Separation Saturday in SEC: Alabama-Tennessee winner will challenge Georgia for league supremacy – DawgNation

Georgia football fans might disagree after beating the Tide by a 33-18 count in the CFP Championship game.

But Alabama can point to its dominant 41-24 win over the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game as having held serve in the league.

It was the Tide’s third SEC title in the past four years, while Kirby Smart has won just one at Georgia in six years, back in 2017.

Georgia is currently ranked No. 1 with a pushover game with Vanderbilt on Saturday and then a bye week ahead before hitting the most difficult stretch of its season in November.

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The Bulldogs haven’t looked elite since their 48-6 win at South Carolina, but there’s plenty of time to iron out the wrinkles.

Alabama, meanwhile, has already escaped wins over Texas and Texas A&M.

Coach Nick Saban now faces arguably the hottest team in the country in Tennessee (TV: CBS, 3:30 p.m.), led by second-year coach Josh Heupel.

RELATED: SEC expert Jeremy Pruitt breaks down Alabama-Tennessee game

Should the Vols’ win, it would signal the program being “back,” even while a Nov. 5 trip to Athens looms large in Tennessee’s quest to return to the SEC title game for what would be the first time since 2007.

The Tide can live up to its “standard,” as Anderson calls it, by hitting Heisman Trophy hopeful Hendon Hooker and running the ball effectively enough to get the victory. Pitt sacked Hooker three times and took the Vols to overtime earlier this season.

Bryce Young has been on a “pitch count” in practice and will have some ability, but even Saban acknowledges he’s not sure how limited the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback will be.

There’s a lot of pressure on both coaches and teams. One has more experience handling that sort of pressure than the other ….

The pick: Alabama 31, Tennessee 24

Vanderbilt at Georgia -38 (TV: 3:30 p.m. SEC Network)

Kirby Smart says Georgia’s not practicing to beat one team, it’s practicing to beat all the teams.

Take that logic and apply it to the Vanderbilt game.

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Once in command of this game, the Dawgs can plant a few “Smart bombs” with faulty tendencies to play off down the stretch.

Smart will also use as many players as possible to ensure optimum health entering the bye week, but he won’t take his foot off the gas.

Vanderbilt can put up a fight — for a half. But Georgia’s defense is strong enough to keep the Commodores in check until the Bulldogs’ offensive talent overwhelms the Commodores’ defense.

The pick: Georgia 49, Vanderbilt 10

Arkansas pick’em at BYU (TV: 3:30 p.m., ESPN)

The Razorbacks’ schedule has been harsh since Sam Pittman arrived and was dealt Georgia in his very first game in 2020 — and again in 2021 as a crossover East Division opponent.

Somebody in Fayetteville already regrets scheduling this trip to Provo, and they’ll regret it more Saturday night.

BYU is coming off a 28-20 home loss to Notre Dame and will be primed for home-field vindication.

The pick: BYU 31, Arkansas 28

Auburn at Ole Miss -15 (TV: Noon, ESPN)

The Tigers are a beat-up football team lacking depth on their defensive front and weapons on the perimeter.

The Rebels coasted through Nashville, trailing at half before turning on the afterburners.

Ole Miss will feed off the home crowd and overcome a worn-down Auburn football team that got steamrolled at Georgia.

The pick: Ole Miss 42, Auburn 17

LSU at Florida -2.5 (TV: ESPN, 7 p.m.)

The Gators snapped a six-game SEC losing streak last Saturday by beating Missouri, and that qualifies as momentum.

LSU dropped a 40-13 home game to Tennessee, and that’s what you call a slump.

Neither of these teams is up to par with the brands we have become familiar with.

The pick: Florida 30, LSU 20

Mississippi State -4 at Kentucky (TV: SEC Network 7:30 p.m.)

The Maroon Bulldogs have momentum heading into Lexington, where it is suddenly basketball season after the Wildcats’ inexplicable loss to South Carolina last week.

Mark Stoops is too good of a coach for his team to lay down twice, but perhaps not good enough to stop Mississippi State quarterback and SEC passing leader Will Rogers in the clutch.

The pick: Mississippi State 27, Kentucky 24

Last week: 5-2 straight-up, 3-4 vs. spread

Season: 40-11 straight-up, 25-25 vs. spread


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