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Alabama photo by Kent Gidley / Alabama football coach Nick Saban leads the Crimson Tide on the field before last Saturday's 55-17 win at LSU.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban began a news conference earlier this week by praising Saturday's opponent, the 3-6 Arkansas Razorbacks, who've won three times as many games under first-year coach Sam Pittman than most of us expected.

His lauding of the Hogs was then followed by a sudden shift.

"This is our next game, and this is what we need to be focused on," Saban said. "We need to respect their team, because their team is capable of beating anybody, as they've demonstrated all year long. This is a little bit of a historic game for us, too, because we've only had one team around here that went undefeated.

"It wasn't as difficult for that team to go undefeated as it is for this team playing 10 SEC games."

Going undefeated?

Now that's a fun topic.

Did you know the Florida Gators have won eight Southeastern Conference championships and three national titles and have never had an undefeated season? Georgia's last one occurred in 1980, when Herschel Walker was a freshman, and the Bulldogs have now gone 18 consecutive seasons losing at least two games.

It's a brutal task.

Even Alabama last went undefeated in 2009, with its 2016 and 2018 teams assembling 14-0 records before losing to Clemson in the championship game of the College Football Playoff.

"We kind of talked about that as a beginning of the year goal," Crimson Tide redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones said. "Obviously playing an all-SEC schedule and to go undefeated would be something that no other team has ever done just because no other teams have had to play an all-SEC schedule."

Since the formation of the SEC in 1933, Alabama leads the way with seven undefeated seasons, followed by Auburn with four. Georgia, LSU and Tennessee have two apiece.

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Tennessee sixth-year senior center Brandon Kennedy always comes across as a super nice guy and has degrees from two SEC schools, having attended Alabama as an undergraduate student. He has the option of coming back for a seventh season of eligibility due to NCAA guidelines implemented after the outbreak of the coronavirus, but it sounds like the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder from the Alabama metropolis of Wetumpka may be nearing the end of his college journey.

"Brandon and I have talked a little bit, and we're pretty close," Tennessee third-year coach Jeremy Pruitt said Wednesday morning. "I think he would probably like to pursue a professional career, and if that doesn't work out, I think he would probably like to get into coaching. I've told him he's way overqualified to get into coaching with the degrees he's got.

"He's a very unique man who has a very bright future ahead of him regardless."

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Pruitt said Wednesday night that quarterbacks Harrison Bailey and J.T. Shrout have continued to share first-team reps this week and that each has produced three good practices.

The Volunteers have four quarterbacks with starting experience and four who have played in the past two games, which is keeping Vanderbilt interim coach Todd Fitch and his staff busy for this week's rivalry meeting in Nashville.

"They can all throw the ball, so it's going to be about decision-making, obviously," Fitch said. "They all have good arm strength and can get the ball around the field. They all have good size, and it looks like some move better than others, and I think our defense has to prepare as if they're going to see multiple quarterbacks.

"They're still going to try and run the ball, because they've done a good job of that. The key will be stopping the run as much as we can."

Vandy was not healthy enough from a COVID-19 standpoint to play last Saturday at Georgia, but Fitch said: "I'm as confident as can be that we're going to play this game against Tennessee this weekend. It's full speed ahead. We're down in numbers, but that's where it's at."

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AP file photo by Danny Karnik / Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims

Pasquali's Pix

Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech: The Panthers and Yellow Jackets were originally scheduled to play Nov. 14, but both programs had to cancel due to COVID-19. Panthers 28, Yellow Jackets 26.

Alabama at Arkansas: The Crimson Tide will claim their 98th consecutive win over an unranked foe, but they will have to wait until next season before conquering No. 99 and No. 100. Tide 45, Razorbacks 17.

Georgia at Missouri: Kirby Smart is undefeated against two SEC East programs since taking over in Athens in 2016 — Kentucky and Mizzou. Bulldogs 34, Tigers 19.

Navy at Army: This game always deserves a Saturday afternoon all to itself. Stupid pandemic. Cadets 24, Midshipmen 21.

Tennessee at Vanderbilt: Vols quarterbacks have combined to throw 51 passes without an interception since Jarrett Guarantano lobbed the pick-six to Auburn's Smoke Monday on Nov. 21. Vols 30, Commodores 9.

LSU at Florida: The Tigers announced a self-imposed bowl ban Wednesday night amid their worst season by far of the 2000s, but perhaps that enhances Tennessee's postseason status. Gators 37, Tigers 16.

Auburn at Mississippi State: For the first time ever, we've got a regular season closing with an Iron Bowl runner-up facing an Egg Bowl runner-up. Bulldogs 22, Tigers 20.

Other picks:

Marshall 35, Charlotte 18

Oklahoma 42, West Virginia 31

Northwestern 28, Illinois 16

Houston 31, Memphis 29

Wake Forest 27, Louisville 24

Coastal Carolina 29, Troy 22

Miami 30, North Carolina 27

Texas 34, Kansas 15

Penn State 33, Michigan State 10

Florida State 36, Duke 23

Southern Cal 24, UCLA 17

Virginia 23, Virginia Tech 20

BYU 37, San Diego State 28

Last week:

Winners — 17

Halftime brawls — 3

Pasquali is now 178-57 overall (75.7%) this season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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