- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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Last weekend brought some high drama (Georgia-LSU), some high scoring (Georgia-LSU again, along with Arkansas-Texas A&M), a surprisingly close game (Tennessee-South Alabama) and some intrigue (Alabama-Ole Miss, South Carolina-UCF) in SEC play. Will this week bring quite as much of each? Perhaps not, but we shall see.
There are no matchups in the league pitting two ranked teams, but there should be some interesting matchups nonetheless. Arkansas heads to No. 18 Florida in a game pitting one of the SEC's best rushing teams (Arkansas) against the nation's top rushing defense (Florida). The Razorbacks kept up for a while with No. 9 Texas A&M last week, and quarterback Brandon Allen looked good in his return from a shoulder injury, but Florida's defense is a different challenge -- and much tougher one. Can Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy continue to play at the high level he has since taking the place of injured quarterback Jeff Driskel?
No. 6 Georgia has to go on the road after a thrilling win over LSU last week. Tennessee, as mentioned before, escaped by the skin of its teeth against South Alabama, needing a defensive stop inside its own 10 in the final minutes to avoid a home loss. The Bulldogs have their sights set on big goals and want to stay in the SEC East Division title chase, so they can't afford a letdown after last week's dramatic victory. Quarterback Aaron Murray needs just 100 yards to become the SEC's career record holder in passing yards, and he has never thrown for fewer than 109 yards in a game in his career, so expect that to be a formality.
On the flip side, LSU is looking to bounce back after its 44-41 loss to Georgia. The Tigers have to go back on the road for the second straight week, heading to Starkville, Miss., to face Mississippi State and its cowbells. The Bulldogs have been resting a little bit, coming off an open date, and expect to have starting quarterback Tyler Russell back in the lineup for the first time since Week 1 (concussion). LSU has been pretty good about bouncing back from losses under Les Miles; the Tigers haven't lost consecutive games since 2008 and are 20-1 following a loss in the Miles era.
Ole Miss and Auburn should be an interesting one, pitting two coaches, Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn, who both spent more than a dozen years as high school coaches before moving into the college ranks. Ole Miss is coming off a shutout loss to Alabama, one in which the Rebels couldn't get on track offensively, managing just 205 yards. Meanwhile, Auburn had an off week last week after its first loss of the season, a 35-21 loss to LSU on Sept. 21. This will be one of the more telling matchups of the day. Can the Rebels prove their legitimacy by bouncing back and getting a conference road win, or can Auburn take a nice step forward under their new head coach by knocking off a top 25 opponent and moving to 2-1 in the SEC West?
Another compelling matchup is the one between Missouri and Vanderbilt. Mizzou has piled up points and yardage against underwhelming non-conference competition. This is the Tigers' SEC opener, and how they perform today could give us a peek into how seriously they need to be taken. Vandy is 0-2 in SEC play, with the losses coming to Ole Miss and South Carolina. After this week, the Commodores have a three-game stretch where they see Georgia, Texas A&M and Florida, with the latter two on the road. If they don't win today, it might not be pretty in the coming weeks.
No. 1 Alabama has what is a likely snoozer against Sun Belt squad Georgia State, and although South Carolina has struggled to close out games, Kentucky has struggled quite a bit and Steve Spurrier-coached teams have historically been successful against the Wildcats, holding a 19-1 career record. Here's a rundown of Saturday's games:
Georgia State at Alabama, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC TV
Georgia at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
LSU at Mississippi State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Arkansas at Florida, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Ole Miss at Auburn, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Missouri at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN
Kentucky at South Carolina, 7:30 p.m. ET, CSS