The race for the SEC Championship Game came into focus last week when previously undefeated contenders Missouri and Kentucky fell to LSU and Georgia, respectively. That leaves the two-time reigning national champion Bulldogs as the only SEC East team without a conference loss as the leaves begin changing color around the South. The Bulldogs will hit the road for the second time this season on Saturday afternoon when they tee it up with Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee.
Alabama took control of the SEC West last weekend with a huge road win over Texas A&M to remain unbeaten within conference play and keep its College Football Playoff hopes alive despite the Week 2 loss to Texas. The Crimson Tide will face off with a desperate Arkansas squad that hasn't figured itself out through six games.
There are several other wildly intriguing matchups this weekend, including Texas A&M's road tilt with Tennessee in a cross-division matchup and the battle of the Tigers between Auburn and home-standing LSU in Baton Rouge.
Let's take a spin around the SEC and make some Week 7 picks straight up and against the spread.
Appetizer: Respect for Jayden Daniels
It will be strength vs. strength on Saturday night in Death Valley when the dynamic LSU offense -- led by star quarterback Jayden Daniels -- squares off against an Auburn defense that has carried coach Huge Freeze's squad from the moment the season started. Daniels leads the SEC in multiple categories, including passing yards per game (328.2), touchdown passes (19), passer rating (196.74) and rushing yards per game by a quarterback (70.33). That's a lot to say, much less write, and -- in Freeze's case this week -- defend.
"I don't want to talk about game plans, but I don't think you can stop him," Freeze said Monday. "There are just too many weapons around him and he's too good. The key to this game is 'Can we hold them to field goals?' Truthfully. Nobody has stopped him. He plays so effortlessly, literally runs 40-yard touchdowns and it looks like he's jogging and yet no one is catching him. His balls are so accurate to those talented receivers. I just think it's a hard task. To this point, and I haven't watched future opponents so nobody use it for a bulletin board material, but to this point it's the best offensive personnel I've seen in this league, to this point."
It's rare to see a coach praise an opposing player so much during game week. That's how much respect Daniels has earned during his time in the conference. Auburn's defense is only giving up 5.19 yards per play, fifth among SEC schools, but this will be its toughest test yet by far.
Main course: Texas A&M's swing game
Texas A&M fans have been on a roller coaster that shouldn't even be suitable for some adults, much less kids who try to stand on their tiptoes to get over the height requirement. In Week 2, it was the defense that struggled. That got fixed against Auburn and Arkansas. Then, last week, Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe -- the subject of much consternation within the Crimson Tide fanbase -- torched the Aggies in the best game of his career. Oh, and to make things even wilder, star quarterback Conner Weigman was lost for the season in Week 4 and Max Johnson has stepped in to make the offense even better.
Figuring out Texas A&M in 2023 is like trying to figure out a Rubik's Cube while wearing a blindfold.
Tennessee will host the Aggies on Saturday afternoon in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week in a season-defining game. The emotional loss to Alabama put the Aggies essentially one-and-a-half games back of the division lead, but the Tide look beatable this year. A win in a hostile environment would give Texas A&M plenty of confidence and keep it in the SEC West race moving forward. A loss, however, will likely turn this season into another eight-win "Jimbo Fisher Special."
Dessert: Let's talk about Carson Beck for a minute
It seems like Georgia's first-year starting quarterback has been labeled a "game manager," but nothing could be further from the truth. The junior signal-caller is second in the SEC with 314.3 yards passing yards per game and completion percentage at 73.5%. He's also No. 15 nationally with a 54% completion rate for passes traveling 15 yards or more through the air (minimum 100 passing attempts).
Coach Kirby Smart credits Beck's time within the Bulldogs' system as a big reason for his success, which includes three straight games of 300 or more passing yards.
"Great mental processing. He's a great processor. I mean Carson is very intelligent, guys," Smart said on Monday. "You can say what you want about the quarterback position. You have to process information rapidly, and the more information you can handle, the more flexibility your offense has. And the flexibility of an offense is usually tied to what the quarterback can handle, and our quarterback, not only because he's smart, because he's also of age and been in the same system for multiple years, has been able to grow from that."
Why isn't Beck mentioned in Heisman Trophy discussions? He should be. Unfortunately, that won't happen this week since the Dawgs play Vanderbilt. He could throw for 1,000 yards against the Commodores and nobody would care because it's Vanderbilt. That's a shame.
- Ole Miss
- Texas A&M
- South Carolina
- Mississippi State
Straight up: 53-9 | Against the spread: 25-23-2
*Picks use SportsLine consensus odds and were made on Instagram since SEC Smothered & Covered started in Week 2
No. 1 Georgia at Vanderbilt
The Bulldogs proved last week against Kentucky that they can dismantle opponents for a full 60 minutes, which they didn't do during the first five games of the year. With that out of the way, expect a more conservative version of the Bulldogs up in Nashville. Beck will get his yards and tight end Brock Bowers will get his fair share of catches before they put it in cruise control. Smart likes to pull the starters when he gets a three-touchdown lead, so this game screams backdoor cover. Pick: Vanderbilt +31.5
Arkansas at No. 11 Alabama
The Crimson Tide's offensive line played much better at times against Texas A&M, which was a big reason why Milroe had a career day. They will build off of that and put pressure on Arkansas' offense to keep up. There's one problem, though: It can't. The Razorbacks are last in the SEC in total offense at 332.8 yards per game and yards per play at 5.11. Coach Nick Saban's squad will show why it is considered the frontrunner in the SEC West == and why it shouldn't be counted out of the College Football Playoff race. Pick: Alabama -19.5
Texas A&M at No. 19 Tennessee
Take the Aggies to not only grab the points, but win outright. The defensive front will rattle Volunteers quarterback Joe Milton III and force him into multiple mistakes. That will set up the Aggies offense in favorable positions, which it will take advantage of thanks to a nearly uncoverable wide receiver group. Simply put, it's hard to trust Milton as a passer, and the Aggies are good enough up front to prevent the veteran from making noise on the ground. Pick: Texas A&M +3.5
Auburn at No. 22 LSU
Auburn's offensive line was solid two weeks ago when it scared Georgia, and the bye week came at a perfect time for Freeze's crew to build off of that success. The best way to challenge LSU is to keep its offense on the sideline, and Auburn's rushing attack is well-suited to grind it out against a dreadful LSU defense. However, Daniels will make some big plays through the air in the second half to give LSU a win that is closer than the oddsmakers think. Pick: Auburn +11.5
Missouri at No. 24 Kentucky
The Tigers are slight underdogs on the road, but they will top the Wildcats in a game that will be owned by wide receiver Luther Burden III. Quarterback Brady Cook has developed a connection with his superstar pass-catcher that is almost impossible to interrupt, and they will turn this into a track meet. Will quarterback Devin Leary and the Wildcats be able to keep up? Not this time. This will be the seconds straight week in which the 'Cats get burned by a dynamic passing attack. Pick: Missouri +2.5
Florida at South Carolina
The Gamecocks offensive line has been dreadful, but the Gators defensive front isn't suited to exploit that weakness. Because of that, quarterback Spencer Rattler will force Gators signal-caller Graham Mertz to win with his arm. Mertz won't be able to do that, especially in a night game in Williams-Brice Stadium. Buckle up for a fun one as South Carolina will get the job done within the final five minutes. Pick: South Carolina -2.5
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 7, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned more than $2,000 in profit over the past seven-plus seasons -- and find out.