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November 18, 2010

Week 12 preview in the SEC

MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | MWC | Pac-10 | Others

THE SCHEDULE
Thursday
Georgia State at Alabama, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday
Troy at South Carolina, 12:20 p.m.
Appalachian State at Florida, 12:30 p.m.
Ole Miss at LSU, 3:30 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi State, 7 p.m.
Tennessee at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m.

Everyone's focus has been on Auburn and whether the Tigers can get to the BCS national championship game and win the SEC's fifth consecutive national title.

But three other league teams have at least some hope for a BCS bid, and Vanderbilt is the only league team assured of finishing with a losing record, which means there could be as many as 11 bowl-eligible teams from the SEC

Here's a look at each team's bowl hopes.

Auburn: The Tigers know that if they win out, they will play for the national title. One stumble and they still would be in good shape for a BCS bid. If they lose both their remaining games, the Tigers likely would end up in the Capital One Bowl. Likely destination: BCS title game.

LSU: If the Tigers finish with one loss, a BCS bid is likely. A two-loss Tigers team looks as if it would go to the Cotton Bowl; LSU was in the Capital One Bowl last season and wouldn't necessarily want to go back. Likely destination: Sugar Bowl.

Alabama: If the Tide can beat Auburn, their BCS at-large hopes would be rekindled. A loss, though, and the Capital One beckons. Likely destination: Capital One Bowl, vs. a Big Ten team.

Arkansas: This is another two-loss team with at least faint BCS hopes. The Hogs must win out, which would include beating LSU in Little Rock in the regular-season finale, to keep those hopes alive. In that scenario, the Hogs would prefer Auburn be unbeaten. Even with two losses, Arkansas could be left out of the BCS, with the Cotton and Capital One bowls a possibility. A three-loss Hogs team would be a nice fit for the Cotton, though the Outback also would be interested. Likely destination: Cotton Bowl, vs. a Big 12 team.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks already have three losses, with at least the potential (to Clemson, to Auburn in the league title game) to lose two more. If the Gamecocks win the SEC championship game, they will be going to the Sugar Bowl. A win over Clemson and a loss to Auburn would put the Capital One, Outback and Chick-fil-A bowls in play. If they lose to Clemson and Auburn, the Chick-fil-A or Gator would seem to be the likely landing spot. Likely destination: Outback Bowl, vs. a Big Ten team.

Mississippi State: If the Bulldogs win out, which would mean wins over Arkansas and Ole Miss, they would garner attention from the Cotton and Outback bowls (it's hard to see them trumping Alabama for a Cap One spot). Splitting their remaining two games would put the Chick-fil-A in play. Losing both might mean a drop to the Gator, Music City or Liberty bowls. Likely destination: Chick-fil-A Bowl, vs. an ACC team.

Florida: If Florida wins at least one more, the Gator Bowl seems the likely choice; if the Gators win out, which would mean a victory at Florida State, the Outback could come into play. But it's hard to see Florida moving ahead of South Carolina or Mississippi State --both of whom beat the Gators in Gainesville -- in the pecking order. If the Gators were to finish 6-6, a fall to the Music City or Liberty bowl is a possibility. Even then, though, the Gator would remain in the mix because of the possibility of a sellout with Florida in the game. Likely destination: Gator Bowl, vs. a Big Ten team.

Georgia: The Bulldogs must beat Georgia Tech to become bowl eligible. If they win, the Gator, Music City or Liberty bowls would be their likely landing spot. Their bowl destination depends a bit on whether Tennessee is bowl eligible, too. The Music City and Liberty bowls are played in Nashville and Memphis, respectively, and though the Vols will have played in both those cities already this season, bowl organizers would realize having the Vols in their game likely would mean a sellout. Likely destination: Liberty Bowl, vs. Conference USA champ

Tennessee: The Vols have some work to do; they must beat Vanderbilt this week (that shouldn't be too difficult), then finish the season with a win over Kentucky. As mediocre as the Vols have been this season, they have won 25 in a row over the Wildcats, meaning you have to like their chances to become bowl eligible. As we pointed out in the Georgia section above, the Vols would be mighty tempting for the Music City and Liberty bowls, and the Music City bowl picks before the Liberty. Likely destination: Music City Bowl, vs. an ACC team.

Kentucky: The Wildcats already are bowl eligible and are off this week to prepare for their game against the Volunteers. It looks as if UK would head to the BBVA Compass Bowl (formerly the Papajohns.com Bowl, in Birmingham) if it loses to Tennessee and to the Liberty if it beats the Vols. The only way UK goes to the Music City -- which would be their fourth visit there in five seasons -- is if both Georgia and Tennessee fail to become bowl eligible. Likely destination: BBVA Compass Bowl, against a Big East team

Ole Miss: The Rebels have to beat LSU and Mississippi State to become bowl eligible. If they do that, a trip to Birmingham or Memphis beckons. Likely destination: Home for the holidays.

Something to ponder: The SEC has had two teams in the BCS four seasons in a row. The only way the SEC isn't going to have two teams in the BCS this season is if Auburn is the only league team with fewer than two losses -- and even then, we'd say it's 50-50 that a second SEC team still would get a call.

Best matchup: Arkansas pass offense vs. Mississippi State pass defense. Arkansas is the best passing team in the league by almost 70 yards per game, and Mississippi State has no shot at an upset unless the Bulldogs harass Ryan Mallett and his receivers. Mississippi State is 36th nationally in pass efficiency defense, and only Houston has thrown for 300 yards on the Bulldogs. Then again, no one the Bulldogs have played other than Houston is a "passing" team. Arkansas certainly fits that description. S Johnthan Banks and CB Corey Broomfield are the best players in the Bulldogs' secondary, and they must make some big plays. As well as Arkansas has run of late, Mississippi State certainly wouldn't mind if the Hogs had to rely on the run Saturday night.

Coach on the spot: Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. After back-to-back games in which the offense had a pulse, the Gators managed just 226 yards and 14 points in getting thrashed at home by South Carolina last week with the SEC East title on the line. It was the fourth time this season the Gators were held to less than 300 yards. Florida is 10th in the league and 84th in the nation in total offense (345.9 ypg). The running game has been especially problematic -- 151 of fewer yards in six games, including four games less than 100 - and if the Gators don't get it cranked up this week against FCS member Appalachian State, it's not that much of a stretch to think they could lose the game.

Numbers game: South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore carried a school-record 40 times for 212 yards and three TDs in last week's 36-14 win at Florida. That helped him set a school freshman record for rushing yards in a season (964). His three TDs give him 16 on the season, breaking the school's freshman record of 13 and tying the school's overall single-season mark. It's tied for the second-most TDs by a freshman in SEC history (LSU's Dalton Hilliard also had 16, in 1982). Tennessee's Reggie Cobb set the league freshman record with 20 in 1987. Lattimore is trying to become just the eighth freshman in league to rush for 1,000 yards. Auburn freshman Michael Dyer (859 yards) has a shot at 1,000 this season, too.

What they're saying

"I know our fans feel bad, but I wish they could see how our players feel. I wish they could see how our coaches feel; they are all sick to their stomachs. You can multiply how a fan feels by 99 and that is how a coach feels because we eat, sleep and breathe football. This isn't what we had planned, so it hurts. We don't have ocean-front property and hobbies; what we do have is this football team." -- Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, on his 4-6 team

"That was the most special part of the game -- that our guys really played and our star players played like stars. That's how you win." -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, on his team's dominating win last week at Florida

"I think in games like this we always want to be concerned with playing to our standard." -- Alabama coach Nick Saban, on Thursday night's game with FCS member Georgia State, which is in its first season of football

"Obviously, there will be accountability because that's our profession. That's what I do. That's what we do. But to make it public and throw players under the bus or coaches under the bus, that's not part of our plan." -- Florida coach Urban Meyer, on possible personnel and coaching changes for next season

"I think everything is much more back to normal for them. The grieving process is going to go on for a long time, but I think getting their routine and how they prepare for the game and how it affects them preparing for the game is a lot easier to deal with now. I think most of that is behind us, even though the grieving process will go on for a long time." -- Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, on how his team is handling the cancer death of teammate Nick Bell earlier this month

Etc.: Arkansas has been on fire on third down in the past three games. In wins over Vanderbilt, South Carolina and UTEP, the Hogs have converted 61.9 percent (26-of-42) of their third-down opportunities. Alabama has won 19 consecutive home games, one win away from tying the second-longest streak in school history. South Carolina never has had a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver in the same season. WR Alshon Jeffery already has reached the 1,000-yard mark (he has 1,087), and Marcus Lattimore needs just 36 more yards to get to 1,000. Tennessee has defeated Vanderbilt 13 consecutive times in Nashville, and the Vols are 20-1-1 at Vanderbilt Stadium since 1966. Florida WR Andre Debose is the only freshman in the nation who has two kickoff returns for a touchdown this season and one of five players overall with two. LSU owns a 10-game Tiger Stadium winning streak and is 35-6 overall in Death Valley under Les Miles. Miles, by the way, won his 60th game as Tigers coach last week, becoming the fastest coach in school history to get to 60 victories (it took him 76 games). Ole Miss senior Jeremiah Masoli needs 75 yards to break Norris Weese's single-season school record of 542 rushing yards by a quarterback. A victory over Troy would give South Carolina eight wins in a season for just the 10th time in school history but for the fourth time since 2000. LSU is last in the league with just six touchdown passes. The next-fewest is Vanderbilt's nine. Tennessee has scored the fewest rushing TDs with 12. After 11 weeks, SEC teams have scored 449 offensive TDs and kicked 150 field goals. That equates to 75.0 percent of all offensive scores coming from TDs. It is the lowest percentage of field goals in a season in the SEC since 2001, when SEC teams accounted for 143 field goals (24.0 percent) and 452 offensive TDs (76.0 percent). Tennessee's rout of Ole Miss last week snapped the Vols' six-game losing streak to SEC West schools. Vanderbilt has a five-game losing streak and has forced just three turnovers in that stretch. Florida junior CB Janoris Jenkins held the trio of South Carolina's Jeffery, Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones to an average of 4.7 receptions for 38 yards and allowed just one touchdown between the three. In their other games, that trio has averaged 101.9 yards on 6.3 receptions and has combined for 21 touchdowns. Georgia State coach Bill Curry coached Alabama from 1987-89, posting a 26-10 record and winning the 1989 SEC championship. This will be his second game against the Tide as a head coach; he was coach at Kentucky when the Wildcats fell 35-7 to Alabama in 1996. After not forcing five turnovers in a game for almost 10 years (vs. Arkansas, Nov. 11, 2000), Tennessee has done so in consecutive games against Memphis and Ole Miss. Mississippi State has outrushed its opponent seven times this season, winning each of those seven games. The Bulldogs have lost each of the three games in which they have been outrushed. A win Saturday night at Mississippi State would mean a 3-1 SEC road record for Arkansas. In their first two seasons under coach Bobby Petrino, the Hogs went1-7 on the road in league play, including 0-4 last season. Florida plays host to FCS powerhouse Appalachian State on Saturday. In its past five games against FCS opponents, dating to 1996, Florida has averaged 61.0 points and won by an average margin of 50.0 points. LSU K Josh Jasper leads the league with 20 made field goals. Despite starting seven different offensive line combinations in its 10 games, Ole Miss leads the SEC and ranks 15th in the country in sacks allowed, with just 10. LSU is trying to finish unbeaten at home for the first time since 2006. LSU has gone undefeated at home 12 times since Tiger Stadium opened in 1924. Georgia State wide receivers coach George Pugh played tight end at Alabama under Bear Bryant from 1972-75. And Georgia State backup QB Star Jackson was a reserve with the Tide until transferring after last season.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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