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November 22, 2006

SEC: Week 13 Breakdown

Megargee's SEC picks
Rivals.com national writer Steve Megargee's predictions for the SEC.
Friday's game:
LSU 21, Arkansas 20
Saturday's games:
Clemson 20, South Carolina 17
Florida 20, Florida State 10
Tennessee 41, Kentucky 21
Ole Miss 17, Mississippi State 13
Georgia Tech 21, Georgia 17

Last week: 7-0. Season: 75-13.

ACC-SEC challenge: The Southeastern Conference prides itself on being the toughest league in the nation. The SEC now will try to back up its boast by winning three games against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, which arguably is the worst BCS league in the nation this year. The SEC-ACC showdowns are all intrastate rivalries: South Carolina-Clemson, Florida-Florida State and Georgia Tech-Georgia.

Best matchups: Arkansas offensive line vs. LSU defensive line. Arkansas leads the SEC and is ranked fourth nationally in rushing with 230.6 yards per game. LSU is ranked sixth in the nation at stopping the run and has allowed just 2.5 yards per carry. Arkansas also hasn't given up a sack in its last four games and leads the nation in fewest sacks allowed. LSU has recorded at least one sack in 17 consecutive games. The stars of this matchup include Arkansas OT Tony Ugoh and LSU DT Glenn Dorsey.

Worst matchup: Tennessee passing game vs. Kentucky pass defense. Kentucky is ranked last out of 119 Division I-A teams in pass defense. The Wildcats have given up 271.2 passing yards per game and now must face perhaps the best passing offense they've seen all year. Tennessee WR Robert Meachem needs 21 more receiving yards to tie Marcus Nash's single-season school record. He might take care of that on the first play from scrimmage.

The pressure is on: Georgia QB Matthew Stafford. When we say the pressure is on Stafford this week, we mean it literally. Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta loves to harass opposing quarterbacks with blitz packages that allow his talented linebackers to wreak havoc. Georgia hasn't allowed any sacks in its last two games. The Bulldogs will have a tough time keeping that streak alive this weekend.

Upset alert: We like Georgia Tech to win at Georgia, even though the Bulldogs began the week favored by anywhere from 1 to two points. Mississippi State also is a dangerous underdog. Only the injury to Mississippi State QB Mike Henig caused us to side with the Rebels.

Most to gain: Arkansas. The Razorbacks are trailing Michigan, Southern California, Florida and Notre Dame in the BCS standings, primarily because pollsters remember their season-opening 50-14 loss to the Trojans. A convincing victory over a quality LSU team could cause some voters to discover that a fast finish means more than a slow start.

Most to lose: Ole Miss QB Brent Schaeffer. After arriving at Ole Miss amid much fanfare, Schaeffer has struggled all season in his first year as the Rebels' starter. He was benched in favor of Seth Adams against LSU and made a critical fumble in overtime after returning to the game. Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron has said Schaeffer will start the Egg Bowl. A big performance could help solidify Schaeffer as the starter heading into spring practice. If he plays the way he has most of the season, Schaeffer could have a tough time holding on to the job next year.

BCS implications: Florida and Arkansas already have clinched their respective divisions and will play for an automatic BCS invitation in the SEC title game next week. Both teams must win this weekend to keep their national title hopes alive. LSU must win this game to have any shot at earning a BCS at-large bid.

Who's hot: Arkansas WR Marcus Monk has caught six touchdown passes in his last three games. Kentucky WR Keenan Burton has nine touchdown catches in his last four games. Kentucky QB Andre Woodson has thrown for 1,297 yards and 12 touchdowns the last four weeks. LSU WR Dwayne Bowe has eight touchdown catches in his last five games. Tennessee PK James Wilhoit made all four of his field-goal attempts last week and is 16 of 19 this season. South Carolina QB Blake Mitchell has completed 74 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and one interception in his last three games. ... Ole Miss LB Patrick Willis has recorded at least 10 tackles in nine of the Rebels' 10 games. Georgia DB Tra Battle has picked off six passes in his last five games. The Arkansas offensive line hasn't allowed a sack in its last four games.

Who's not: Kentucky is the nation's lowest-ranked team in pass defense. Ole Miss QB Brent Schaeffer has completed more than half his passes in just two games all season. Georgia doesn't have a single wide receiver with more than 22 catches this year.

Must-see TV: LSU at Arkansas (CBS): You can make a pretty strong case that these are the two most talented teams in the nation. Although Arkansas already has wrapped up the Western Division title, there is still plenty at stake. Arkansas wants to keep its national title hopes alive, while LSU wants to show it deserves an invitation to a BCS bowl.

Newcomer who could have an impact: Georgia CB Bryan Evans. The redshirt freshman replaced sophomore Ramarcus Brown in the starting lineup against Auburn. The move apparently paid off, because Auburn QB Brandon Cox threw as many interceptions (four) as completions in the Bulldogs' 37-15 victory. Evans will remain in the starting lineup Saturday against Georgia Tech and will try to help the Georgia secondary contain All-America WR Calvin Johnson.

Key stat: Kentucky's current four-game winning streak includes victories over Mississippi State, Georgia and Vanderbilt. The last Kentucky four-game winning streak that featured three victories over SEC teams came in 1977.

Take the line: Georgia began the week favored by at least 1 points over Georgia Tech, even though the Yellow Jackets have put together a better season. We'll go with Georgia Tech to win outright. Season record: 8-5.

They said it: "In this game, you have guys that went to high school together and always grew up together. My grandmother called me up, and she's got a picture of me with (Florida State quarterback) Xavier Lee in a preschool picture. Just because you see things like that, you want to beat them. I grew up in Florida and always thought it was the biggest game ever."
- Florida LB Brandon Siler on the Florida-Florida State rivalry.

Injury update: Arkansas LB Matt Hewitt is questionable for the LSU game after spraining his knee last week. Arkansas FB Peyton Hillis missed the Mississippi State game last week with a thigh bruise and also is questionable for Friday's contest. Florida linebackers Earl Everett (ankle) and Brandon Siler (knee) are expected to play Saturday after missing the Western Carolina game last week. Florida WR Dallas Baker also should play Saturday despite injuring his knee early in the Western Carolina game. Georgia RB Kregg Lumpkin and RB Danny Ware should be able to play Saturday despite hurting their ankles in a victory over Auburn two weeks ago. Georgia LB Marcus Washington suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Auburn game. LSU TB Keiland Williams has returned to practice after sitting out the Ole Miss game last week with an ankle injury. LSU LB Darry Beckwith remains questionable for Friday's game with Arkansas after missing the Ole Miss contest. Mississippi State QB Mike Henig broke a collarbone against Arkansas last week and will miss the Bulldogs' season finale. Omarr Conner likely will start in Henig's place, though Conner has his own injury problems with a pulled groin. Tennessee LB Jerod Mayo will probably miss the Kentucky game because of a fractured kneecap.

Worth noting: The Tennessee-Kentucky game features a reunion of sorts. Kentucky quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders was the Vols' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach before resigning last year. Arkansas' current 10-game winning streak is its longest since the Razorbacks also won 10 in a row in 1988. Ole Miss RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis needs to run for 38 more yards to become the Rebels' first 1,000-yard rusher since Deuce McAllister gained 1,082 yards in 1998. Florida is seeking to win three consecutive games from Florida State for the first time in two decades. The Gators won six in a row over the Seminoles from 1981-86. South Carolina has lost eight of its last nine meetings with Clemson. SEC players of the week for last weekend's games included South Carolina QB Blake Mitchell (offense), Arkansas CB Chris Houston (defense), Tennessee PK James Wilhoit (special teams), Kentucky C Matt McCutchan (offensive line), Auburn DE Quentin Groves (defensive line) and Florida WR Riley Cooper (freshman).

Looking back: Darren McFadden scored on a 92-yard kickoff return and Chris Houston reached the end zone on an 87-yard interception return as Arkansas clinched the Western Division title with a 28-14 victory over Mississippi State. Prechae Rodriguez caught a 22-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to put Auburn ahead for good in a 22-15 victory over Alabama. Colt David kicked the game-winning 26-yard field goal in overtime as LSU edged Ole Miss 23-20. Tim Tebow threw two touchdown passes and ran for two scores in Florida's 62-0 shutout of Western Carolina. Erik Ainge went 21-of-26 with a pair of touchdown passes as Tennessee whipped Vanderbilt 39-10. Blake Mitchell threw for 388 yards and four touchdowns in South Carolina's 52-7 thrashing of Middle Tennessee State. Keenan Burton caught three touchdown passes as Kentucky outlasted Louisiana-Monroe 42-40.

Freshmen who impressed: Florida's blowout victory over Division I-AA program Western Carolina allowed the Gators to give their highly touted freshman class plenty of playing time. Tim Tebow went 10-of-12 while throwing two touchdown passes and running for two scores. Riley Cooper caught three touchdown passes, and Brandon James scored on a 77-yard punt return.

Bowl watch: Alabama (6-6), Arkansas (10-1), Auburn (10-2), Florida (10-1), Georgia (7-4), Kentucky (7-4), LSU (9-2), South Carolina (6-5) and Tennessee (8-3) are already bowl eligible. Ole Miss (3-8), Mississippi State (3-8) and Vanderbilt (4-8) are out of bowl contention.

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