With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on the many things for which I’m grateful.
I’m grateful for having such a wonderful and understanding family even though I’m on the road a bunch this time of year. Eternal thanks to my wife, Julie, and sons Josh, Adam and Sean.
I’m grateful that my parents instilled in me at an early age that nothing of value comes without hard work and that getting to where you want to go is never easy and rarely comes without sacrifice.
I’m especially grateful that my mother is close to being ready to go back home after spending the last three months in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities.
I’m grateful to have worked for and with so many true professionals in my 25 years in the sports media business.
I’m grateful to have a job that allows me to see the best college football in the land and get to know some of the best coaches, best players and best people in the business.
I’m grateful for The Kid and everything he’s added to the SEC blog and how much he’s helped me.
I’m equally grateful that The Kid had enough confidence in himself to give me a good run in the picks contest, and in the process, re-fueled my competitive fires.
But it’s all tied up now, and just like a rookie quarterback going into the teeth of the schedule late in the season, I can see it in The Kid’s eyes. He’s starting to doubt himself, and that’s never a good thing with the bowl games just around the corner.
For the season, we’re both 76-12 (.864). I was 8-0 last week, and The Kid was 7-1. He missed Tennessee’s 27-21 overtime win against Vanderbilt.
Over the past two weeks, I’m a perfect 15-0. Magic Johnson used to call this “winning time.”
Then again, maybe there simply haven't been a lot of tough games to pick, although that’s about to change.
Here’s a look at our picks for the final week of the regular season:
VANDERBILT at WAKE FOREST
Edward Aschoff: That snake-bitten feeling is back at Vanderbilt after an overtime loss to Tennessee. The Commodores could have become bowl eligible last week and will have to try again. This team could be emotionally drained at this point and hasn't been good on the road. Wake is bowl eligible and will make an even stronger case with a win Saturday. ... Wake Forest 23, Vanderbilt 17
Chris Low: It’s come down to one game for the Commodores if they’re going to be bowl eligible this season. First-year coach James Franklin has done a nice job of changing attitudes and changing the culture. The hardest part is changing the results. The Commodores have historically not played well in this game at the end of season, but Franklin and the Commodores will buck history and play their way into a bowl game. … Vanderbilt 27, Wake Forest 24
TENNESSEE at KENTUCKY
Edward Aschoff: Now that Tyler Bray is back, the Vols have a working offense. He brings so much more to this team and even though he was rusty last week, having him proved to be the difference against Vanderbilt. Tennessee needs this win to make it to a bowl. With Kentucky limping along, the Vols' will extend their winning streak over the Wildcats to 27 straight games. ... Tennessee 34, Kentucky 17
Chris Low: Tennessee coach Derek Dooley told his team in the locker room following the win over Vanderbilt last week that the Vols always kick the (bleep) out of Vandy. That wasn’t completely true, because Vanderbilt won in Knoxville in 2005. But Kentucky hasn’t beaten Tennessee since 1984, a drought that will reach 27 straight games Saturday. … Tennessee 23, Kentucky 17
OLE MISS at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Edward Aschoff: This is officially Houston Nutt's final game as Ole Miss' head coach. He hasn't beaten Dan Mullen in two chances and the Rebels are hobbling into the Egg Bowl this year. Neither team has been great, but the Bulldogs would become bowl eligible with a win. For all the problems Mississippi State has had, they don't compare to Ole Miss'. ... Mississippi State 27, Ole Miss 13
Chris Low: It’s been 70 years since Ole Miss lost three in a row to Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Dan Mullen has helped to spice up this rivalry by beating the Rebels on the field and then jabbing at them off the field with his “school up north” banter. Surely, the Rebels will have enough pride to fight harder than they have the past three weeks, but the Bulldogs will make enough plays on defense to keep the Egg Bowl trophy in Starkville. … Mississippi State 27, Ole Miss 14
GEORGIA at GEORGIA TECH
Edward Aschoff: The Bulldogs were sloppy in their East-clinching win over Kentucky, but things will be different Saturday. This is a heated rivalry and Georgia will be looking to generate some more momentum heading into the SEC championship game. Georgia Tech's triple-option offense will frustrate the Dawgs at times, but they'll find a way to contain it late. ... Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 21
Chris Low: Georgia Tech’s option offense is always a load to stop, especially when you only see it once a year. But this has been a different Georgia defense this season. The Bulldogs get better every week on that side of the ball. They’ll find a way to run their winning streak to 10 straight games and will return to Atlanta the next week on a roll. … Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 20
FLORIDA STATE at FLORIDA
Edward Aschoff: The feeling in Gainesville is that a win over Florida State will cure what has been a rough first year for Will Muschamp. While the Seminoles have been a major disappointment, their defense ranks seventh nationally. Offense hasn't been one of Florida's strengths and they'll need some against the Noles. For that, Florida State will keep the Gators in check Saturday. ... Florida State 21, Florida 13
Chris Low: The Gators could use a big win at home to end the season to help them forget about everything that's gone wrong this season. Winning over arch-rival Florida State would be especially sweet. But the Seminoles are the real deal on defense, and scoring points hasn't exactly been the Gators' strong suit this season, at least against FBS foes. ... Florida State 23, Florida 14
CLEMSON at SOUTH CAROLINA
Edward Aschoff: Just a few weeks ago, Clemson was one of the hottest teams in the country. Oh, how things change. Now, the Tigers are officially out of the national championship picture after a devastating loss to NC State. South Carolina has a defense equipped with the athletes to contain the Tigers. South Carolina's offense won't be pretty, but that hasn't mattered much. ... South Carolina 20, Clemson 17
Chris Low: South Carolina has fought valiantly to get to this point, overcoming the injury to Marcus Lattimore and obvious limitations on offense. But the Gamecocks are banged up going into this game, and Clemson is still smarting after losing badly last week at NC State. The Tigers will find a way to turn this game into a shootout, which hasn’t been the Gamecocks’ forte this season. … Clemson 31, South Carolina 27
ALABAMA at AUBURN
Edward Aschoff: Throughout the spring and the summer, Alabama's players were glued to TV sets continuously showing Auburn's triumphant comeback win over the Tide from last year. You can bet that game will be running through these players' brains all week leading up to this one. The Iron Bowl carries a lot of different meanings this year, and things will no doubt get emotional on the Plains, but Alabama is a win away from potentially locking up a spot in the national championship. Things will be different this time. ... Alabama 31, Auburn 14
Chris Low: The last time Alabama paid a visit to the Plains and was chasing a berth in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game, Auburn rose up and played one its best games of the season. The Crimson Tide, after falling behind early, had to drive the length of the field in the final minutes to escape with a win in 2009. The Tigers will be ready again this season, but the Crimson Tide are simply too good on defense. … Alabama 31, Auburn 13
ARKANSAS at LSU
Edward Aschoff: There has been a lot of talk about how Arkansas might have the offense that can finally frustrate LSU. That high-flying passing game might have what it takes to stop these red-hot Tigers. But LSU is thinking about championships and a loss to Arkansas could ruin that. This team has overcome so much this season that now isn't the time for a letdown. It'll be close, but LSU will make it to Atlanta unbeaten. ... LSU 27, Arkansas 23
Chris Low: Arkansas doesn’t feel like it’s received the respect it deserves this season, and the Hogs may have a point. Here’s their chance to do something about that. They’ve matched up well in recent years with LSU, but this isn’t just any LSU team. The Tigers are fast, deep and nasty on defense, and when they’re playing at home, they’re even nastier. The Hogs will make this a close game. But in the end, they won’t be able to protect quarterback Tyler Wilson well enough to win. … LSU 31, Arkansas 24