For now, No. 1 Alabama (11-0) appears better than No. 4 Auburn (10-1) — although we reserve the right to change our mind based on what happens in Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 2:30 p.m.
We’ve spent a week discussing who’s going to win and why. Maybe a more interesting conversation for gameday morning is who could be the unlikely star.
There usually is one in most years. Ray Ogden’s dramatic kickoff return swung the 1964 game to Alabama. Bill Newton’s two blocked punts (and David Langner’s subsequent touchdown returns) won the 1972 game for Auburn.
Rory Turner “waxed the dude” to help clinch the 1984 game for Alabama. And third-team running back Tre Smith came off the bench to win it for underdog Auburn in 2002.
So, if we have an unlikely hero, here’s who deserves it:
For Auburn, how about defensive end Dee Ford? He was one of the few bright spots a year ago, with a team-leading six sacks.
During the spring, when Auburn needed his leadership most, he was a standout, capping it off by being named defensive MVP of the A-Day Game.
He leads the team with eight sacks this year and made critical hits on Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Georgia’s Aaron Murray to seal wins.
Often, we look for game heroes among the guys who score the points. For Auburn fans, wouldn’t it be fun to see a defensive player such as Ford make another game-saving play in the season’s biggest showdown?
For Alabama, place-kicker Cade Foster. When the Crimson Tide lost to LSU in 2011, he took the brunt of the critism. Yes, he missed on some difficult kicks, but he hardly deserved to shoulder the blame.
This year, he quietly has put together a stellar season — perfect on 52 extra-point tries and good on 11 of 12 field goals.
For Tide fans, wouldn’t it be nice to see a decent guy like Foster kick the game-winner? ... Alabama 24, Auburn 23.
Samford (8-4) at Jacksonville State (9-3): Samford ranks 10th nationally in passing, but Jacksonville State is 11th in fewest passing yards allowed. JSU’s game is the running attack, as the Gamecocks are No. 17 in the country in rushing yards. ... Jacksonville State 31, Samford 21.
No. 2 Florida State (11-0) at Florida (4-7): They’ve actually had a bigger mismatch in this series than this one. In 1979, FSU was 10-0 heading into its game against the Gators, who were 0-9-1. The Seminoles won only 27-16. Also, in 1973, FSU was headed to a winless season when it lost 49-0 to Florida, which finished 7-5. ... Florida State 49, Florida 21.
No. 3 Ohio State (11-0) at Michigan (7-4): Michigan holds a 47-45-4 edge in the series, but Ohio State has won 10 of the past 12. The Buckeyes should stay unbeaten for another week before playing Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. ... Ohio State 31, Michigan 17.
Georgia (7-4) at Georgia Tech (7-4): Georgia has won 11 of 12 over Georgia Tech under Mark Richt, but the Bulldogs are missing quarterback Aaron Murray, who is out with a knee injury. Junior Hutson Mason will start in his place. ... Georgia 27, Georgia Tech 26.
Tennessee (4-7) at Kentucky (2-9): Since 1985, Tennessee has lost only once to Kentucky — it happened two seasons ago. That was the Wildcats’ last SEC win. ... Tennessee 24, Kentucky 20.
No. 6 Clemson (10-1) at No. 10 South Carolina (9-2): South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney sacked Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd 4.5 times last season, but has only two sacks this season. The Gamecocks have won 17 straight at home. ... South Carolina 26, Clemson 21.
No. 19 Texas A&M (8-3) at No. 5 Missouri (10-1): Balanced Missouri is 16th nationally in total offense, 15th in scoring defense and sixth in turnover margin. ... Missouri 31, Texas A&M 28.
No. 25 Notre Dame (8-3) at No. 8 Stanford (9-2): Stanford is third nationally in rush defense, just ahead of Alabama. ... Stanford 28, Notre Dame 10.
No. 22 UCLA (8-3) at No. 23 Southern California (9-3): USC is 6-1 under Ed Orgeron. ... Southern California 20, UCLA 17.
Last week: 8-2.