Nov 23, 2017

Big Ten & SEC Week 13 Preview: Iron Bowl, Egg Bowl, OSU-Michigan On Tap

In the 13th week of the college football season, members of the Florida Citrus Sports Team Selection Committee will be watching closely as teams from the SEC and Big Ten take the field.

So as we kick off Thanksgiving weekend, let’s take a quick look ahead to some of the weekend’s major games, including several matchups that could potentially impact who will be visiting Orlando for the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1:

In arguably the biggest game on the college football slate this week, No. 6 Auburn hosts No. 1 Alabama (3:30 p.m., CBS) in the 82nd edition of the Iron Bowl. The Tigers (9-2, 6-1 SEC) and Crimson Tide (11-0, 7-0 SEC) enter the game as the two highest-scoring teams in SEC play since 2008, averaging 43.0 and 41.9 points per game, respectively, in conference competition this season — but they also boast two of the country’s top defenses, as well.

Alabama, for example, is No. 1 nationally in total defense (244.1 yards per game), scoring defense (10.2 points) and pass efficiency defense (93.79) and ranks second in rushing defense (87.4 yards per game) and third in pass defense (156.7 yards), while Auburn is also in the top 10 in scoring defense (16.6, T-8th) and total defense (302.3 yards, 10th). Long story short, these are two incredible teams that do virtually everything well, and if recent history is any indication, this one should be a classic.

Of course, the Iron Bowl isn’t the only heated rivalry going on this weekend. In Ann Arbor, Michigan will host No. 9 Ohio State (12 p.m., FOX) in the 114th meeting between the schools, marking the 100th consecutive year the teams have played. The Wolverines (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten) enter the game with a 58-49-6 all-time lead in the series but have lost five straight meetings with the Buckeyes (9-2, 7-1 Big Ten) and 12 of the past 13.

Defensively, Michigan — which allows just 261.2 yards per game and an FBS-best 144.4 yards per game through the air — has the tools to hang with an impressive Ohio State offense that ranks third nationally in scoring (44.9) and fourth in total offense (546.2 yards per game), but in order for the Wolverines to snap their current losing streak, they’ll need an impressive effort out of an offense that moves the ball well on the ground (194.2 yards per game) but ranks 102nd nationally in total offense on the season.

Back in the SEC, No. 18 LSU hosts Texas A&M (7:30 p.m., SEC Network) in a primetime game in Baton Rouge, and will look to lock up its sixth win in seven SEC games to close the season. The Aggies (7-4, 4-3 SEC) will be looking for their first win in Baton Rouge since 1994 — LSU leads the all-time series 32-20-3 — and to do so, A&M will likely need to find themselves in the lead before the fourth quarter gets underway.

After all, LSU (8-3, 5-2 SEC) has held its last six opponents (Florida, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee) to just 11 fourth-quarter points and has only allowed two fourth-quarter touchdowns in seven SEC games this season. Offensively, the Tigers are paced by a top-30 rushing attack (207.2 yards per game), and with 30 yards on Saturday, Darrel Williams will surpass 700 for the season.

Should he accomplish that goal, Williams and 2016 Citrus Bowl MVP Derrius Guice (1,026 yards this season) will be the third running back tandem in LSU history to feature a 1,000-yard and 700-yard rusher in the same season.

Of course, when it comes to rivalry games, the action really kicks off on Thursday, when Ole Miss (5-6, 2-5 SEC) travels up Route 9 to Starkville to face No. 14 Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3 SEC) in the Egg Bowl (7:30 p.m., ESPN). This season marks the 22nd time the Egg Bowl has been played on Thanksgiving, but the first since 2013. In last year’s game, the Bulldogs rushed for 457 yards and posted the largest margin of victory in the rivalry since 1916 with a 55-20 win in Oxford.

Elsewhere in the SEC, South Carolina (8-3, 5-3 SEC) will play in a heated, out-of-conference, in-state rivalry game when No. 2 Clemson (10-1, 7-1 ACC) visits Columbia on Saturday night (7:30 p.m., ESPN). The Tigers lead the all-time series 68-42-4 and have won three in a row over the Gamecocks (including a 56-7 rout last season at Death Valley), however South Carolina won five straight from 2009-13 and has won three of the past four Palmetto Series games at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Meanwhile, in the Big Ten, several other teams in the Citrus Bowl picture will be in action, including No. 22 Northwestern (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten), which will look to run its current winning streak to seven games for the first time since head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s senior season as a player (1996) when it visits 2-9 Illinois (4 p.m., FS1), which is winless in conference play. No. 10 Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) will also be on the road this weekend when it visits Maryland (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten) for the first time since 1993 (3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network). With a win, the Nittany Lions will secure back-to-back 10-win season for the first time since 2008 and 2009.

Other SEC and Big Ten games being played this week:

Missouri (6-5, 3-4 SEC) at Arkansas (4-7, 1-6 SEC) — 2:30 p.m. on CBS (Friday, Nov. 24)
Iowa (6-5, 3-5 Big Ten) at Nebraska (4-7, 3-5 Big Ten) — 4 p.m. on FS1 (Friday, Nov. 24)
No. 7 Georgia (10-1, 7-1 SEC) at Georgia Tech (5-5, 4-4 ACC) — 12 p.m. on ABC
Florida State (4-6, 3-5 ACC) at Florida (4-6, 3-5 SEC) — 12 p.m. on ESPN
Indiana (5-6, 2-6 Big Ten) at Purdue (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) — 12 p.m. on ESPN2
Louisville (7-4, 4-4 ACC) at Kentucky (7-4, 4-4 SEC) — 12 p.m. on SEC Network
No. 5 Wisconsin (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) at Minnesota (5-6, 2-6 Big Ten) — 3:30 p.m. on ABC
No. 16 Michigan State (8-3, 6-2 Big Ten) at Rutgers (4-7, 3-5 Big Ten) — 4 p.m. on FOX
Vanderbilt (4-7, 0-7 SEC) at Tennessee (4-7, 0-7 SEC) — 4 p.m. on SEC Network

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