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SEC Football Weekend Preview: Week 7 - Contenders will separate themselves

Three games this weekend will have large impacts on who ends up winning the SEC's East and West divisions this season.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina (2-4) vs. Vanderbilt (2-3)

Watch: 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Line: South Carolina (-2.5)

It's been one heck of a week for the South Carolina football program. Their legendary head coach quits mid-season and now they have an interim for the second half of a disappointing season. Across all sports and all levels, there's been evidence of the interim coach raising the performance level of his team. Shawn Elliott and the new Gamecocks have their first opportunity against a Vanderbilt team that actually isn't all that bad. They played Georgia and Ole Miss relatively close and barely lost to Western Kentucky in their opener. The schedule ramps up for both teams after this game so it'll be critical to earn a win here to salvage a decent season. Vandy's defense may be one of the 10 best units in the country, their offense just turns the ball over too much for them to win games. The Commodores have had three games this season in which they turned the ball over three times. South Carolina grabbed seven takeaways in their first four games but haven't earned one in their last two games. Both defenses hope to bend more than they break as each program tries to find a spark on offense. Prediction: Vanderbilt 17, South Carolina 14

Memphis (5-0) vs. No. 13 Ole Miss (5-1)

Watch: 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
Line: Ole Miss (-10.5)

South Carolina fans, Memphis head coach Justin Fuente should at the top, or near the top, of your future coach leaderboard. It's a great opportunity to watch him and his Tiger team this weekend. Fuente's undefeated Memphis squad welcomes Ole Miss. The Rebels beat them early in the year last season 24-3 but the Tigers have only lost one game since then. Paxton Lynch leads a Memphis offense that scores 47.8 points per game, good for fourth in the nation. Ole Miss is right behind them with 46.8 points per game. The Rebels have had to do some shifting in the secondary, at linebacker, and along the offensive line due to injuries and suspensions. The Landshark defense will be tested by Fuente's explosive offense as Memphis comes off a bye week. Prediction: Ole Miss 42, Memphis 30

Mississippi State (4-2) vs. Louisiana Tech (4-2)

Watch: 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Line: Mississippi State (-13.5)

Louisiana Tech's offense averages almost 40 points per game this season. Manny Diaz, Mississippi State's defensive coordinator, held the same title last season for Tech and he should know their personnel well. They have a newcomer though, former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel is under center for Louisiana Tech. Driskel again faces an SEC defense and it will likely be the best defense his team faces all season. Driskel is flanked in the backfield by Kenneth Dixon, who's been nursing an ankle injury. Jarred Craft has stepped up as a replacement but it would be nice to have both players on the field Saturday afternoon. Dak Prescott, who's been restored after fighting a stomach virus last weekend, has yet to throw an interception this season. De'Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross should have big days in a MSU passing attack that's one of the more underrated units in the country. Prediction: Mississippi State 31, Louisiana Tech 21

No. 9 Texas A&M (5-0) vs. No. 10 Alabama (5-1)

Watch: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Line: Alabama (-4)

Ever since Alabama's loss to Ole Miss, the Tide defense has completely clamped down. They're allowing just 264.5 yards per game, a mark that's sixth best in the country. After their win last weekend, defensive back Eddie Jackson proclaimed that Alabama has "hands down" the best defense in the country. While their run defense is definitely elite, their secondary is still flawed, and will get tested this weekend. Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen has one of the highest quarterback ratings in the country (169.0). He has weapons all-around him and a savage defense to get him the ball back. A&M's run defense can be suspect but its pass rush is one of the best in the country. Until they beat Mississippi State earlier this season, Kevin Sumlin's A&M teams had not beaten a ranked opponent at home. ‘Bama has won the last two meetings, including last year's 59-0 destruction in Tuscaloosa. Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Alabama 31

No. 6 LSU (5-0) vs. No. 8 Florida (6-0)

Watch: 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: LSU (-7.5)

Treon Harris will make the start for Will Grier after Grier was suspended for the year earlier this week for taking performance enhancing drugs. Harris started the opener and even led the team in the fourth quarter of their close win against East Carolina. UF head coach Jim McElwain debates there is minimal drop-off between Harris and Grier but Harris' accuracy can be way off at times. He often rushes throws, missing open receivers, thus leaving points on the field. For the season, he's completed 19-of-27 passes for 269 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers. The Gators lost to LSU in the Swamp last season on a 50-yard field goal. They lost the year before that as well. Now, they get the Tigers at night and Leonard Fournette enters as the leading Heisman trophy candidate. Brandon Harris faces Florida for the first time and he's coming off the best passing performance of his career. While the Gators secondary is stingy, their run defense can give up chunks of yardage. Prediction: LSU 35, Florida 14

Georgia (4-2) vs. Missouri (4-2)

Watch: 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Line: Georgia (-15)

Georgia can still win out and likely win the SEC East but they'll need to beat a Missouri team that always provides a weird match-up. Florida beat the Tigers fairly easily on the road last weekend but Gary Pinkel's teams usually bounce back to competent football following losses. The Bulldogs need a better performance from Greyson Lambert. The Virginia transfer started out the year well but is just 25-of-57 (43.8%) in his last two games. While Nick Chubb's loss hurts, Sony Michel is a very special back in his own right. Michel ran for 145 yards in last week's loss to Tennessee and he has another dimension as he's wonderful catching the ball out of the backfield. The sophomore has caught 12 passes for 174 yards and three scores this season. Prediction: Georgia 24, Missouri 13