Week 12 saw The Model go 4-0 ATS (against the spread). For the season, The Model is 308-289 (52%) ATS in all games and 42-35 (55%) ATS in SEC games.
South Carolina pounded an average Troy team. By the end of the first quarter, South Carolina had already covered and was winning 28-0. Marcus Lattimore scored 3 touchdowns on 7 rushes for 102 yards.
Arkansas let a 31-21 lead slip away in the 4th quarter, forcing overtime. Neither team scored in the first OT, and a Mallet touchdown to running back Knile Davis in 2OT won the game for the Razorbacks who moved to 9-2 going into the Hogs biggest game of the season against LSU.
Ole Miss kept LSU on its toes as The Model predicted all game long. With a few minutes left, it look like Ole Miss may pull off the upset of the year, but a Stevan Ridley touchdown put the Tigers ahead for good with 50 seconds remaining.
Tennessee managed to cover with a 14-point road win, despite only outgaining the Commodores 360-333 and losing the turnover battle 3-2. The Vols will need to improve on last week’s performance against Kentucky this weekend to become bowl-eligible.
Auburn @ Alabama (-4, 58) – 1:30PM CT
In any other year, a win in the Iron Bowl has the ability to make the Tigers’ season. This year, a loss would almost certainly break it. 11-0 Auburn travels to Tuscaloosa to face a 9-2 Alabama team which is better than its record indicates. Early discussions of the Iron Bowl line had Alabama as much as a touchdown favorite, but the line currently resides at -4. Each of these teams has been favored in every game this season, but Auburn has had some big wins playing as an underdog. Auburn has covered the spread in four of the last five Iron Bowls, and The Model likes the Tigers to cover and win this one as well.
When Alabama has the ball, expect Greg “almost a Rhodes Scholar” McElroy to be very efficient in his decisions and to exploit the Auburn pass defense for a good 200 yards. McElroy is not going to be able to win this game himself, however. For the Tide to prevail, Alabama’s Ingram and Richardson are going to need to step up and have their best game of the season. Alabama is averaging 185 yards/game on the ground (4th in the SEC), but it is the ball control and time of possession here that could ultimately due in Auburn. The Tide will need to limit Auburn’s offensive possessions and keep Cam Newton off the field if they are going to win. The bad news for Auburn is that the combination of Alabama’s offense and defense are very capable of living up to this task. The good news is that Alabama would have to play an almost perfect game defensively to do so, and Alabama has struggled this year giving up the kind of big plays Malzahn loves. Alabama may have the SEC’s #1 scoring defense (giving up 12.8 points/game), the nation’s #2 passing efficiency defense (96.02), and the SEC’s #2 total defense (293 yards/game), but that’s only because they have yet to face Auburn.
The secret to Auburn’s success this year has been its ability to run the ball from every conceivable formation (#3 nationally, 308 yards/game) and to convert on third downs. However, the Tigers have not shyed away from airing the ball out or taking what short passes the defense is willing to concede. Auburn is #2 nationally in passing efficiency (182.07). Auburn may need to win the turnover battle to win this game, something Alabama has excelled at all year (#1 in the SEC, 1.1 TO margin/game). Auburn’s fumble problems have slowed with Mario Fannin’s playing time, and don’t expect the Tigers to take a lot of chances with Burns passes, Newton receptions, or handoffs to the once Super Mario with so much on the line.
Despite an 11-0 record, Auburn has played many close games and knows how to win and close out games in the fourth quarter. Expect a big second half push from Auburn in a game that will be surprisingly high scoring. The Model likes Auburn’s offense against the Bama defense and gives Auburn a bump knowing that highly ranked visiting teams are very difficult to defeat (even when the home team is ranked themselves). Special teams play favors Alabama according to The Model. If Auburn can limit Alabama’s kick off return team and force the Tide to consistently move the ball down a long field, I like our chances. Prediction: Auburn 32 – Alabama 30.
Kentucky @ Tennessee (-3, 58) – 11:20PM CT
Tennessee is playing for bowl eligibility and the respect that comes with turning around a season after beginning 2-6. Tennessee will need the entire state to rally around the Vols this Saturday if they are going to be able to compete with Kentucky. The Volunteers have prayed on weak opponents the last three weeks, with freshman quarterback Tyler Bray exploiting three of the worst passing defenses in the country. That changes this week against a Kentucky team ranked #12 in the nation in passing defense, allowing only 168 yards/game. While the Wildcats do have a stout passing defense, they do give up big yards consistently on the ground (#11 in the SEC, 179 yards/game), something Tennessee running back Tauren Poole will be quick to exploit. The Model likes Tennessee to cover and go bowling. Prediction: Tennessee 30 – Kentucky 24
Louisiana State @ Arkansas (-3.5, 54.5) – 2:30PM CT
Arkansas’ offense is firing on all cylinders these days with quarterback Ryan Mallet passing for 300 yards/game and ranked #3 nationally in passing efficiency and running back Knile Davis averaging 94 yards/game on the ground. If anyone can slow Arkansas’ high-powered offense, LSU can. The Tigers are #2 in the SEC in passing efficiency defense, #2 in the SEC in scoring defense (16.6 points/game), and #1 in the SEC in total defense (287 yards/game). LSU’s offense has also been clicking lately, following a big 2nd half against the Crimson Tide three weeks ago. LSU’s offense tends to play to the level of its competition, so expect LSU to hang with Arkansas on the road for most of the game. The Model likes Arkansas to win, but LSU to cover. Prediction: Arkansas 29 – LSU 28.
Florida @ Florida State (-2.5, 51) – 2:30PM CT
Florida has had State’s number for the last six years, but Tim Tebow is gone and the Seminoles are looking to even the score. The favored team has covered 10 of their last 12 matchups, but The Model is suggesting this year will be an exception. Florida State has a pretty good defense (for an ACC team), allowing only 19 points/game (#15 nationally). Florida has really struggled against good defenses this year, with losses to Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State, all teams with excellent rush defenses. This game could well come down to special teams play where Florida has the decided advantage. Florida has the nation’s #1 punting game and #3 kickoff return team. If Florida can win consistently play on a short field while forcing Florida State’s average offense to play on a long field, Florida can hang with #22 Florida State. Look for a close game, with Florida coming out on top. Prediction: Florida 24 – Florida State 23.
South Carolina @ Clemson (+2.5, 45) – 6:00PM CT
Don’t be fooled by Clemson’s 6-5 record, the Tigers can hang with anyone. In their five losses, four were by less than a touchdown, and the fifth was a 30-21 road loss to Miami. It has been the Tigers’ defense prowess (9th nationally, 17 points/game) that has kept their games competitive and their offense woes (83rd nationally, 346 yards/game) that has kept them from putting away most games. South Carolina has made a habit out of letting teams back into the game after building a substantial lead. That shouldn’t be a problem this weekend, however, as South Carolina is focused on achieving a 10-win season for Columbia and coach Spurrier. Look for another back and forth game between these two intra-state rivals, with quarterback play from Garcia being the (positive) difference in the game. Prediction: South Carolina 28 – Clemson 21.
Mississippi State @ Ole Miss (+3, 55) – 6:00PM CT
Last week Mississippi State came out of nowhere to upset the Rebels and win the Egg Bowl. This year, the Rebels will see State coming, but there may not be anything they can do about it. Mississippi State limps into this game, having lost to two nationally ranked programs in Alabama and Arkansas. The Rebels are trying to still shake off a couple of embarrassing losses themselves, Jacksonville State (week 1) and Vanderbilt (week 3). In any other year, Ole Miss would have crushed those teams and be bowl-eligible, but this year’s squad has a knack for losing. Ole Miss has had good success moving the ball (SEC #5, 407 yards/game) and scoring (SEC #7, 31 points/game) all season long, but has been giving Vanderbilt a run for its money for the league’s worst defense. The Rebels are allowing 36 points/game (107 nationally), and are ranked #11 in the SEC, allowing 390 yards/game. Look for Ole Miss to keep things interesting, but don’t be surprised if the Rebels lose on another Masoli pick. Prediction: Mississippi State 27 – Ole Miss 26.
Wake Forest @ Vanderbilt (-5.5, 50) – 6:30PM CT
As bad as Vanderbilt has been this year, Wake Forest has been worse. Both teams rank near or at the bottom of their respective conferences in nearly every offense and defense category. Both Wake Forest and Vanderbilt are allowing 430 yards/game. Wake Forest has lost nine straight games though and would appear to be worse than Vanderbilt, who has lost only six straight games. One of Wake’s wins is over Duke, the other over FCS Presbyterian. Vanderbilt, who refuses to schedule such light weights, defeated both Ole Miss and Eastern Michigan. Look for a close game involving two teams whose fans have already turned their focus to basketball. Prediction: Vanderbilt 26 – Wake Forest 25.
Georgia Tech @ Georgia (-12.5, 58) – 6:45PM CT
Georgia Tech has been an up-and-down team all season, with blowout wins over South Carolina State and Middle Tennessee, but big losses against any team with a pulse. The yellow jackets lost 28-45 at home to NC State, 13-27 on the road to Clemson, 10-35 at home against Miami. Georgia Tech has as one-sided an offense as has ever played, rushing for 319 yards per game (#1 nationally), and passing for a mere 86 yards/game (#119 nationally) through the air. Georgia Tech, which became bowl-eligible last week by beating Duke 30-20, is going to have a tough time this weekend at Athens. Georgia is motivated, needing a sixth win this week to go bowling. Georgia’s offense is much more balanced and should match up well against a Tech defense having one of its worst seasons in years. Look for Georgia to give up some big yards to Tech’s run option (remember what Auburn and Florida did to the Bulldogs), but to have more than their share of success with the ball. Prediction: Georgia 33 – Georgia Tech 23.
Mac Mirabile is a 2002 graduate of Auburn’s economics and journalism departments. During his time at Auburn, he was a copy and photo editor with The Auburn Plainsman. He has a masters degree in economics from UNC-Chapel Hill and has written numerous academic publications on college football, the NFL and gambling markets. His previous column can be found here. He can be reached at [email protected]