Around the SEC: Alabama’s Nick Saban sounds off on fans, rivalry upsets brewing

“You can say it’s not fair to our players that they get everybody’s best game, but they do,” Saban said on his coach’s show. “They have to able to compete through that and play over that. I don’t know. When I came here, everybody was happy to win a game. Now we’re not happy to win a game anymore. We’re not happy to win a game at all.”

Of course, that might be a bit of a reach for fans of the No. 3-ranked Alabama football program.

The Crimson Tide has some of the most loyal fans in the nation, both in terms of travel numbers and social media support.

Alabama is a 19-point favorite over a broken Auburn team that’s missing starting quarterback Bo Nix and starting kicker Anders Carlson.

The Tigers, to boot, are coming off a 21-17 loss at South Carolina.

Saban made it clear that fans should not get spoiled into thinking the Tide should blow out every opponent.

This, on the heels of a 42-35 escape against Arkansas and 20-14 win over LSU three weekends ago.

“We think we should win games by whatever,” Saban said. “I don’t think that’s fair to the players either, because our players work their butt off to be the best they can be, and to get criticized for what they work hard for to do, so that you can be entertained. So that you can enjoy and have pride and passion for what they accomplish and what they do.”

Calm down, Nick.

The pick: Alabama 45, Auburn 17

Missouri at Arkansas (-14 1/2), 3:30 p.m., FRIDAY

It’s the Battle Line Rivalry, complete with a trophy that weighs more than 180 pounds! The Tigers have won five straight in the rivalry, but Arkansas is 2-0 in “trophy games” with wins over Texas A&M (Southwest Classic) and LSU (Battle for the Golden Boot).

The pick: Arkansas 27, Missouri 21

Saturday Games

Kentucky at Louisville (-3), 7:30 p.m.

It’s the “Governor’s Cup” and the Wildcats bring a 14-game non-conference win streak into the action that includes two wins over the Cardinals. Kentucky hasn’t lost in Louisville since 2014.

The pick: Kentucky 29, Louisville 27

Clemson (-11) at South Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

The Tigers are looking for what would be a seventh-straight win over the Gamecocks, a record-long feat in this series that Clemson has not accomplished since 1934-1940. The Tigers are coming off their most impressive win of the season, 48-27 over Wake Forest. South Carolina rallied from 14 down to beat Auburn 21-17 and become bowl eligible.

The pick: Clemson 30, South Carolina 17

Texas A&M (-7) at LSU, 7 p.m.

It’s Ed Orgeron’s final game as the Tigers’ head coach, less than two years after he led LSU to one of the most impressive national championship runs in recent college football history. The Tigers need a win to become bowl eligible. The Aggies haven’t won in Baton Rouge since 1994.

The pick: Texas A&M 20, LSU 17

Florida State at Florida (-2 1/2), Noon

The Gators opened as a 10-point favorite with all the early action factored in, but Florida has fallen on hard times, firing Dan Mullen after last Saturday’s loss to Missouri. The Seminoles, like the Gators, are playing for bowl eligibility after back-to-back wins over Boston College and Miami.

The pick: Florida 30, Florida State 27

Vanderbilt at Tennessee (-31), 3:45 p.m.

The Vols have scored 115 points in their past three outings entering this Senior Day affair at Neyland Stadium. QB Hendon Hooker is coming off a 17-20, 273-yard 2 TD performance. Vanderbilt will be playing its first Senior Day road game in two years after canceling its game at Georgia last season.

The pick: Tennessee 45, Vanderbilt 13

Georgia (-35) at Georgia Tech, Noon

The Bulldogs have made a mockery out of what was once considered a serious rivalry. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a humiliating 55-0 loss at Notre Dame and the 5-TD spread in this year’s game with Georgia is the biggest line since the late 1940s, per historian Patrick Garbin.

The pick: Georgia 52, Georgia Tech 10