Auburn huge underdog vs. No. 1 Alabama in Iron Bowl
Here are some things to watch during the final week of the Southeastern Conference football regular season:
GAME OF THE WEEK
Auburn at No. 1 Alabama (No. 1 College Football Playoff): The Iron Bowl looks lopsided on paper this season, with the Tide picked as a 24½-point favorite at home. But it’s hard to completely discount Auburn considering the Tigers have won three of the past eight in the series, including 26-14 last season . Alabama has looked a little off its top form recently, especially in last week’s game against The Citadel, which was tied at halftime before the Tide bounced back for the 50-17 victory .
Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur against Tennessee pass defense. Shurmur has delivered a couple of the best games of his career against Tennessee. He threw for 416 yards in a 45-34 victory over Tennessee two years ago and threw four touchdown passes in a 42-24 triumph at Tennessee last season . Now he will try to engineer Vanderbilt to a third straight win over Tennessee. It’s worth noting that Shurmur was just 4 of 15 for 18 yards with an interception in a 59-0 loss to Alabama last year. Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt was Alabama’s defensive coordinator last season.
No. 13 Florida (No. 11 CFP) has lost to Florida State each of the last five years heading into Saturday’s game. That represents the Gators’ longest losing streak in the history of this rivalry. ... Georgia’s Rodrigo Blankenship has 69 touchbacks out of 81 kickoffs and ranks second nationally in that category. He has broken his own school single-season record of 67, which he had set last year. ... Vanderbilt is seeking to beat Tennessee for a third straight year, something that hasn’t happened since the Commodores beat the Volunteers six straight times from 1920-26. Tennessee is 2-4 against Vanderbilt the last six years after going 28-1 in the series from 1983-2011. ... No. 17 Kentucky (No. 15 CFP) is seeking its ninth win Saturday against Louisville, which would represent the Wildcats’ largest regular-season total since a 10-1 finish in 1977. ... No. 8 LSU (No. 7 CFP) hasn’t allowed its last 21 opponents to reach the 30-point mark. The only FBS team with a longer such streak is Fresno State, which hasn’t allowed its last 22 foes to reach 30 points. ... Texas A&M (No. 22 CFP) has lost its last seven meetings with LSU and hasn’t beaten the Tigers since 1995.
Vanderbilt and Tennessee have identical 5-6 overall records and 2-5 SEC marks. The difference is that Tennessee beat Auburn and Kentucky when both were ranked, while Vanderbilt has no wins over Top 25 teams. That makes it hard to understand how Vanderbilt is favored by 3 ½ points. Vanderbilt will be playing on its home field, but Tennessee likely will have the majority of fans on its side.
Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks has gone through an up-and-down season, but he’s heating up late in the year. Franks rallied Florida from a 31-14 second-half deficit in a 35-31 victory over South Carolina and followed that up by going 19 of 27 for 274 yards in a 63-10 blowout of Idaho . He has four touchdown passes, three touchdown runs and no interceptions in his last two games. Franks now gets a chance for redemption against Florida State after throwing three interceptions in a 38-22 loss to the Seminoles last season.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.