Who makes the biggest impact in Alabama-LSU?
Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): Jalen Hurts. The game will be ultimately decided on whether LSU can run the football on that Alabama front unlike last season in Tuscaloosa. That being said, Hurts has been the engine to this Alabama offense all year long and will be stepping into an environment unique to all others in college football. LSU has the athletes to potentially contain Hurts, but can they do it? I don’t think so.
Bryan Manning (@bdmanning4): LSU’s offensive line could be the difference-maker in this one. The Tigers have to run the football well or they don't have a chance. That all starts up front. Fournette and Guice are the best set of backs in the country and can take over a game. Ask Ole Miss. Alabama, however, isn't Ole Miss. If the running game can get going, it makes things much easier for Danny Etling, who can't not win games without help from his backs.
Jonathan Waldrop (@aukiwal83): Jonathan Allen. This is the kind of game that he’s wanted to participate in for the past three years, but he’s had big boys like Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson in front of him. Now, he’s the three-down defensive end whose skills in the run game are vastly improved. This is more of a “SEC DPoY” gauge than who makes the biggest impact, but that entire defensive line is going to have to be ready to play without the depth it had last year when it held Fournette to 31 yards.
Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): Can I say Leonard Fournette? Because it’s Leonard Fournette. While it seems like a given that Fournette is going to get his, last year he had 31 yards on 19 carries against the Tide. The short-yardage runs might be even more important than the big runs: it’s great if Fournette can break off a big run or three, but if he can get four or five yards instead of one or two yards (which Alabama has been limiting teams to a lot) that will make this game very interesting.
Cam Newton (@morrisoncrying): It’d be difficult for me to just pick one LSU player for this, even though I’d love to pick Leonard Fournette. All season long, this Alabama defense has smothered its opponents by forcing turnovers and turning them into quick, easy points. If LSU wants to have any business winning this ballgame, the onus is on every offensive player to ensure that Alabama is not stripping the ball or forcing throws into heavy coverage. If LSU can run their offense without coughing the ball up, they might have a shot at winning this one.
Better chance of making the New Year’s Six: Auburn or Texas A&M?
Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): Texas A&M. A&M’s toughest remaining game is a Thanksgiving meeting with LSU at Kyle Field. Even if the Aggies lose that game they will be 10-2. Auburn would benefit from the Aggies loss, but still has a trip to Tuscaloosa that looms large. Personally, I think that both of these teams will make it to a New Year’s Six bowl, but if I were to leave one out it would be the Tigers.
Bryan Manning (@bdmanning4): I can see both schools going. Both teams can win out, although Auburn has yet to face Alabama. Even if they lose to the Tide, a place in the New Year’s Six is possible. For A&M, LSU stands in its way. Fortunately for the Aggies, it's at home. Win or lose, A&M will be good to go. The Aggies still have a shot at the playoff unless they suffer an upset to one of the Mississippi schools.
Jonathan Waldrop (@aukiwal83): A&M. Neither school has the clearest path with Auburn still having to play Alabama and A&M having a tricky Ole Miss team and LSU left to go, but I still think you give it to the team at this point with fewer losses on their schedule and, of course, the head-to-head. For me, it has to be the Aggies.
Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): It’s important to point out that if the season ended today, A&M would not only be in the New Year’s Six, but they’d be in the playoff. And aside from having a head start over Auburn thanks to being ranked five spots higher, the Aggies should be favored in each of their remaining games. That’s not to say they’ll win out, but they probably don’t have to -- and Auburn probably does, including a win in Tuscaloosa.
Cam Newton (@morrisoncrying): I think it is definitely Texas A&M. Love it or hate it, but they’re in the playoff picture already, and it’s doubtful that they’ll slip up and lose to MSU, Ole Miss, UTSA, or LSU at home. That being said, I think that if Auburn does manage to pull off the win against Alabama, I think they’ll be in that NY6 conversation (In this scenario, we would see hectic jockeying for a playoff spot between Alabama and Texas A&M).
Do neither of the Mississippi schools make a bowl game?
Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): Mississippi State is all but done. The Bulldogs sitting at 3-5 faces A&M and Alabama the next two weeks. CFP ranking aside, it ain’t happening for Dan Mullen this year. As for Ole Miss, the Rebels should beat Georgia Southern which will be give them their fourth win. After that, it’s reasonable to believe that they will lose at Texas A&M and then beat Vanderbilt in Nashville. Thus, the deciding game will come down to the Egg Bowl. Chuck it up as a toss-up and my answer is Mississippi State, no chance; Ole Miss, I have no clue, but I think they will.
Bryan Manning (@bdmanning4): What a difference a year makes. Remember when the Rebels had three first-round picks on their roster? And the Bulldogs had Dak Prescott? Well, now the Egg Bowl could be a battle for bowl eligibility. Winner is in, loser is out. If that's the case I'm going with Ole Miss, however, it's close. I don't see Mississippi State going to a bowl.
Jonathan Waldrop (@aukiwal83): I think Julian’s right. They go 7-5 at best with a surprise win against A&M, but 6-6 sounds more like it. I think they’ll handle Vandy and Mississippi State. It’s not the sexiest position to be in when you’re offered a bowl game in Shreveport, but perspective of who they lost in the offseason and the injuries in the FSU game just became too much to handle in the long term. Mississippi State is a whole other problem. If Dak was the answer to Dan Mullen’s prayers, then it could be tough sledding for them going forward.
Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): Yeah, I think Ole Miss will beat Georgia Southern, Vandy, and MSU to get to 6-6. Which begs the question: is spending the holidays in Shreveport better than spending the holidays at home? I would almost argue that Ole Miss might as well self-impose a bowl ban this year… you know, to make sure that the NCAA only costs them a trip to Shreveport instead of potentially costing them a Sugar Bowl trip in a year they’re actually good at football.
Cam Newton (@morrisoncrying): Ole Miss? Probably. Mississippi State? Not a chance. The Bulldogs’ remaining schedule includes Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. One would be hard-pressed to find a single win among those four games, let alone the three it would take for Mississippi State to go bowling. Ole Miss could very easily pick up three more wins, but if they’re 5-6 heading into the Egg Bowl, I’m sure MSU is going to try to do everything in their power to take the Rebels down with them.