When the College Football Playoff Committee released their first rankings of the season on November 1st, many people were surprised to see the Texas A&M Aggies ranked at No. 4, ahead of undefeated Washington out of the Pac-12.
Much to the delight of the northwest, the “in” status of Texas A&M was short lived. A&M couldn’t get it going against an inspired Mississippi State in Starkville and despite a late comeback effort, fell short 35-28.
Washington is now at the No. 4 spot, but A&M can no longer worry about whether or not they can get into the final four; they’ve need focus on Ole Miss this week. A trip to Atlanta now looks bleak for the Aggies, but with three winnable games remaining, they still have a lot to play for.
This Week’s Games:
Miss St. (4-5) @ #1 Alabama (9-0)
The Crimson Tide, as usual, control their own destiny moving into the home stretch of the season. They’re coming off a typical Bama-LSU slugfest in Baton Rouge last week which saw them blank the Tigers 10-0.
Mississippi State is coming off of their biggest win of the season as Dan Mullen’s crew pulled off a shocking upset of then 4th ranked Texas A&M and should play inspired. Don’t think Alabama is overlooking the Bulldogs, as Saban should have his Tide ready to roll.
Spread: Alabama -30
FPI: Alabama 95.8%
Prediction: Alabama 37, Miss. St. 14
Ole Miss (4-5) @ #8 Texas A&M (7-2)
Ole Miss has had a less than impressive season. The Rebels will be forced to move forward without starting quarterback Chad Kelly, after he went out with a knee injury in last week’s 37-27 win against Georgia Southern. Red-shirt freshman Jason Pellerin took over for Kelly and finished the game last week. Pellerin is in the mix with five-star signee Shea Patterson to start for the Rebels this week. Ole Miss is fighting to make it to a bowl game, and if they can take down Texas A&M this week, that goal will be much more in reach.
The Aggies enter the game without their starting QB as well. Senior Trevor Knight exited last week’s loss with a shoulder injury, giving way for junior Jake Hubenak to make his first start of the season. Hubenak has more experience than Pellerin and Patterson. A&M’s defense, while it struggled to show it last week, is still really good. So, can A&M rebound? Ole Miss will have a lot to say about that.
Spread: Texas A&M -10.5
Prediction: Texas A&M 28, Ole Miss 17
#9 Auburn (7-2) @ Georgia (5-4)
What a rivalry this game is. The two teams meet for the 120th time since 1892, and what makes the rivalry more compelling is that it’s close. Georgia holds a one game lead with a 56-55-8 record against the Tigers. Georgia has taken the last two meetings and eight of the last ten. As Auburn moves into Saturday’s contest, they’ll get some reinforcement. Starting QB Sean White will be ready to go after missing the first half of last weeks victory over Vanderbilt. Also Kamryn Pettway, who pulled a muscle late in last week’s game, hopes to be cleared to play on Saturday.
Georgia will have their hands full with an Auburn team that has won six in a row, who also still controls it’s own destiny and is not totally out of the playoff conversation. The Bulldogs come off a squeak-by win at Kentucky (a good win over an improved Wildcats team) and are not out of the mix for the East title.
Spread: Auburn -10.5
FPI: Auburn 81.5%
Prediction: Auburn 33, Georgia 24
#24 LSU (5-3) @ #25 Arkansas (6-3)
Arkansas is coming off of an impressive 31-10 home win over Florida, while LSU is still getting bandaged up after Alabama blanked them at home. Bret Bielema’s squad has had an up and down year, moving in and out of the Top 25 rankings. Just two weeks ago they were blown out by 53 to Auburn, giving up 543 rush yards. Last week though, the Razorbacks gave up only 12 rushing yards to Florida. Will the real Arkansas run defense please stand up?
LSU is 3-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron. And while the Tigers do have an offense that has improved considerably under Coach O, it didn’t show against Alabama. The Tigers gained only 125 yards of total offense, while star back Leonard Fournette struggled. He gained only 35 rushing yards against the Tide. Last year, Arkansas upset number nine LSU in Baton Rouge 31-14. This year, LSU is a seven-point favorite, and a win would get the Tigers to bowl-eligibility.
Spread: LSU -7
FPI: LSU 77.7%
Prediction: LSU 27, Arkansas 24
South Carolina (5-4) @ Florida (6-2)
The Gators find themselves unranked after an uninspired and disappointing loss at Arkansas last week. What’s worse for the Gators, starting QB Luke Del Rio will miss Saturday’s contest after suffering a shoulder injury against the Razorbacks. Purdue graduate transfer, Austin Appleby, will get the start as the Gators look to get back into the win column and all but wrap up the East with a win.
A Gator win would officially eliminate South Carolina from East contention, but if you would’ve told Gamecock fans at the beginning of the year that their team would still be in the running in November, nobody would’ve listened. Will Muschamp’s team is playing inspired after the switch to true-freshman QB Jake Bentley. The Gamecocks have won three in a row and sit one win away from bowl-eligibility. To make it four in a row, Muschamp will have to return to The Swamp and have his team clicking on all cylinders to take down the Gators.
Spread: Florida -11
FPI: Florida 85.4%
Prediction: Florida 24, South Carolina 23
Kentucky (5-4) @ Tennessee (6-3)
The Volunteers found a much needed victory last week over Tennessee Tech 55-0. Joshua Dobbs teamed with new back John Kelly (7 attempts, 104 yards, 1 TD) to steamroll the Golden Eagles. While no one expected Tennessee to lose, it was a much needed victory for a Volunteer squad that had made it into the Top 10 before losing three straight SEC games and falling out of the rankings. But a Florida loss last week to Arkansas has opened the door for Tennessee to still make it to the SEC Championship Game.
The Volunteers still have three SEC games remaining. If they can win all three and have the Gators lose another, it would be Tennessee hitting the road to Atlanta. But the last thing Tennessee can afford to do is overlook the Wildcats. Kentucky is hunting for a trip to Atlanta themselves. After coming off of a heartbreaking, last-second field goal loss to Georgia, the Wildcats are 4-3 in the league and are attempting to remain in the race with a win at Neyland Stadium.
Spread: Tennessee -14
FPI: Tennessee 88.9%
Prediction: Tennessee 34, Kentucky 27
Vanderbilt (4-5) @ Missouri (2-7)
Neither of these teams has a chance to win the East. Only Vanderbilt has a chance to make the postseason, which would be their first bowl appearance since 2013. Derek Mason already has a huge (and potentially job-saving) win under his belt this season with a 17-16 win over Georgia. If the Commodores want to return to a bowl game, they most likely have to defeat Missouri.
Vanderbilt should be confident coming into the game. They competed well and just narrowly missed a huge upset at Jordan-Hare Stadium against Auburn last week. As for the Tigers, first year coach Barry Odom has the team playing tough but it hasn’t translated into wins. Playing at home should help Missouri in this one. The Tigers will need to focus on playing well against a stingy Vanderbilt defense if they hope to come out with their third win of the season.
Spread: Missouri -3.5
FPI: Missouri 53.4%
Prediction: Vanderbilt 28, Missouri 2
That’s it folks, we’ll know a lot more about the Atlanta outlook after Saturday. See you then!