SEC Week 6 Preview: The Excitement Has Just Begun
Sometimes it just takes one game to make a whole weekend of SEC football seem exciting. There were a few narrow victories and near upsets, but the dramatic ending of just one conference game provided enough adrenaline for one week.
In case you don't what we're referencing, here is a quick breakdown:
- Tennessee kept its SEC Championship hopes alive by completing a last second Hail Mary in a 34-31 win over Georgia.
- Texas A&M needed a strong fourth quarter to help pull away from South Carolina in a surprisingly low-scoring battle.
- Speaking of low scoring, Florida only needed to score 13 points to get a win versus Vanderbilt.
- Meanwhile, the Ed Orgeron era got off to hot start when LSU defeated Missouri, 42-7.
Excitement in the SEC is about to increase dramatically as this will be the first week of the season that features nothing but conference games. Hopefully this week's preview will guide you on where to watch out for these exciting games.
**All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com**
It may be premature to say that interim head coach Ed Orgeron has LSU back on the right track; however, it certainly looked that way in the Tigers 42-7 win over Missouri.
LSU went back to their roots and relied heavily on their run game. By the time the clock hit zero, the Tigers had rushed for 418 yards and averaged over eight yards per carry. It is worth noting that they did all this without Leonard Fournette. With or without Fournette, LSU will likely stick to this same strategy moving forward.
It is worth noting, however, that LSU will probably not match those numbers this week in The Swamp. Florida has only allowed 450 rushing yards all season long. Statistically speaking, the Gators have the second best defense in the country. This defensive success is something that McElwain may have to rely heavily on after a mediocre offensive performance last week against Vanderbilt.
A fresh start appears to be exactly what LSU needed, but that does not make playing on the road any easier. Both teams should enter this matchup with a "put up or shut up" mentality because a win would provide a boost of momentum that would last until season's end.
A 58-7 win over Louisiana Monroe does not seem like something for Auburn fans to get too excited about. However, it may prove that a narrow victory over LSU (along with some changes in play calling) boosted the team's morale moving forward.
The Tigers had almost 700 yards of offense in what was a relatively balanced attack against the Warhawks, but they still focused more on the ground game. Gus Malzahn attempted to improve his depth at the running back position by allowing seven different players to carry the ball.
Auburn will need this added experience against a Mississippi State team that has done a pretty good job of slowing down the run all season. That may be the only positive thing that can be said about the Bulldogs after a rough 2-2 start that includes an opening loss to South Alabama. On a positive note, both losses came by a combined four points. In addition, the team had a bye week to help them better prepare for this Saturday's game.
Both teams share a similar characteristic in that each team's head coach needed to nail down one starting quarterback. Nick Fitzgerald is Mississippi State's best option while Sean White continues to prove he is the best option for Auburn. Either way, you can expect an interesting game in Starkville this weekend.
Arguably the best SEC matchup of the week will be in College Station. Both Texas A&M and Tennessee are undefeated, top 10 teams with still a lot to prove. The Vols needed to show consistency through four quarters. A&M is out to prove that they can carry this early success through an entire season unlike previous years.
The Aggies have proven that they have all the right pieces. Dual threat quarterback Trevor Knight has made Kevin Sumlin's offense as dangerous as ever. Knight's completion percentage has room for improvement, but his 250 passing yards and 78 rushing yards per game has gotten the job done.
The same can be said about Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs. Dobbs only has two games where he completed more than 55 percent of his passes, but he is averaging over 207 passing yards and 54 rushing yards per game. He will improve as his offensive line improves, which, in return, will allow running back Jalen Hurd to reach his full potential.
Despite the offensive potential of both teams being pretty high, it is likely that the X-Factor will be on defense. Tennessee has had to come back in each of its last two games after giving up early leads to its opponents. A&M's defense is finally good enough to prevent such comebacks, so the Vols will need to be on their A game early.
Defensive statistics say that this game may turn into an offensive shootout. However, mistake free football is not something that either of these teams do very well so this game should be more appealing to those who are fans of low scoring affairs.
Vanderbilt is still trying to figure things out on both sides of the ball under head coach Derek Mason. The Commodores are allowing over 400 yards offensive yards per game. On offense, they are the only SEC team with more interceptions than passing touchdowns. The only consistency on offense has been running back Ralph Webb, who is averaging 116 rushing yards per game.
Meanwhile, Kentucky is the only SEC team to rank in the bottom three of both total offense and total defense. The last time this happened was in 2013, and it was Kentucky who also did it that season. Mark Stoops needs to do whatever he can to turn things around and get the win on Saturday because there are not too many wins left on their schedule.
With all due respect to both programs, this is a battle between two SEC teams that are far from their glory days. The team that wins this matchup may want to remember the feeling because it could be a long time before they get another taste of victory.
This is what many may consider a trap game for Alabama. Arkansas is a well respected team that is still relatively underrated. The last time the Tide visited Fayetteville, it escaped with a one point win.
The Tide can avoid being upset if its remains consistent and avoid mistakes. When Alabama loses it is due to two things: Turnovers and passing defense. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is continuously getting better, but he has still made a few mental errors that can cost him in games like this. Defensively, the Tide should be concerned about the constantly improving Austin Allen.
Allen holds the key to Arkansas' upset bid because you cannot beat Nick Saban without a solid quarterback. Allen may actually fit that mold as he is completing almost 70 percent of his passes and has thrown 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions. A great game through the air is important but a strong defensive performance by the Razorbacks would help compliment that.
Alabama gets every team's best shot because everyone wants to take down the rising Tide. Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema certainly has his team on the rise as well and nothing would prove that more than with a big win on Saturday.
It is hard to imagine just how difficult it is to get your team motivated after losing in the fashion that Georgia lost last Saturday. Kirby Smart has to get the Bulldogs back in the right mindset because they cannot afford to drop another game.
Smart's first season as head coach has been rather odd. He opened the year with a big win over North Carolina, but narrowly beat Nicholls and got routed by Ole Miss. The major difference has been the lack of production out of running back Nick Chubb. Chubb rushed for 222 yards in week one, but he has not rushed for more than 80 yards since. This forces Smart to rely heavily on freshman quarterback Jacob Eason.
Fortunately for Smart, he may not have to worry too much about South Carolina. The Gamecocks have only scored seven touchdowns this season. Only one team in the FBS has less touchdowns. South Carolina did give Texas A&M everything they could handle, but it is hard to imagine that they beat Georgia.
The Bulldogs are emotionally drained and it could affect them on the road this week. however, if they can jump ahead early then South Carolina likely wont be able to catch up.