Week 12 in the SEC is one of the lightest in recent memory. The combatants in Atlanta are still undecided, but there are still consequences all over the conference. Florida is essentially playing for their postseason lives. Vanderbilt can — and should — again become bowl-eligible. Kentucky could shed their current title as the lowest-scoring team in the SEC. While a lot of the action will take place over the next two weeks, we will take you through the storylines of this week’s games.
Before we take a spin through the five tilts, however, we owe you a trivia question!
SEC Trivia, Week 12 (answer at the end of the column): Troy became a Division I program in 2001, and owns two victories over current SEC members. Against whom did Troy gain those two victories?
Top of the Ratings
Georgia (6-3, 4-2 SEC) at Auburn (9-1, 5-1 SEC), 3:30pm ET, CBS
Last week’s episode: Georgia 45, Appalachian State 6; Auburn 55, Tennessee 23
Program guide: Georgia started to look a little more like their old selves in a romp over Appalachian State last week. The Bulldogs compiled 568 yards of total offense against the Mountaineers, with Aaron Murray completing 19-of-26 passes for 281 yards and two scores before receiving the remainder of the afternoon off. Todd Gurley looked good in limited action, carrying 13 times for 75 yards. Receiver Michael Bennett returned to the lineup to catch five passes for 87 yards.
Despite Georgia’s numerous injuries, the Bulldogs still rank fourth in the conference in total offense, tallying fewer than 414 yards in a game just once this season. The Bulldogs have registered 982 yards of offense in two November contests. With Bennett and Gurley back in the lineup, the complexion of Mark Richt and Mike Bobo’s offense becomes completely different.
We’ve spent a lot of space in this column — and we’ll spend more in a bit — talking about Auburn’s offensive prowess, but the Tiger defense merits mention. Auburn ranks just tenth in the conference in total defense, despite having the conference’s second-best pass rusher in Dee Ford. Auburn has experienced their share of concerns in defending the pass, allowing the third-most passing yards in the conference. That unit appears to have turned the corner of late, though, as their last three opponents have thrown for 402 total yards. Conversely, two of the four 200-plus yard rushing games the Tiger defense have allowed have come in the last two games, with Arkansas rushing for 222 yards and Tennessee rushing for 226.
Despite their concerns with stopping the run, Auburn has no such concerns with running the ball themselves. The Tigers have rushed for 3200 yards this season. Only two other SEC teams (Missouri with 2300 and Arkansas with 2097) have even broken the 2000-yard plateau. Auburn’s 33 rushing touchdowns also lead the league by a considerable margin. After chronicling the Tigers’ rushing success in this space last week, Gus Malzahn’s club racked up 444 yards on the ground against Tennessee, to go with five rushing touchdowns. Georgia’s fourth-best rushing defense in the SEC was bolstered by a 32-carry, 32-yard performance by Appalachian State last week. This ended a streak of four consecutive 100-plus yard rushing outings allowed by the Bulldogs.
Despite Georgia’s injuries, this game should still be close throughout. Georgia can still salvage a major bowl berth despite all that has taken place, while Auburn looks to take some momentum into their bye week before the Iron Bowl. The quality of opponent should keep Auburn from looking ahead to their date with the Tide. The Tigers are 8-1 when rushing for greater than 200 yards, so Auburn will clearly need to continue their control of the ground game to defeat Georgia and set up a winner-take-all game on the plains.
Troy (5-5) at Ole Miss (6-3, 3-3 SEC), noon ET, ESPNU
- Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson: Troy quarterback Corey Robinson leads the Sun Belt Conference in total offense (275.4 yards per game). Robinson has found the end zone in 16 consecutive games. He has also thrown for greater than 300 yards in 24 career games. Six of those 300-plus yard outings have come during the 2013 season. Robinson is also the career school and conference leader in touchdown passes (80).
- Success against the Sun Belt: Ole Miss has played Sun Belt clubs nine times in school history, and has never lost. The Rebels own four victories over Arkansas State, three over Louisiana-Monroe and one over Louisiana-Lafayette and Middle Tennessee.
- Shooting for six: Troy is aiming for their sixth win, which would make them bowl-eligible. That sixth win could potentially get Troy to their sixth bowl in school history. Troy has made more bowl appearances than any other Sun Belt representative.
Kentucky (2-7, 0-5 SEC) at Vanderbilt (5-4, 2-4 SEC), 12:21pm ET, SEC Network
- End zone struggles: Kentucky has recorded the lowest scoring total in the conference. The Wildcats have managed just 81 points against SEC opponents. Arkansas (91) is the only other team to record fewer than 100 points in conference play, though Arkansas has played one more game than Kentucky. The Wildcats’ highest scoring output against an SEC foe came on October 5th, when Kentucky scored 28 points in a loss to South Carolina.
- Pushing for .500: Kentucky leads the all-time series between the teams 41-40, with four ties. The Commodores have won the last two and three of the last five games played against the Wildcats. Vanderbilt won 40-0 in Commonwealth Stadium last season.
- November is kind to the Commodores: That aforementioned Vanderbilt victory over Kentucky was the second of six consecutive Commodore wins in the eleventh month. Vandy’s 34-17 win over Florida last week gave James Franklin seven wins in nine November outings as the Vanderbilt head coach.
Florida (4-5, 3-4 SEC) at South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC), 7:00pm ET, ESPN2
- Murphy’s law: Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy is likely to miss this game due to a shoulder injury. If Murphy cannot play, third-teamer Skyler Mornhinweg would draw the start for the Gators. Murphy (112-for-185, 1216 yards, 6 TD, 5 INT) took over the starting job when Jeff Driskel was lost for the year with a leg injury.
- Conquering Columbia: The Gamecocks have the chance to set a school record with a victory over Florida in this game. South Carolina’s current 15-game winning streak at Williams-Brice — the longest such active streak in the country — would enter the record books as the longest in school history with that win.
- Pulling closer: Florida owns a decided edge in the history of the series, having won 24 of the 33 games. The Gamecocks have won three of the last eight meetings, however. South Carolina won in 2010 and 2011, before falling 44-11 at Gainesville last season.
Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) at Mississippi State (4-5, 1-4 SEC), 7:45pm ET, ESPN
- McCarron’s milestone: Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron is just one win away from tying Alabama’s all-time career victories record. The record is currently held by former Crimson Tide quarterback Jay Barker. McCarron has a 34-2 career record at Alabama, while Barker compiled a 35-2-1 mark.
- Looking out for number 1: Mississippi State has recorded just one victory against a top-ranked team in school history. The Bulldogs defeated then-number one Alabama 6-3 in Jackson, Mississippi on November 1, 1980.
- Continued excellence: Alabama leads the FBS in total victories since 2008, having recorded 70 victories in that time. LSU also represents the SEC in the top five, reaching 58 wins. Other schools on the list are Boise State (67), Oregon (64) and TCU (58).
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Troy became a Division I program in 2001, and owns two victories over current SEC members. Against whom did Troy gain those two victories?
Troy defeated Mississippi State 21-9 on October 13, 2001. The Trojans also knocked off Missouri — then a member of the Big 12 — 24-14 on September 9, 2004.