The college football season gets another week older, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for around the conference outside of the battle between Kentucky and Florida.
1. How long will Vanderbilt be able to keep up with Alabama?
Under Head Coach Derek Mason, the Commodores are off to a surprisingly impressive start this season.
They are currently one of five teams in the SEC who remain undefeated after their upset victory over 18th ranked Kansas State last weekend.
That big victory happened mostly due to a dominant defensive showing on the part of the Commodores. They held the Wildcats to just 277 total yards and 76 passing yards thanks to creative defensive formations that confused Kansas State.
Look at the formation right before Ryan White intercepted Ertz. He was confused. This is why Coach Mason is a defensive genius. pic.twitter.com/eK8HHUV7sS
— Vandy_62âš“â¬‡ (@vandy_62) September 18, 2017
However, it seems like their perfect start is about to hit a metaphorical brick wall this week in the form of the top-ranked Crimson Tide. While their chances at the upset are slim, coaches around the conference will be watching to see just how long Mason and company will stay in the contest.
Florida State kept things interesting in their week one matchup with Alabama, but they ran out of steam in the second half and got embarrassed. If Vanderbilt is still in the game with the Crimson Tide deep into the fourth quarter, then these Commodores might be ready to contend for an SEC East title.
2. Nick Fitzgerald and the Heisman Race
After last week’s dismantling of LSU, No. 17 Mississippi State will have an even tougher task this week as they travel to Athens to take on No. 11 Georgia between the hedges.
Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has been the most impressive quarterback so far in the conference. He has tallied almost 800 total yards, 12 total TD’s, and only one interception in just three games. His impressive start already has some putting him into the Heisman discussion.
Fitzgerald’s abilities both as a runner and a passer decimated the LSU defense in last week’s 37-7 blowout. On one particular play, he ran a play-action pass all by himself and still burnt the defense for a huge touchdown.
180 Pass YDs
88 Rush YDs
4 Total TDs
Nick Fitzgerald out here putting on a SHOW. pic.twitter.com/meZZ9GkGUo
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 17, 2017
If Mississippi State can beat a talented Georgia team on the road behind a stellar performance from Fitzgerald, then he will firmly put himself at the forefront of Heisman voter’s minds as the best player in the SEC.
3. Kevin Sumlin and the Hot Seat
After three straight 8-5 seasons and two straight bowl losses, Texas A&M Head Coach Kevin Sumlin came into the season already on the hot seat.
Three games into the season and the Aggies have put together one of the biggest collapses in college football history against UCLA, a 10-point win over Nicholls State, and a 24-point win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
It’s safe to say that his seat is on fire right now, especially after a public Facebook post from a member of the Texas A&M Board of Regents called for his firing after that meltdown against UCLA.
If the Aggies don’t get a win this week against one of the weaker SEC West teams in Arkansas, or even worse they get blown out, his “seat” may get too hot for Texas A&M to handle.
4. Will Jarrett Stidham get the Auburn offense back on track?
Before the season started, former Baylor QB Jarret Stidham was being hyped up as a possible darkhorse Heisman candidate and the player who would get the Auburn offense back to national prominence.
As a freshman at Baylor, Stidham passed for an impressive 1,265 yards, 12 TD’s, only two interceptions on just 75 completions.
However, the Tigers are currently ranked 71st in the nation in total offense, and Stidham only has three total touchdowns and two interceptions in Auburn’s 2-1 start. Their embarrassing performance in week two left Stidham getting sacked a painful 11 times by the very talented Clemson defense.
Stidham and the Tiger offense have a great chance to get back on the track against Missouri who has already given up at least 30 points to both South Carolina and Purdue. If Stidham can’t help turn things around this week, then their next matchup against Miss. State could be a rough wakeup call.
5. LSU looks for a strong rebound
Unfortunately for LSU, the Tigers were on the wrong side of that 37-7 blowout in Starkville last week.
This wasn’t just an off day for Ed Orgeron’s ball club either. They were simply outclassed in every facet of the game and the Bulldogs shockingly looked more talented.
The good news is that they return to Baton Rouge where they will play under the lights against a high-paced Syracuse offense.
While LSU is a heavy favorite against Orange, it will be interesting to see just how strongly the Tigers will respond after facing adversity early in Orgeron’s first season at the helm.
While a young LSU defense continues to figure things out, look for star halfback Derrius Guice to try and dominate a weak Syracuse defense. If Guice can get back to his impressive 2016 production after running for just 76 yards last week, the Tigers might bounce back in a big way.