Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. It’s Rivalry Week or, what a friend of mine likes to call “Hate Week.” No conference championships are on the line but a lot of feelings are. Some teams could lose a shot at the national championship or a BCS bid by getting beat by their rival. That makes it hurt twice as much.
If not for Georgia’s collapse against Kentucky we would have gone 10-0 last week. But for the year we are 89-31 (and yes, we don’t use the point spread) for those of you keeping score at home.
Here we go with the next to last Fearless Friday Forecast for 2009:
1. Georgia at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech is brimming with confidence as it goes for its second straight win over the Bulldogs. Georgia, meanwhile, just doesn’t seem to have any answers after last week’s meltdown against Kentucky. Athletically, Georgia should be able to hang around but there is no evidence that the Bulldogs can handle a tough, physical football game for four quarters. That is exactly what Georgia Tech will give them. Georgia Tech 38, Georgia 21.
2. Florida State at Florida: There will be a lot of emotion on the field before this game. Tim Tebow and Florida’s ultra-successful senior class (46-6) will be playing their last home game. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will be making his last visit to The Swamp as the Seminoles head coach (Even if he comes back next season, the 2010 game will be in Tallahassee). Florida State’s offense, led by freshman quarterback E.J. Manuel, can move the ball. But the defense just can’t stop anybody. Florida is just too strong. The Gators roll and start getting ready for Alabama. Florida 35, Florida State 14.
3. Alabama at Auburn (Friday): Twenty years ago Alabama was ranked No. 2 and headed to a possible national championship when the Crimson Tide was upset at Auburn. But that Auburn team had a great defense and was deep enough to keep from getting worn down. Alabama is on a mission to get back to the SEC championship game and beat Florida. Auburn will make it close early on emotion, but eventually Alabama will get some turnovers and put the Tigers away. Alabama 31, Auburn 10.
4. Arkansas at LSU: I don’t have the words to explain how much LSU’s Les Miles needs to win this game. The LSU fan base has turned up the heat on Miles and his staff since last week’s horrific loss to Ole Miss. Arkansas, however, is playing very, very well. Behind Ryan Mallett the Razorbacks have scored on 41 of 42 possessions (32 touchdowns, nine field goals) in the opponent’s red zone. LSU gets the edge because it is playing at home and because it has a sense of desperation. LSU 24, Arkansas 20.
5. Tennessee at Kentucky: Since freshman Morgan Newton took over at quarterback, the Wildcats (7-4) have been very difficult to stop on offense. Two weeks ago Tennessee (6-5) got drilled by Ole Miss and last week looked lethargic in beating Vanderbilt (31-16). The winner of this one is likely headed to the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. That should get both sides pretty excited. This week’s upset special is: Kentucky 21, Tennessee 20.
6. Ole Miss at Miss. State: Thanks to Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss is finally playing like the team projected to be so good in the preseason. The Rebels (8-3) can lock up a bid to the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day with an impressive win against their state rival. Ole Miss might come out a little flat after an emotional win last week against LSU. But it still has too much firepower. Ole Miss 27, Miss. State 21.
7. South Carolina at Clemson: Few teams in the country are playing as well as Clemson, which has scored 34 or more points in its last six games. Clemson’s C.J. Spiller is still in the Heisman Trophy discussion, so look for him to have a big day against a beat up South Carolina defense. Clemson 24, South Carolina 17.
8. Virginia Tech at Virginia: It’s been a strange year for Virginia Tech (8-3) but the Hokies have a chance to win 10 games against with a victory here and another in the bowl game. Virginia (3-8) will likely be playing its last game under head coach Al Groh. Virginia Tech 27, Virginia 17.
9. North Carolina at N.C. State: North Carolina has been struggling on offense for most of the season but it won’t matter against an N.C. State defense that has given up 30 or more points eight times this season. The Tar Heels finish 9-3 and may be headed to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. North Carolina 38, N.C. State 17.
10. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: Quarterback Zac Robinson practiced this week and could be back in the lineup. A win probably puts the Cowboys (9-2) in a BCS bowl. Oklahoma State hasn’t won in Norman since 2001, when Les Miles was the head coach. Go with the Cowboys. Oklahoma State 28, Oklahoma 21.
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