To get you ready for Saturday's action, ESPN reporters Sam Khan Jr. and Alex Scarborough give their picks and analysis of Week 10 in the SEC. Visit our college football PickCenter page for additional information on these games and many more.
Khan: OK, Alex, Week 10 is here, and now we have playoff rankings. Two teams in the SEC are in the top four, which is going to make a very interesting stretch run for the league.
Last week, you went 5-1 and I went 4-2, which increases your overall season lead by a game. You sit at 54-12, while I'm 50-17 for the year. I have some work to do to catch up.
We have some nonconference, Group of 5 specials this week to start us off. Mississippi State hosts UMass, Vanderbilt hosts Western Kentucky, Arkansas hosts Coastal Carolina, and Tennessee hosts Southern Miss. Any of those jump out to you as potential upsets? (SEC teams are favored in each one.)
Scarborough: We should know from recent history not to underestimate Western Kentucky. That's a good program. But I don't see the Hilltoppers beating Vanderbilt this week. Not when they're coming off a 42-28 beatdown at the hands of FAU. And while I'm not so bold as to call for the upset, I'd pay close attention to Southern Miss. That's a 6.5-point line at last check, and nothing the Vols have done lately gives me confidence. Getting John Kelly back from suspension should be the difference here.
Khan: I agree with you, I'll take the four SEC teams here, but the Tennessee game is the one I'm most wary of.
Scarborough: Let's look at Florida-Missouri then. First, I'm curious of your thoughts on the firing of Jim McElwain and the impact it will have moving forward. Personally, I think it got to such a place for the administration and McElwain that there was no turning back. The unsubstantiated death threats McElwain alleged was the final straw. I like that Randy Shannon has experience as a head coach to guide them through this, but I'm not sure his first act should have been opening up the QB competition. While I'm not high on Feleipe Franks, I think he's their best option.
Khan: This is a fascinating game for both teams. Missouri finally has something positive to build on with two consecutive wins (both nonconference), and, of course, it's the first game for Shannon. I like his experience, and I think he's going to have this team playing well down the stretch. But in the first week after McElwain's ouster and a midweek quarterback competition going on, plus a road trip, I think it's a lot to ask.
So I'm going to take Mizzou. I know they've been poor against the SEC this year, but before these two nonconference wins against Group of 5 competition, the Tigers seemed like they were playing much better and getting closer, with a close loss to Kentucky and playing Georgia well (at least for a quarter-and-a-half).
Scarborough: I'm going to go against convention and pick the Gators here. Again, I like the steady hand of Shannon, and I think that in the short term, McElwain's firing will have a galvanizing effect. It'll be close, but give me Florida.
Khan: All right, let's move on to Kentucky and Ole Miss. (Mark) Stoops' Troops keep winning. It may not be pretty, it may not be by large margins, but the Wildcats are getting it done. Meanwhile, I wonder how the Rebels are going to respond after letting a win get away from them last week, coughing up that 24-point lead to Arkansas. I think Kentucky gets win No. 7 here.
Scarborough: I'm with you. That was maybe the best game you could have expected from Jordan Ta'amu filling in for Shea Patterson, and still they lost. Kentucky will get to Ta'amu and score at will against a porous Ole Miss defense to win.
Next up: LSU goes to Alabama. I never thought in my life I'd type this, but the Tigers are a 21.5-point underdog. (1) Do they cover? (2) Do they have any chance of winning?
Khan: (1) Yes (2) Not really. Listen, we've seen how these games have gone the last few years. LSU's best shot is having success in the run game, and, well, it's pretty hard to do that against the Crimson Tide. With the Tigers not having a dynamic enough passing game to make up for whatever Alabama will do to slow down Derrius Guice & Co., I think the Tide roll here.
That said, I was impressed with how Ed Orgeron got his team to compete against Alabama a year ago, and the Tigers certainly have the talent, so I think they'll play hard and keep it competitive enough that they cover the spread. But the worst thing for the Tigers was for Alabama to be No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday, because Nick Saban is certainly going to use that "disrespect" to fire up his team.
Scarborough: That last point you made -- Alabama being ranked No. 2 and not No. 1 -- makes all the difference. It's why I think we see a blowout that surpasses the point spread. Yes, LSU played well against Alabama last season. But that was last season. Jalen Hurts was a true freshman and the game was in Baton Rouge. At home and feeling as if they have something to prove, I think we see the machine that Nick Saban has built snap into action in a big way.
And now for the game in your backyard: Auburn at Texas A&M. What do you think? And at the risk of going totally off the rails, let me say just that Auburn should not be No. 14 in the CFP rankings. The only ranked team they've beaten is Mississippi State, and the best thing on their resume is a loss at Clemson. ... But I digress. I think this will be a close game that Auburn pulls out because of yet another stellar defensive performance.
Khan: The visiting team has won every matchup between these two teams since 2012, the year the Aggies joined the SEC. I have no clue why it has worked out that way, but I think it will again this time around. The Aggies, for some reason in the Sumlin era, have struggled against their own division at home. The last time Texas A&M beat an SEC West team at Kyle Field? Oct. 3, 2015, when they beat Mississippi State. It has dropped six consecutive home games to SEC West teams. With the struggles the Aggies had last week moving the football against Mississippi State's front seven, I'm guessing it won't go much better against the Tigers' group this week. Give me Auburn.
And now, on to the No. 1 team. Georgia hosts South Carolina. How do you think Kirby Smart's crew plays in its first game post-CFP ranking?
Scarborough: You mean they'll make it after all that poison the media has been spewing about the top-ranked Bulldogs? You'd think positive press was the plague if you listen to some coaches in this league. But nonetheless, I think we see a Georgia team that might be a little anxious at first, but settles down to beat South Carolina easily. That defense is too good, and, frankly, South Carolina's offense isn't dynamic enough to cause any trouble. I like Georgia to win big.
Khan: Yeah, Kirby even seems to try to out-Saban his former boss when it comes to this, based on the early commentary coming from Athens. I think this game could be interesting. The Gamecocks are playing well and have won three in a row. Everyone has been talking about Georgia since the Bulldogs are the No. 1 team. Smart is doing everything he can to resist, but it's hard to shield these kids from all the talk. They have smartphones, you know.
I think it's a closer game than most think and the Gamecocks cover in a relatively low-scoring battle, but the Bulldogs will end up winning it here. Like you, I think they might start tight but find their groove late.