SEC Week 8 Preview: Will Anyone Beat Alabama?
Week seven of SEC football certainly did not disappoint despite a schedule that didn't appear to have many great games.
It is important to know what took place in last week in order to understand what could potentially happen this week, so here is a breakdown of everything you may have missed in week seven:
- BYU continued its season long tradition of playing in close games and edged out a 28-21 double overtime victory over Mississippi State.
- #1 Alabama routed #9 Tennessee, 49-10. It was the largest margin of victory in the rivalry since 1906.
- Vanderbilt pulled off the upset over Georgia after the Bulldogs failed to convert on fourth down. It was Derek Mason's first SEC road victory as head coach of the Commodores.
- For the second season in a row, #22 Arkansas upset #12 Ole Miss. Only this time the Razorbacks did not need a miracle play.
Last week's results show just how wide open the SEC East race is. On the other side of the conference, the question is whether the West can be won by any other team besides Alabama. The toughest team left on the Tide's schedule comes to Tuscaloosa this week, so the answer to the question may came sooner rather than later.
**All stats are courtesy of cfbstats.com**
Under normal circumstances, a team like Massachusetts would not be given any chance to beat an SEC team. However, this is not a normal circumstance. South Carolina has a long way to go before they return to prominence. Until then, they have to watch out for teams like Massachusetts.
The Gamecocks and Minutemen have a combined three wins between them. South Carolina, in particular, has won two games by a combined eight points. They have only scored nine offensive touchdowns this season. No other team in college football has scored fewer offensive touchdowns.
Despite their poor offensive performances, the Gamecocks still should not drop a game to Massachusetts. If the Minutemen do manage to pull off the upset, just know that it would not be the world's biggest shock.
Alabama proved last Saturday that they are on a path of destruction that will be very difficult to stop. As of right now, it appears that the only team left on the schedule that has the man power to slow down to the Tide is Texas A&M. It still will not be an easy mission for the Aggies.
It may not be immediately evident that A&M has a good enough defense to stop Alabama, but, make no mistake, the Aggies have an abundance of athleticism on defense. The key players on Saturday will be defensive linemen Myles Garrett, Daeshon Hall, and Daylon Mack who will be tasked with slowing down Alabama's ground game.
The ground game that is being referenced is the same one that for ran for 438 yards against Tennessee. However, if A&M slows down the rush then offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will have go to his passing attack. True freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts may play like a veteran, but he has not yet proven that he consistently throw the ball downfield. Short passes will not always get it done against a top-10 team.
It is never easy to beat the top ranked team in the country on their home turf especially when that team is Alabama. But Texas A&M has done it before and they are very capable of doing it again.
Missouri, like South Carolina, has a long way to go before it returns the same prominence it had just a few seasons ago. The Tigers have won just two games this season despite having a quarterback that is second in the SEC in passing yards.
A team cannot be very successful without a good quarterback, but a team cannot be successful at all if a good quarterback is all it has. Missouri's defense is giving up 438 yards per game despite Barry Odom being the head coach. Fortunately for Odom, the Tigers can get it done behind the arm of Drew Lock.
Middle Tennessee has a respectable 4-2 record. They are one of the better teams in Conference USA. Unfortunately, they likely will not be able to matchup with an SEC team, which was made evident by their 47-24 loss to Vanderbilt earlier this season.
Both Arkansas and Auburn enter this matchup with a new found confidence in what the season could hold. After losing two of their first three games, the Tigers are riding a three-game win streak. Meanwhile, Arkansas travels to the Plains following an upset win over Ole Miss.
The first thing to keep in mind when evaluating this game is that Auburn is coming off of a bye week, while Arkansas is coming off playing Alabama and Ole Miss in back-to-back weeks. The Tigers will likely try to pound the ball out in effort to wear down the Razorbacks. They will likely be successful seeing that Auburn is averaging 262 rushing yards per game, and Arkansas has allowed 17 rushing touchdowns already this season.
All this is not to say that the Razorbacks should not be favorites in this matchup. After all, they will be the most talented team Auburn has faced since week three. Arkansas has an excellent quarterback in Austin Allen, who leads the conference in passing yards (1,861). Utilizing Allen is a key, but Arkansas has to get in a habit of running the ball more if they plan on making a strong run through the SEC.
This game could prove to be one of the better SEC games in week eight. The Razorbacks are trying to survive to this grueling stretch in their schedule, while Auburn looks to once again establish themselves as one of the better teams in the SEC West.
No one expected Mississippi State to struggle as much as they have despite knowing that the Bulldogs would be playing without Dak Prescott. Kentucky is in a similar state, but, with all due respect to the Wildcats, it was expected. Both teams need a win on Saturday in order to make something out of their season.
Dan Mullen's biggest problem right now is his offense. Mullen's offensive schemes is what helped make the Bulldogs a dangerous SEC West team in recent years. However, Mississippi State currently ranks 10th in the conference in total offense, their worst ranking since 2008. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has shown flashes of greatness, but in three of his team's losses, he completed less than 51 percent of his passes.
Kentucky has a much better shot at making a bowl game if they win on Saturday. It will not be easy, but it is much more attainable. If Kentucky wants to make it to a bowl then they must find success in the passing game. The Wildcats rank 13th overall in the SEC in pass offense, which is never a good sign when your offensive play system is known as the "Air Raid" offense.
Both of these teams have a lot to prove, so that could lead to an interesting game. Otherwise, it may be a matchup that is easily overlooked despite being a conference game.
Vanderbilt's win last week against Georgia was the biggest one of the Derek Mason era. It was Mason's first SEC road win, and it may be exactly what the Commodores needed to get over the hump. They certainly have a long way to go, but you have to start somewhere.
The Commodores will have a tough stretch to end their season, so it is important that they take advantage of any opportunities they are given. This is something will likely accomplish on Saturday against Tennessee Tech. Despite Vanderbilt's abysmal stats on both sides of the ball, it is hard to believe they will drop this game to Tennessee Tech after last week's big win.
A win on Saturday will match last season's win total, which should help guarantee Mason another year as head coach. He has his team headed in the right direction, so do not expect any kind of upset loss from this team on Saturday.
Over the last few seasons, LSU and Ole Miss have developed somewhat of a heated rivalry. Three of the last four meeting have been decided by six points or less, and it appears that it could be another slugfest this season.
The preview of this game would have been completely different had it been played three weeks ago. However, LSU is a rejuvenated team under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, who has wisely relied more on the Tigers' ground game, which should be even more potent this week with the return of Leonard Fournette. The Rebels, who have allowed over 210 rushing yards per game thus far, will have their hands full with Fournette.
There are, of course, other concerns that Ole Miss must address. First and foremost, the Rebels will need to find the energy and momentum to beat LSU in Tiger Stadium following last week's loss to Arkansas. Also, the team is currently dead last in the SEC in total defense. Despite their struggles, this is a very talented team that just has to realize that they cannot solely rely on Chad Kelly.
This is yet another game in week eight that features two teams with a lot to prove. A win for LSU would help sky rocket their confidence moving forward. A win for Ole Miss would help salvage what is left of this season.