Iron Bowl still stands out, even without CFP implications

By PETE IACOBELLI, AP sportswriter

A look at Week 13 of the Southeastern Conference:

GAME OF THE WEEK

Auburn (5-6, 2-5) ranked No. 8 Alabama (9-2, 5-2, No. 8 CFP).

In a week of traditional rivalries, the Iron Bowl stands out. There’s no trip to the Southeastern Conference title game at stake, but there’s plenty of drama for both teams. The Crimson Tide was outside of the college football playoffs only once in the first six years through 2022. A loss in that event could drop Alabama from the New Year’s Six category of the bowls. Alabama’s two losses have totaled four points. Alabama is led by Heisman Troph-winning quarterback Bryce Young, who has rushed for 2,664 yards with 24 touchdowns and six interceptions. Auburn has beaten Texas A&M and Western Kentucky in the past two weeks. The Tigers and interim coach Carnell Williams are hoping to win against rival Alabama for the third time in their last nine games. Tigers tailback Jarquez Hunter has rushed for 100 yards or more in both wins. He also rushed to a TD and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Koy Moore.

BEST MATCHUP

Mississippi State (7-3, 3-4) ranked 20th Mississippi (8-3, 4-3)

Thanksgiving night’s egg bowl was supposed to be entertaining, only for the sideline shots of Mississippi State coach Mike Leach and Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin. The Bulldogs lead the SEC with 549 pass attempts. Nobody else in the league has reached 400 this season. Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers leads the SEC in averaging 303 yards of offense per game. Ole Miss is banking on his running game and freshman Quinshon Judkins, who leads the league with 1,385 yards and 16 touchdowns. The series between state rivals was hard-fought, with each school winning 15 of the last 30 meetings. The Rebels come out on a two-game winning streak.

IMPACT PLAYER

Mississippi State junior Emmanuel Forbes leads the SEC with six interceptions, double all others this season. Forbes brought back three of them for touchdowns, extending its FBS record of six. He has 14 career picks and is the active leader among FBS players. Forbes had interception return touchdowns against Texas A&M, Kentucky, and East Tennessee State. Against the Aggies, Forbes also blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Florida has gone 434 games without being ruled out, a streak dating back to 1988 and a 16-0 loss to Auburn. … Arkansas defenseman Kris Abrams-Draine is tied for the SEC lead with 11 pass separations. … Georgia has found inside the opponent’s 20-yard line on 59 of his 61 possessions. This leads the country with 97%. … Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez hit the school mark with his 19th 100-yard rushing game last week. … LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels moved for more than 3,000 yards on total offense last week, becoming the fourth player in school history to do so in a season.

CRAZY ALERT

No. 9 Tennessee (9-2, 5-2) needs to keep their heads straight lest their loss to South Carolina hurt them twice at Vanderbilt (5-6, 2-5). The Commodores are on a two-game winning streak and would like to add the Vols to their winning streak. Tennessee will be without star QB Hendon Hooker, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in South Carolina and is out for the year.

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