Aaron Brenner, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
**All games Saturday … all times CT … all rankings BCS**
1) No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC); Last week, 1
Last week: won at No. 5 LSU 21-17
The human emotion is a funny thing. Tim Tebow’s about as tough a dude as there is out there, and A.J. McCarron showed his own cold-blooded cojones on that game-winning drive against a feasting defense. So what’s the big deal with crying in sports? Roger Federer does it. Tiger Woods has. Kevin Garnett resorted to a primal yell to mask the tears. I guess what I’m trying to say is, fans of Alabama and against Alabama should embrace McCarron, not critique him, for reminding us these are people on the field. Warriors, yes, but people too. Good for McCarron. And a bit of crow to gobble for Crimson Tide fans who once ripped Tebow for letting the waterworks flow.
Next: vs. No. 15 Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2), 2:30 p.m. | CBS
2) No. 5 Georgia (8-1, 6-1); LW, 3
Last week: beat No. Ole Miss 37-10
Happy birthday to Aaron Murray Saturday, turning 22. What a task in front of Auburn’s own No. 22, T’Sharvan Bell, and the defense to slow down the scorching-hot Bulldogs, who must win the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry to punch their ticket to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game.
Next: at Auburn (2-7, 0-6), 6 p.m. | ESPN2
3) No. 7 LSU (7-2, 3-2); LW, 2
Last week: lost to No. 1 Alabama 21-17
The offense is what it is, and what it is not is a quick-strike of the 2-minute variety. Zach Mettenberger caught fire on a couple drives Saturday – impressive against this defense – but LSU simply does not have championship playmakers with the ball.
Next: vs. No. 21 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2), 6 p.m. | ESPN
4) No. 15 Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC); LW, 6
Last week: won at No. 15 Mississippi State 38-13
The Aggies top Florida, since the Gators’ 3-point win at Kyle Field was two months ago. Johnny Manziel’s second career start. Soooo … if this coming showdown against the defending champions was in College Station, wouldn’t Texas A&M be favored? Or at least be regarded as having one heck of a chance to come out on top? Bama’s gonna be drained after last week’s festivities. And don’t forget Texas A&M’s road resume: 48-3 at SMU, 30-27 at Ole Miss, 59-57 at No. 23 Louisiana Tech, 63-21 at Auburn, 38-13 at No. 15 Mississippi State. Five wins, no losses. Do not hand this game automatically to Alabama. By any stretch.
Next: at No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0), 2:30 p.m. | CBS
5) No. 6 Florida (8-1, 7-1); LW, 4
Last week: beat Missouri 14-7
They’ll be rooting for Auburn. Big-time.
Next: vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (5-3), 11:21 a.m. | SECN
6) No. 8 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2); LW, 5
Last week: Idle
It’s our job as journalists to roar in response when Steve Spurrier remarks that Alabama could compete with an NFL team. I’m sure that wasn’t at all a mediocre attempt to inflate the heads of Crimson Tide players, thus bettering LSU’s chances and therefore those of South Carolina to make the national championship game. Nope. No chance at all.
Next: vs. Arkansas (4-5, 2-3), 11 a.m. | CBS
7) No. 21 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2); LW, 7
Last week: lost to No. 16 Texas A&M 38-13
Other than Alabama first and Kentucky worst, there’s no ranking I feel more sure about than right smack-dab in the middle. Mississippi State is clearly not on the level of the top six, and clearly is better than the bottom seven. Thing is, while the Bulldogs will likely see their losing streak stretched to three at Tiger Stadium, the last two games – vs. Arkansas and at Ole Miss – could be fuzzy. State’s job isn’t over yet. Let’s not dismiss the fact there’s a real chance Mississippi State hasn’t beaten more than one bowl-bound team yet this year.
Next: at No. 7 LSU (7-2, 3-2), 6 p.m. | ESPN
Last week: won at Kentucky 40-0
First goose egg against an SEC team in 44 years. Of course, that was against Kentucky. Of course it was. Commodores are well on their way to back-to-back postseason games for the first time in school history – they’ve gone bowling just five times, ever.
Next: at Ole Miss (5-4, 2-3), 6 p.m. | ESPNU
9) Ole Miss (5-4, 2-3); LW, 8
Last week: lost at No. 6 Georgia 37-10
Fascinating matchup in Oxford this weekend. Truth is, since Vandy’s final two games are far easier than those for Mississippi, the Rebels straight-up have got to take care of business at home. If they do, they’ll be preparing to play in their first bowl in three seasons. Ole Miss, incredibly, is 8-1 in the postseason since 1990.
Next: vs. Vanderbilt (5-4, 3-3), 6 p.m. | ESPNU
10) Arkansas (4-5, 2-3); LW, 11
Last week: beat Tulsa 19-15
Nice little win over a solid Tulsa team. Defense has totally undergone a makeover. It’s almost like they’re trying to save their coach’s job or something.
Next: at No. 8 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2), 11 a.m. | CBS
11) Tennessee (4-5, 0-5); LW, 10
Last week: beat Troy 55-48
Speaking of defense; that sounded like a clown show out there in Knoxville. Vols keep sliding, even in victory. At least they finally pulled out one of those down-to-the-wire finishes.
Next: vs. Missouri (4-5, 1-5), 11:21 a.m. | SECN
12) Missouri (4-5, 1-5); LW, 12
Last week: lost at No. 7 Florida 14-7
Had their chances since Florida looked hungover. Crummy game by James Franklin, whose accuracy needs a lot of work, cost the Tigers that chance.
Next: at Tennessee (4-5, 0-5), 11:21 a.m. | SECN
13) Auburn (2-7, 0-6); LW, 14
Last week: beat New Mexico State 42-7
Sure helps to have a terrible opposing quarterback to create good feelings on defense. It absolutely looked like Daren Bates was stiffarming a lot of frustration out of his body when he trucked that NMSU running back. The Tigers understand Georgia’s a different challenge.
Next: vs. No. 5 Georgia (8-1, 6-1), 6 p.m. | ESPN2
14) Kentucky (1-9, 0-7); LW, 13
Last week: lost to Vanderbilt 40-0
Love the rumor mill spiraling out of control. I actually heard Chip Kelly mentioned as a candidate to go to Kentucky. Folks, it’s not a good football job. They’ll take some old alum or raw upstart, and need multiple years to become competitive.