Another week, another six-game SEC docket. We have a few teams with a chance to secure “statement” wins, and still others that may be all but eliminated from the SEC race and bowl consideration. We’ll peel back this week’s SEC “onion”, but before we do, let’s take a look at some of last week’s key storylines.
- No “Gurley” effort: All the talk last week was around Georgia and suspended running back Todd Gurley. The Bulldogs proved not to need him, as they hammered Missouri 34-0. Georgia outrushed Mizzou to the nearly unpredictable tune of 210-50, as Nick Chubb gained 143 of those yards on 38 carries. Gurley will not play again this week, but if Georgia keeps getting these kinds of efforts, it may not matter.
- Kentucky rolls again: I mentioned before last week’s games that Kentucky was essentially a juggernaut thus far this season, and they proved it again last week by putting the wood to ULM, 48-14. The Wildcats registered 352 yards of offense, but notched 14 points off ULM turnovers and capitalized on several huge passing plays to take down the visitors from Monroe and move to 5-1.
- All your eggs in two baskets: Mississippi State and Ole Miss both notched notable victories last week, with Mississippi State’s 38-23 takedown of Auburn enough to earn the Bulldogs the #1 spot in the polls. If both teams can hang on until the Egg Bowl without suffering a loss, that will make for what will likely be the most important game in the series’ history.
Before we roll out our Keyword Search and Info Guide features, here’s this week’s trivia question!
SEC Trivia, Week 8 (answer at the end of the column): South Carolina will tee it up against Furman looking to avoid a three-game losing streak. When was the Gamecocks’ last three-game losing streak, and against whom did those losses occur?
Furman (2-4, 1-1 SoCon) at South Carolina (3-3, 2-3 SEC)
Noon | SEC Network
Info guide: Furman is hardly an unfamiliar foe to the Gamecocks, despite their lack of recent history. The Paladins are actually 1-1 in their last two games against South Carolina, though that 28-23 Furman victory came in 1982. In a bit more recent history, Furman was an FCS playoff participant last season, taking the three-way split of the SoCon title. The Paladins beat in-state foe South Carolina State before finally succumbing to #1 (and eventual national champion) North Dakota State in a 38-7 decision. The Paladins took highly-ranked Coastal Carolina to overtime last week, before falling 37-31.
Apropos of nearly nothing — especially since this game will be played in Columbia — Furman has one of the most picturesque campuses in the South, or anywhere, for that matter. If you find yourself on US Highway 276 between Greenville and Travelers Rest, stop by and take a stroll.
Starring: QB P.J. Blazejowski (12-for-18, 127 yards, TD; 81 rushing yards, TD last week against Coastal Carolina)
Furman pass defense (132.5 yards per game, leads FCS)
WR Jordan Snellings (25 catches, 345 yards, 2 TD)
DE Gary Wilkins (4.5 sacks, INT return for TD, preseason all-SoCon)
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Furman is athletic, smart and well-coached. Bruce Fowler’s club almost surely won’t beat USC, but they’ll give a great effort.
Keyword Search (all times Eastern and rankings AP)
#21 Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC) at #7 Alabama (5-1, 2-1 SEC)
3:30pm | CBS
- I feel so weak / on a losing streak: A&M comes into this contest having lost back-to-back games to the two Mississippi schools. Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies have defeated six top-25 schools, though all of them have come on the road. This is potentially good news for the Aggies, as they play in Tuscaloosa, where Johnny Manziel announced himself to college football fans everywhere.
- Minor progress: A&M’s much-maligned defensive unit took a ton of heat for the team’s 2013 performance, and they appear to have made a few ever-so-small steps this season. Ole Miss managed just 338 yards against the Aggies in last week’s win. That said, A&M has allowed fewer than 300 yards just twice this season, to FCS Lamar and hapless SMU. SEC foes average 453-and-a-half yards against the Aggie defense in four games.
- Cause for concern: Alabama coach Nick Saban ranted last week about how it irritated him (to put it mildly) that expectations were so high at Alabama that a 14-13 victory “wasn’t good enough”. Of bigger concern to Saban should be his team’s offensive output. The Tide opened the conference schedule by hammering Florida and rolling up 672 yards of offense; however, the Tide have managed just 623 total yards (311.5 per game) in games against Ole Miss and Arkansas.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This game will likely set up a lot of things near the top of the SEC, despite losing a bit of its luster.
#10 Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC) at Arkansas (3-3, 0-3 SEC)
4:00pm | SEC Network
- Runnin’ on empty: Opposing rushers have not found safe passage against the Georgia defense. The Bulldogs allow just 101.67 yards per game (12th in the FBS) on the ground. With that said…
- Born to run: Arkansas ranks 11th in the nation in rushing offense, carrying the ball for 278.67 yards per game. The Razorbacks’ sports information department points out that they are the only school in the FBS with two running backs who have run for 500 yards (Alex Collins’ 634 and Jonathan Williams’ 569 accomplishing that feat). Arkansas has carried for just over 175 yards per game in conference, though, and they managed just 66 yards on 32 carries against Alabama.
- How has this never happened?: Georgia’s 34-0 whitewashing of Missouri was the first time the Bulldogs have ever pitched a shutout in a top-25 team’s home stadium. It’s back to the neutral sites for the ‘Dogs this week, as this game will be played in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium. Georgia has never played in War Memorial.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Arkansas is a truly snakebit team, having played SEC competition quite close. Tough time to draw Georgia, though.
Tennessee (3-3, 0-2) at #3 Ole Miss (6-0, 3-0 SEC)
7:00pm | ESPN
- Guests at the Grove: Tennessee and Ole Miss have played 65 times in their series history. However, just four of those games have taken place in Oxford. Tennessee has won three of those games. This weekend is homecoming at Ole Miss, and this year may not be the most ideal for the Vols to take that fifth trip.
- Throwing troubles: Neither Chattanooga nor Florida reached the 100-yard passing mark against Tennessee, the first time that has happened with consecutive Vol opponents in twelve years. Don’t look for a repeat of that this week, as Ole Miss has thrown for 178 yards or greater in every game this season. The A&M game last week was the first time the Rebels have attempted fewer than 31 passes in a game.
- Dominant defense: Ole Miss scored two defensive touchdowns against A&M last week, with one coming on an interception return and the other on a fumble return. This gave the Rebels’ D four touchdowns on the season. They have only allowed six touchdowns all year.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: What seemed so promising for Tennessee just two weeks ago is now in serious jeopardy. It may be next year for the Vols.
Missouri (4-2, 1-1 SEC) at Florida (3-2, 2-2 SEC)
7:00pm | ESPN
- The road feels like home: Mizzou has not been defeated on the road since falling at Kyle Field in 2012. The Tigers beat Indiana, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Georgia and Ole Miss away from Columbia in 2013, and own victories over Toledo and South Carolina this season. Missouri went 2-3 on the road in 2012.
- Ball protection: Florida enjoys quite the advantage in turnover margin. The Gators sport a plus-five turnover margin. That number is good for a tie for 15th place among FBS teams. Missouri, meanwhile, has an even turnover margin.
- Bouncing back: The aforementioned shutout of Missouri last week was only the second time Mizzou has been shut out under Gary Pinkel. Kansas State shut out the Tigers 38-0 to close the 2002 season at Faurot Field. The Tigers won their first four games of the 2003 season.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: This game is suddenly huge for both teams. It’s hard to see Will Muschamp surviving if Florida doesn’t turn it around.
Kentucky (5-1, 2-1 SEC) at LSU (5-2, 1-2 SEC)
7:30pm | SEC Network
- It only takes one: The Wildcats are one win shy of bowl eligibility. Kentucky has not appeared in a bowl since 2010, where Pitt defeated UK 27-10. The last bowl victory for the Wildcats came in 2008, as they defeated East Carolina 25-19 in the Liberty Bowl.
- Running up that hill: LSU has defeated UK five of the last six times they have played, though just three of those meetings have taken place in the last 12 years. Of course, Kentucky all but claimed another victory over LSU in 2002, and you likely remember the outcome of that one.
- All about the Benjamins: LSU’s sports information department mentions that the Tigers are 3-0 this season and have won 43 of 47 games under Les Miles in which an LSU back carries for 100 yards. Kentucky has allowed two 200-plus yard rushing performances against SEC competition this year, as Florida ran for 237 yards in a victory over Kentucky, while South Carolina rushed for 282 in defeat in Lexington.
Print that, tweet that, whatever: Kentucky is off to a tremendous start and could very well win this game. However, note the game time and location before making that pick.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: South Carolina will tee it up against Furman looking to avoid a three-game losing streak. When was the Gamecocks’ last three-game losing streak, and against whom did those losses occur?
South Carolina last lost three consecutive games in 2009. Those losses came at Tennessee, at Arkansas, and at home against Florida.