The SEC moves into Week 13 with its best teams hoping to escape upsets and stay in line to reach the College Football Playoff. There’s also an SEC team opponent which is trying to make the playoff as well, and that’s the first game in our series of games including SEC teams on rivalry weekend:
South Carolina Gamecocks at Clemson Tigers
Odds: Clemson -14.5
The Clemson Tigers have a shot at the College Football Playoff. They do need some help, such as TCU losing once either to Iowa State this week or to Kansas State in a probable Big 12 Championship Game matchup, but meanwhile, Clemson has to deal with an SEC opponent which played really well last week and knocked another orange-wearing team out of the playoff. South Carolina scored over 60 points and shoved the Tennessee Volunteers out of the College Football Playoff.
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Quarterback Spencer Rattler had struggled for most of the year for the Gamecocks, but he came alive and played a truly great game. Rattler looked nothing like the man who had struggled to process plays and make reads in the first two and a half months of the season. If Rattler can play like this, Clemson will have a real problem winning the game outright. However, Clemson has a far better defense than Tennessee does. The Tigers have an elite pass rush which should be able to bother and confuse Rattler, and also hit him lots of times. Clemson wins, but South Carolina covers, in a game which is a lot more interesting than it figured to be just two weeks ago.
Pick: South Carolina +14.5
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Georgia Bulldogs
Odds: Georgia -35.5
This is a game which Georgia should win big. The Bulldogs are a lot better than Georgia Tech. Georgia is playing to go 12-0 and basically clinch its spot in the College Football Playoff, while Georgia Tech has a sub-.500 record and has to win this game just to make a bowl game. However, Georgia Tech came back from a 17-0 deficit on the road last week to stun North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets aren’t extremely talented, but they don’t quit. Georgia’s offense has not been playing all that well. Georgia probably wins this game by 30 points, which is fine for Georgia, but not fine if you take Georgia minus the points. Go with Georgia Tech to cover here.
Pick: Georgia Tech +35.5
Tennessee Volunteers at Vanderbilt Commodores
Odds: Tennessee -15.5
The Tennessee Volunteers are out of the playoff, and now they have to win this game without quarterback Hendon Hooker, who is out for the season with an injury suffered last week in the loss to South Carolina. Joe Milton replaces Hooker. He is capable of leading the offense, but the same potential for scoring in bunches is not there with Milton.
Tennessee should probably win, but a Vanderbilt team which has won two straight SEC games and is playing its best football of the year should be able to put up a very good fight in this one.