SEC Week 9 Preview: Making Something Out of Nothing
If there is anything that can be taken away from week eight in the SEC, it is that not all games are "locks." Whether it was a surprise loss, a close call, or an unexpected blowout, week eight had its fair share of excitement despite being overlooked as a relatively slow week.
In case you missed any of the action, here is what you need to know:
- In the most highly anticipated matchup of the week, #1 Alabama put away #6 Texas A&M with a strong second half effort. The Crimson Tide walked out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a 33-14 win.
- #21 Auburn dismantled #17 Arkansas 56-3 in one of the biggest blowouts in SEC history.
- #25 LSU shutout out #23 Ole Miss in the second half to help secure a 38-21 victory.
- Missouri's season took another bad turn after losing to Middle Tennessee, 51-45.
- A last second 51-yard field goal help lift Kentucky over Mississippi State in a 40-38 win. The Wildcats have suddenly grabbed hold of second place in the SEC East standings.
Football in the SEC has been back and forth all season long. The conference is not meeting its usual standard of excellence despite having some of the nation's best teams.
The SEC teams that have struggled up to this point have an opportunity this week to make something out of nothing. Last week proved just how difficult these games can be; however, this week's preview will help you draw your own conclusions of what will happen in each matchup.
**All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com**
It was mentioned earlier that Kentucky is now in sole possession of second place in the SEC East standings after last week's win over Mississippi State. It is still highly unlikely that the Wildcats make it to Atlanta, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Meanwhile, Missouri is searching for its first conference win of the season.
The Tigers, surprisingly enough, are averaging an SEC leading 505 yards of offense per game. However, they are on track to be the first SEC team ever to average over 500 yards per game and still finish with a losing record. If that happens, then they can blame their defense, which is giving up 458 yards per game. A Missouri win on Saturday is only possible in the form of a shootout.
Kentucky, statistically speaking, is not flashy on either side of the ball. They are just more consistent when compared to Missouri. The Wildcats' most alarming stat is their -9 turnover margin, which ranks 125th in the nation. Kentucky has to avoid turnovers and has to keep Missouri quarterback Drew Lock off the field or else it will be a long day.
All signs point to the Wildcats winning this game. Missouri has failed to meet the burden of proof that they can compete in the SEC this season especially after last week's loss to Middle Tennessee. However, these teams are mistake prone, which makes us believe that it will be a toss up.
The World's Largest Cocktail Party will not have the same notoriety that it has had in recent seasons. Georgia is not having the season it hoped for under new head coach Kirby Smart, and Florida has not yet proven that it is a top caliber team. Both teams can change their current perceptions with a win on Saturday.
Georgia's roller coaster season started with three straight wins. They have since lost three of their last four games. Georgia did have a bye week to help try to get things back in order for this game. Finding an equal balance between the running and passing game is currently the team's biggest issue. In their week seven loss to Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs passed for 346 yards, ran for 75 yards and only managed to score 16 points.
Florida also benefits from a bye week; however, their alone issue that needed addressing was getting quarterback Luke Del Rio back to 100 percent. The Gators have averaged 480 yards of offense with Del Rio and 319 yards of offense without him. Defensively, Florida can stack up against any team in the nation, so you should expect them to go after Georgia's true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason.
This rivalry game has had a few surprise results in recent years, so one should be hesitant to predict an outright winner. Any "surprise" that happens in this game will be based on Georgia's ability to get the ball rolling on offense.
In almost any other circumstance, it would be a foregone conclusion that Mississippi State has this week's game in the bag. Unfortunately, the SEC's struggles this season has made us believe that any team can win on any given Saturday.
With just two wins and three consecutive losses, one cannot help but conclude that Mississippi State is in a rebuilding year. Not since Dan Mullen's first season has an offense performed this poorly. Offense is the one area that the Bulldogs must thrive on in order to be successful.
Samford is not your typical FCS team. They are currently 6-1 and would love nothing more than to beat an SEC team on the road. However, despite all the things that has gone wrong for Mullen, it is still very hard to believe that Mississippi State will lose this one. Samford will keep it close, but the home team will prevail.
A preview of this game three weeks ago would look completely different from the one you are about to read. That just goes to show that it only takes a week to make a drastic difference in one's perception of a team.
Auburn is coming off a very convincing 56-3 win over an Arkansas team that looked like it was hitting its stride. Now it looks like the Tigers are hitting their stride. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee has gone back to Auburn's roots and is relying heavily on the ground game. The Tigers are just one of three teams nationally that are averaging over 300 rushing yards per game.
Ole Miss, meanwhile, has dug itself in a hole that may be impossible to climb out of unless they find a way to win on Saturday. The Rebels still lead the conference in passing yards per game behind the strong arm of Chad Kelly. Kelly's heroics alone cannot carry this team through a stingy SEC West. The Rebels are allowing 226 rushing yards per game, which is not a good sign heading into this game with Auburn.
The Rebels' ability to score quickly may be the one thing that helps them this weekend. However, the Tigers are one of the hottest teams in college football right now. It will be interesting to see which team prevails in this one.
Tennessee, more than anything else, needed a bye week after a grueling stretch that resulted in back-to-back losses. The Vols should be refreshed and ready to go this week as they try to make their way back to Atlanta.
Tennessee's last performance may muddle their statistics a little bit, but, do not be mistaken, the Vols have a very talented team. The combination of Joshua Dobbs, Jalen Hurd, and Alvin Kamara is what makes this team the favorite to win the SEC East. Turnovers and giving up big plays are the two things that have plagued this team the most. Those two things alone can cost you in any game no matter who you are playing.
South Carolina may force Tennessee to turn the ball over, but it is very unlikely that the Gamecocks execute any long plays from scrimmage. Only three teams nationally have scored fewer touchdowns than South Carolina, which is a statistic that is alarming for any SEC team. Although Will Muschamp is a defensive mind, he must find a way to score quickly and often if he has any hope for his team beating Tennessee.
The Gamecocks' hopes of making a bowl game are all but squashed, but this team has a rare opportunity to gain some momentum and derail their opponents' season. All they have to do is pull off the upset.
If there is one game this week that one can declare a "lock" than it is this one. Texas A&M, despite coming off a loss, carries too much firepower on both sides of the ball for New Mexico State to handle.
For starters, New Mexico State ranks 124th in total defense nationally. A&M quarterback Trevor Knight and running back Trayveon Williams will provide a one-two punch that will give their opponent fits all day. On the other side of the ball, defensive ends Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall will be in the backfield all day long.
Weirder things have happened in college football, but if New Mexico State beats A&M in College Station on Saturday then you can go ahead and chalk it up as the biggest upset of the year.