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 Eastern Michigan.
1. Auburn’s Time to Shine
In the only ranked matchup within SEC this week, No. 13. Auburn will play host to No. 24 Miss. State Saturday night.
The Bulldogs are coming off a very disappointing loss to the now highly ranked Georgia Bulldogs while the Tigers got their offense back on track with a 51-14 beatdown of Missouri last week.
Miss. State had their chance to impress on a national stage in a premier conference matchup, and they completely failed as they showed they may not have the talent to win the SEC.
Now it’s Auburn’s turn in the spotlight.
The Tigers may realistically be the only competition Alabama may have this year in the conference, however the Iron Bowl is still weeks away and there is plenty of talented competition for Auburn before that matchup.
Their first big step towards that inevitable showdown is winning that first ranked conference game at home. The only question is what version of Jarrett Stidham and the Tigers will show up on Saturday night?
2. Is Georgia For Real?
Yes, it’s another year and all of college football is asking the same question: Is Georgia going to make the SEC title game……or will they barely miss it in excruciating fashion?
The answer at this moment seems to be the former after they defeated a Miss St. team 31-3 who had a lot of momentum heading into the matchup.
Put that together with an impressive victory on the road against a talented Notre Dame squad and the Bulldogs from Athens have an impressive, undefeated resume.
However, this week they will travel to Knoxville to take on Tennessee, and Neyland Stadium is never an easy place to play for any opponent.
A convincing victory this week in a tough environment will further validate Bulldogs as the class of the SEC East even if they are playing the struggling Volunteers.
Which brings us to our next big storyline…..
3. Butch’s Last Chance?
Things aren’t looking too great for ole Butch Jones and Tennessee right now.
In the span of two weeks they lost to Florida mostly due to his coaching mistakes, and last week the Volunteers didn’t come ready to play against lowly Massachusetts and barely got the 17-13 victory.
It would be different if this was his first or second year at Rocky Top, but this is year five and after peaking at 9-4 the past two seasons it seems like Tennessee has regressed.
The good news is that can all change by beating the best team in the division on Saturday. Do so, and the narrative against Jones can completely change. This may even be a possibility with the continued performance of the SEC’s leading rusher John Kelly who can humiliate defenders like this:
Jr RB John Kelly from Tennessee is one of the most fun RB to watch on film in this year's eligible draft class. +++balance and COD pic.twitter.com/kkGC14P1vd
— Marcus Chai (@OakRaiders_GM) September 18, 2017
If another embarrassment like Florida occurs for Jones, or even worse the Volunteers get blown out, it may be time for Tennessee to admit that while they may be champions at life, they may never be the champions of college football with Jones at the helm.
4. The slugfest between Vanderbilt and Florida
If you are a fan of some good ‘ole fashion defensive football then look no further because I have just the game for you.
Vanderbilt takes a visit this weekend to Gainesville in a crucial SEC East matchup with Florida. The Commodores are coming off one of their worst losses in school history thanks to the Crimson Tide’s 59-0 beatdown, and the Gators….well we know what they did last week.
These two teams are statistically the worst offensive teams in the conference ranking 13th and 14th in total offense and total point per game. Florida will have a very important home field advantage; however, this is the best Vanderbilt has been since 2013 (James Franklin’s last season).
The winner of this game will most likely be Georgia’s only competition in the fight to win the East if there aren’t drastic changes down the stretch of the season.
It will be brutal, ugly, and hard to watch, but this will be one of the most important games in the SEC East this season.
5. Just How Good Is Shea Patterson?
Look, any sane person knows that Alabama is most likely going to embarrass Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa on Saturday so that’s not really the storyline.
However, there is something that everyone should be watching, and that is Mississippi Quarterback Shea Patterson. So far, this season
Patterson has by far been the best pure quarterback in the SEC — and there is not a close second.
He leads the conference in just about every major passing category while managing to complete an impressive 70% of his passes like the ones shown below
— Chris Hudgison (@ChrisHudgison) September 14, 2017
His talent is obvious, but the nation will see just how good Patterson really is against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense. If he can at least put together a solid outing against Alabama, then the rest of the conference will be put on notice as this guy will shred SEC defenses all season.