Week 11 in the SEC isn't exactly filled with top-tier matchups from start to finish, but don't let that distract you from some intriguing storylines throughout the south. No. 1 Georgia will travel to rival Tennessee in a game that looks a lot more dangerous than it did a month ago. Elsewhere, No. 11 Texas A&M will head to Oxford to take on No. 15 Ole Miss in a critical SEC West matchup that could provide plenty of fireworks, and No. 17 Auburn will look to rebound against a Mississippi State team that fell to Arkansas last week.
Oh, and there's a tiny little story 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 likely needs to close strong in order to stay off the hottest seat in the country this offseason.
Let's take a closer look at some of the bigger storylines around conference before we make picks straight up and against the spread.
Appetizer: Dan Mullen confronting the issue
Mullen isn't exactly known for his grace and comfort behind the microphone, but he did handle the pressure he's facing relatively well during Monday's press conference.
"I'm the head coach, so I bear all of it. It's on my shoulders,'' he said. "I'm the one that's responsible for this program. I'm the one that's responsible for this team and how we got to perform. That's your job here as the head coach is to take on that responsibility. And my job is to make sure we go perform, that this team plays to the Gator Standard, which we're not doing right 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 a head coach, won championships here. What I'm pretty confident in is finding the solution."
Wow. He wasn't defensive, didn't make it awkward and showed a little ... dare I say ... humility.
That, at the very least, should give Florida fans a small bit of hope that Mullen can turn this thing around. He is never one to doubt his ability, but recognizing that he is the main problem suggests that he's more likely to expedite 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 didn't.
Yet here we are in mid-November with the Volunteers offense improving to a point that it should scare Georgia fans and grab the attention of Georgia coaches. The Volunteers leads the SEC in yards per play in conference games at 7.15, they led the SEC in yards per play in October at 6.93 and put up 9.81 yards per play in its lone November game -- a 45-42 win over Kentucky. Georgia coach Kirby Smart knows just how dangerous this team is.
"Offensively, in the last three or four games, they're averaging the most points in the SEC," Smart said in his Monday press conference. "They're up-tempo, fast-paced and that's really hard to prepare for. Everybody tries to prepare in the offseason, but it's so hard to simulate when you talk to people going against it, it makes it tremendously tough."
Dual-threat quarterback Hendon Hooker is the trigger man of that offense, and has evolved 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 wide receiving trios in the country, and coach Josh Heupel has found creative ways to get them open. Georgia's secondary is stout, but it'll be on Jordan Davis and the rest of that defensive line to get pressure on Hooker and disrupt plays before Hooker gets loose outside of the pocket.
Dessert: Battle for a New Year's Six bowl
Texas A&M and Ole Miss will square off in Oxford in a game that will likely vault 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 to LSU on 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 left on the docket. I would be floored if it loses either of those two games, so a win this weekend should put the Rebels in a great spot.
Straight up: 68-17 | Against the spread: 40-34
New Mexico State at No. 2 Alabama
Alabama is a flawed team that has struggled to run the football due in large part to the inability of the offensive line 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 glitch." Expect a heavy dose of the running game which, while successful, will also drain the clock enough to allow the Aggies to cover. This will be a cake walk for the Crimson Tide, though. Pick: New Mexico State (+51.5)
Mississippi State at No. 17 Auburn
The Tigers secondary is loaded with NFL talent including corner back Roger McCreary, and that unit will slow down the Bulldogs offense led by quarterback Will Rogers enough to get the win. Well, as long as the Tigers offense doesn't collapse. Quarterback Bo Nix was a disaster last week vs. Texas A&M, so expect coach Bryan Harsin to re-dedicate himself to the run. I'll take the Tigers since the bet cashes with a seven-point Auburn win. Pick: Auburn (-5.5)
No. 1 Georgia at Tennessee
The Bulldogs have only given up seven plays of 30 or more yards this season, while the Volunteer offense is second in the conference with 26. Something's gotta give. Generally speaking, the Bulldogs defense will continue to dominate. But the Volunteers are good enough to pop a big play or two and become the first team to score 14 or more points against the top-ranked team in the country. Because of that, expect a cover from coach Josh Heupel's crew even though this one won't be much of a contest. Pick: Tennessee (+20.5)
The Gamecocks averaged 6.95 yards per play in the win over Florida last weekend, and that success will continue this weekend against a Tigers team that has given up 6.81 yards per play -- worst in the SEC. Both teams started backup quarterbacks last week, but Gamecocks' signal-caller Jason Brown looked much more capable of leading his team up and down the field than Brady Cook and Tyler Macon. Pick: South Carolina (+1)
No. 11 Texas A&M at No. 15 Ole Miss
College football is an offensively-driven sport, and no offense in the country is more terrifying than the Rebels. Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Matt Corral and the rest of the Rebels will use tempo to force this into more of a shootout than a slugfest, which clearly favors coach Lane Kiffin's squad. Can Aggies 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 the win. Pick: Ole Miss (+2.5)
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
The Wildcats offense exploded in the shootout loss 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're closer to what we saw last week than they are to the team that we saw in the previous two games. Quarterback Will Levis will exploit the second-worst defense in the conference and make this one laughable by the fourth quarter. Pick: Kentucky (-21)
Arkansas at LSU
We saw LSU put up the fight of its life last weekend against Alabama to no avail, and the Razorbacks will be able to do something that the Crimson Tide couldn't do against LSU -- run the football. The multi-dimensional rushing attack led by quarterback KJ Jefferson and running back Trelon Smith will get cranked up and force Tigers quarterback Max Johnson to take too many risks through the air. A three-point Arkansas win cashes, so that's the play in the Battle for the Golden Boot. Pick: Arkansas (-2.5)
Samford at 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 at least thought about this game for a fleeting moment. Pick: Florida (NL)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 11, and which top-15 team will get stunned? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,500 in profit over the past five-plus seasons -- and find out.