If Tua can go the distance, No. 3 Alabama beats No. 2 LSU in T-Town

Tony Barnhart

As my daddy used to say: Even a blind hog can find an acorn now and then:

It took some luck but last week we had our best record (5-1) of the season.

**--Georgia beat Florida (24-17) in Jacksonville and covered the 6 ½.

**--Struggling South Carolina bounced back at home over Vanderbilt and covered the 15 (24-7).

**--Mississippi State covering 7 ½ at Arkansas was the double-platinum lock of the week (54-24).

**--After a tough, physical loss to LSU (23-20) there was no way Auburn was going to cover 19 points against Ole Miss. Auburn won 20-14 but it was ugly.

**--I was nervous about Tennessee covering 12 against a really well-coached team in UAB. But the Vols continue to improve ad won 30-7.

**--My only miss was Texas A&M covering 38 against Texas-San Antonio. The Aggies won by 31 (45-14).

That puts us at 35-24-1 for the year against the spread.

Let’s get on with the picks for week 11:

The game: LSU (plus 6) at Alabama, 3:30 p.m., CBS.

The winner: Alabama.

The score: Alabama 31, LSU 24.

The skinny: Alabama is No. 2 nationally in scoring (48.6 ppg). LSU is No. 4 in scoring (46.8). LSU is ranked No. 2 and Alabama is No. 3 in in the first College Football Playoff rankings. LSU coach Ed Orgeron is 8-3 in games against the Top 10 (all three losses were to Alabama). Nick Saban is 30-10 in his last 40 games against the Top 10. And to cap it all this, in your humble scribe’s opinion, is the best quarterback match-up in the history of the Alabama-LSU game. LSU’s Joe Burrow is No. 2 nationally in passing per game (350.6 ypg, 30 TD). Alabama’s Tua Tagavailoa is No. 7 (309.40, 27 TD). The X-factor is Tua’s mobility coming off an ankle injury. Alabama has won 48 of its last 49 games at home and the Crimson Tide has the best coach in college football history. That is why I have them winning by a touchdown.

The game: Missouri (plus 16) at Georgia, 7 p.m., ESPN.

The winner: Georgia.

The score: Georgia 28, Missouri 10.

The skinny: This is a classic trap game for Georgia (7-1, 4-1 SEC). The Bulldogs are coming off a huge win over Florida (24-17) last Saturday in Jacksonville. They now control their destiny in the SEC East. They also have a monster game coming up next week at Auburn. It would be easy for Georgia to have a letdown against a Missouri team that had last week off and has lost two straight games. But I think that Georgia and their fans have gotten their second wind and will be ready for the stretch drive. Georgia wins and covers. The X-factor for Missouri is quarterback Kelly Bryant, who is nursing a pulled hamstring but is expected to play.

The game: Tennessee at Kentucky (plus 1), 7:30 p.m., ESPN.

The winner: Tennessee.

The score: Tennessee 28 Kentucky 24.

The skinny: Tennessee is 4-5 and desperately wants to go to a bowl after a horrible 1-4 start. Kentucky (4-4) has had a week off and needs two wins in its last four games to go to its fourth straight bowl game under Mark Stoops. The line on this game started at three points and has dropped to one. Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden, its wide receiver turned quarterback, is still proving to be a puzzle for opposing defenses. It would be Tennessee’s third straight win.

The game: Vanderbilt (plus 27) at Florida, Noon, ESPN.

The winner: Vanderbilt.

The score: Florida 28, Vanderbilt 7.

The skinny: The vibe for this game is going to be very, very interesting. Florida (7-2) is coming off a tough loss to Georgia which all but eliminated the Gators from the SEC championship game. But the Gators will be favored in their last three games (Vanderbilt, at Missouri, Florida State) and can post their second straight 10-win season under Dan Mullen. This game is in the dreaded Noon time slot, where strange things happen. The Gators win but they don’t cover the 27.

The game: Appalachian State (plus 6) at South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN2.

The winner: South Carolina.

The score: South Carolina 24, Appalachian State 17.

The skinny: This is a dangerous game for South Carolina (4-5), which needs two wins in its last three games to qualify for bowl. Appalachian State (7-1), which has already beaten North Carolina, was undefeated until a 24-21 loss at Georgia Southern on Oct. 31. The Mountaineers are still in the running for the Group of Five berth in the New Year’s Day Six bowls. A late touchdown gives South Carolina the win and the cover. This line started the week at plus-4 for Appalachian State.

The game: Western Kentucky (plus 1 ½) at Arkansas, Noon, SEC Network.

The winner: Arkansas.

The score: Arkansas 28, Western Kentucky 24.

The skinny: Let’s just say that at the quarterback position, nothing has worked this season for the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-7). Coach Chad Morris brought in a couple of grad transfers, including one (Ben Hicks) that played for him at SMU. So Morris has named red-shirt freshman John Stephen Jones as the starter for Saturday’s game with Western Kentucky. Jones is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who played at Arkansas. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper, Jones will be the sixth different quarterback that Morris has started in his 22 games as head coach. Arkansas has lost six straight games since beating Colorado State on Sept. 14.


Tony Barnhart