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 Kentucky sits back and enjoys their bye week.
1. UK Fans Will Turn into Texas A&M Fans on Saturday
It may not be the biggest game in the SEC this week, but there won’t be a more important game then when Texas A&M travels to Gainesville to take on Florida. To put it simply, this is a must win for both teams if they want to keep their hopes for an SEC Championship berth alive.
Florida messed up in a big way last week by dropping its matchup against LSU, now they will most likely have to win out in the SEC (which means beating Georgia) to win the East.
This is exactly why UK fans should be rooting for Texas A&M victory on Saturday. If the Aggies can pull off the upset UK will actually have a shot at winning the East (believe it or not). The Wildcats conference schedule is relatively easy besides a road matchup with Georgia.
They play what could possibly be the four worst teams in the SEC (Miss St., Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt) all before that big game with Georgia.
For the Aggies to pull off the upset in Gainesville, freshman quarterback Kellen Mond will need to connect with star receiver Christian Kirk often. Kirk will be the best player on the field and the Aggies need to utilize him to have a chance like they did against Alabama:
What a play by Kellen Mond and Christian Kirk pic.twitter.com/444o5y2u6g
— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) October 8, 2017
2. The Dumpster Fire in Knoxville
Tennessee football is a ship… except the ship is up in flames… and we've hit 5 icebergs… and Butch Jones is in the Captain's chair….
— Nolan (@nolan_smith3) October 10, 2017
No matter what team you are a fan of, just know that things could always be worse — you could be a Tennessee football fan.
Butch Jones is fighting for his job on a literal week-to-week basis, and to make matters worse former starting QB Quinten Dormandy almost quit the team this week after losing the starting job.
The Volunteers are still winless in the SEC and this week they will take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Neyland Stadium. Make no mistake about it: for the sake of Jones, this is a must win for the heavily criticized head coach.
South Carolina just isn’t as talented of a team as Tennessee is in my opinion, and next week the Volunteers will be losing to the Crimson Tide. Lose this game, and Butch Jones will be coaching a team that’s 0-4 in the SEC heading into the matchup with Kentucky.
If Tennessee loses this game, he will probably not be around when the Volunteers take on the Wildcats.
3. Signs of Life in Baton Rouge?
There is no question that LSU has had a bad start to the season with bad losses to Troy (HOW??) and Miss St. However, the Tigers got a huge road win last week against a formerly ranked team in Florida.
That’s the type of win that could potentially turn a season around. Remember, the Tigers are only 1-1 in the SEC this season and they still have one of the most talented players in the conference in Derrius Guice.
Guice has had a rough start to the season due to him being banged up with injuries. However, that hardnosed back is starting to show some signs of life.
In case you were wondering what an injured Derrius Guice looks like .. imagine when he's back to 100% healthy ðŸ˜³ðŸ’€ pic.twitter.com/HJcx6OTOF1
— Franke (@The6thProphet) October 8, 2017
The bad news is that this week The Tigers will be tasked with taking on the 10th ranked Auburn Tigers in Death Valley. They are sizable underdogs, but if Guice can provide a big game on the ground and quarterback Danny Etling can be dependable through the air then maybe the Tigers can pull off the upset.
Which leads us into the next must-watch storyline….
4. Coming Out Party for Stidham?
I have spoken about the maturation of Auburn quarterback in previous weeks as he may be the most talented player at the position in the conference.
But Stidham has been very inconsistent when trying to showcase that talent. Through the first 3 games of the season he posted single game QBR’s of 45.0, 34.0, and 75.7. However, in his last 3 games he has finally found some consistency as his QBR has been between 95.0 and 97.5 in each game.
Granted, those games with a near perfect QBR were against Missouri, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss. Stidham will finally get a true test this week in Death Valley against a fast Tiger defense.
This will be his first real test since his disappointing showing against Clemson, and Auburn’s matchup with LSU will be on national television as well. All of this adds up to what could be a huge showcase for Stidham to finally assert himself as the best quarterback in the conference, or he could fall on his face like he did against Clemson.
Personally, I think this will be the game in which he finally busts onto the national stage. Stidham is playing well at the right time, and he is making some ridiculous plays like this one:
— Skye Underwood (@SkyeUnderwood) October 7, 2017
5. Miss St. Gets an Interesting Non-Conference Challenge
The Bulldogs will be the only SEC team this week playing out of conference as they invite a struggling BYU team into Starksville this week.
Miss St. started off the season in a big way as they dismantled LSU back in September. But since then the Bulldogs lost to Georgia and Auburn by a combined score of 80-13.
Thankfully for them, Miss St. is coming off their bye week so they will be well-rested before Saturday’s game with the Cougars. Also, it bolds well for the Bulldogs that BYU has struggled incredibly this season. The Cougars only have one victory to their name and it came over Portland State.
Look for Nick Fitzgerald and the rest of the Bulldogs to get back on track this weekend in a huge way. If the Bulldogs fail to convincingly beat a bad BYU team, then that LSU win may have just been a bad night for the Tigers and it could be a long season for Miss ST.