The SEC division title races became much clearer last weekend when No. 1 Georgia topped No. 5 Tennessee in a critical SEC East battle and No. 7 LSU shocked No. 9 Alabama in front of a raucous home crowd in Death Valley. Week 11 will bring us even more intrigue and clarification as we head down the homestretch of the 2022 college football season.
The mid-afternoon SEC on CBS Game of the Week features an SEC West showdown between Alabama and No. 11 Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi. It'll be fascinating to see how the Crimson TIde rebound from last week's loss against Lane Kiffin and a Rebels team that has had two weeks to prepare for their biggest game of the year.
LSU threw a wrench in the works by finishing one of the most impactful upsets of the season. The Tigers, who have two losses but only one within conference play, now control their own destiny in the SEC West. They have to defend the title of "the hunted" at Arkansas in the Battle for the Golden Boot.
Let's take a spin around some of the bigger storylines in the SEC before making picks against the spread for Saturday's action.
Appetizer: Jayden Daniels for Heisman?
The idea of LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels mounting a campaign to win the Heisman Trophy seemed ludicrous after a Week 1 loss to Florida State that saw the Tigers' offense struggle mightily against the Seminoles. My, how things have changed. Daniels has seven touchdown passes and zero interceptions over the last three games while adding seven rushing touchdowns over that same span. He has only thrown one interception all season, and has been the driving force behind LSU's charge to the top of the SEC West standings.
Typically, a dual-threat quarterback with video game stats who leads his team into national title contention is a recipe for Heisman success. What's more, he has led an upset over a national power and become one of the darlings of the college football world in mid-November. Will Daniels win college football's biggest individual award? It's a long shot, no doubt, but it's not a "no shot", which seems crazy when looking back on the impression left by LSU after Week 1.
Main course: Where does Alabama go from here?
These waters have not been charted by Alabama coach Nick Saban in more than a decade. The Crimson Tide are out of the national title race in mid-November for the first time since 2010, so all eyes will be on how they react after losing two of their last three games. Even Saban knows how challenging it'll be during practice this week.
"I think it's a challenge for all of us to have pride," Saban said on Monday. "We're gonna play a good team this week, and I'm sure they're gonna wanna put up on their mantle, 'We beat Alabama, too.' So it's just a matter of whether we're gonna allow that to happen or we're gonna go do everything we can to avoid it."
Waiting in the wings is former Alabama offense coordinator Lane Kiffin and an Ole Miss team that has had two weeks to prepare. There's no doubt Kiffin used the extra time to develop a curveball for his former boss. Kiffin called Alabama's two losses and the idea that the Saban dynasty at Alabama is over "GOAT fuel" on Monday. Kiffin, however, knows how his former boss attacks up-tempo offenses and that Alabama has had issues in the secondary against talented wide receivers. He has Jonathan Mingo and Malik Heath to work with, which will make this one a ton of fun.
Dessert: What is wrong with Tennessee?
All is not lost in Knoxville, Tennessee. Georgia exposed the Volunteers on Saturday and showed that it doesn't have a changeup when an opposing defense shuts down its downfield passing attack. That's it. That's all that stands in the way between Tennessee and a chance at the national title. It'll have the chance to work on that Saturday afternoon against Missouri in the first leg of the SEC on CBS Game of the Week doubleheader.
Missouri's defense has quietly blossomed in 2022. The Tigers have the top passing defense in the SEC in conference games (182.7 yards per game) and is No. 2 in rush defense in conference games (108.83 YPG). Do they have comparable athletes to those at Georgia? Of course not. Whether it's a more punishing rushing attack, an increased focus on underneath passes or something else, coach Josh Heupel can't trot out the "same ol' Tennessee" on Saturday. If the Vols get into a bind, they can always "out-athlete" the Tigers. The College Football Playoff is still a possibility, but considering their lack of ability to adjust, a national title isn't -- at least not right now.
Straight up: 63-20 | Against the spread: 36-38-1
*Previous picks were made on Instagram since SEC Smothered & Covered starts in Week 3
Missouri at No. 5 Tennessee
The Volunteers will get right against the Tigers, and will do it with a multi-dimensional rushing attack that features quarterback Hendon Hooker and a bevy of solid running backs. The run defense will force the Tigers to be one-dimensional, which is a recipe for disaster on the road in a hostile environment. Style points matter for a Tennessee team that is unlikely to make the SEC Championship Game, and they will earn them this weekend. Pick: Tennessee (-21)
No. 7 LSU at Arkansas
The Tigers are a scant 3-point favorite in the Battle for the Golden Boot, which is surprising considering how they've improved throughout the year. The Razorbacks have struggled to slow down rushing attacks with mobile quarterbacks this year, including Auburn's Robby Ashford and Alabama's Jalen Milroe. LSU's Jayden Daniels is the most complete dual-threat quarterback of that trio, and he will light up the Hogs on the ground and through the air. Pick: LSU (-3)
Vanderbilt at No. 24 Kentucky
I'm going to live dangerously and take the Commodores to cover. At this point, it's impossible to trust Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and a rushing attack that has struggled for two-and-a-half months. Commodore quarterback AJ Swann won't play, but I trust dual-threat weapon and opening day starter Mike Wright to at least stay within the number. Don't take the moneyline, though. Pick: Vanderbilt (+17.5)
No. 9 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss
It's simply impossible to trust Alabama to blow out its opponent on the road. It has struggled to do so for the better part of two seasons, and it's not going to change in Oxford, Mississippi, against a well-rested Rebels team that has one of the most dangerous offenses in the country. We know that the Crimson Tide secondary is suspect when it goes up against receivers who can take the top off of defenses, and that's exactly what Heath and Mingo will do. Take the Rebels to win straight up against a Tide team that just isn't what it used to be this season. Pick: Ole Miss (+12)
South Carolina at Florida
Is it time to believe in Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson? Yep. He has topped 275 yards or more in total offense in each of the last three games -- 7.38 yards per play. He hasn't thrown an interception since Oct. 8, and is coming off back-to-back passing performances of 200 or more yards. On the other side, Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler has been a turnover machine and will be rattled by the intimidating atmosphere in The Swamp. This will be a two-score game, even if it's tight through three quarters. Pick: Florida (-8)
No. 1 Georgia at Mississippi State
That hook at the end of the 16.5-point spread is the key here. If a 17-point win for the Bulldogs cashes my ticket, I'll take that all day long. Mississippi State's offense thrives on underneath passes and is one-dimensional by design. A defense like Georgia won't have any issue shutting this down since its stout secondary won't have to worry about anything deep and has proven that it is incredible at making open-field tackles. Pick: Georgia (-16.5)
Texas A&M at Auburn
Jordan-Hare Stadium was bland, stale and lacked intimidation during the final weeks of the Bryan Harsin era. The first home game of the Carnell Williams era will be much, much different. Williams didn't try to force Ashford to be a passer and let his athleticism cook last week against Mississippi State. It'll be difficult for a Texas A&M defense that has shouldered the load all season to keep up with what this multi-dimensional rushing attack has to offer. Pick: Auburn (-2)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 11, and which top-25 teams 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 $3,000 in profit over the past six-plus seasons -- and find out.