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 Missouri.
1. Florida’s QB Situation
Both Feleipe Franks and Luke Del Rio have split time behind center this season for the Gators, but now Del Rio is out for the season due to an injury he suffered last week.
Instead of having two below average quarterbacks to choose from, now the Gators just have one in Franks who is a freshman. So far, Franks has had mixed results behind center. He has just 557 passing yards, but has managed a completion percentage of 63%, and he has the 7th best quarterback rating in the conference.
With LSU coming to Gainesville this weekend, Franks must grow up fast for a bad Gator offense to overcome a talented Tiger defense.
Florida managed to dodge both Alabama and Auburn from the west this season, and after already defeating Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky a victory over LSU pretty much ensures that their game against Georgia will decide which team represents the east in the conference championship.
All eyes will be on young Franks as he tries to scrap together a win against the Tiger defense, and at 6’5, 227 pounds, the young freshman has the arm strength to do so.
– The Game Haus Sports (@TGHSports) September 30, 2017
2. LSU’s Battle for Pride
Troy University (a Sun Belt team) went into Death Valley during a night game and beat LSU. That’s a sentence I really just typed, and yes it felt super weird.
– Troy FB âš”ï¸âš”ï¸âš”ï¸âš”ï¸ (@TroyTrojansFB) October 1, 2017
This was without a doubt the SEC’s most embarrassing loss this season, but more importantly it was LSU’s most embarrassing loss in recent memory.
After already getting blown out on the road to Mississippi State (which is looking more like a bad loss to an average team) this season has taken a turn for the worst for new coach Ed Orgeron.
The good news is that despite these failures, there are plenty of talented teams left on the Tiger’s schedule for LSU to beat beginning with Florida this week.
A win this week on the road would give the Tigers a renewed sense of pride and it could drastically change their season. But another embarrassing loss could mean this team will be fighting just to earn a bowl bid with challenging teams like Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, and Tennessee still on the schedule.
3. Vandy’s Second Chance at a Top 5 Upset
Vanderbilt has had a very rough past couple of weeks. First, they absolutely got ran over by the Crimson Tide in front of a home crowd where Alabama did things like this to the Commodores:
– Brandon in Lindale (@KrzyKeeb) September 23, 2017
Then last week Vanderbilt lost a huge SEC East game against the Gators which means that in order for the Commodores to win the East, they are going to have to defeat the 5th ranked Georgia Bulldogs this weekend at home.
The really bad news is that this Georgia team has a defense that is in the same league as the Crimson Tide’s. It isn’t quite as talented as Alabama’s, but Kirby Smart’s schemes have been giving team’s fits all season long.
This is another game in which Vanderbilt will probably get blown out again, but quarterback Kyle Shurmur may have something to say to that. So far this season, Shurmur has the best touchdown-interception ratio (11 to 1) of any quarterback in the conference.
However, even despite a good performance from Shurmur, the Commodore defense will decide the outcome of this game. In Vanderbilt’s three wins this season the defense has given up just 13 points. In their two losses, their defense has given up 97 points. Ouch.
4. Will Alabama embarrass Texas A&M?
Despite this matchup being at Texas A&M, the question isn’t whether the Crimson Tide will win, but it’s how much they will win by.
No offense to the talented Aggies who are still undefeated in SEC play, but this is the wrong time for anyone to play Alabama. In their last two games, they have defeated two SEC opponents by a combined score of 125-3. That is just insane especially when its coming against teams from the SEC.
At this point of the season, it’s obvious that the Crimson Tide is far and away the class of the conference and there is not a close second.
But don’t forget, Texas A&M has a mobile, athletic quarterback which is something that Alabama has had trouble with in the past. The bad news is that Kellen Mond is a freshman that is trying to adjust to big time college football.
This all the makings of another blowout win for the best team in college football, but it will be interesting to see if heavily criticized Head Coach Kevin Sumlin can lead Texas A&M to a respectable game against the Crimson Tide.
5. Will any QB finally breakthrough this week?
As previously mentioned, it’s not a very good sign when Kyle Shurmur is debatably the most consistent quarterback in the conference.
Of course, Alabama has the overall best quarterback in the SEC in Jalen Hurts, but his stats this season haven’t been great due to the Crimson Tide running backs being so dominant.
Jarret Stidham, Jake Bentley, Nick Fitzgerald, Shea Patterson, and even Jake Fromm are having nice seasons, but no SEC quarterback has officially broken through on a national stage this year. Fitzgerald got the closest when Miss. State destroyed LSU, but since then he has under performed and beating LSU doesn’t look as impressive now.
If previous history tells us anything, an SEC quarterback is guaranteed to emerge as a potential Heisman Candidate. It just isn’t clear yet who it will be or when it will happen.
Lookout for Fromm, Hurts, Stidham, and possibly Stephen Johnson from Kentucky to be the breakout candidates this week as they all have favorable matchups against questionable defenses.
My money is on either Stidham and Hurts to finally start having big games, but only time will tell which quarterback will truly explode onto the national stage.