SEC Week 7 Preview: The East Is Wide Open
Week six of SEC football was unlike any other for the sole reason that a cancelled game ended up being the most discussed matchup.
Of course, that is not the only exciting thing that happened. Just to catch you up anything you may have missed, here is a breakdown of last week's games (or lack thereof):
- Tennessee once again made a late comeback, but this time their efforts fell short. Texas A&M moved to 6-0 for the first time since 1994 after defeating the Vols in double overtime, 45-38.
- Arkansas could not stop Alabama's explosive run game despite forcing multiple turnovers in a 49-30 loss.
- An early lead ended up being all Kentucky needed to knock off Vanderbilt, 20-13.
- A trip to Starkville proved to be the perfect time for Auburn to resurrect its offense as they routed Mississippi State, 38-14.
- Weather forced Georgia and South Carolina to play their game on Sunday. The Bulldogs scored 14 fourth quarter points in route to a 28-14 win.
- LSU and Florida did not play their game on Saturday and now there is controversy surrounding when the game will be made up. This is a game that could play a major factor in determining who wins the SEC East.
The SEC East is wide open after Tennessee's loss on Saturday because a loss this Saturday would put them behind Florida in the standings (that is assuming that the Gators beat Missouri). A loss by Florida at any point in the season could allow Georgia to get back in the hunt for the East as well.
This preview should help provide a better understanding of how this week's games could play a major role in determining which teams make it to Atlanta.
**All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com**
Life after Dak Prescott is proving to be quite difficult for Dan Mullen and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are coming off a 38-14 loss to Auburn and must travel to Utah to take on BYU.
The Bulldogs allowed a season high 432 yards to an Auburn offense that, up until that point, had not been effective. In addition, they only managed to muster 289 yards of offense. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has shown signs of promise, but he is wildly inconsistent through the air. His offensive line also has not done him any favors.
BYU, meanwhile, may be the best 3-3 team in country. All three of the team's losses were decided by three points or fewer. One could also make the argument that two of their three wins were decided by two points. Expect the Cougars to rely heavily on their ground game in an effort to eat up some clock. They have scored 15 touchdowns on the ground already this season, and Mississippi State could not stop the rush last Saturday.
BYU certainly has the momentum heading into this home matchup, but the Bulldogs do have enough pieces to take care of business. It appears that the Cougars may have another close matchup on their hands.
There are plenty of reasons to think that one should skip over this game because, on paper, Georgia should beat Vanderbilt with ease. However, we have reason to believe that the Commodores could keep it close.
For starters, the Bulldogs have not proven that they have the firepower to blowout anyone which is evident by the fact that their biggest win is by 14 points. Georgia also is struggling through the air on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Jacob Eason is coming off a game where he only completed five of his 17 pass attempts. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs pass defense ranks 13th in the conference.
Vanderbilt has not been overly impressive either. The Commodores are only averaging 299 yards of offense per game and have scored just 13 offensive touchdowns. They do, however, possess a pass defense strong enough to slow down Eason. If done so successfully, Vanderbilt has enough pieces to keep Georgia off the field.
The Commodores have not lost to an SEC opponent by more than seven points, so their record is a bit misleading. Expect this to be a low scoring slugfest.
Tennessee has proven week in and week out that they are extremely resilient. In the last three weeks, the Vols have overcome an 18-point deficit to Florida, beaten Georgia on a last second Hail Mary, and taken to Texas A&M to double overtime despite turning the ball over six times. Do they have it in them to upset Alabama?
It certainly will be difficult to do considering the Tide is coming off one of its best offensive performances of the season. Offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is utilizing the ground game more while quarterback Jalen Hurts continues to improve. The team's lone weakness is slowing down dual threat quarterbacks, a problem that certainly needs to be addressed before facing Josh Dobbs.
Of course, Dobbs can only do so much, and it will not help his cause if the Vols turn the ball over as much as they did against Texas A&M. Alabama has scored a non-offensive touchdown in eight consecutive games, so they will take advantage of Tennessee's mistakes. Like most quarterbacks that beat Alabama, Dobbs will need to have the best game of his career, which means remaining mistake free.
The Alabama-Tennessee rivalry has lost some of its luster over the last few years due to the Tide's current nine game win streak over the Vols. This year's game being a top-10 matchup brings back some much needed prominence to this rivalry.
Both Missouri and Florida got an extra week's rest to prepare for this game even though the Gators' bye week was unplanned. With or without the week off, the Tigers have an uphill battle when they visit The Swamp.
Missouri is one of just two teams in the country averaging over 500 yards per game that has a losing record. Quarterback Drew Lock leads the SEC in passing yards (1,665), but he is not having much help anywhere else. Under normal circumstances, one could argue that Florida's offense is not potent enough to take advantage of Missouri's weaknesses. However, quarterback Gators' quarterback Luke Del Rio returns from injury this week.
With Del Rio at quarterback, Florida averaged 462 yards of offense per game. Without Rio, they averaged 319 yards per game. The Gators' defense will be the best that Missouri has faced all season, so combine that with the return of Del Rio and you have a dangerous combination that the Tigers cannot handle.
If Missouri has any chance of winning then they will have to control the clock and slow down Del Rio and company. It is still a conference game so anything can happen.
Last year's meeting between Ole Miss and Arkansas featured arguably the wildest ending of any college football game in 2015. The Rebels will be seeking revenge, but it will not come with ease.
Arkansas, first and foremost, must recover both physically and emotionally from last week's loss to Alabama. Quarterback Austin Allen was sacked six times while being pressured and hit throughout the game. Allen still managed to pass for 400 yards, and he will need to repeat those numbers if he wants his team to upset Ole Miss once again.
The Rebels, meanwhile, will not be physically drained after a bye week. A refreshed Ole Miss team is extremely dangerous considering they averaged over 560 yards of offense per game in the two games prior to their break. Those numbers can only do so much though when you have the worst defense statistically in the SEC.
Arkansas has a way of making every game close even when they are big underdogs. On paper, Ole Miss should win with ease, but we doubt that will be the case.
LSU got an unplanned bye week due to inclement weather from Hurricane Matthew. Florida certainly would have had a tough game against a revitalized LSU team. We expect the Tigers to be a completely new team under Ed Orgeron for the rest of the season, which means they should have no trouble with teams like Southern Miss.
That is not meant as an insult to the Golden Eagles. After all, they are 4-2 with one of those wins coming over Kentucky in week one. Southern Miss also leads Conference USA in almost every single offensive and defensive category. However, they have not played a team quite like LSU.
The Tigers, after a slow start, now look like a completely different team especially on offense. In Orgeron's first game as interim head coach, LSU rushed for 418 yards, nearly 175 more yards than they had rushed for in any other game. Orgeron still is faced with quite the challenge when it comes to picking a quarterback, but that is not something he will have to worry about in this game.
There was a point in the season where we may have said that Southern Miss had a legitimate chance of pulling an upset this week. Now we believe that an upset in Tiger Stadium is next to impossible.