The 2020 SEC Championship became official on Saturday, Dec. 6, with both Alabama and Florida clinching their respective divisions with wins. After its game against Vanderbilt was postponed, Georgia returns this weekend against Missouri in Columbia while Florida plays host to LSU. After two straight losses, Auburn looks to rebound as the Tigers travel to Mississippi State while Alabama has its second consecutive road game, this time against the Razorbacks. Finally Vanderbilt and Tennessee face off in their rivalry game in Nashville after it was postponed two weeks ago.
No. 1 Alabama (9-0) at Arkansas (3-6)
Saturday, Dec. 12 – Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium – Fayetteville, Ark.
11 a.m. on ESPN
Redshirt freshman quarterback KJ Jefferson made a surprise start for the Razorbacks, replacing usual starter Feleipe Franks, and did not disappoint. Jefferson tossed three touchdowns and threw for 274 yards with running back Trelon Smith running for 172 yards and scoring three times as Arkansas scored 48 points against Missouri, a season high. Unfortunately, Sam Pittman’s defense surrendered 50 points, the second-most points it’s allowed this season. Over 650 yards of offense were given up as Missouri nearly averaged eight yards per play, which is not at all a good sign having to face Alabama the following weekend. The Crimson Tide blew out LSU 55-17 in Baton Rouge to clinch the SEC West with receiver Devonta Smith catching eight balls for 231 yards and scoring three times, and could do even better against a struggling Razorback secondary. Alabama had 650 yards of offense itself and averaged nine yards per play with over 260 coming on the ground courtesy of Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. This weekend will be another building block for the Crimson Tide as it can now begin preparing for the postseason.
Prediction: Alabama 52, Arkansas 24
No. 8 Georgia (6-2) at Missouri (5-3)
Saturday, Dec. 12 – Faurot Field – Columbia, Mo.
11 a.m. on SEC Network
Missouri won a 50-48 shootout against Arkansas on Saturday, its third straight win, to solidify its third-place spot in the SEC East. Quarterback Connor Bazelak led Missouri to its second straight 40-plus point game going 32-for-49 with 380 passing yards. But running backs Larry Rountree and Tyler Badie were the real stars of the Tigers’ offense, as the pair combined for 264 rushing yards on 33 carries and scored five touchdowns. They averaged eight yards per carry. But the MVP may just have been kicker Harrison Mevis who was 5-of-5 on field goal attempts with his longest coming from 51 yards out. If Bazelak, Rountree, Badie and receiver Keke Chism, who hauled in six catches for 113 yards, can maintain the same offensive balance they’ve had over their three-game win streak, Georgia will have to adjust on the fly to keep them contained. However Georgia allows the second-least yards and points per game in the SEC, so Missouri will have to be running at a near-perfect level if it wants to pull off the upset. Georgia is also at the top of the conference in rushing defense, so it would be surprising to see the Tigers go drive-for-drive with the Bulldogs who got a bye week of sorts with their game against Vanderbilt postponed. Georgia quarterback JT Daniels has performed admirably since becoming Kirby Smart’s signal caller, and the Bulldogs’ rushing attack is far too much to handle for a Missouri team that had major trouble containing Arkansas.
Prediction: Georgia 35, Missouri 21
LSU (3-5) at No. 6 Florida (8-1)
Saturday, Dec. 12 – Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL.
6 p.m. on ESPN
LSU got rocked at home by Alabama in what was its third loss in its last four games, this one coming at home with a final score of 55-17. Quarterbacks TJ Finley and Max Johnson continued to split time for the second straight week with neither doing anything spectacular. The Tigers continue to have overall offensive issues as they failed to crack the 100-yard rushing mark and had just over 350 yards on offense. They also went just 5-of-15 on third down and lost the time of possession battle by a little under eight minutes. It's not like any other team has been able to truly compete with Alabama, but it has to be disappointing for Ed Orgeron to see his team perform inefficiently on offense and defense for several weeks now. The LSU defense gave up almost 700 offensive yards with Alabama throwing for 385 and rushing for 265. Florida, on the other hand, defeated Tennessee in Knoxville 31-19 to clinch the SEC East and a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship against Alabama. Kyle Trask was once again brilliant, throwing for 433 yards with four touchdowns to three difference receivers. The Gators had two different receivers cross the 100 receiving yard threshold and had seven more receivers get receptions. Tight end Kyle Pitts was Trask’s favorite target as the star caught seven passes for 128 yards. With LSU struggling against teams with potent passing attacks from solid quarterbacks and receivers, it's hard to see them going into The Swamp and keeping up with Dan Mullen’s offense.
Prediction: Florida 42, LSU 23
Auburn (5-4) at Mississippi State (2-5)
Saturday, Dec. 12 – Davis Wade Stadium – Starkville, Miss.
6:30 p.m. on SEC Network
Mississippi State has yet to play a game in the month of December after losing in the Egg Bowl to Ole Miss which came a week after losing to Georgia by a possession. Those two games accurately capture Mike Leach’s first season as head coach of the Bulldogs – up and down. Freshman quarterback Will Rogers has played well in those two games though, throwing for 776 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Mississippi State’s problem is that it has absolutely no running attack whatsoever, which allows defenses to sell out on the pass and contain momentum. Kylin Hill was one of the top running backs in the country, and his opt-out definitely has affected the way Leach has called plays this season. The Bulldogs average a measly 23.8 rushing yards per game, which is last in the conference by a wide margin. Auburn has the fourth best passing defense in the SEC, so Leach really has to try and get some success on the groundAuburn lost its second straight game as Texas A&M beat them 31-20 – Bo Nix’s second home loss since he became the starting quarterback in 2019. The problem for the Tigers was that A&M ate up so much yardage and time by running the ball that it was going to be hard for Auburn to find any real consistency offensively. The Aggies ran for 313 yards and had 38 minutes of possession while the Tigers had just 22, which is a huge margin especially when the latter is playing at home. Auburn should be able to find success against a poor rushing offense like Mississippi State though as long as they don’t turn the ball over and win the time of possession battle.
Prediction: Auburn 32, Mississippi State 20
Tennessee (2-6) at Vanderbilt (0-8)
Saturday, Dec. 12 – Vanderbilt Stadium – Nashville, Tenn.
3 p.m. on SEC Network
Tennessee and Vanderbilt finally get to play their rivalry game after it was postponed in November. Both these teams have the two longest losing streaks in the conference with the Volunteers losing their sixth straight matchup when Florida beat them 31-19 this past Saturday. Vanderbilt was unable to play against Georgia over the weekend, so they are still 0-8 and have yet to play a game since parting ways with head coach Derek Mason after a 41-0 loss to Missouri. In Tennessee’s loss to Florida, four different quarterbacks saw time with freshman Harrison Bailey in play the most. He went 14-for-21 with 111 yards and a touchdown while redshirt sophomore J.T. Shrout also saw time and went 12-for-14 for 121 yards and a touchdown. Jarrett Guarantano, the team’s usual starting quarterback, did not play due to missing practice time because of quarantine. But running back Eric Gray did and once again showed his value as a threat out of the backfield, running for 47 yards and catching seven passes for 46 yards and a score. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, was lost in their last game against Missouri. Although they will now have two full weeks to try and figure things out with Todd Fitch taking over as interim head coach. It will be interesting to see if his presence will change anything for a Commodore team that has lacked intensity and competitiveness in almost every game this season. He may inspire the team to score a couple times and get a few stops on defense, but overall isn’t enough to single-handedly change things for this game.
Prediction: Tennessee 30, Vanderbilt 13