SEC college football picks, week 11 odds: Georgia faces toughest test, Ole Miss jumps upset

Week 11 in the SEC isn’t exactly filled with top-notch matchups from start to finish, but don’t let that distract you from some intriguing storylines in the south. Number 1 Georgia will travel to rival Tennessee in a game that looks far more dangerous than it did a month ago. Elsewhere, No. 11 Texas A&M heads to Oxford to take on Ole Miss No. 15 in a critical SEC West matchup that could set off some fireworks, and No. 17 Auburn will try to recover against a Mississippi State team that in Arkansas fell last week.

Oh, and a little story is happening in Gainesville. Coach Dan Mullen fired defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy this week after a 4-5 start, and will likely need to close strongly to remain off the hottest seat in the country this off-season.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the bigger storylines surrounding the conference before we go straight up and against the spread.

Appetizer: Dan Mullen confronts the problem

Mullen isn’t exactly known for his grace and comfort behind the mic, but he coped relatively well with the pressure he faced during Monday’s press conference.

“I’m the head coach, so I carry it all. It hangs on my shoulders,” he said. “I’m the one responsible for this program. I’m the one responsible for this team and how we had to perform. That’s your job here as a head coach to take that responsibility. And it’s my job to make sure that we’re going to perform, that this team is playing against the Gator Standard, which we’re not doing now. It’s my responsibility to find a way to fix that. I’m pretty confident in myself, and I’ve won a lot of football games as head coach, won championships here. What I’m pretty sure about is finding the solution.”

Wow. He wasn’t defensive, didn’t make it awkward and showed a little… dare I say… humility.

That should at least give Florida fans a little bit of hope that Mullen can turn this thing around. He is never one to doubt his ability, but the recognition that he is the biggest problem suggests that he is more likely to speed up the rehabilitation process.

Main Course: Tennessee Is Georgia’s Toughest Test

How many of you thought before the season that the above headline would be even remotely possible? Put your hand down. No you did not.

But here we are in mid-November and the Volunteers’ offense has improved so much that it should startle Georgia fans and grab the attention of Georgia coaches. The Volunteers lead the SEC in yards per play in conference games at 7.15 am, they led the SEC in yards per play at 6.93 in October, and put in 9.81 yards per play in their only game in November — a 45-42 win. on Kentucky. Georgia coach Kirby Smart knows how dangerous this team is.

“Offensively, in the last three or four games, they have the average of the most points in the SEC,” Smart said at his Monday press conference. “They’re up-tempo, fast and that’s very hard to prepare. Everyone is trying to prepare in the off season, but it’s so hard to simulate when you’re talking to people who are going against it, that makes it huge difficult.”

Dual-threat quarterback Hendon Hooker is the trigger for that offense and has developed into one of the most dynamic signal callers in the country. Velus Jones Jr., Cedric Tilman and JaVonta Payton have emerged as one of the best receiving trios in the country, and coach Josh Heupel has found creative ways to get them open. Georgia’s secondary is solid, but it will be up to Jordan Davis and the rest of that line of defense to pressure Hooker and disrupt play before Hooker breaks free outside the pocket.

Dessert: Battle for a New Year’s Six bowl

Texas A&M and Ole Miss will take on Oxford in a contest that will likely throw the winner into a New Year’s Six bowl. Sure, the Aggies still have a shot at the SEC West title, but one step at a time.

The two-loss Aggies have Prairie View A&M and LSU on the schedule, the first of which won’t be much of a challenge. A win over the Rebels — even if the Aggies lose over LSU’s rivalry weekend — will likely be enough to sneak into the New Year’s Six. Ole Miss also has two losses with games against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State on the roll. I’d be floored if it lost one of those two games, so a win this weekend should put the Rebels in a great spot.

choices

Upright: 68-17 | Against the spread: 40-34

Alabama is a flawed team that has struggled to run football, in large part due to the offensive line’s inability to open holes for the loaded running back corps led by Brian Robinson Jr. The game against the Aggies is a perfect time to “fix the jam.” Expect a heavy dose of the running game which, while successful, will also tax the clock enough for the Aggies to mate. However, this is going to be a cake walk for the Crimson Tide. Select: State of New Mexico (+51.5)

Mississippi State at No. 17 Auburn

Last Chances:

Maroon Tigers -5.5

The secondary Tigers are loaded with NFL talent, including center back Roger McCreary, and that unit will slow the Bulldogs’ charge led by quarterback Will Rogers enough to take the win. Well, as long as the Tigers attack doesn’t collapse. Quarterback Bo Nix was a disaster against Texas A&M last week, so expect coach Bryan Harsin to re-dedicate himself to the run. I’m taking the Tigers because the bet comes down to a seven-point Auburn win. Choice: Chestnut brown (-5.5)

No. 1 Georgia in Tennessee

Last Chances:

Tennessee Volunteers +20

The Bulldogs have given up just seven plays from 30 or more yards this season, while the Volunteer offense is second in the conference with 26. Something has to be done. Overall, the Bulldogs defense will continue to dominate. But the volunteers are good enough to play some big games and become the first team to score 14 or more points against the top-ranked team in the country. So expect a cover from coach Josh Heupel’s crew, even if this won’t be quite a match. Select: Tennessee (+20.5)

Last Chances:

Missouri Tigers -1

The Gamecocks averaged 6.95 yards per game in last weekend’s win over Florida, and that success will continue this weekend against a Tigers team that gave up 6.81 yards per game — its worst in the SEC. Both teams started as backup quarterbacks last week, but Gamecocks’ signalman Jason Brown seemed much more capable of leading his team up and down than Brady Cook and Tyler Macon. Select: South Carolina (+1)

No. 11 Texas A&M at No. 15 Ole Miss

Last Chances:

Ole Miss Rebels +2.5

College football is an offensive-driven sport and no crime in the country is more terrifying than the rebels. Heisman Trophy nominee quarterback Matt Corral and the rest of the Rebels will use pace to force this into more of a gunfight than a brawl, clearly favoring Coach Lane Kiffin’s squad. Can Aggie’s Quarterback Zach Calzada Keep Up? He was better than his stats indicate last week due to multiple drops from wide receivers, but he won’t be good enough to lead his team to victory. Choose: Ole Miss (+2.5)

Kentucky at Vanderbilt

Last Chances:

Vanderbilt Commodores +21

The Wildcats attack exploded in the shootout defeat to Tennessee last week, but had been brutal in the two losses leading up to last weekend’s fireworks. So, who are the real Wildcats? I think they are closer to what we saw last week than to the team we saw in the previous two games. Quarterback Will Levis will take advantage of the second-worst defense in the conference and make it laughable by the fourth quarter. Pick: Kentucky (-21)

Arkansas at LSU

Last Chances:

LSU Tigers +2.5

We saw LSU fight the battle of a lifetime against Alabama last weekend, but to no avail, and the Razorbacks will be able to do something the Crimson Tide couldn’t do against LSU — run the football. The multidimensional rushed attack led by quarterback KJ Jefferson and receding Trelon Smith will be cranked up and force Tigers quarterback Max Johnson to take too many risks through the air. A three point win in Arkansas earns you money, so that’s the game in the battle for the golden boot. Choose: Arkansas (-2.5)

Samford in Florida

There’s no line on this one, so I’ll take the Gators to win. It’s a huge indictment of the Dan Mullen regime that I’ve thought about this game for at least one fleeting moment. Choice: Florida (NL)

Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 11, and which top-15 team will be blown away? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread — all from a tried-and-true computer model that’s brought in nearly $3,500 in profits over the past five seasons — and find out.

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