You know it's a thin week when a game between an unranked 6-4 team and an overrated 7-3 team is the best match-up in the SEC. But here we are. The other choices are hardly worth featuring -- even if this is maybe the first time in decades that Vanderbilt is favored against Tennessee. Arkansas vs. Mississippi State? Hardly. And -- ahem -- Florida vs. The Citadel? (Yes, it's capitalized.) You go ahead.
No, the best game this weekend will be Houston Nutt taking his Ole Miss Rebels (still sounds wrong) into the Bayou to play the man Nutt tied in knots for the last four years: Les Miles. Sure, the Man with the Big Hat is 2-1 against the Man with the Straw Hat, but none of those games were easy -- 19-17 LSU in 2005, 31-26 LSU in 2006 and last year's national championship-endangering 50-48 Arkansas victory in triple overtime last year.
Now, Nutt is with Mississippi, turning the Orgeron's highly-regarded recruiting classes into winners. Jevan Snead has been efficient if not spectacular, while Dexter McCluster is the kind of versatile threat (457 yards rushing, 498 yards receiving) that Nutt loves to utilize. Throw in a line anchored by Michael Oher, and you have an offense ranked in the top half of the SEC in every major offensive category. The defense, though, is troubled; the Rebels allow 328.6 ypg, 11th in the league.
This is how a team loses to Vanderbilt at home, beats Florida in the Swamp, then loses to South Carolina at home.
LSU, meanwhile, has struggled practically across the board. RB Charles Scott has been great, but QB Jarrett Lee apparently believes that defensive backs and underappreciated, and so rewards them with opportunities to score TDs. Lee has one more interception (15) than touchdowns (14). That's after a three-week stretch in which he threw three touchdowns and six picks. This would be fine if LSU's offense weren't ranked eighth in the conference, allowing 311.10 -- which, of course, they are.
Mississippi 24, LSU 17
Tennessee at Vanderbilt, 12:30 p.m. ET
Sure, there are all sorts of reasons Tennessee could win this game. Vanderbilt is happy to have six wins; who knows how they'll react? The Dores could be in for the letdown game of the year, which ends with them losing to one of the two worst teams in the SEC.
Not likely. Tennessee is ranked 102nd in the nation or worse in every major offensive category. This is an almost historically awful team.
Vanderbilt can at least run, though it can't do much else well. If the Vols had any offense, they might be able to take advantage of the Commodores lackluster defense. But defensive struggles are the last thing a team needs to worry about when facing Tennessee.
Vanderbilt 13, Tennessee 10
THE NOTHING BOWL
Arkansas at Mississippi State, 2:30 p.m. ET
What do you say about this game? Both these teams are, simply put, mediocre to terrible. Arkansas (4-6, 1-5 SEC) has had the technically "better" season, and has a passing game, a good running back and some nice special teams plays. The Bulldogs have a nice pass defense, can't stop the run (which is probably related to the first item) and can't move the ball by air, ground or sea.
This will be an ugly game. Not televising it is a humanitarian act.
Arkansas 24, Mississippi State 23
The Citadel at No. 3 Florida, 1:30 p.m. ET Allowing Florida to play The Citadel, on the other hand, is anything but a humanitarian act. The Gators could score 100 or more if they wanted to; the Bulldogs aren't even ranked in the FCS Top 25. Tim Tebow might actually come out of this game before the fourth quarter. Florida 73, Citadel 3
Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina