In a week where College GameDay had to go to James Madison University to find a proper environment, there’s actually a couple SEC games that might salvage a slate of games that has a similar excitement factor to that of watching paint dry. With that being said, it’s still going to be a rough week. There’s a lot of teams who walking in the desolate wasteland of “this was supposed to be our year.” You’ve got the preseason-hype champions, in the Auburn Tigers, who are 4-2 and 1-for-2 on quarterbacks this year. Both Missouri and Vanderbilt have offensive coordinators who should be imprisoned for the eyesores they’ve been responsible for producing this year. Plus, you’ve got the kings of inconsistency, the boys in Lexington and Starksville.
Sure, it’s not the best week in college football, but it’s nice to have a week off every now and again. Chances are that your team plays a conference bottom feeder, or your team is that conference bottom feeder. So throw the game on in the background, get some stuff around the house. Perhaps even go to the park this weekend and get some fresh air. Because let’s be honest, even if you’re a fan do you really want to slog through four quarters of Missouri vs. Vanderbilt or Mississippi State vs. Kentucky? No, probably not. Anyways, it’s Week 8 in the SEC, so let’s take a deeper look at some of the storylines for this weekend.
Auburn at Arkansas
Both teams should be coming into this feeling relatively good about themselves. Against Alabama last week, Arkansas was leading 7-3 at halftime thanks to their defense forcing a pair of interceptions from Jake Coker. Auburn scratched out a tight 30-27 win over Kentucky, but a win’s a win, and a it’s a conference one at that. Sean White didn’t throw a touchdown, but he didn’t commit any turnovers and had 255 passing yards. Interestingly, White has yet to throw a touchdown pass this season, but my money’s on him finally getting one this week against Arkansas. Gus Malzahn knows that if this game were to become a contest between defense and running backs, he’s on the wrong side of scale. White has started three games now for the Tigers, so he’s at least somewhat acclimated to their scheme now, which should allow for Malzahn to call some plays he might not have been comfortable with before. As for the Razorbacks, it’ll be keeping the game in that defensive/rushing attack theme. They’ll need to possess the ball, limit big plays, and keep handing the ball off to Alex Collins. Arkansas has one of the best offensive lines in the country, and if they get into the second level of the run game and can take down Auburn’s linebackers, this game is toast. The over/under for this game is 51, and that seems fairly accurate, if a tad high. This has the looks of a 28-21 score, with 2-3 turnovers combined, and the obligatory “what is Bret Bielema doing right now?” playcalling.
#8 Alabama vs. Tennessee
The line for this game favors Alabama by 15, which seems absurd. Sure, Butch Jones has blown some awful games this year, but I won’t be making the “they’re only 2 plays away from only having one loss!” argument, because quite frankly, that’s not the case. Butch Jones really just blew it in the Florida and Oklahoma games, it’s simple as that. However, Tennessee has no lack of talent. There’s several future NFLers on this team, and it’s a little much for Alabama to come out favored by two touchdowns against a talented conference opponent. The Volunteers have the secondary to force Jake Coker to make the hard throws, and the front seven has the pieces to contain Derrick Henry. The factor that sways the game so heavily in favor of Alabama has been their performance since their Ole Miss loss and the fact that this game is played in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has been as good as anybody since that loss, and would be in the top five in the polls if it weren’t for that. Safety Eddie Jackson has five interceptions this year, including two last week against Texas A&M. Reggie Ragland has locked himself into a Top-20 pick in the NFL draft, as well as A’Shawn Robinson, too. The Crimson Tide matchup well against the Volunteers offense, they have a defensive line who can stop the run, linebackers who can make the correct play against the read-option, and a secondary that will give Josh Dobbs fits as he tries to find an open receiver. Alabama is playing at a top-tier level, and Tennessee got a nice win over Georgia last week. I’ll take Tennessee +15, with the idea that this game ends up in ten point differential between the two teams.
Mizzou at Vanderbilt
Offense: bleh. Defense: great! Special teams: bleh.
Any game preview you’ll read about this matchup will ultimately boil down to those three points. Neither team has a go-to guy on offense, due to limitations in either the talent or experience departments. Throw in the fact that these teams both have some vicious defenses, and those lackluster offenses will be in for a very long afternoon. Quite honestly, that’s all you really need to know about this game. Both teams suck, have massive issues scoring points, and it’s going to be a game I’ll need SEVERAL beers for to be able to watch my beloved Tigers. The upside of this game? It’s in Nashville, so fans of both teams can go drink their misery away after the inevitable final score of 3-0.
#15 Texas A&M at #24 Ole Miss
If Kyle Allen doesn’t throw three interceptions against Alabama, the Aggies win. I know that’s an easy argument, but Allen has a future in the NFL one day and he’s not going to be tossing up ducks all day like he was against the Crimson Tide. As for Ole Miss, they haven’t played well against good teams since their upset of Alabama. That’s a full month of just looking above-average. Being simply “above-average” won’t cut it against Texas A&M, who have the best offense in the SEC. The Rebels do get Laremy Tunsil back at left tackle, but it’ll be his first game of the season and he’ll lining up opposite conference sack leader, Myles Garrett. Tunsil is as talented as any left tackle in the nation, but it’s his first game action in ten months, so he might end up struggling at points in this game. On the other side of the ball, stud defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche had a concussion against Memphis last week, and his status for this game is still up in the air. I’m doubtful he’ll play, which would be a huge hit to the Rebels defense. He does so many things on that defensive line, and his absence could be the nail in the coffin for Ole Miss. You’ve got the Aggies coming in pissed off they lost to Alabama, your best player is potentially out for the game, and you’re playing two of the premier talents in the conference. I’ll put my money on Ole Miss being unranked after this weekend.
#5 LSU vs. Western Kentucky
I bet you didn’t know that the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers have the same amount of wins as LSU. Yep, Western Kentucky is 6-1, with their only loss coming to Indiana. The Hilltoppers are defined by their videogame like offense, that have scored over 50 points in three of their games this season. LSU just gave up 28 points to a Treon Harris-led offense last week against Florida, and that doesn’t bode well for this week considering Harris can’t throw the ball farther than ten yards on a consistent basis. Luckily for LSU fans, they have future Heisman-winner Leonard Fournette on their side. After watching him for six weeks now, I’m convinced that guy could take LSU to the playoffs. He ran for 180 yards against Florida, who have the second-best defense in the SEC. Western Kentucky isn’t totally devoid of defensive talent, but they certainly aren’t the Gators. I think LSU scheduled this game with the hopes it would be a nice reprieve from the constant beating within conference play. The Tigers better not sleep on this game though, because the Hilltoppers will jump out early and make Brandon Harris throw the ball, which is never a good thing.
Kentucky at Mississippi State
I knocked these teams for being inconsistent earlier, but it’s really just Kentucky that’s been truly inconsistent this season. Mississippi State has just failed to wow me this season, they lost to LSU and Texas A&M, and only put up 17 on Auburn. Kentucky seemingly hasn’t been able to get all gears firing at the same time. They’re sitting at 4-2, but it’s a deceiving four wins. Their two conference wins have come against South Carolina and Mizzou, who are two of the bottom four SEC teams right now. The other two wins on their record have come against UL-Lafayette and Eastern Kentucky, not exactly quality opponents. This actually applies to Mississippi State as well, who have one conference win against Auburn, and their other four wins have come against the likes of Louisiana Tech and Southern Mississippi. So to cap off our long day of sub par games, we have a game against two teams who have no meat to their schedules and have struggled noticeably at times through the season.
Featured image: bamahammer.com