Alabama and LSU renew a Southern rivalry this Saturday that has had national championship implications the last five seasons. The Tigers are looking to spoil the Crimson Tide’s bid at an unbeaten season for the second time in three seasons.
LSU defeated Alabama 9-6 in Tuscaloosa two seasons ago before losing the rematch in the national title game. Last year in Baton Rouge the Tigers gave up a late drive to AJ McCarron and the Crimson Tide in a heartbreaking loss.
What’s at stake this season?
Alabama will have to go undefeated to play for their third consecutive BCS title, while LSU can still get an at-large bid to the BCS if it can go 10-2 and beat Bama and Texas A&M. Alabama has won four of the last six in the series.
Alabama will look to attack the suspect Tiger secondary, while Zach Mettenberger will look to do the same to the Crimson Tide. Bama’s secondary is much better now than when Johnny Manziel lit it up for 464 yards and five touchdowns. Since that game the Tide secondary has given up just one touchdown pass and over the last four games just 522 passing yards.
Mettenberger had his coming out party last year in the game throwing for 296 yards and one touchdown. Since that game he has 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Tide defense has allowed just 114 first downs this season, second fewest in the country.
When you look at these offenses they have both been prolific this season. LSU is second in the SEC with 65 plays of 20 yards or more. The Tigers have had 51 passes of 20 yards or more which ranks only behind Texas A&M. To put that number in perspective, LSU only had 43 all last season in 13 games.
Alabama is scoring points on 47 percent of its drives this season. The Crimson Tide have been dominant and efficient only going three-and-out 17 times the entire season which is seventh best in the country. AJ McCarron has only attempted 23 passes in the fourth quarter this season while Mettenberger has attempted 40. Interesting, McCarron does have an interception while Mettenberger does not.
Auburn travels to Tennessee in a classic trap game, and the Tigers are on upset alert. They have won five in a row averaging over 43 points per game. Tennessee has been a different team at home this season with a record of 4-1 including a win over South Carolina and a narrow loss to Georgia.
The Tigers lead the SEC in rushing at 306 yards per game, but it’s the emergence of Sammie Coates as a big-play receiver that makes them dangerous. Coates leads the nation in yards per catch at 26.58 and has five touchdowns this season. The Vols have lost five in a row to Auburn and have not beaten ranked opponents consecutively at home since 2007.
Florida has not lost to Vanderbilt since 1989 and desperately needs a win to get closer to being bowl eligible. The Gator defense is ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring defense, total defense and passing efficiency defense. Kelvin Taylor has 150 yards rushing on 33 carries in his last two games.
Missouri travels to Kentucky, still controlling its own destiny in the SEC East. The Tigers lead the league with 17 interceptions and have forced 24 total turnovers which is fourth best in the country. James Franklin will be available this week, but I would expect Maty Mauk to get a majority of the time at quarterback. If the game gets out of hand then maybe Franklin knocks the rust off.
Georgia has played five games decided by five points or less this season and it is 3-2. This week will not be a five-point game against Appalachian State. I look for the Dogs to get some of these guys like Gurley back into football shape and get them out by half time.
Texas A&M welcomes Mississippi State to College Station and the Aggie defense has played well the last two games. The Aggies have held consecutive opponents to less than three yards per carry and forced seven turnovers, including six interceptions. Johnny Manziel needs four touchdown passes to tie the school record of 30.
Ole Miss takes on Arkansas in Oxford Saturday looking for its second three-game win streak of the season. A win gets the Rebels bowl eligible for the second straight season under Hugh Freeze. Bo Wallace has really played well the last two games throwing for 534 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Vanderbilt looks to snap a 22-game losing streak to Florida. The Commodores have been very good in the red zone this season. They have scored on 30-of-34 trips for an 88 percent success rate, which is second best in the SEC. Vanderbilt is 11-4 in its last 15 games and looks to start redshirt freshman Patton Robinette for the second time at quarterback.
Mississippi State is looking to get above .500 and find that landmark win for Dan Mullen. The quarterback situation could be back to senior Tyler Russell as Dak Prescott spent the first part of the week at home with his family mourning his mother’s death. Mullen’s overall record is 33-26 but he does not have a victory over the upper echelon in the West. The Bulldogs have lost 13 in a row to top 25 teams.
Arkansas is on the road for the fourth time this season looking to snap a six-game losing streak against Ole Miss. The eight 100-yard rushing games by running backs this season is the second most in the SEC. The Razorback offensive line has allowed just seven sacks on the season.
Kentucky looks to build off last week’s win with Jaylen Whitlow at quarterback but the Wildcats will not have their top two receivers against Missouri. Ryan Timmons and Alexander Montgomery will both miss this game but the Cats hope to get Javess Blue. The defensive line has played well and is sixth in the SEC in sacks. Look for Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith to be major factors in disrupting the Tiger offense.