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Rivalry week offers some really swell SEC games

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Tailback Keith Marshall is one of many reasons that Georgia has battled its way back into the national championship picture and a berth in the SEC Championship Game. (Source: Wes Blankenship) Tailback Keith Marshall is one of many reasons that Georgia has battled its way back into the national championship picture and a berth in the SEC Championship Game. (Source: Wes Blankenship)
Todd Gurley, another of many reasons why Georgia is back in the national championship picture and set to return to the SEC Championship Game (Source: Wes Blankenship) Todd Gurley, another of many reasons why Georgia is back in the national championship picture and set to return to the SEC Championship Game (Source: Wes Blankenship)
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(RNN) - It's rivalry week and some of these are really good, some have somber implications as we prepare to bid au revoir to future former coaches and others are meh.

Friday, Nov. 24

LSU at Arkansas, 2:30 p.m., CBS

LSU still has a crack at sneaking into the SEC Championship Game with a win against Arkansas coupled with an Auburn upset of Alabama on Saturday.

Don't get your hopes up, Tiger Nation. I really like your chances of sending future former interim Hog mentor John L. Smith on his way with a good drubbing, but that other deal? Um, no.

LSU is going to be the best team in the history of the Citrus Bowl.

Saturday, Nov. 23

Georgia Tech at Georgia, Noon, ESPN

Even if Georgia loses, it still goes to the SEC Championship Game.

Fat chance of that happening.

The Bulldogs have won five straight after that 35-7 debacle against South Carolina to crawl all the way back into the national title picture. This team has had its ups and down this year, but is playing very well right now.

Kentucky at Tennessee, 12:21, SEC Network

Both of these teams fired their coaches the day after they lost to Vanderbilt. And both schools could do worse than offering the job to Vandy coach James Franklin, but that's not going to happen. Whoever does get those jobs will certainly have small shoes to fill.

This is one of those games that makes you wonder why it's a rivalry game. Hammers and nails don't have a rivalry – and for generations, Tennessee has been the hammer in this relationship.

Kentucky has a chance today… sort of. I guess. Maybe? What do you think?

If Tennessee can't pull off a win, it'll be the first time the Vols have gone winless in the SEC since 1932. Before 1932, there was no SEC.

Auburn at Alabama, 3:30 p.m., CBS

Welcome to Gene Chizik's last stand. Early in the week, you could have floated the idea that a win over Alabama might have saved the guy's job.

Then came Yahoo! Sports writing all about how the Tigers are under NCAA investigation for recruiting improprieties. Now consider this: an NCAA penalty could reduce Chizik's buyout from $7.5 million to, oh, approximately $0.

Alabama's a 34-point favorite. All they have to do is shut Auburn out, score five touchdowns and make all the extra points.

You might want to think about it.

Vanderbilt at Wake Forest 3:30 p.m., ESPNU

The Commodores are on the verge of their eighth win this year. Looking back at the first two weeks of the season, when Vandy dropped two winnable games to South Carolina and Northwestern, you realize how amazing this season could have been and what a truly remarkable job coach-killer James Franklin has done there.

No, I am not his agent. But credit where it's due, OK?

Florida at Florida State 3:30 p.m., ABC

Here's another one with national title implications – although oblique at this time.

The winner will be in the hunt to play for the crystal ball if Notre Dame manages to lose to a Barkley-free Southern California.

Little did we realize how significant Florida State's 1-point road loss to North Carolina State would be. FSU would be in the thick of things, probably ranked No. 2 ahead of Alabama, and all those people who call Jimbo Fisher an underachiever would be like, totally shut up.

That $50 million buyout to leave the ACC might be worth it.

Mississippi State at Ole Miss 7 p.m., ESPNU

Whether Hugh Freeze's first year at Ole Miss is remembered as a modest improvement on previous futility or a pretty nice, little season comes down to this game.

The Rebs are entering their third straight week of needing one win to become bowl-eligible after folding in the fourth quarter against Vanderbilt and LSU the last two weeks. Throw in the improbable loss to Texas A&M earlier this year - when Freeze went for it on fourth-and-short late in the game and gave the ball back to Johnny Football long enough to get beat – and you have to think this season came this close to really being something special.

Freeze has kept his players away from the media this week to improve focus – and he'll need every edge he can get against Mississippi State, which seemed to snap out of its three-game losing funk last week by blistering Arkansas.

This game's pretty big for them, too.

But how about this, y'all? An Egg Bowl with actual consequences, a story line and both teams looking to a brighter tomorrow. How long has it been since we saw this much sturm und drang from the Mississippi wing of the SEC?

Missouri at Texas A&M 7 p.m., ESPN2

The Battle of the League Newbies presents a chance for J. Football to light it up against a terrible defense one more time and really make a case for a trip to New York to pick up his Heisman Trophy on Dec. 8, two days after his 20th birthday.

South Carolina at Clemson 7 p.m., ESPN

Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney either really don't like each other or they're the best comedy team since Cheech and Chong.

They've been quiet this week and the talk has mostly focused on the actual game. Things did seem to settle down a little after the awkward exchange when Swinney said how sorry he was that Marcus Lattimore got hurt and Spurrier sort of said thanks but had to work in that USC had beaten Clemson a lot lately.

Let's hope this period of civility is short-lived, because it really is fun listening to them snipe at each other.

South Carolina has a three-game win streak going, and the last time the Gamecocks won four straight over Clemson was during the Eisenhower administration.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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