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SEC Primer: Week 6

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Matt Smith gets you ready for Week 6 in the SEC

No more non-conference cupcakes. Seven games. Seven conference games. It’s a beautiful week, but only three of the seven games have a single-digit point spread. That doesn’t mean it’ll be a dull Saturday down South. It more likely means that we’re going to see at least one significant upset.

Alabama and Georgia have come back to earth, but with both at home against teams on the brink of collapse, the more vulnerable teams could be Kentucky and Ole Miss in letdown spots, and Florida on a short week. Injuries are rearing their ugly head this week, as the availability of three of the league’s top quarterbacks is up in the air.

Even if Bryce Young, Will Levis and K.J. Jefferson can’t go, that won’t dampen our spirits. Let’s dive into Week 6 in the SEC.

 

This is a Big Week for:

Coach: Sam Pittman, Arkansas

Pittman has created a level of expectation at Arkansas. After two straight losses, the house money for 2022 has been spent. With a long trip to BYU next week, Saturday’s game at Mississippi State is critical for the Razorbacks being able to achieve a successful season.

Player: Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU

The breakout player of the start of the 2021 season has managed just 11 catches and zero touchdowns so far this season. He’ll get a chance to attack a vulnerable Tennessee secondary on Saturday, with LSU’s offense knowing it will need more points than the 20 it had with the help of its defense in order to have a chance to take down the undefeated Vols.

Unit: Georgia Offensive Line

Auburn has not quit, and the Tigers gave LSU problems for much of their loss on Saturday night. Georgia struggled to run the ball at Missouri until the fourth quarter, and if the Bulldogs hope to successfully defend their national title, the ground game needs to get cranked up by the time the important games roll around. Putting up 175 or 200 yards against this Tigers front would be a productive afternoon.

 

Trivia Time

1. What four non-SEC teams won BCS national titles in between Tennessee’s and LSU’s championships in 1998 and 2003?

2. Who was the last Auburn quarterback to win a road game against Kirby Smart?

3. What NFL franchise did former Alabama and Texas A&M head coach Gene Stallings coach in the 1980s?

 

Game Predictions

 

(8) Tennessee (4-0, 1-0) at (25) LSU (4-1, 2-0), Noon ET (ESPN)

Announcers: Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky and Todd McShay

Last Meeting: 2017 – LSU 30, Tennessee 10

Current Streak: LSU – 4

Current Streak in Baton Rouge: LSU – 1

Line: Tennessee -3

Over/Under: 65

Tennessee will be donning its smokey gray uniforms in Baton Rouge, making me want to make a full stop and just pick LSU, but I will look at that this game objectively despite the fashion faux pas. The Vols are a darling at the moment with Alabama looming, but they essentially have just a pair of one-score wins over two-loss teams. LSU has been prone to slow starts this season, and a repeat of that week could spell trouble with Tennessee unlikely to go into a three or four-series offensive funk with the way Hendon Hooker has been playing. The Tigers defense took a punch from Auburn last week, but settled down and shut Auburn out for the final 40 minutes. With Hooker and Jayden Daniels both escape artists in the pocket, which defense best brings down the other quarterback when it has a chance to could determine the victor. My head says Tennessee wins, but my gut says LSU takes some luster off of next week’s Third Saturday showdown. After three decades of watching college football, I trust my gut more.

Prediction: LSU 27, Tennessee 24

 

Missouri (2-3, 0-2) at Florida (3-2, 0-2), Noon ET (ESPNU)

Announcers: Brian Custer and Dustin Fox

Last Meeting: 2021 – Missouri 24, Florida 23 (OT)

Current Streak: Missouri – 1

Current Streak in Gainesville: Florida – 1

Line: Florida -11

Over/Under: 55

The USF escape was alarming, but Billy Napier seems like a coach who will take care of business in games he’s supposed to win. At Louisiana-Lafayette, he did not lose a game when favored by more than a touchdown. Missouri, unless Eli Drinkwitz is a better motivator than Vince Lombardi, will be coming to Gainesville fragile and wounded after two heartbreaking defeats to Auburn and Georgia. Florida played an FCS opponent last week and should be the fresher team. The Gators offense is playing well, trailing only Alabama in the SEC in yards per play. These teams are closer to even than Saturday’s result will show.

Prediction: Florida 38, Missouri 17

 

Arkansas (3-2, 1-2) at (23) Mississippi State (4-1, 1-1), Noon ET (SEC Network)

Announcers: Dave Neal and Deuce McAllister

Last Meeting: 2021 – Arkansas 31, Mississippi State 28

Current Streak: Arkansas – 2

Current Streak in Starkville: Arkansas – 1

Line: Mississippi State -9.5

Over/Under: 59

Reading the tea leaves, I don’t think K.J. Jefferson is playing. The question I have is how much does this Razorbacks offense have to change if a player as unique as Jefferson is not out there? Mississippi State’s defense has been palatable this season, but it has had some lapses and was fortunate to catch some breaks last week against Texas A&M. Arkansas’ secondary issues are a cause for concern again this week against a Bulldogs offense that is throwing the ball almost 50 times per game. This line seems high, but I’m picking the game under the premise that Jefferson won’t play. I think Mississippi State can jump on the Hogs early and never let up to get to 5-1.

Prediction: Mississippi State 34, Arkansas 17

 

Auburn (3-2, 1-1) at (2) Georgia (5-0, 2-0) 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

Announcers: Tom McCarthy and Rick Neuheisel

Last Meeting: 2021 – Georgia 34, Auburn 10

Current Streak: Georgia – 5

Current Streak in Athens: Georgia – 7 

Line: Georgia -29.5

Over/Under: 49

Auburn hasn’t won in Athens since 2005, and that streak doesn’t appear to be ending in 2022 or anytime soon. The Tigers will play their first road of the game of the season, while Georgia is likely stewing after two subpar performances in ugly wins over Kent State and Missouri. Just the name Auburn should get the Bulldogs’ attention, but that doesn’t mean Georgia’s offensive struggles will suddenly dissipate. Like Missouri, I think this will be a tough week for Auburn after letting a 17-0 lead slip away against LSU and ending any remaining hopes of head coach Bryan Harsin surviving the season. With the history of this rivalry in this stadium, I am comfortable laying more than four touchdowns.

Prediction: Georgia 38, Auburn 6

 

(9) Ole Miss (5-0, 1-0) at Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-1), 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

Announcers: Drew Carter and Matt Stinchcomb

Last Meeting: 2021 – Ole Miss 31, Vanderbilt 17

Current Streak: Ole Miss – 3

Current Streak in Nashville: Ole Miss – 1

Line: Ole Miss -17

Over/Under: 62

The Commodores have had an extra week of prep time, perhaps factoring into this game against an Ole Miss team that had a highly emotional 60 minutes of football in last Saturday’s thrilling win over Kentucky. I still have questions about the consistency of the Rebels offense. Yes, the running game can hit some home runs, but the unit still seems to go to sleep for extended periods of time. Vanderbilt is getting better, and it played Ole Miss tough last year in Oxford. I’ll take the points in a game that Ole Miss probably just wants to get out of healthy.

Prediction: Ole Miss 31, Vanderbilt 16

 

South Carolina (3-2, 0-2) at (13) Kentucky (4-1, 1-1), 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)

Announcers: Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers and Cole Cubelic

Last Meeting: 2021 – Kentucky 16, South Carolina 10

Current Streak: Kentucky – 2

Current Streak in Lexington: Kentucky – 4

Line: Kentucky -7.5

Over/Under: 49

I have absolutely no idea what to do with this game. South Carolina has been off the radar after back-to-back non-conference games, while Kentucky could either have a hangover from the Ole Miss loss or be fired up to take out some frustrations on the Gamecocks. I don’t really see a matchup where South Carolina has an advantage, as the weaknesses and strengths of the two teams seem to line up. Even with Will Levis potentially unavailable for Kentucky, I’ll take the tackle-breaking ability and relative freshness of Chris Rodriguez and the incredible speed of all-purpose wideout Barion Brown to be too much for South Carolina in perhaps the first game of the SEC season played with a chill in the air.

Prediction: Kentucky 27, South Carolina 13

 

Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1) at (1) Alabama (5-0, 2-0), 8 p.m. ET (CBS)

Announcers: Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson

Last Meeting: 2021 – Texas A&M 41, Alabama 38

Current Streak: Texas A&M – 1

Current Streak in Tuscaloosa: Alabama – 4

Line: Alabama -23.5

Over/Under: 51.5

Again, it’s the game that’s been anticipated since the start of the season, but again, a pair of Texas A&M losses has taken some luster off of this primetime affair in Tuscaloosa. The Aggies circled the wagons for a massive win last year, but repeating that feat will be a monumental task. Bryce Young may miss the game, and if Jalen Milroe is under center for the Crimson Tide, the Aggies defense should be able to handle Milroe’s speed better than Arkansas did in its failed comeback tab last Saturday. The biggest issue for Texas A&M is its own quarterback situation, as Max Johnson is battling a thumb injury, potentially causing Week 1 starter Haynes King to return to the lineup. Alabama’s defense has been good, but it hasn’t been dominant against a decent opponent this season. I think that happens on Saturday night, as even though Alabama’s offense could be a bit clunky if Young can’t to, the Tide will get the revenge they’ve been looking for after last season’s loss and this summer’s off-field shenanigans.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Texas A&M 7

 

Best Bets

Last Week: 2-3

Season: 17-8

Georgia State -2.5 vs. Georgia Southern

Oklahoma State -9.5 vs. Texas Tech

Louisville -3 at Virginia

Arizona +13.5 vs. Oregon

Oregon State -7 at Stanford

 

The Best Game I’ve Ever Watched On October 8:

Oct. 8, 2016: (8) Texas A&M 50, (9) Tennessee 43 (2OT)

Tennessee was an early darling of the 2016 season, ending an 11-game losing streak to Florida after falling behind 21-0 and then shocking Georgia in Athens on a Hail Mary en route to a 5-0 start. Texas A&M also started hot, winning an overtime thriller against UCLA and registering SEC wins over Auburn and Arkansas. Things would not settle down for either when they got together in College Station for their first SEC meeting on a sun-soaked October Saturday.

Texas A&M’s defense stymied a dangerous Vols offense with the likes of Joshua Dobbs, Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara and Jauan Jennings for two-and-a-half quarters, recovering five Volunteers fumbles. The Aggies built a 28-7 lead behind three total touchdowns from quarterback Trevor Knight.

Facing a 21-point deficit for the second time in three weeks, the Vols didn’t surrender, buckling down on defense and cranking up the nerves throughout Kyle Field with a pair of touchdowns runs to close within 28-21 in the fourth quarter. The final four minutes were bonkers. A 62-yard touchdown run by Knight appeared to salt the game at 35-21, but Tennessee fought back again, scoring in just 75 seconds and getting a quick three-and-out to have a chance to tie with just under two minutes to play.

Needing to go 80 yards without timeouts, Dobbs picked apart the Aggies defense with five completions in six attempts, finding Kamara for an 18-yard score with 41 seconds left to level the game at 35-35.

There was still time for Knight and the Aggies, and with two timeouts, Texas A&M was still able to use the ground game. Trayveon Williams ripped off runs of 22 and 14 yards to get in field goal range for Daniel LaCamera. The 38-yard kick sailed wide, however, as the clock hit zero.

On to overtime, where the teams traded field goals before A&M found the end zone in the top of the second overtime on a short run from Knight. The defense needed a stop, and fittingly, got one on a takeaway, as Armani Watts intercepted Dobbs to end the game and hand Tennessee its first loss of the season.

Ironically, that game was the high point for both head coaches, Butch Jones and Kevin Sumlin. Jones won just two of his next 11 SEC games and was fired late in the 2017 season. Texas A&M collapsed after the Tennessee win, finishing 8-5 after the 6-0 start, and Sumlin was gone in 2017 as well after a disappointing 7-5 season.

 

Trivia Answers

 

1. Florida State (1999), Oklahoma (2000), Miami (FL) (2001), Ohio State (2002)

2. Cam Newton (Auburn at Alabama, 2010)

3. St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals (1986-1989)

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.