SEC Week 11 Preview: The Floodgates Are Open
Week 10 certainly caused havoc in the SEC, which opened up the floodgates for anything to happen in the final few weeks of the regular season.
It is important that you know everything that happened in week 10, so you can better understand what is at stake in week 11. Just in case you missed any of the action, here is what you missed:
- #4 Texas A&M squandered away their generous top four ranking by losing to Mississippi State, 35-28.
- #11 Florida was also on the wrong end of an upset as they were defeated by Arkansas, 31-10.
- #9 Auburn narrowly avoided an upset loss of its own to Vanderbilt as a late interception helped the Tigers win, 23-16.
- Scoring 28 points in the second quarter helped Ole Miss beat Georgia Southern by 10 but not before they loss quarterback Chad Kelly for the season due to an ACL tear.
- A Florida loss put Kentucky in an excellent position to control their own destiny in the SEC East, but the Wildcats suffered a loss of their own to Georgia.
- Finally, Alabama and LSU had an old fashioned slugfest that resulted in the Tide winning, 10-0.
Last week’s slate of games taught us that no team is safe. Anything can happen at this stage of the regular season, and this preview will give you a heads up of how things may play out.
**All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com**
Mississippi State at #1 Alabama
This game certainly took on a new life when Mississippi State managed to upset Texas A&M. The fact that Alabama is coming off of a very tough win over LSU makes things all the more interesting. Do the Bulldogs have enough juice to upset the mighty Tide?
One must first ask what Mississippi State has in their arsenal that could take down Alabama? The answer is quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s arm could be a deciding factor because he has a tendency to throw interceptions. His running ability is what Dan Mullen really needs to utilize especially after running for 182 yards and two touchdowns against A&M.
While dual threat quarterback have given Alabama trouble in recent years, it still may not matter. It appears that Nick Saban has finally built a strong defense that is capable of stopping spread offenses. He must now focus on getting his true freshman quarterback to be more consistent in the pocket. Hurts has struggled to read defenses, which is why Lane Kiffin does not dial up many deep throws.
Many will see this as a trap game for the Tide and rightfully so. Mississippi State will ride into this game with a new found confidence, and they may catch Alabama breathing a sigh of relief from last week’s win. This is definitely one to keep an eye on.
South Carolina at Florida
Florida’s visit to Fayetteville did not go as planned, and they returned to Gainesville with a loss. Fortunately for the Gators, a weak SEC East allows them to still control their own destiny to Atlanta. However, Will Muschamp’s first return to ‘The Swamp’ could be a nightmare for Jim McElwain.
Florida will be in a tight from the get go because McElwain has announced that quarterback Luke Del Rio has been ruled out for this game. That means Austin Appleby will once again take charge. Appleby was a viable option in his last two starts, but the Gators offense is slightly more efficient with Del Rio at the helm. Will Muschamp will likely dial up a scheme that puts plenty of pressure on Appleby.
Muschamp, of course, also needs to focus on finding some kind of offensive spark. The Gamecocks’ scoring offense ranks 125th in the nation. South Carolina is fortunate enough to be playing an offense that also struggles to score, but they still have to bring something new to the table if they want to win in a tough environment.
This game should be much more competitive than previously expected. The Gators control their own destiny in the East, but a loss to South Carolina would throw yet another wrench in the cycle.
Kentucky at Tennessee
A win last week over Georgia would have put Kentucky in the lead in the SEC East. The Wildcats fell short in their efforts, but a win this week would still help keep them in the hunt. The same goes for Tennessee as they attempt to still reach their preseason goals.
Kentucky’s recent surge is a testament to how a team can improve over the course of just a few games. The Wildcats averaged 352 yards of offense per game through their first five games, and they have averaged 437 yards per since. Defensively, Kentucky allowed over 500 yards of offense in each of its first three games but have not allowed one since.
Tennessee, meanwhile, has gone in the opposite direction as the season has progressed. In their 5-0 run to start the season, the Volunteers only gave up an average 359 yards per game to its opponents. In the three losses since, Tennessee allowed an average of 503 yards. Offensively, the Volunteers have been plagued with turnovers. Josh Dobbs has thrown an SEC worst 11 interceptions this season.
Despite the Wildcats recent success, there is still a significant talent gap between these two teams. Neyland Stadium is difficult venue to play in, but the Volunteers recent struggles have given Kentucky a chance that they may not see again.
#9 Auburn at Georgia
Auburn, at one point this season, was not considered a major threat in the SEC West. Now the Tigers control their own destiny to Atlanta. Part of making it to Atlanta will be taking care of their rival Georgia.
Auburn’s success can be fully attributed to the return of the team’s powerful ground game and the improvement of quarterback Sean White. The Tigers are currently rushing for an SEC 299 yards per game, and White leads the SEC in completion percentage (69.1%). However, Kamryn Pettway, the team’s leading rusher, may not enter this game fully healthy after getting banged up in last week’s game against Vanderbilt.
Georgia, meanwhile, will need to study a lot of tape from Auburn’s game against the Commodores. For starters, Vanderbilt had one of its best games of the season passing. Bulldogs’ quarterback Jacob Eason has certainly shown flashes of greatness, but he will need to combine consistency with a balanced ground game. Success through the air and on the ground is the only way Georgia can compete with the Tigers.
Most college football fans will tell you that all statistics and games can be thrown out the window when a rivalry game is played. This game has seen some wild endings in recent years, and we could be in store for another one this weekend.
Vanderbilt at Missouri
There is once again hope in Nashville as Vanderbilt begins to show signs of promise after a win over Georgia and a close loss against Auburn. Still, the Commodores have to take their success one step at a time and that includes taking down a struggling Missouri.
Vanderbilt will certainly continue to improve if quarterback Kyle Shurmur plays like he did last week. Shurmur completed a career high 24 passes. Most of those passes came in very crucial situations. Combine that new found confidence with running back Ralph Webb, who is third in the SEC in rushing yards (901), and you have a combination for success.
Missouri’s success has gone in the opposite direction. The Tigers do have an excellent quarterback in Drew Lock, who has already thrown for over 2,500 yards this season. However, Missouri has struggled mightily on defense. They are currently giving up over 470 yards per game and 35 touchdowns this season. While Vanderbilt is not an offensive powerhouse, those defensive numbers will still hinder the Tigers’ progression.
Vanderbilt closes the season with a tough three game stretch, so they must continue to improve if they want to reach bowl eligibility. In other words, this game is a must win for the Commodores.
#24 LSU at #25 Arkansas
If there is any conference battle that is unpredictable it is the matchup between LSU and Arkansas. The Razorbacks have won the last two meetings despite the Tigers being favorites. LSU will likely be the favorites once again, but Arkansas will be riding high headed into this home game.
The Razorbacks will be riding high because of last week’s win over Florida. Many had lost faith in the Razorbacks because of their blowout loss to Auburn, but they are slowly redeeming themselves. Austin Allen remains one of SEC’s most accurate quarterbacks, which they will need against LSU’s defense. Arkansas’ lone concern will be figuring out a way to slow down Leonard Fournette.
Fournette did not have the game of his life against Alabama but that is a unique situation. Fournette will be facing a much weaker defensive line. LSU will need to figure out how to get something going through the air with quarterback Danny Etling. Fortunately for Etling, he may be able to rely solely on Fournette and the Tigers’ defense.
This game has all the making to be yet another all-time classic. Arkansas certainly has their work cut out for them, but they have proven themselves in this game in the past.
Ole Miss at #8 Texas A&M
Texas A&M’s loss to Mississippi State makes this week’s matchup versus Ole Miss all the more interesting. The most interesting headline will be the fact that both teams are having to start their backup quarterbacks.
If any team should be given an edge because of its quarterback it is Texas A&M. Jake Hubenak performed fairly well in last week’s losing effort. He threw for 222 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.Defensive end Myles Garrett is the one that Kevin Sumlin should be worried about getting healthy. The added pressure he brings to equation would benefit them greatly against a team that will be starting a new quarterback.
The question is who will Hugh Freeze decide to start at quarterback? The popular thinking is that he will start Jason Pellerin because burning Shea Patterson’s redshirt is not ideal. Pellerin has not had much experience this season, so his ability is questionable. In addition, the Rebels are still struggling greatly on defense. That is not a good sign against the Aggies.
Texas A&M, by all means, should win this matchup. However, the same could be said about last week’s game against Mississippi State. Will the Aggies once again fall victim to another team from Mississippi?