This is usually the week we're all sitting back and preparing for one of the greatest spectacles in college football: the SEC Championship Game. COVID-19 has changed all of our lives, and in this case, that means we have to wait a few weeks before the winners of the East and West divisions tee it up in Atlanta. There's still plenty of intrigue swirling around the SEC, though.
Top-ranked Alabama will head to Baton Rouge to take on an LSU team that's a shell of its former self. Quarterback Mac Jones, wide receiver DeVonta Smith and running back Najee Harris all have Heisman Trophy hopes, and big performances on Saturday night could go a long way toward fulfilling those dreams.
This week's SEC Smothered and Covered takes a look around the conference and makes picks against the spread.
Appetizer: Alabama back to the norm
I'm old enough to remember when we were all concerned about Alabama's defense being a liability, not a strength. It was way back in October after it got torched to the tune of 7.52 yards per play and 647 total yards by Lane Kiffin and the high-octane Ole Miss Rebels. That was one week after Texas A&M rattled off 5.84 yards per play.
Things have changed.
The Crimson Tide gave up just 3.84 yards per play in November, one of only three SEC teams to give up less than 4 yards per play. They also led the conference in opponent red zone touchdown percentage in November at 33.3%. In addition, Alabama gave up just 20 plays of 10 or more yards in November -- second fewest in the SEC.
It's not how you start, it's how you finish. Alabama is the most complete team in college football again, and it isn't even close.
Main course: What to make of Texas A&M
Aggie fans get really mad when their team appears behind Florida in any kind of ranking since they beat the Gators earlier in the season. I get it. Heads-up results matter ... but so does trajectory.
Texas A&M has been buoyed by an incredible defense and stout running game with Isaiah Spiller to put it in contention for the College Football Playoff.
The problem is quarterback Kellen Mond. It's hard to look beyond that 11-for-34 performance against a woefully bad LSU pass defense since we've seen inconsistency from Mond in the past. No, the committee shouldn't factor in performances from previous seasons. Maybe those individuals won't. But that's a separate discussion than the one normal folks like us are having, and isn't really relevant regarding the mid-season CFP Rankings. After all, those exist for programming the sport down the stretch. They're not set in stone.
Everybody who follows the sport knows that Texas A&M beat Florida. Sure, the Gators defense was beat up a bit, and that should be (and is) part of the discussion. But it's a minor part. If a CFP spot comes down to a discussion between Florida and Texas A&M, the Aggies will win. Until then, just enjoy the ride.
- Jeremy Pruitt, please go with Harrison Bailey at quarterback. It's time to start preparing for the future at Tennessee.
- Georgia found its rushing games again, one game after it seemingly disappeared vs. Mississippi State. The stable featuring Zamir White, James Cook, Kendall Milton and Kenny McIntosh not only ran over South Carolina, but can stay together up to two more years thanks to the free year of eligibility that the NCAA granted this season. Uh oh.
- Why has Kentucky fallen off? The Wildcats are 2-of-13 on third downs in each of the last two games. One was Alabama, so that's understandable. Florida? While the Gators have been getting better in that department, it's still inexcusable.
- Quietly, Arkansas running back Rakeem Boyd opted out of the season this week. The 1,100-yard rusher from a year ago will go down as one of the most under-appreciated players in recent memory.
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Picks for Week 14
No. 1 Alabama at LSU
Let's see: Alabama's defense has been playing lights out (see above) and LSU hasn't figured out if T.J. Finley or Max Johnson is the quarterback. On top of that, wide receiver Terrace Marshall just opted out. Teams have to score 40 to even contend with the Crimson Tide, and it's hard to find a way to even predict LSU to get to double digits. Pick: Alabama (-28.5)
No. 5 Texas A&M at Auburn
Tigers quarterback Bo Nix has been money at home, but this is where the tables turn. The offense is a disaster without a healthy Tank Bigsby at running back, and the Aggies defense has been stellar for the majority of the season. It's hard to trust Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond, but it's even harder to trust the Tigers offense against this defense. Pick: Texas A&M (-7)
No. 6 Florida at Tennessee
The Super Swamp Brothers returned to action with authority as Kyle Trask connected with Kyle Pitts five times for 99 yards and three touchdowns against Kentucky. Is Tennessee going to be the team that suddenly solves the riddle and figures out how to shut them down? Absolutely not. Florida's offense is unstoppable, its defense has progressed and Tennessee is a total mess. Take the Gators and tease it up if you want. Pick: Florida (-17)
Arkansas at Missouri
The Hogs lost running back Rakeem Boyd to an opt out this week, but all signs point to the rest of the roster being pretty much intact following the COVID-19 shutdown. With that being the case, it's hard to bet against quarterback Feleipe Franks, a defense led by former Tigers head coach Barry Odom that has been solid all season long and a team that is 6-2 against the spread. Give me the Hogs outright. Pick: Arkansas (+3)
South Carolina at Kentucky
I know that South Carolina is a mess following the dismissal of Will Muschamp, but is Kentucky suddenly going to find an offense? In the words of Kevin McAllister in "Home Alone," "I don't think so." Well, at least not enough to cover a line that big. Quarterback Terry Wilson and Co.will do enough to get the win, but it'll be tight until the final gun. Pick: South Carolina (+11.5)
Records —Straight up 44-10 (6-0 last week) | ATS 25-29 (2-4 last week)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 14? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned over $3,500 in profit over the past four-plus seasons -- and find out.