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Barnhart's burning questions for Week 11

10 days ago
Tony Barnhart | SEC Network

The SEC Championship Game is set between Alabama and Georgia for Dec. 1 in Atlanta. But that doesn't mean the regular season is over. Not by a long shot.

We have tons of good storylines that we'll get to in the next three weeks, and we'll start with a great slate for Saturday featuring all 14 teams in conference games.

So here we go. Here are our Five Burning Questions for Saturday, Nov. 10:

 Georgia's path to the CFP is now clearly defined. So should the Bulldogs be on upset alert vs. Auburn?

Georgia has three regular-season games left until it meets Alabama in Atlanta. Win all of those and the Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1), the defending SEC champions, will be headed to the CFP. Auburn (6-3, 3-3), coming off an emotional comeback win over Texas A&M, is a 14-point underdog.

But there is history of big upsets in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, particularly from the visiting team. Here are just four:

  • In 2006 Auburn was 9-1 and ranked No. 5. Wins over Georgia and Alabama in the final two games could launch the Tigers into the SEC championship game against Florida, a team they had already beaten. But Georgia, behind freshman quarterback Matthew Stafford, a future No. 1 draft choice, came out hot and stayed hot. Auburn was held to only 171 yards of total offense in a 37-15 loss.
  • In 2005 Georgia was ranked No. 9 and needed a win over Auburn in Athens to clinch a spot in the SEC championship game. But Auburn completed a 62-yard pass on fourth down and John Vaughn kicked a short field goal with six seconds left to give the Tigers a 31-30 win. Ironically, Georgia beat Kentucky the following week and went on to win the SEC championship.
  • In 1986 Auburn was 9-1 and ranked No. 9 when 6-3 Georgia came to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Despite the fact that Georgia's quarterback, James Jackson, missed the game due to a death in the family, the Bulldogs won 20-16.
  • In 1970 Georgia was 4-4 and given no shot of winning at Auburn, which was 7-1, ranked No. 8 and still in the hunt for the SEC championship. With the combination of quarterback Pat Sullivan (the Heisman Trophy winner in 1971) and receiver Terry Beasley, Auburn was a three-touchdown favorite. But Georgia controlled the game and won 31-17, knocking the Tigers out of the Sugar Bowl.

Can Auburn, a preseason Top 10 team, salvage its season with an upset of the No. 5 Bulldogs?

This will be the third time the two teams have met in the past 12 months. Auburn beat No. 1 Georgia 40-17 last November at Jordan-Hare. But then the Bulldogs came back and beat the Tigers 28-7 in the SEC Championship Game.

 Can South Carolina pull out another close one when it goes to Florida?

Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks (5-3, 4-3) have certainly kept things interesting this season. Three of their five wins have been by two points (37-35 vs. Missouri), three points (27-24 over Tennessee) and four points (48-44 over Ole Miss). There is also a three-point loss (26-23 to Texas A&M).

Florida (6-3, 4-3) had a most disappointing loss to Missouri at home last Saturday and you have to wonder if the Gators have any bounce back left in them. Also, there is the question of quarterback Feleipe Franks, who was benched in favor of Kyle Trask during the Missouri game. Trask, however, will likely not be a factor in this game as he suffered an injury in practice on Wednesday. Look for freshman Emory Jones to get some snaps.

Do you think Muschamp might just love to win this one in The Swamp? He spent four years as the head coach at Florida and lost 20-7 when he took his first South Carolina team there in 2016. Last season in Columbia, South Carolina beat the Gators 28-20.

 Can Kentucky finish and make this a very special season?

Kentucky came up short against Georgia (34-17) in a game that would have sent the Wildcats (7-2, 5-2) to the SEC Championship Game. But there is still a lot on the line as the Wildcats go to Tennessee (4-5, 1-4). Win the last three against Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and Louisville and the Wildcats would finish 10-2. With that record, early bowl projections have Kentucky going to the New Year's Six. It would also be an historic accomplishment.

Only twice in history - the 1950 team (11-1) and the 1977 team (10-1) - has Kentucky won 10 or more games in a season.

It would also be Kentucky's second straight win over Tennessee, something the Wildcats haven't done since 1976-77.

 Can Nick Fitzgerald continue his hot hand against Alabama?

On Oct. 20, Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald played the worst game of his career, throwing four interceptions in a 19-3 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge. There was some talk after the game that Fitzgerald, the SEC's all-time rusher for quarterbacks, might have to sit in favor of sophomore Keytaon Thompson.

But Fitzgerald bounced back by completing 14 of 22 passes in a 28-13 win against Texas A&M two weeks ago. Last Saturday, Nicky Fitz completed 17 of 28 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-3 non-conference win against Louisiana Tech.

Now Fitzgerald faces his biggest challenge of the season when he and the Bulldogs travel to No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0), which seems to be getting even better after a 29-0 win at LSU.

 After last week's disappointment against Alabama, can LSU run the table and finish 10-2?

LSU coach Ed Orgeron had a very simple explanation after his No. 3 Tigers were totally dominated by No. 1 Alabama 29-0 (and it could have been a lot worse) in Tiger Stadium.

Sometimes the other team is just better than you are.

"We couldn't block their defensive line," said Orgeron, whose team had only 12 yards rushing against an Alabama defense that is getting better by the week. "Not a very good night."

But with games remaining at Arkansas (2-7), Rice (1-9) at home, and at Texas A&M (5-4), the Tigers (7-2, 4-2) have a very realistic shot at going 10-2 and landing in a New Year's Six bowl.

First comes a trip to Arkansas, which has had a week off since a 45-31 loss to Vanderbilt.