less and less impressive every week. Its triple overtime loss to Florida seemed to be a moral victory at the time, but Florida has faltered down the stretch. Then, a win against Vanderbilt is a win against Vanderbilt -- nothing too impressive -- and a 45-38 win against South Carolina means less now that each team in the SEC has taken turns beating the Gamecocks.

But the Wildcats can still put up points. Quarterback Patrick Towles is fourth in the SEC in passing yards with 2,235. As many points as Kentucky can score, Georgia can give up just as many. Georgia has given up 30-plus points in their last two games, and have allowed that mark to be reached four total times this year. But if Georgia can win this game and then win against Auburn, all they would need is one Missouri loss to reach the SEC title game.

Prediction: Georgia runs all over Kentucky, but the Wildcats still put up around 20 points. The Bulldogs are able to survive life without Gurley with only one loss over the three-game span he was suspended.

Texas A&M at No. 3 Auburn

Boy, that was quick. With a two-game suspension, it's possible that the "Kenny Trill" era is in its last days. The Kenny Hill-less Aggies nearly allowed University of Louisiana Monroe to upset them in College Station, but pulled off a 21-16 win with freshman quarterback Kyle Allen at the helm.

Hill's violation of team rules that led to his suspension is his second since coming to Texas A&M. He will be competing for his job this offseason against two five-star quarterbacks: Kyle Allen and incoming freshman Kyler Murray. For the time being, it seems as though the Aggies will roll with Allen, who completed only 46 percent of his passes against ULM last week. Luckily, Auburn's defense has been far from stout this season.

However, Auburn is one of the best teams in the country at putting up points. In fact, the Tigers are No. 16 in the nation in total offense, averaging nearly 500 yards every time they play. Auburn needs a lot of help to get into the SEC Championship game after slipping up against Mississippi State. The Tigers need the Bulldogs to lose two games, and they must win out, too. That means a win against Texas A&M.

Prediction: Texas A&M cannot keep up with Auburn's tempo, and the Tigers win big. Look for the Aggies' Allen to have a good day, however. Texas A&M's offense is centered on the quarterback, and it doesn't take much quarterbacking prowess to get the ball to A&M's talented receivers.

David Roberts is a fourth-year English major at the University of South Carolina. He was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, but relocated to the land below the Mason-Dixon line in grade school, citing earthquakes and Raiders fans as minor nuisances. David is a die-hard Cubs fan and still breaks down when thinking about the 2003 NLCS. Follow him on Twitter: @davidjayroberts
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