This week’s big games are not quite as big as Alabama and Texas A&M, but they do offer some interesting storylines and each game will tell us more about where these teams stand right now.
Arkansas travels to Rutgers to face its toughest opponent to date before the schedule get serious the next month. The Hogs are much improved under Bret Bielema, but how much and is their defense for real? Florida hosts Tennessee in a series dominated by the Gators with both teams trying to erase an early defeat. This used to be the game of the year now it’s not even the game of the weekend. That belongs to Auburn at LSU in Death Valley on Saturday night. This one should be fun and both teams are 3-0.
Arkansas hits the road for the first time this season and is headed to the Northeast for the first time since 1940. Chris Smith will be important this week from the pass rush perspective he leads the Southeastern Conference, and the nation, in sacks. Rutgers has already allowed six sacks in there games. The Hogs are the only team in the SEC ranked first or second in the league in rush defense, pass defense, total defense and scoring defense. Rutgers has the fifth best rush defense in the country at just 59 yards allowed per game. Arkansas is tops in the SEC and 11th in the country at 294 yards per game on the ground.
Key Stat: Arkansas has outscored its opponents 21-0 in the fourth quarter.
Florida and Tennessee looks like another Gator victory until you see the numbers on Tennessee. The Vols lead the SEC in turnover margin while the Gators are last. Tennessee is fourth in the league in rushing offense while the Gators are 12th. The Volunteers are fourth in the SEC inside the red zone while the Gators are 12th.
But I think you will see a more explosive Matt Jones at running back this week for the Gators. The Vols have given up 16 runs of 10 yards or more this season and Jones is healthy and ready to go. The matchup to watch is the Tennessee offensive line against the Florida defensive line. The Vols have given up just two sacks this season.
Key Stat: Florida has won eight in a row in this series.
Auburn travels to LSU for a Saturday night showdown and there is plenty of history in this series. Auburn is one of only six teams in the country that have not been scored on in the fourth quarter and it hopes it gets to the fourth with a chance to win.
Zach Mettenberger is the league’s No. 1 passer and has been on fire under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. He is the only quarterback in LSU history to have 9 touchdown passes at this point of the season and throw for more than 250 in each of his first three games of the season. Auburn’s pass defense currently sits last in the SEC but they lead the league with 19 passes defended. Jarvis Landry has been on fire dating back to last season catching 50 balls in his last eight games. LSU is 15-15 in the red zone while Auburn is 10-10 in the red zone.
Nick Marshall is coming off a 300-yard-plus passing game, the first since Cam Newton was under center, and the offense needed it. He will face a young but good LSU Tiger defense that is 10th in the country in total defense. Auburn has been a second half team so far this year holding its opponents to just nine points in the second half. LSU has won 28 straight games in September while Auburn has won 16 of its last 17 road SEC openers. I think Marshall has to have a huge game for Auburn to win, and pass protection will be key against an aggressive LSU front.
Key Stat: LSU hasn’t trailed this season. The Tigers have lead or been tied for all 180 minutes of game action.
Alabama finally gets a home game this weekend against Colorado State, and former offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who was part of the 2011 national championship team. The Bama offense looks to keep it going facing off against the Rams 85th ranked scoring defense. Alabama’s pass defense looks to bounce back against an average pass offense in Colorado State. The Tide already have four non-offensive touchdowns on the season.
Missouri looks to go to 3-0 for the first time since 2010 when they travel to Indiana. James Franklin is healthy and looking good, having thrown for over 200 yards per game in each of his first two. He leads the SEC in attempts per game at just over 31 passes per. The Tiger defense has forced a turnover in 32 straight games.
Texas A&M looks to get back on track against SMU and June Jones this week in College Station. Mike Evans is the fastest receiver in school history to 100 receptions and leads the nation in reception yardage. Johnny Manziel has thrown for over 400 yards in back-to-back games. The return of Steven Jenkins helps the defense. He had a career high 13 tackles against Alabama.
Georgia comes off a bye week looking to show improvement in its defense against North Texas. Aaron Murray leads the SEC in yards per attempt at 12.2 yards and he is completing over 71 percent of his passes. Todd Gurley is sixth in the nation at 143 yards per game and the Mean Green of North Texas rank 75th in the country versus the run.
Vanderbilt looks to even its record at 2-2 when it travels to Foxborough to take on UMass. The Dores are looking for their sixth straight win against a non-conference opponent. Jordan Matthews is fifth in the nation in receiving yards.
Mississippi State looks to even up its record at 2-2 against Troy this week. The Bulldogs had a streak of 39 straight wins when leading heading to the fourth quarter snapped in their loss to Auburn. Dan Mullen is 15-3 against non-conference opponents in the regular season. Dak Prescott was the first Bulldog quarterback to rush for 100 yards and pass for over 200 yards in a game since 2010.