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 as four of the top five ranked teams in the SEC will be playing on the road.
1. LSU’s Surprising Season Heads to the Swamp
After six weeks into the 2018 college football season one of the biggest stories in the SEC has been the play of the LSU Tigers. During media days in July the Tigers were picked to finish fifth overall…in their division!!
Fast forward to the start of October and Ed Orgeron’s squad is the fifth best overall team in the entire nation according to voting polls. How did this huge leap get made exactly?
It quite simply begins and ends with the play of new quarterback Joe Burrow who has completely changed this football team. Now don’t get me wrong, Burrow isn’t the most talented quarterback in the conference.
However, he is a natural game manager that makes incredibly smart decisions with the football against very talented defenses. And no, being called a “game manager” is not a back-handed compliment. It takes a high amount of IQ to earn that title and that’s what Burrow has.
Loved the way #LSU eased Joe Burrow into the Ole Miss game. Some short, higher percentage throws to start. Then he dropped these two dimes: play action crossing route under pressure, then a fade to Ja'Marr Chase for 6. pic.twitter.com/BvdzKCDP1b
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) October 1, 2018
So how will Burrow and company perform on the road against a tough Florida team who just had a huge win on the road against Mississippi State?
The spread is currently in favor of LSU by just 2.5 points. Personally, I think that’s yet another ludicrous spread. It seems like we get a stupid spread like this at least once a weekend just because the underdog has home field advantage. Did everyone forget that UK beat the Gators at home earlier this season?
I’m actually high on Florida this season, and I also think that LSU will flame out. However, this is a great matchup for the Tigers. In what will be a competitive, defensive matchup expect running back Nick Brossette to impose his will on a Florida defense that is giving up 171 rushing yards per game.
Expect a fun contest, but the Tigers will pull away in the second half and cover that spread with ease.
2. Kentucky’s Biggest Test Yet
Having fun yet Wildcat fans?
Thanks to amazing offensive line play, a defense that is as good as advertised, and a Heisman-level year so far from Benny Snell Jr. the Wildcats have been the toast of the SEC East thus far.
While everything has been the definition of perfect, now the Wildcats get their biggest test of the season. Today they have to try to win on the road in Aggieland underneath the lights against a Jimbo Fisher-led squad.
A lot of people are upset that the No. 13 team in the country is not favored against an unranked team, but just look at those circumstances I listed out above. I’m not surprised in the least that Kentucky is not favored.
But that does not mean they will lose this ballgame. A look at the stats tells a story that most everyone knows: The Aggies and the Wildcats are both great at running the ball and at stopping the run.
National Rush Defense Rankings
6. Texas A&M (85)
8. Auburn (92)
16t. LSU (103)
22. Arkansas (105)
24. Georgia (108)
26. Kentucky (111)
31. Mississippi State (120)
43. Alabama (126)
— Around the SEC (@AroundTheSEC) October 1, 2018
Snell and Trayveon Williams are the two best running backs in the SEC at the moment so expect some awesome performances from each. However, something has to give between these two similar ball clubs.
For Kentucky to win this game, Josh Allen and the rest of the defense must stack the box and make Kellen Mond beat them with his arm. To no surprise, that’s what the Aggies will do to the Wildcats on defense as well.
Terry Wilson is your equalizer, folks. If he outplays Mond the Wildcats will win. But that’s just too unpredictable for me because Wilson has not earned my trust as a passer just yet. Out of all the games this week, this is the one that I’m staying away from picking.
3. Can Mississippi State Save Its Season?
Without a doubt, the biggest disappointment in college football this season has been the Mississippi State Bulldogs and it’s not even close. They have already lost two SEC games…BEFORE they have played a single game against the SEC West.
I was so, so high on the Bulldogs before the season, and wow that is my coldest take yet. It’s obvious that this team as a whole misses Dan Mullen more than I thought they would. Plus, Nick Fitzgerald absolutely stinks right now.
I always thought Nick Fitzgerald could turn out to be a bad fit for Joe Moorhead's offense.
— Patrick Magee (@Patrick_Magee) September 30, 2018
— Jason DiRienzo (@allpurposescout) October 6, 2018
To make things even worse, the No. 8 Auburn Tigers are coming to Starkville today, and I’m officially jumping ship on the Bulldogs. Fitzgerald has incredibly low confidence (and completion percentage) right now and this is not the team to play at the moment.
I don’t care that this is another highly ranked SEC team playing on the road, and I don’t care what the spread is. Auburn is still out for revenge after narrowly losing to LSU at home. The Tigers will cover here in a defensive battle. Dark days in Starkville have arrived.
4. A Critical SEC East Battle
In one of the most underrated games of the day, Missouri will travel to South Carolina in a very important SEC East bout. This matchup stands as a crossroads for both programs.
Missouri has only lost to Georgia thus far in conference play which means that there is a crazy way that they could actually make the SEC Championship game considering that Georgia still has to play LSU and Auburn.
South Carolina on the other hand has already lost two SEC games so they can’t afford another defeat if they want to have a successful season. Plus, I just really think the Gamecocks are overrated this season, so they need to win every home game they have.
In what will be a competitive matchup, I’m actually pretty confident that Missouri will win this game and cover that one-point spread. These teams are pretty evenly matched, but I think the difference will be that Drew Lock will play better than Jake Bentley will.
— Joe (@JDec89) October 4, 2018
Don’t forget, Missouri is coming off a bye week, plus they played Georgia much, much closer than that final score indicates.
I have a funny feeling about the Tigers and Lock right now. Their season really is just getting started and they are truly the wildcard team in the East after Georgia, UK, and Florida. This game will prove if they are for real or not.
5. The Tua Hype Train Heads to Arkansas
If you aren’t already on the Tua Tagovailoa hype train this season….then what exactly are you doing with your life? I’m going to list some of Tua’s stats so far this year and I swear they are all completely true.
- On third down, he has just three incompletions total. Yupp. That’s it.
- His passer efficiency rating is 238.32. The previous NCAA record is 196.9 set by Baker Mayfield.
- His percentage of passes that are touchdowns is 15.9%. The NCAA record is 11.6%.
- Last season Alabama averaged eight yards per pass attempt. This season Tua averages 13.2 yards per pass attempt which is good for second in the county.
- He still has zero (0) interceptions on the season.
- He has not thrown a single pass in a fourth quarter yet this season.
- I’ve talked about him so much this year that I can actually spell his name correctly on first try.
I don’t care what season anyone else is having, Tua is a clear-cut favorite for the Heisman trophy. In fact, I can’t remember a year in which we are this far into a college football season and someone has this kind of death grip on the award.
So does Arkansas have a chance this week at home? No, of course not. As long as this guy is at quarterback for this insanely talented team, I quite honestly don’t think anyone stands a chance. Its officially Saban’s and Tua’s world now. We are all just living in it.