Week 6 roundtable: Matchups to watch

October, 3, 2014
Oct 3
11:00
AM ET
This will be "Separation Saturday" in the SEC West. Three games -- Alabama-Ole Miss, Mississippi State-Texas A&M and Auburn-LSU -- will pit top-15 teams from the West against one another, so we should soon know more about who will emerge as legitimate contenders in one of college football's toughest divisions.

Considering all that will be at stake, here are our SEC writers' picks for the most intriguing matchups to watch on Saturday:

Edward Aschoff: How about C.J. Johnson vs. Cam Robinson? Ole Miss' old yet destructive defensive end taking on Alabama's spry, young left tackle. Whenever these two are matched up, keep both eyes on them because it's going to be like watching a Mack truck try to break through a brick wall. Johnson wants to pummel Bama QB Blake Sims. Robinson would like to stop that. It's old blood versus new blood, and it could be the matchup that decides Saturday's game because Ole Miss has to make Sims uncomfortable and Alabama needs to keep him upright.

Jeff Barlis: Ole Miss has the best pair of starting safeties in the SEC in senior All-American Cody Prewitt and sophomore Antonio Conner, who made the league's all-freshman team last year. These two tackling machines fit the bill as the last line of defense, and Prewitt adds the dimension of savvy ball hawk (led the SEC with six interceptions last season). Prewitt and Conner will see plenty of action against Alabama. Everyone knows the matchup nightmare that is the Tide's Amari Cooper, who demands double coverage. But Alabama has two other big, physical targets in senior wide receiver DeAndrew White and sophomore tight end O.J. Howard.

David Ching: This isn't a head-to-head matchup, but I'm intrigued to see which defensive front seven fares better in Texas A&M-Mississippi State. Mississippi State's defensive line has been outstanding at pressuring quarterbacks and generating sacks and tackles for loss. The Bulldogs desperately need more of that against Kenny Hill since their secondary has been mediocre and A&M has more than enough weapons to exploit weak pass coverage. On the other side, State has the weapons to exploit a mediocre A&M defense, mostly on the ground. The Aggies are weak up front, which should provide ample opportunity for Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson to run.

Alex Scarborough: Mississippi State's defensive line is ridiculous. Chris Jones, a preseason All-America favorite, isn't technically a starter. Preston Smith, meanwhile, is racking up awards left and right. And then there are 300-pounders Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones clogging up the middle. Combined, they limited LSU's vaunted running game to 89 yards on 35 carries. But I want to see how they do in the trenches against Texas A&M. I want to see whether Cedric Ogbuehi is worthy of a first-round NFL draft pick. I want to see whether Mike Matthews is as good as his bloodlines indicate. Everyone will be focused on Kenny Hill. I'll be watching the guys protecting him.

Sam Khan: I want to see how LSU quarterback Brandon Harris fares against Auburn's defense. Les Miles tabbed Harris as the starter, and as a true freshman, this is a challenging spot to be in, going on the road to face the defending SEC champion. The way Harris has moved the offense when he's been in the game the past two weeks has to be encouraging for LSU fans, and I like what this kid is made of. He seems to have the physical tools, he's mobile, and I get the feeling that this spot won't be too big for him. He looked overwhelmed when he came in briefly in the season opener against Wisconsin, but now that he has a few games under his belt, I'm betting he comes in more poised and ready this time. That said, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, an SEC veteran, should have some interesting things cooked up for the rookie. Should be fun.

Greg Ostendorf: We all know that Auburn wide receiver D'haquille Williams, a Louisiana native, is going to want to have a big game against the team that he was once committed to, but it won't be easy. LSU features one of the top secondaries in the SEC with Tre'Davious White, Rashard Robinson and Jalen Collins at cornerback. All three have the skill set to match up with Williams, though White is arguably the best of the bunch. The trio, along with safeties Jalen Mills and Ronald Martin, will likely key in on Williams, which means somebody else needs to step up for Auburn in the passing game. Sammie Coates, anybody?

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