This week the schedule in the Southeastern Conference features six conference games on the seven-game slate. Top-ranked Alabama will get a respite after a tough opening month as they will demolish Georgia State in Tuscaloosa.
While the rest the schedule does not feature ranked-versus-ranked matchups, it does present upset possibilities. LSU and Georgia must put their epic battle behind them and travel on the road to upset-minded Mississippi State and Tennessee, respectively. Ole Miss, Arkansas and Missouri are also away from home looking to show they belong in the discussion as contenders.
Georgia at Tennessee
Georgia is averaging 41.2 points per game and this week the Bulldogs look to become the fifth team in school history to score 40-plus in three SEC games. Tennessee is 12th in the league in scoring defense, allowing 26.8 points per game. The Dogs are sixth nationally in total offense, but have not been on the road since the opening loss at Clemson, Aug. 31. Todd Gurley is day-to-day but Keith Marshall can fill the void at the running back position. Marshall had 96 yards against LSU last week and had 164 yards last season against the Volunteers.
Key Stat: Tennessee has allowed a league high 11 rushing touchdowns.
LSU at Mississippi State
This is such a big game for Dan Mullen and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs have the second-ranked defense in the SEC and allow just 14.8 points per game. This is the first time since 2009 that LSU has played two conference games on the road in consecutive weeks. Zach Mettenberger already has 13 touchdown passes, which is more than he threw all last season. The Tigers have won 13 in a row in this series.
The Bulldogs will look to slow down running back Jeremy Hill much like Georgia did and they are fourth in the league in rush defense, allowing just 120 yards per game. Tyler Russell will make the start for the Bulldogs as they hope to capitalize on the poor secondary play by the Tigers the last two weeks. Russell was 10-for-16 against Oklahoma State in the opener before suffering a concussion.
Key Stat: Les Miles is 20-1 following a loss at LSU.
Ole Miss at Auburn
The Tigers have had a week to get ready and both teams want to run up-tempo offenses that manipulate the game. The Rebels will play their last game outside Mississippi this week and are 2-1 away from Oxford. The Rebels are playing their third straight road game and have not won on the plains since 2003. Auburn is third in the league in rushing at 232 yards per game while Ole Miss slipped to ninth in rush defense after the loss to Alabama.
Key Stat: Auburn is first in the SEC in red zone offense.
Arkansas at Florida
The Hogs are improved but they have lost two in a row after a 3-0 start. Arkansas leads the SEC with seven 100-yard performances by running backs this season. Florida leads the nation at allowing just 53.5 yards per game on the ground. Both teams average over 200 yards per game on the ground. The Gators are 15-0 under Will Muschamp when rushing for 150-plus yards. Arkansas allows just 126.4 yards per game on the ground.
Key Stat: Florida committed 20 penalties in the first two games but only 11 in the last two. Arkansas committed just one penalty in its loss to Texas A&M.
Kentucky continues a difficult stretch as the Gamecocks travel to South Carolina. This will be the Wildcats third game out of four against a ranked opponent. The defense has played well against the pass, ranking second in the SEC, but the rush defense has struggled and South Carolina’s Mike Davis leads the league in rushing.
South Carolina begins a stretch of six straight conference games Saturday against Kentucky. The Gamecocks play at home against the Wildcats but then will not be back at Williams Brice until Nov. 2. Carolina has won 13 in a row at home and 13-of-14 against Kentucky. The offense has generated more yards in the first four games than any other point in school history. Mike Davis has four runs of 50 yards or more in the first 16 games of his career.
Alabama plays the only non-conference game this weekend against Georgia State who is 0-4. This has all the makings of a good old fashion “boat racing” by Alabama. I wouldn’t expect the starters to play much into the third quarter as the Crimson Tide will get a chance to use some young running backs. Alabama has the nation’s third longest winning streak at eight games.
Missouri looks for payback against Vanderbilt after giving away the game 19-15 last season in Columbia. The Tigers run game has been tough to stop because of its balance with four guys over 200 yards on the season. Missouri leads the nation with an average of 2.5 interceptions per game this season. The key down this week will be third down and the Tigers rank sixth in the country at just over 57 percent.
Vanderbilt’s offense is in high gear after rolling up 52 points last week and they are averaging just less than 35 points per game. If that number were to hold through the season it would be the best in school history by five points. Vandy is currently fifth in the SEC in passing offense with Austyn Carta-Samuels after finishing 10th in 2012. The Commodores defense has generated 11 sacks which is third best in the SEC.