It's mid-November, which means that conference races are heating up around the country. But in the SEC, it's a difficult time as many programs are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. Four games originally scheduled for this Saturday have been postponed -- No. 1 Alabama at LSU, No. 5 Texas A&M at Tennessee, No. 24 Auburn at Mississippi State and No. 12 Georgia at Missouri.
With that said, there are still intriguing games and storylines for SEC Smothered and Covered to examine this week. Let's break down the current state of the SEC and make some picks.
Appetizer: Don't get down on Kirby Smart
From the moment that the clock struck zero and Georgia lost to Florida for the first time since 2016, the whispers turned into a dull roar. "Kirby Smart is a new version of Mark Richt." "He's not a big-game coach." "He lied about the direction of the offense."
Let's tap the breaks on that just a bit.
Yes, the offense this year is ultra-conservative and can't seem to get out of its own way. If that wasn't clear before the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, it certainly is now. That's by necessity, not design. It's fair to assume that the original design for this offense looked much more like a dynamic, up-tempo scheme that is the perfect complement to Georgia's stout defense.
Smart hired offensive coordinator Todd Monken and lured Jamie Newman to Athens after a successful career at Wake Forest. Those two moves suggest that he was serious about opening things up in the offseason. What's more, he went with D'Wan Mathis -- who can make plays on the ground -- as his opening day starter. This offense is likely vanilla by necessity, not choice.
Do we know that for sure? Of course not. Smart could be the new version of Les Miles during Miles' final few seasons in Baton Rouge and make empty promises about the offense opening up. It's too early for that right now, though. He's the most successful Georgia coach Since Vince Dooley and has earned the benefit of the doubt.
Main course: The honeymoon isn't over
LSU has a much more pressing issue to deal with after a COVID-19 outbreak postponed this weekend's game vs. Alabama. When the Tigers do return to action, coach Ed Orgeron will have a chance to right the wrongs of this season and get back in the good graces of his fan base. Simply put, the honeymoon that Orgeron and LSU are on isn't over. It's just winding down a bit. The couple has started to pack their suitcases and are dreading going back to the "real world."
There is a problem, though. Orgeron's hiring of defensive coordinator Bo Pelini has backfired in a big way. The secondary looks completely lost and is currently ranked No. 119 in the nation in pass defense (335.2 yards per game), which is unacceptable considering Derek Stingley Jr., JaCoby Stevens and Todd Harris are still on the roster. It's a far cry from Pelini's success as LSU's defensive coordinator from 2005-07.
Pelini is the ex who is causing problems in the relationship. The ex who, unfortunately, is impossible to ignore.
This is a lost season. On top of the massive roster and coaching turnover, an injury to quarterback Myles Brennan and massive COVID-19 issues have prevented the Tigers from even being competitive. Orgeron is still the man. He's still the same guy who transformed LSU into a monster. Just give it time.
- Tennessee shouldn't even consider letting go of Jeremy Pruitt. He's still new at this and did a great job keeping his team motived after the rocky start to last season. South Carolina, on the other hand, should at least consider making a change as long as the financial situation makes it possible. You know what you're going to get from Will Muschamp at this point. It isn't going to change.
- Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and Florida quarterback Kyle Trask should be above Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields in the Heisman Trophy race. Both of them have much better resumes so far in 2020.
- Texas A&M's offensive line is the best in the SEC, and potentially the nation. The Aggies have given up just two sacks all season and only allowed 3.5 tackles for loss per game. It's the biggest reason why they have a legit shot at the CFP.
- Gut feeling ... Hugh Freeze won't be a head coach in the SEC in 2021 (although he should be).
Picks for Week 11
Odds via William Hill Sportsbook
Arkansas at No. 6 Florida (-17.5): The Gators got the bump from Las Vegas after the destruction of Georgia last week. It's just too far. The unknown status of Gators tight end Kyle Pitts coupled with the let-down factor will open the door for the upstart Razorbacks to hang around more than oddsmakers think. Don't get me wrong. There isn't a big chance of an upset here. But a two-touchdown game is the most likely outcome. Pick: Arkansas (+17.5)
South Carolina at Ole Miss (-11): The Rebels can't stop anybody, but the Gamecocks' offense is an abject disaster. Since that is the case, do you trust Lane Kiffin's offense more than Will Muschamp's defense? All day. All night. All evening long. Matt Corral and the rest of the Ole Miss offense will light South Carolina up like a Christmas tree. Pick: Ole Miss (-11)
Vanderbilt at Kentucky (-17): Here we go again with Vanderbilt having a spread that suggests that at least provides hope to Commodores fans. Unlike last week, though, this will be a blowout. I'd love to know who on Vandy's defense is going to slow down this Wildcats running game. If there's somebody on that roster, coach Derek Mason hasn't used him yet. Pick: Kentucky (-17)
Records -- Straight up: 30-10 (4-0 last week) | ATS: 20-20 (4-0 last week)