Two big games and a bunch of little ones

By: Wally Hall
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012
Florida Coach Will Muschamp has made believers out of doubters thanks to the Gators’ 7-0 record and No. 2 BCS ranking.
Florida Coach Will Muschamp has made believers out of doubters thanks to the Gators’ 7-0 record and No. 2 BCS ranking.

— This is a critical week in SEC play for teams trying to get bowl eligible and for Florida, which can clinch the SEC Eastern Division championship with a victory over Georgia.

The SEC has six bowl-eligible teams and five that are fighting for their lives. Then there is Texas A&M, which needs one more victory and has Sam Houston State coming up Nov. 17.

Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and even Ole Miss have tough roads to travel to be in postseason play.

The last time these picks were made — before Arkansas’ open date — a 6-2 mark brought the season record to 53-16. This could be a tough week, especially since there hasn’t really been an upset Saturday so far this season. OLE MISS AT ARKANSAS (LITTLE ROCK) Both teams come into this critical game off bye weeks. Oddsmakers have made the Razorbacks a six-point favorite — which might have something to do with the crowd at War Memorial — but it also proves oddsmakers put no emphasis on how teams fare against common opponents. Arkansas lost to Alabama 52-0 at home; Ole Miss lost 33-14 in Tuscaloosa. The Hogs have to lay off the turnovers if they are going to win. This could be a shootout. Hugh Freeze, the former head coach at Arkansas State, will want to make a point. Arkansas’ defense has to swarm to the ball and arrive with energy. Arkansas 42, Ole Miss 38. MISSISSIPPI STATE AT ALABAMA A battle of undefeated SEC West brothers. Alabama has been under fire for its schedule, but it has outscored teams 287-58 and has given up two touchdowns in a game only twice. This is the Bulldogs’ first real test as their schedule has been very easy. It is hard to pick against the Tide any time, but especially when they are at home. Alabama 31, Mississippi State 18.

TEXAS A&M AT AUBURN The Aggies get bowl eligible, and the heat on Gene Chizik rises a few more degrees. Texas A&M 35, Auburn 16. GEORGIA AT FLORIDA (JACKSONVILLE) The Bulldogs are the last hope to keep the Gators from locking up a spot in the SEC Championship game. All of us who doubted Florida Coach Will Muschamp have eaten crow. The Gators are solid on offense and very good on defense. Florida 31, Georgia 24.

KENTUCKY AT MISSOURI The Wildcats get to go down as the Missouri Tigers’ first SEC victory. Both teams are winless in SEC play, but the Tigers can go to 4-4 on the season and have a legitimate shot at postseason play. The Wildcats haven’t won since they beat Kent State in Week 2. Missouri 42, Kentucky 10.

TENNESSEE AT SOUTH CAROLINA The Gamecocks need a victory to stop a two-game slide, and Tennesse’s Derek Dooley needs to win to get off the hot seat. The Vols are improved from a year ago, and the Gamecocks were a hot name two weeks ago before losing at LSU and at Florida. Dooley will get the Vols bowl eligible, but a victory would legitimize the season. Unfortunately, it won’t happen in Columbia. South Carolina 21, Tennessee 17.

UMASS AT VANDERBILT It would be unfair to call the Minutemen bad. They are far worse than that. They are winless and have been outscored 285-83. There is a reason this is Vanderbilt’s homecoming and there are tickets available. This won’t help Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin’s stock much, but it sure won’t hurt. Vanderbilt 56, UMass 3.

I would be remiss today if I didn’t take a moment to mention that Louie Schaufele passed away Thursday.

Louie was a longtime, wellrespected football official in the old Southwest Conference and a local bank executive. He also was a three-year letterman for the Arkansas Razorbacks (1948-1950).

He was never shy about sharing his opinions, but he was a good guy and will be missed by many.

Sports, Pages 21 on 10/26/2012