Five conference games highlight the Southeastern Conference schedule this weekend, led by Florida at LSU in a matchup that features a great contrast in style.
These two teams played a similar style last season, won by Florida 14-6. But now the Tigers have employed Cam Cameron and the offense is one of the most lethal in college football. LSU has the league’s top passer in Zach Mettenberger, while averaging over 45 points a game and leading the SEC in third-down conversion percentage at 58 percent.
To put that in perspective, last year Mettenberger was 11th in the league in passing efficiency while the offense was eighth in points scored (29.8) and seventh in third-down percentage (40%). The Gators have the league’s No. 1 defense, but their three combined conference opponents are 0-6.
Florida is No. 1 in the conference in rushing defense and passing defense. This has the makings of a great game barring one team turning the ball over more than it should.
Florida has held 12-straight conference opponents to 20 points or less, but I get the feeling they will need at least 24 points to win this game. LSU has been suspect in the secondary but did hold Mississippi State without a touchdown in the second half of last week’s game.
Gator quarterback Tyler Murphy is coming off his best performance of the season with 240 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Arkansas. His yardage has gone up for three straight weeks and he is completing 72 percent of his passes. Murphy is 13-of-18 on third down this season which is also 72 percent .The Tiger defense has relinquished 774 yards and six touchdowns in the last three games. LSU was third in the SEC in sacks last year and right now they are ninth through six games.
Texas A&M travels to Oxford to play Ole Miss after the Aggies had a bye week and the Rebels have lost two in a row. Hugh Freeze’s team almost won last season at home and in a strange scheduling quirk they will get a shot at redemption.
The ground game has left the Rebels the last two weeks, but it should return Saturday in what I think will be a high scoring game. This is only the second home game for Ole Miss who will play the next six in Oxford.
Texas A&M leads the SEC in passing offense and Ole Miss is second in pass defense. Johnny Manziel had a quiet game, by his standards, the last time out and I look for him to blow up this week. He has at least one touchdown rushing and passing in 11 of his 17 games in his career.
Key Stat: The Aggies have never lost on the road under Kevin Sumlin and have won nine in a row on the road predating his arrival in College Station.
Missouri faces its second conference opponent on Saturday as it travels to Georgia but it’s the first time it’s done so as a ranked team. The Tigers have started fast on the road this season outscoring their opponents 34-0 in the first quarter. James Franklin is healthy and playing some of his best football. The offense is one of five in the country to average at least 255 yards on the ground and at least 285 yards through the air. The Tiger defense has improved greatly and is coming off a seven sack performance at Vandy putting them second in the league with 15.
Georgia must keep moving forward without its best offensive weapons, but they still have Aaron Murray and are playing at home. The Dogs have won 15 in a row at home which is the third longest streak (24 is the longest) in school history. J.J. Green had 129 yards last week and the freshman from Camden County is plenty good enough to run against the Tigers. Georgia is just 12-10 at home against ranked opponents under Mark Richt.
South Carolina is heading to Arkansas where it has lost three straight in Fayetteville. South Carolina has scored on its opening drive in four of its five games this season and looks to start fast with Connor Shaw at quarterback. Whether Jadevon Clowney plays or not, the Gamecocks have the fifth best rush defense and that should be a key in this game. Also even with Clowney’s subpar totals South Carolina is third in the league with 14 sacks.
Arkansas has lost three in a row but it looks to get back on track at home where the Razorbacks are 3-1. The Hogs have been a fast-starting team, outscoring opponents 52-24 in the first quarter this season. The key? Can they finish this week against the Gamecocks? Arkansas has been outscored 27-21 in the fourth quarter this season and 76-72 in the second half. The depth is not there yet for Bielema, but look for him to continue to feature the run game which is averaging 216 yards per game.
Auburn looks for its fifth win of the season against Western Carolina. The Tigers currently sit second in the league in rushing offense at 242 yards per game. Auburn has three guys that have rushed for over 250 yards on the season in Tre Mason, Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne. Auburn had six sacks in the first four games and produced six last week against Ole Miss.
Alabama continues to work on its run game and chemistry on the offensive line. After struggling a bit the first month, they played without Ryan Kelly last week. This week the Tide should be able to go north of 200 yards on the ground against the Wildcats. Alabama has just two 200-plus yard rushing games this season after posting nine last season. Alabama is 67-3 when leading at the half under Nick Saban.
Kentucky will host Bama and it’s the 13th time the Wildcats match up with No. 1, having won those games against top-ranked opponents just three times, the last being in 2007 over LSU. Jalen Whitlow went wire-to-wire last week at quarterback and played well, it looks like it’s his team now.
Mississippi State looks to get to 3-3 on homecoming against a good 5-1 Bowling Green team. The Bulldogs have won 12 in a row in their non-conference slate under Dan Mullen. The passing game has gotten better and Mississippi State has thrown for over 200 yards in 16 of the last 17 games. The Bulldog defense has forced three and outs 41 percent of the time this season.