1. Three players to know from Mizzou
James Franklin (quarterback): Franklin has missed four straight games since separating his shoulder late in the Tigers’ win over Georgia on Oct. 12. He’s a legit dual-threat guy who tossed 14 touchdowns and ran for another three before his injury. Facing off against Franklin will be Ole Miss’s biggest defensive test since squaring off against Johnny Football earlier this year.
L’Damian Washington (wide receiver): You know what they say about tall wide receivers? They’re really hard to defend. Washington, who stands at 6-foot-6, has 36 receptions for 680 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. He’s the Tigers’ best receiver, but Ole Miss also has to worry about two other Mizzou receivers in Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas.
Michael Sam (defensive end): The Tigers boast an elite defensive line that’s undoubtedly keeping Hugh Freeze and his offensive staff up late at night this week. Sam, the best of the bunch, has lived in the backfield this year where he’s accumulated a monster stat line that includes 10 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss.
2. QB situation iffy in Starkville
What happens when you run out of quarterbacks?
Mississippi State isn’t there yet, but it’s getting close. The Bulldogs’ starter, sophomore Dak Prescott, missed the Alabama game after suffering an elbow injury the week before versus Texas A&M. He’s passed for seven touchdowns with seven interceptions on the year and also leads the Bulldogs on the ground with an impressive 722 yards and 10 scores. Meanwhile, senior Tyler Russell, last year’s starter, went down with a shoulder injury late against ‘Bama.
If Prescott and Russell are ruled out this weekend, look for true freshman Damian Williams to get the start for the Bulldogs at Arkansas. Even though the Razorbacks have struggled this year, I don’t like Mississippi State’s chances on the road in the SEC starting a true freshman at quarterback.
3. The old, old ball coach
Believe it or not, Steve Spurrier is nearly 70 years old.
The Old Ball Coach turns 69 next April, and I’m beginning to wonder when he’s planning on hanging up his visor. Spurrier, who led Florida to its first six SEC championships, has a shot to once again play for a conference title if Missouri slips up in the next two weeks.
If that were to happen, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Spurrier retire following the season to a life of golf, beer and more golf.
4. Here’s to Johnny Football
It’s crazy to think about it, but in all likelihood Johnny Manziel will be playing his third-to-last college football game this weekend when the Aggies travel to take on LSU.
Sure, people love to hate him because of his off-the-field antics, but I think his on-the-field play more than makes up for any of his shortcomings. I love stats, and Manziel has put up a lot of them. In two years — and with three games to play — Manziel has completed 70 percent of his passes for over 7,000 yards passing and 57 scores. On the ground, he’s accounted for over 2,000 yards and 29 TD runs. That’s simply astounding.
Johnny, college football will miss you.
5. Paul’s Week 13 SEC Picks
Alabama vs. Chattanooga: Auburn has a bye week before the biggest Iron Bowl in years, and Alabama might as well, considering Saturday’s opponent. The Crimson Tide’s third stringers wreck shop on the Mocs in a 52-3 Rammer Jammer victory.
Arkansas vs. Mississippi State: In a game that pits two of the SEC’s least-cultured football coaches against each other, I’ll take Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks, 31-28, over Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs. No bowl game for you, Mississippi State.
Florida vs. Georgia Southern: The hapless Gators get a final shot at scoring a touchdown before taking on rival/defensive stalwart Florida State. I think Florida scores four whole touchdowns (!) in a sloppy 31-7 win over the Southern Eagles.
Georgia vs. Kentucky: The Bulldogs don’t give a damn about this game because of their choke job at Auburn on Saturday night. The Wildcats don’t give a damn because they stink, and it’s basketball season. Nonetheless, I have to make a pick, and I’m going with the Bulldogs 35-17 in the “No Damns Given Bowl.”
LSU vs. Texas A&M: Johnny Football and Les Miles have a riveting pregame conversation about grass — they’re both big fans. Then Manziel does his thing, you know running around like a mad man and scoring touchdowns, in a 42-38 Texas A&M road victory over the Tigers.
Ole Miss vs. Missouri: Oxford is sure to be bumpin’ this weekend as the No. 8 Tigers roll into town. I think the Rebels win the game and the party, 38-35, putting to rest Mizzou’s chances of making it to Atlanta.
South Carolina vs. Coastal Carolina: The Gamecocks embarrass the Chanticleers 56-7 on Saturday afternoon. Afterward, the Old Ball Coach gets lit up on Coronas at Casa de Spurrier and cheers hard for an Ole Miss upset over Missouri.
Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt: The Commodores take down their in-state rival, 28-24, for the second year in a row. James Franklin subsequently sends LinkedIn invitations to the athletic directors at Florida and Southern California.
— Paul Katool