Last week, SEC teams faced a slew of non-conference opponents. Several top 25 teams were able to add another win to their resume as the ultimate battle of College Football Playoff seeding reaches its conclusion. This week will be the ultimate test for several SEC teams as the competition ramps up, and some will be facing their in-state rivals this week.
No. 5 Alabama (10-1) vs No. 14 Auburn (8-3)
Saturday, Nov. 30 — Jordan-Hare Stadium — Auburn, Alabama
2:30 p.m. on CBS
This year’s rivalry week is headlined by the Iron Bowl. Both teams are coming off big wins against FCS programs and will start quarterbacks who are playing in the Iron Bowl for the first time in their careers. Alabama will be led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Mac Jones and his array of wide receivers in Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Devonta Smith. In his last game against Western Carolina, Jones completed 10 of 12 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns before he was eventually subbed out. While Jones was excellent last week, he will have to repeat that same production against a significantly more talented and disruptive Auburn defense led by defensive tackle Derrick Brown, defensive end Marlon Davidson and cornerbacks Noel Igbinoghene and Javaris Davis. On the other side, Auburn is led by freshman quarterback Bo Nix and sophomore running back JaTarvious Whitlow. Against their previous three SEC opponents, the Tigers scored 20 points or fewer in each game even though they were able to combine for more than 300 yards of offense in each game. This week they will be challenged by another good defense led by linebacker Anfernee Jennings, cornerback Trevon Diggs and safety Xavier McKinney. The Tigers’ inability to score points in addition to Alabama’s stout defense spells a recipe for disaster for Auburn in a game where Alabama is expected to score points in bunches. If Auburn is going to win, it is paramount they keep up with Alabama’s offensive pace.
Prediction: Alabama 31, Auburn 17
No. 3 Clemson (11-0) vs South Carolina (4-7)
Saturday, Nov. 30 — Williams-Brice Stadium — Columbia, South Carolina
11 a.m. on ESPN
After a close win over North Carolina, Clemson has returned to championship form and cruised through the rest of its ACC schedule. Meanwhile, after an overtime upset victory against No. 4 Georgia, South Carolina has looked the part of a losing team. The trajectories of both programs this season are headed in opposite directions. Clemson’s offense looks as high-powered as ever. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence is completing 68 percent of his passes for 9.2 yards per attempt and 27 touchdowns on the season. Junior running back Travis Etienne is averaging an outrageous 8.7 yards per rush and has 14 rushing touchdowns this season. A receiving corps of Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross should make it difficult for South Carolina’s inexperienced secondary. The Gamecocks’ defense, led by Javon Kinlaw, will need to wreak havoc on Clemson’s offense if South Carolina has a chance of winning this rivalry matchup. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks’ offense is led by freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski and running back Tavion Feaster, who is a graduate transfer from Clemson. As of late, scoring points has been a hard ask for a South Carolina offense that started off the year really well. Against a high-powered Clemson offense, the duo of Hilinski and Feaster will need to be at their best if they are going to pull off the upset against their in-state rivals and dash their College Football Playoff hopes.
Prediction: Clemson 48, South Carolina 17
No. 4 Georgia (10-1) vs Georgia Tech (3-8)
Saturday, Nov. 30 — Bobby Dodd Stadium — Atlanta, Georgia
11 p.m. on ABC
This year’s version of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate includes a potent rushing offense, though probably not from the expected team. In his first season at Georgia Tech, Geoff Collins has called in his pro-style offense, leaving the Paul Johnson triple-option attack to the wayside. As a result, the team has seen a lot of growing pains, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Meanwhile, Georgia has been able to run the ball extremely efficiently with D’Andre Swift but the play of quarterback Jake Fromm has left much to be desired. In his last game against Texas A&M, Fromm completed 48 percent of his 23 attempts for 163 yards and one touchdown. Understandably, A&M’s defense is better than Georgia Tech’s, but even against some of the worst defenses in the SEC, Fromm hasn’t necessarily played well. His best showing this season was against Florida, where he completed 20 of 30 pass attempts and threw two touchdowns. In a rivalry game where crazy things have happened in the past, Fromm will need to come through for the Bulldogs, helping prove they should be in the College Football Playoff ahead of their SEC Championship game against No. 1 LSU.
Prediction: Georgia 24, Georgia Tech 7
Florida State (6-5) vs No. 11 Florida (9-2)
Saturday, Nov. 30 — Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — Gainesville, Florida
6:30 p.m. on SEC Network
The final game on this list is the Sunshine Showdown. Both Florida and Florida State are coming off two straight wins. However, their paths to this game have been unique. After Florida lost its starting quarterback Feleipe Franks for the season, quarterback Kyle Trask has been able to lead the offense without any hiccups. Meanwhile, Florida State fired its head coach midseason after a bad loss to the University of Miami and have rebounded nicely with good wins against Boston College and Alcorn State. With the current form of both these teams, the stakes could not be higher for both teams. Florida will have to continue to rely on its dominant defense led by defensive end Jabari Zuniga and linebacker Johnathan Greenard, along with a secondary of cornerback CJ Henderson and safeties Donovan Stiner and Jeawon Taylor. The Gators’ opponent should make things a bit easier for them as Florida State is dealing with a quarterback battle between James Blackman and Alex Hornibrook. Against Boston College, Blackman had one of his best games, throwing for 346 yards and two touchdowns. If Blackman starts the game, he will have to be great against the Florida defense, as his young and inexperienced team is travelling into rival waters hoping to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Florida State 17, Florida 38