Two storied SEC rivalries will take place on Saturday as LSU battles No. 12 Ole Miss and Tennessee looks for an upset over No. 4 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The two games might not mean much in the race for the SEC title, but the passion and bragging rights associated with both games should be well worth your time.
Games aren't the only storylines this week, though.
LSU announced on Sunday that it willafter the season, which has led to plenty of rumors on who will be the next head man in Baton Rouge. Who will it be? There are some very this week. Let's break down that situation -- and more -- before we make some picks straight up and against the spread from a relatively light SEC slate this weekend.
Appetizer: Where will LSU turn?
The inevitable became reality on Sunday when LSU announced that it will move on from Coach O. That, of course, stirred up plenty of speculation. Penn State's James Franklin is the betting favorite to take over the Tigers, according to SportsLine, followed closely by Ole Miss' Lane Kiffin and Michigan State's Mel Tucker. The new coach shouldn't be any of those three, nor should it be Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher, for that matter.
Louisiana coach Bill Napier would be a phenomenal fit in Baton Rouge, and should be able to bring the program back into contention in the SEC West. Napier is coming off of two straight double-digit win seasons, is well on his way to a third as the Ragin' Cajuns sit at 5-1, led the team to a top-20 finish in 2020 and has recruiting connections throughout the southeast. He runs a multi-dimensional offense that uses spread concepts with the foundation of a power running game, which is exactly what LSU ran two years ago when it won the national title.
Don't focus on the big names. Focus on Napier. Simply put, he checks every box.
Main course: Is Alabama back?
It's safe to say that the 49-9 win over Mississippi State in Starkville was Alabama's "get-right" game. After all, the Bulldogs had more passing yards (300) than it did total yards (299). That provided hope for Tide fans who were discouraged after its offensive line struggled in their two previous road games -- the loss to Texas A&M and two-point win over Florida. How much should we take out of it, though? Not much. Mississippi State is one-dimensional by choice, which is a stark contrast to teams that put a much bigger emphasis on balance. The Crimson Tide didn't have to worry about getting blown off of the ball up front, which is their biggest -- and perhaps only -- problem.
The good news for Alabama is that its only road game left on the docket is the Iron Bowl vs. Auburn -- a place that it hasn't won a game in since 2015 -- during the final week of the season. No, coach Nick Saban can't simulate road atmospheres. But he at least has some time to try some things and figure out what the biggest problems are.
Dessert: Zeb Noland's show ... again
It's always sad to see an injury cut somebody's season short, which is exactly what happened this week when South Carolina coach Shane Beamer announced that starting quarterback Luke Doty will have foot surgery and miss the remainder of the season. That means that it's Zeb Noland's show again.
The graduate assistant-turned-starting quarterback for the Gamecocks filled in while Doty recovered from an injury to open the season, but was relegated back to the pine once Doty came back. Noland replaced Doty on the final drive Saturday vs. Vanderbilt and went 5-of-8 for 75 yards with a game-winning, 9-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Legette with 37 second left to seal the 21-20 win.
Yes, it was Vanderbilt, and the fact that South Carolina had to rally against the hapless Commodores was surprising. But for Noland to come off the bench in the way that he did after all that he has gone through is a perfect chapter to what has been a storybook season. Now he has Texas A&M to deal with, which could turn the storybook into a novel very quickly.
Week 8 picks
Straight up: 57-12 | Against the spread: 31-28
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Arkansas
There won't be a line in this FCS vs. FBS matchup until Saturday morning, but expect the Razorbacks to take out some aggression on the Golden Lions after losing three straight games.
LSU at No. 12 Ole Miss
Take the Rebels to win, but expect this to be a one-score game throughout. Tyrion Davis-Price ran for 287 yards last week for Florida and 127 the week before vs. Kentucky. Bottom line: The breakout game for Davis-Price -- and LSU's running game as a whole -- is on the rise. That doesn't bode well for an Ole Miss defense that has been anything but consistent this season. Rebels quarterback Matt Corral, assuming he's healthy, will do enough to get the job done. But LSU will limit his chances and keep this one close. Pick: LSU (+9.5)
Mississippi State at Vanderbilt
Commodores coach Clark Lea is a defensive-minded coach by trade, and it's not like Bulldogs coach Mike Leach goes out of his way to disguise his offensive plan. Because of that, Lea will force enough stops against quarterback Will Rogers and Co. to at least keep this one within three touchdowns. There isn't much of a home-field advantage in Nashville, but the Commodores won't have to worry about the disadvantage of playing in front of all of the cowbells in Starkville. Pick: Vanderbilt (+21)
Tennessee at No. 4 Alabama
The status of Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker remains unknown after he hobbled off with a leg injury suffered in the final drive against Ole Miss. Even if he plays, their offensive line was a disaster against the Rebels and is banged up heading into the matchup with rival Alabama. Linebacker Will Anderson Jr. will have a field day off the edge, Bryce Young will throw for at least 300 yards and the Crimson Tide will post a 30-point win. Pick: Alabama (-25.5)
South Carolina at No. 17 Texas A&M
Noland will return to the starting lineup under center in place of Doty, and he'll at least keep his Gamecocks competitive against an Aggies squad that isn't going to throw the kitchen sink at coach Shane Beamer's defense. Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane will pound the rock, drain the clock and cruise to an old-school win that won't be by more than three scores. Pick: South Carolina (+21)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 8, and which top-10 team will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,700 in profit over the past five-plus seasons -- and find out.