Sec Network

November 21, 2009 by  

With the two top spots already decided and nine league teams already bowl eligible, the Week 12 Southeastern Conference football schedule seems a bit out of kilter, almost unnecessary.

Most folks — except those in Alabama of course, for whom the world would surely come to an end if there wasn’t an Iron Bowl, which is set for next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, on CBS — would just like to fast forward to the SEC Championship Game in December. There are six games on this week’s schedule, with both division leaders spinning their wheels playing cupcake opponents.

Alabama (10-0), ranked No. 2 nationally, will entertain Chattanooga (6-4) in Tuscaloosa and No. 1 Florida (10-0) will host Florida International (3-7) in Gainesville. These are games that both teams would rather skip. Looking at these two games from the prospective of teams poised to play for a conference title with a shot at the national title to follow for the winner and one has to ask, “Do those games really have to take place?”
Couldn’t Alabama and Florida just pay Chattanooga and FIU their guaranteed payments and negotiate some kind of final score and be done with it? Probably not … but the games are still strange at best.

Neither the Gators nor Tide have anything to gain in the games and both have plenty to lose. A blowout win by the Gators (Line: Florida by 45) and Tide (No Line) would be the expected outcomes. But both games are perfect setups for the kind of letdown for which Bama has shown a proclivity in the past.

With two big, big games looming, it is easy to just play to the level of the opponent. And if that happens and either Bama or Florida or both don’t play well or suffers a closer-than-expected outcome that could trigger doubts or loss of confidence at exactly the wrong time. The right move would be for the coaches of both SEC teams to sit their starters across the board — unless of course the outcome of the game was in doubt.

An injury to a Tim Tebow or a Mark Ingram — just to mention two examples — would be fatal to national title hopes. Any fan can substitute several names from each team that would be just as telling a blow to lose for the upcoming games that really count. But we all know that sitting the starters won’t be done.

There will be full stadiums of fans at both venues who are there for Senior Day. And on their last home games of their careers, there won’t be many seniors sitting on the bench. And all will be going all out, trying to look their best in their last games in their home stadiums. So that will be the story in both of those contests. The scores of the games don’t matter. The injury list will be the important stat.

Of the four conference games, the LSU (8-2, 4-2)-Ole Miss (7-7, 3-3) contest is the “biggie” this week. With Bama and Florida sure to be in BCS bowls, LSU and Ole Miss appear to have the most control of their bowl destiny. If the Tigers beat Ole Miss, they will cement their place as the league’s No. 3 team and will surely end up in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

The Cotton and the Outback bowls are next in the pecking order, with the Cotton getting its preference from the SEC West and the Outback getting to pick from the East. Of course, if the Rebels win, they would earn the trip to Orlando. Ole Miss at home is a slight favorite (Line: Ole Miss by 3½), but if things go as they have all season, you’ll know at intermission who is the winner. Ole Miss has led at halftime in all its wins and trailed at intermission in all its losses.

There are three other league games. The biggest of the trio is the annual championship of the state of Tennessee game. The Vols (5-5, 2-4) will be hosting the Commodores (2-9, 0-7) with bowl eligibility on the line. Fans should know soon in this one as both Tennessee and Vanderbilt have scored first in all of their wins this year. It’s just that Tennessee has scored more points more often and should do it again Saturday (Line: Tennessee by 16).

Arkansas (6-4, 2-4) hosts Mississippi State (4-6, 2-4) (Line: Arkansas by 10½) and Georgia (6-4, 4-3) takes on Kentucky (6-4, 2-4) (Line: Georgia by 8) between the hedges in Athens in the other two conference matchups.

With the Thanksgiving holiday weekend coming up, which will be jam-packed with TV football offerings from Thursday through Saturday, this weekend’s television lineup is sparse indeed. Also contributing to the lack of grid games on TV is the beginning-of-the-season basketball tournaments also taking up air time as college hoops gets underway. First up is a Friday night doubleheader on the all-sports network – beginning with Akron at Bowling Green at 4:30 p.m.

The second game of the twin bill will again give grid fans the chance to see one of the nation’s top 10 teams play on a Friday night as No. 6 Boise State takes on Utah State at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2. You know that when those schedules were set up, no one foresaw – not surprisingly – that Boise would be rated in the top 10 this late in the season. Saturday’s lean television lineup, not including pay-for-view games, is as follows:


11 a.m.
Harvard at Yale (Versus)

11:21 a.m.
Chattanooga at Alabama (SEC Network), Mississippi St. at Arkansas (SEC Network)

1 p.m.
TCU at Wyoming (Mountain Network)

1:30 p.m.
Connecticut at Notre Dame (NBC)

2:30 p.m.

LSU at Ole Miss (CBS), Air Force at BYU (CBS College Sports)

3 p.m.
San Diego St. at Utah (Versus)

5 p.m.
Colorado St. at New Mexico (Mountain Network)

6 p.m.
Vandy at Tennessee (ESPNU)

6:45 p.m.
Kentucky at Georgia (ESPN2)

There is one Tuesday, Nov. 24, game scheduled to be broadcast on TV. I couldn’t decide if it should be listed as an early game for next week or a late game for this week. But because Tuesday was closer to this weekend, here it is – Ball State at Western Michigan at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

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