Closeout Saturday: Week 10 storylines in the SEC

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Every SEC fan had week 10 circled on their calendar, because 2011’s ‘Game of the Century’ was supposed to be a rematch. Even though it’s not as hyped as last season, it still has massive implications on the SEC and BCS picture.

Here are the eight headlines for week 10:

Redemption Saturday: For LSU, it’s all about redemption. After getting demolished in New Orleans last season, it’s clear the only recipe for getting rid of the hangover is to beat the Tide. The bitter taste left in the Tigers’ mouths is still rancid, and the LSU nation all thought the emergence of Zach Mettenberger at quarterback would be the perfect addition to pull off the monumental task for 2012. That hasn’t gone so well, has it? Mett’s inability to stretch the field will be exploited by Alabama stacking the box nine deep, leaving the corners on an island. For LSU to get redemption, Mettenberger is going to have to make plays in the passing game – plays he has been unable to make through nine weeks. Did the Tigers find a passing game over the bye week? We’ll know by the end of the first quarter.

Widening the Chasm: How wide is the gap between Alabama and everyone else in college football? It’s as wide as it looks. Nick Saban has assembled a well-oiled machine built for destructing anyone and everyone within its path. Alabama has been untested up to this point. You can argue the schedule has been weak with Michigan and Mississippi State as the only formidable challengers in eight games. This is the toughest test standing in Bama’s way to Atlanta and Miami, and LSU has redemption on their minds. We’re going to find out how wide the gap is between Alabama and the second best team Saturday – not because LSU is the second best team, but because it’s the first real test for this Crimson Tide team in all three facets of the game.

Closeout Saturday: Georgia has two SEC games remaining in order to punch their ticket to Atlanta – Ole Miss and Auburn. And Ole Miss is the only one that will put up a fight between the two, while Auburn will lay down and get trampled. If Georgia wins this football game, they wrap up the East. Auburn has no chance. The Bulldogs’ defense came alive last week against the Gators with their punishing style of play. Now, the offense is trying to rebound from a three-turnover performance, uncharacteristically from Aaron Murray. Ole Miss will try and do everything in its power to pull off the upset for any and all Gator fans around the South. Bulldogs, Rebels will be a better game than what most figure, and it’s Georgia last real test in the conference.

Containing Johnny: Texas A&M and Mississippi State is a very interesting matchup from several standpoints. It could turn into a shootout, as both teams will score points with two offensive-minded coaches in Dan Mullen and Kevin Sumlin. But let’s be serious, if MSU can contain Johnny Manziel – only Florida and LSU have – they will win the football game. I’m just not convinced that the Bulldogs have the players it needs to shut Manziel down. The running game is coming alive for TAMU to help take some pressure off of the one-man circus. Manziel could go off again. What else is new?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Mississippi State fans were upset at the lack of respect given to their team at 7-0 heading into Alabama. Bama is just on another level and exposed the MSU team. However, State has a chance to gain some respect this week by corralling Johnny Manziel and beating the best offensive team in the SEC in the Aggies. It’s all about respect, and if the Bulldogs can notch a win, a 10-win season is within reach.

Hold on to the Football!: Florida and Missouri had different outcomes and different opponents last week, but these two teams had nine turnovers combined. Florida coughed it up six times in a loss against Georgia, and Missouri gave three up to Kentucky in their first-ever SEC win. James Franklin is returning to the Tigers’ lineup as the starter, and Jeff Driskel is coming off his worst game ever as a Gator. The recipe for a victory this week is protecting the football on offense, winning the running game and playing good defense. Missouri is going to have to create some explosive plays on offense and special teams, and Florida will have to cough the ball up multiple times in order for an upset special to occur.

Fighting a Hurricane: Arkansas has this week’s toughest out-of-conference game against Tulsa this weekend. The Golden Hurricanes are 7-1, and they want nothing more than to beat an SEC team. Tulsa is putting up some points and running the football at an impressive 248 yards per game. It will likely turn into a shootout, and Tyler Wilson will have to be much better in his decision making than he was last week against Ole Miss. Likewise, Arkansas’ defense is going to have to play their best game of the season in order to get a win.

O-fers Going for a Win: Auburn and Tennessee both went winless in October, and both play out-of-conference opponents in New Mexico State and Troy respectively. Gene Chizik will start freshman QB Jonathan Wallace, and Derek Dooley will try and win a football game to get to four wins. Think about that for a moment – Auburn and Tennessee have combined to win four games, and we are entering week 10. Somehow, someway, these guys have to find a way to win Saturday. I think both get W’s and stay employed – literally – for one more week!

A Battle at the Bottom: One program on the bottom [Kentucky] plays host to Vanderbilt, who continues to march toward relativity in the SEC East. The march to the middle of the pack has been fun to watch, and James Franklin looks like he’ll lead his program to another bowl game, needing two wins with Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Wake Forest. Kentucky, on the other hand, just needs a win, period. The Wildcats just want to be relevant, and they are the farthest thing from relevant.

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