SEC Week 4 Preview: Climbing Back Up The Ladder
Seven SEC teams lost in their season opener. Just two weeks later the SEC has bounced back fairly well with eight teams ranked in the AP top 25, which is more than any other conference.
This unprecedented bounce-back will not last long as these teams will beat up on each other with conference play heating up. That is the nature of the beast that comes with playing in the SEC.
Week four may not be the week where a top team falls or a major upset happens, but it will be a very important week in determining who makes it to Atlanta. In fact, one of this week's games could end up deciding who wins the SEC East.
Here is everything you need to know about each SEC game heading into the weekend:
**All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com**
A nail-biter in Oxford is likely not what Nick Saban had in mind, but he is probably grateful to survive and advance to the next game.
With all due respect to Kent State, this weekend's matchup will be more like a reunion instead of a game for Nick Saban. The Golden flashes are 1-2 on the year with one of those losses being to North Carolina A&T. In addition, Kent State is dead last in total offense in the MAC, which is not good news when facing an Alabama defense.
This game should serve as an opportunity for true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts to gain more experience while allowing other quarterbacks to get into the game. This is an assumption that Saban would not appreciate, but the truth hurts.
There are multiple factors that one must consider when evaluating this weekend's matchup. On paper, Ole Miss is the better of the two teams despite being ranked lower than Georgia. However, the Rebels are coming off of their grueling loss to Alabama, and they could be both emotionally and physically drained.
On the other hand, Georgia has not been overly impressive despite being undefeated. The Bulldogs two point victory over Nicholls is something that continues to hang over their hand even though they followed that up with a win over Missouri. The Bulldogs lacked balance in that win as quarterback Jacob Eason had 55 pass attempts while running back Nick Chubb rushed for less than 100 yards for the second consecutive week.
The Rebels have the upper hand with a more experienced quarterback and offensive attack. The obvious problem is giving up big leads and making too many mistakes. Ole Miss has the worst turnover margin in the SEC (-5), while allowing a conference high 20 plays of 20 yards or more.
This game will come down to Ole Miss' ability to bounce back from last week's loss, and Georgia's ability to get the ball to Nick Chubb while simultaneously improving the passing game. Expect this matchup to be an exciting one.
In case you were wondering, this is the game we were referencing when we said that the SEC East could potentially be decided this week. Tennessee was the clear preseason favorite, but poor performances against Appalachian State and Ohio have many believing that the East is wide open.
In fact, Florida could have entered this game as the favorite if quarterback Luke Del Rio would not have gotten hurt last week against North Texas. The injury will force Jim McElwain to rely even more on his defense, which currently ranks number one nationally, allowing just 129 yards per game this season. However, this will be the Gators first true test as they try to slow down Joshua Dobbs.
On the other hand, Dobbs has not faced a defense quite like Florida's. He just may not be as pressured to score as much with the Gator's offense having some serious question marks heading into the matchup. There is also the possibility of Dobbs needing to score quickly and often since cornerback Cam Sutton is out with a fractured ankle.
Tennessee is out for blood because they want to finally put an end to their 11 year long losing streak to Florida. It makes even more important that the game is being played in Neyland Stadium. However, there is still a great chance that Florida extends its streak due to Tennessee's inconsistencies.
The most interesting thing about this game is the fact that Mississippi State will be hitting the road to play Massachusetts. There should be a lot of excitement as this program only recently became an FBS program and now they are playing an SEC team at home.
The Minutemen gave Florida a scare earlier in the season, but that is no reason to think that the Bulldogs will lose to another non-power five conference despite being the visiting team.
After all, the Bulldogs almost beat LSU even though they were down as many as 20 points. The only thing that may hold Mississippi State back is determining if they should start Nick Fitzgerald or Damian Williams at quarterback. A win is almost a certain guarantee no matter who they start.
Missouri is 1-2 on the season and struggling in multiple areas under new coach Barry Odom. However, under no circumstances should the Tigers lose this weekend's game against Delaware State.
Despite struggling on defense, Missouri leads the SEC in passing offense, and they are averaging almost 380 passing yards per game. Those numbers alone should be enough to seal a victory.
If Delaware State finds a way to win this game then the Barry Odom era will be over before it gets started. The Tigers should easily win by double digits.
Mississippi State is not the only team hitting the road to play a non-Power 5 conference team. The difference is that Vanderbilt could very well lose this game if they are not careful.
Western Kentucky is very dangerous on offense. Baylor and Oregon are the only two teams in the last five years to have more games 500 yard offensive games than the Hilltoppers. Quarterback Mike White is averaging over 300 passing yards per game even though he faced Alabama two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt is still struggling to get it together under Derek Mason. The Commodores may have a tough time slowing down Western Kentucky's offense due to these struggles. In addition, Vanderbilt has the worst total offense in the SEC.
It may be a stretch to say the Hilltoppers will be a favorite, but it would not be a complete shock if Vanderbilt lost on the road this weekend.
We are in week four of the season, and LSU is difficult to judge. There is some relief now that Leonard Fournette proved he's healthly by rushing for 147 yards against Mississippi State. Also, new quarterback Danny Etling completed 63 percent of his passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
Etling may not be the long term answer for LSU, but there quarterback issues have progressed more than Auburn. It appeared that Gus Malzahn had settled on Sean White until he put in John Franklin late against Texas A&M in an effort to provide an offensive spark. In other words, both of these teams are seeking answers at quarterback while their defenses do all the work.
Statistically speaking, Auburn has not proved to be overly impressive on defense yet they have managed to significantly slow down some of the country's top offenses. This is why Auburn stands a strong chance to beat LSU.
With Danny Etling leading the way, LSU has a great opportunity to get better each and every week providing that Leonard Fournette also stays healthy. However, this team has not been overly impressive so this could be a good opportunity for Gus Malzahn to sneak in and get a big win at home.
This game has potential to be exciting based on the fact that both teams are young and inexperienced. South Carolina will be the favorite in this game and rightfully so, but there are plenty of factors that could lead to a Gamecocks' loss.
First and foremost, this could be a very low-scoring game, which usually indicates that the game will be a toss up. Kentucky has the worst total defense in the conference, allowing over 500 yards of offense a game. South Carolina may not take advantage of this seeing that they are only managing 287 yards of offense per game.
The deciding factor will be on the Wildcats ability to pass. Against Florida, Kentucky only completed three passes. If that same trend continues this weekend in Lexington then Mark Stoops should not even bother showing up.
South Carolina has an opportunity to get its offense going considering they are playing a team that has allowed over 40 points in each of their games.
This matchup has the potential to be one of the best SEC games of the week. After a poor week one performance, Arkansas is beginning to prove their worth, and they are already exceeding preseason expectations. Texas A&M is also off to a great start behind quarterback Trevor Knight.
The Razorbacks did not have extremely high expectations because of a tough schedule while also having to replace its quarterback and running back from the season before. They have already beaten one tough opponent in TCU, and quarterback Austin Allen and running back Rawleigh Williams have been very impressive.
The problem facing Arkansas is stopping Knight and company. The Aggies statistically have the best offense in the conference, and Knight's ability to run and throw is a big reason why. A&M struggled at times offensively against Auburn, however, have more than proven that they will be a difficult team to stop.
This is a late-night SEC matchup that should be a perfect end to a long day of college football. The Aggies will be favorites, but the Razorbacks have already proven that they are up for any challenge.