published Saturday, November 5th, 2011

SEC football picks for games of Nov. 5

There is a full day of college football in front of us and only one game.

There is a river of storylines and only one locale for the discussion.

There will be more than two dozen games on television, but ESPN GameDay has set up shop outside a stadium that ESPN cameras will not be allowed to enter.

It's Showdown Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where top-ranked LSU faces No. 2-ranked Alabama in arguably the biggest regular-season college football game in a generation.

Each roster is star-studded and each team is built on defense. And each program has a host of eye-popping stats that make you wonder whether they should award points for first downs tonight:

• After the first quarter, Bama's Crimson Tide have outscored their opponents 243-25. Alabama has outscored its opposition in the second half of the last six games by a score of 142-7 and has not allowed a second-half point in the last four games.

• LSU and Alabama are tied for the most shutout wins with 16 since the SEC expanded in 1992.

• Alabama has an unreal number of three-and-outs, stopping opponents without a first down 68.7 percent of the time (54 of 101). LSU does it 32.4 percent of the time (33 of 102).

• LSU's last turnover was in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State in Week 3. There have been 336 offensive snaps, 59 possessions and 174 minutes and 52 seconds of game time since the Tigers' last turnover.

Here's hoping this game is as fun as it looks on paper.

Last week's SEC guesses: 5-0 overall, 4-1 against the spread

Season's SEC guesses: 54-9 overall, 39-21-3 against the spread

Vanderbilt at Florida

12:21 p.m., Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV/Radio: WDSI/1370 AM

Breakdown: Vandy has been within a TD-saving tackle by Georgia's punter and a 94-yard fumble return for a TD by an Arkansas linebacker from being 6-2 and the talk of college football right now. It's clear that first-year coach James Franklin has made some serious strides, and this seems like a lot of points against a Florida team that has struggled. Sometimes you have to trust the betting rule that if a line looks too good to be true, it probably is.

The line: Florida minus-13.5

The pick: Florida, 31-13

New Mexico State at Georgia

12:30 p.m., Sanford Stadium

TV/Radio: CSS/102.3 FM

Breakdown: Aaron Murray has to be the early leader for next week's SEC offensive player of the week. Murray, the Georgia sophomore quarterback, is the SEC's leading active player in offensive yards (5,077), TD responsibility (48), TD passes (42) and passing yards (4,871). Today against the Aggies, Murray will be without his top four tailbacks. Read that again. So the offense will be in his hands. And on his feet. After today, Georgia will have the SEC's second longest winning streak.

The line: Georgia minus-32

The pick: Georgia, 38-13

Ole Miss at Kentucky

3:30 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium

TV: ESPNU

Breakdown: Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has been stuck on 99 wins for what seems like an eternity. The Rebels have not won in more than a month, but want to know the second-best cure for a three-game losing streak and an 11-game SEC losing streak? Facing Kentucky. Want to know the best way to end those streaks? Facing Kentcuky when the Wildcats have named a freshman as their starting quarterback. Check and check, as UK turns to true freshman Max Smith. Congrats, Houston.

The line: Ole Miss minus-1

The pick: Ole Miss, 27-12

MTSU at Tennessee

7 p.m., Neyland Stadium

TV/Radio: Fox Sports South/106.5 FM

Breakdown: Here's the glass half-full/glass half-empty stat of the day: Tennessee is one of four SEC teams that has not allowed a nonoffensive TD this season. That's cool, right? Well ..., when you consider the other three teams -- Alabama, LSU and South Carolina -- are a combined 23-1, something seems amiss for the 3-5 Vols, huh?. UT beat the Blue Raiders 26-3 in their only previous meeting in 2002, and that score seems about right for this one, too.

The line: Tennessee minus-21

The pick: Tennessee, 28-10

South Carolina at Arkansas

7:15 p.m., Reynolds Razorback Stadium

TV: ESPN

Breakdown: Be careful, here's some actual research coming at you: Five of the last 11 games in this series have been decided by nine points or less. What does that mean? Not as much as the fact that Arkansas has Tyler Wilson at quarterback and USC has Connor Shaw. Thanks, Mr. Wilson.

The line: Arkansas minus-5

The pick: Arkansas, 33-21

UT-Martin at Mississippi State

7:30 p.m., Davis Wade Stadium

TV/Radio: CSS

Breakdown: Paging Vick Ballard. Vick Ballard, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Ballard was supposed to the thundering power back of the Mississippi State offense. That offense has languished and the Bulldogs face the real possibility of needing this win to be bowl-eligible.

The line: Mississippi State minus-32

The pick: Mississippi State, 40-14

LSU at Alabama

8 p.m., Bryant-Denny Stadium

TV/Radio: CBS/97.3 and 99.3 FM

Breakdown: Enough of the hand-wringing and the head-scratching. Tee it up and let's get it going. Buckle up, folks; here's saying that this one will be a classic.

The line: Alabama minus-4

The pick: Alabama, 20-10

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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