Another week, another exciting slate of games in the SEC Football world. Here we break down each team’s game this week, including several key in-conference matchups. Fun fact: there are only three games this week in college football in which both teams playing are ranked, and all three are SEC West divisional clashes.
Massachusetts (1-6) at South Carolina (2-4)
Sat. 12:00 P.M. EST; SEC ESPN Network and WatchESPN App
South Carolina’s offense has been dismal thus far, averaging only 14 points per game and scoring 20 points only once against East Carolina. Neither team has been all too impressive this season as indicated by their records, and they could both use a boost. Will Muschamp needs to win these “easy” games – South Carolina enters as 20 point favorites – to boost his program’s record at every opportunity, as they receive no break during their conference schedule. UMass should not be overlooked, however, as they hung tight with Mississippi State earlier this season and if Muschamp’s Gamecocks aren’t careful, they could drop an embarrassing contest in front of their home crowd.
No. 6 Texas A&M (6-0) at No. 1 Alabama (7-0)
Sat. 3:30 P.M. EST; CBS
In what is undoubtedly the biggest game of the weekend in all of college football, this may be thought of as a divisional championship game, if you will. The two teams have set themselves apart in the SEC West, and this game may prematurely crown the division champion. No surprise here, as the road to Atlanta has gone through Tuscaloosa every year in recent memory. Alabama should not be prideful of their 19-point favorite status, but rather wary as it will serve as nothing but extra motivation for a very hungry Aggie team looking to solidify themselves as the real deal. If the Aggies are to go into Bryant-Denny Stadium and beat the Crimson Tide – something they have not done since Johnny Manziel led the team to a road victory in 2012 – quarterback Trevor Knight will have to play lights-out. The Oklahoma transfer has beaten Alabama before in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. He torched the Tide’s defense for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-31 Sooner victory, but was beaten out for the starting job by Baker Mayfield the following season, prompting a transfer to Texas A&M. The Aggies will need Knight to play like he did in that bowl game, and maybe channel some Johnny Football magic, in order to beat Alabama.
Middle Tennessee (4-2) at Missouri (2-4)
Sat. 4:00 P.M. EST; SEC ESPN Network and WatchESPN
Missouri needs a win, and this is going to be by no means an easy one. Both teams feature high-powered offenses, and Middle Tennessee actually puts up more yards per game than Missouri. The Blue Raiders have only lost twice this year – to Vanderbilt 47-24, and 44-43 in double overtime against Western Kentucky – and they will be looking for a win against an SEC opponent to add to their resume. Missouri’s offense, led by quarterback Drew Lock, will keep the Tigers in the game, but their defense will need to slow down the Hilltoppers if Missouri hopes to pull out a win.
No. 17 Arkansas (5-2) at No. 21 Auburn (4-2)
Sat. 6:00 P.m. EST; ESPN and WatchESPN
One of three ranked matchups in the conference this week, both teams will be looking to gain ground in the SEC West. Each team has one in-division win (Auburn beat LSU and Arkansas beat Ole Miss last week), and given the fact that Alabama, Texas A&M, and LSU are claiming the top spots of the SEC West, Arkansas and Auburn are fighting for division positioning and respect when bowl season comes. Each team features a dynamic rushing attack, but Arkansas might have the edge in the passing game with Austin Allen at the helm. Look for it to be a high-scoring affair, with a team pulling away towards the end, as neither has an outstanding defense either.
Mississippi State (2-4) at Kentucky (3-3)
Sat. 7:30 P.M. EST; SEC ESPN Network and WatchESPN
Neither team has been all too impressive thus far, yet Kentucky finds itself third place in the SEC East. Mississippi State, on the other hand, is at the bottom of the SEC West. Mississippi State needs a conference win to attempt to salvage what has been a disappointing season, and Kentucky needs one to hang around near the top of their division in case both Tennessee and Florida encounter a late-season collapse. Look for Mississippi State quarterback to target wide receiver Fred Ross early and often, and on the flip side, Kentucky must get running back Stanley “Boom” Williams going to wear down the Bulldogs defense.
Tennessee State (5-1) at Vanderbilt (3-4)
Sat. 7:30 P.M. EST; ESPNU and WatchESPN
Coming off of head coach Derek Mason’s first SEC conference win at Vanderbilt, the Commodores will be looking to carry that momentum into their home game against a solid FCS foe in Tennessee State. In what might be the most under-looked game of the weekend in the SEC, this contest might stay tight until the very end. Vanderbilt could either come out fast and wanting to build on a big win over Georgia last week, or they could suffer a hangover and get behind early to a talented Tigers team.
No. 23 Ole Miss (3-3) at No. 25 LSU (4-2)
Sat. 9:00 P.M. EST; ESPN and WatchESPN
The major story lines heading into this game are LSU head coach Ed Orgeron’s past with Ole Miss, and the return of star LSU running back Leonard Fournette. LSU’s defense has been dominant thus far this season, not giving up more than 21 points in any of its games, but it also hasn’t faced a quarterback as dynamic as Chad Kelly. Ole Miss blew out LSU last season, and every time the Tigers got close, Kelly extended to lead and made sure their hope was gone. LSU needs to be much more explosive early on this year if they hope to beat the Rebels, as their defense will only keep them in the game for so long. Fournette’s return should boost an already impressive ground attack, and quarterback Danny Etling will need to be next to perfect from here on out if the Tigers hope to remain relevant in both the SEC and nationally. If LSU is to salvage a season that began with disappointment, they need to come out strong and beat Ole Miss in convincing fashion. Ole Miss, on the other hand, will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss against Arkansas and crush any hope LSU has at making the conference championship game this season.
Bye Weeks: Tennessee, Florida, Georgia