Week 5 in the SEC taught us a number of things. We learned that Bo Wallace and Ole Miss really couldn’t put points on Alabama. We also learned that Tennessee has quite a few problems on both sides of the ball, manifesting themselves in a 31-24 victory finalized only by a Volunteer interception in the end zone with less than two minutes remaining. Despite there being a lot of football remaining in the season, we finally learned that a Georgia-Alabama rematch in Atlanta to close the season is sporting a more and more likely look.
Week 6 seems a bit early for do-or-die matchups, but this is the SEC. Gainesville, Starkville, Auburn and Nashville all host games with gigantic stakes for one or both teams. In a week filled with really good games, we’ll look to find a great game. Until we do, though, here’s a trivia question!
SEC Trivia, Week 6 (answer at the end of the column): Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is just 100 yards away from breaking the SEC record for career passing yards. Which passer currently holds that record?
Top of the Ratings
Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 SEC) at #18 Florida (3-1, 2-0 SEC), 7 pm ET, ESPN2
Last week’s episode: Texas A&M 45, Arkansas 33; Florida 24, Kentucky 7
Program guide: Arkansas has lost two straight, and their run of scheduling woe continues. The Razorbacks visit the Swamp this week, followed by games with South Carolina, at Alabama and Auburn before finally getting a bye and a home game with Mississippi State. Texas A&M compiled 523 yards of total offense against the Razorbacks last week, with Johnny Manziel accounting for 320 of those yards (261 passing, 59 rushing). The bigger problem for Arkansas’ defense was their inability to get off the field on third down (7-of-13 third down conversions allowed), which allowed for extended drives. This absolutely cannot be the case for Bret Bielema’s club this week if they want to leave the Swamp with a victory.
The real irresistible force/immovable object argument reveals itself in the battle of Arkansas’ running game against Florida’s rushing defense. Freshman Arkansas running back Alex Collins ranks second in the SEC in rushing, averaging 119.4 yards per game. He carried 14 times for 116 yards and a score against A&M last week. He faces a Florida defense that ranks first in the conference in rushing yards per game — by 50 yards a game — and allows just 53.5 yards per game. Considering that quarterback Brandon Allen completed just 47.2 percent of his passes last week (53.8 percent on the season), it could be a long day for the Razorbacks if Collins can’t get untracked.
Arkansas’ rush defense will also get quite the workout on Saturday. Florida has rushed for fewer than 200 yards in a game just once this year, when they ran for just 122 yards in a loss to Miami. Matt Jones carried for 176 yards last week against Kentucky, part of a 246-yard rushing effort by the Gators. The Hogs rank fifth in the SEC in rushing yards allowed, giving up 126.4 yards per game.
Gator quarterback Tyler Murphy has settled into his position quite nicely after taking over for Jeff Driskel. Murphy has thrown just nine incompletions in two games, with three of those coming last week against Kentucky. Murphy’s 15-of-18 performance for 156 yards offered the type of game management many Gator fans hoped for from Driskel. Arkansas averages 210 passing yards allowed per game, which ranks sixth in the conference. Opposing quarterbacks average a 123.71 rating against Arkansas, and if Murphy can edge closer to his 160-plus standard than that number, the Gators’ chances should be quite good.
Set Your DVR
#24 Ole Miss (3-1, 1-1 SEC) at Auburn (3-1, 1-1 SEC), 7pm ET, ESPNU
Program guide: The Tigers take the field at Jordan-Hare after a loss to LSU and a bye week. Auburn gained just 104 yards in the first half in Death Valley, though they rebounded nicely in the second half to finish with 437 yards of offense against a tough LSU defense. That 437-yard total was the second-lowest of the year for the Tigers, eclipsing just week one’s 394 yards against Washington State. Ole Miss ranks sixth in the conference in total defense, allowing 358 yards per game. Auburn’s offensive improvements need to continue in order to keep the Rebels at bay on the plains.
Though Bo Wallace couldn’t deliver on his hypothesis that his offense could put up points against Alabama, the chances are much better that he and his Rebels will find success against their second consecutive Alabama-based opponent. Auburn ranks thirteenth in total defense, allowing 439.5 yards per game. Gus Malzahn’s team does not fare much better in rushing or passing defense, as they rate twelfth in both categories. Ole Miss tallied just 205 yards against Alabama last week, though, and down weeks from Bo Wallace (17-for-31, 159 yards) and Jeff Scott (8 carries, 28 yards) would not figure to continue. Both teams allow approximately 40 percent of opposing third down attempts to be converted, so the defense that stays off the field the longest will loom large late in this game.
Georgia State (0-4) at #1 Alabama (4-0, 2-0 SEC), 12:21 pm ET, SEC Network
- Familiar circumstances: Georgia State played Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2010, the first season of football for GSU and the season after a Crimson Tide national championship. Alabama won the game 63-7. Fast-forward to 2013, and Georgia State is in their first season of FBS football. Alabama is, again, coming off a national championship.
- Georgia State stars: Quarterback Ronnie Bell ranks 79th in the FBS in total offense. Bell averages 202.5 yards per game. This is good for sixth-best in the Sun Belt Conference. Running back Travis Evans ranks fifth in the conference in rushing (62.7 yards per game), and freshman receiver Robert Davis (17 catches, 241 yards) ranks seventh in receiving (60.3 yards per game).
- Succeeding against the Sun Belt: The Crimson Tide is 12-1 all-time against Sun Belt competition. The only loss registered by the Tide came on November 17, 2007. Louisiana-Monroe defeated Alabama 21-14 in that game.
#6 Georgia (3-1, 2-0 SEC) at Tennessee (3-2, 0-1 SEC), 3:30 pm ET, CBS
- Clinging to a lead…barely: Tennessee holds a 21-19-2 series lead against the Bulldogs, but the edge is becoming quite precarious. The Vols have defeated Georgia just four times since 2000, with the last Tennessee victory occurring October 10, 2009 in Knoxville. Tennessee defeated Georgia 45-19 in that contest. Prior to the turn of the century, the Vols held a nine-game winning streak from 1989 to 1999.
- Dazzlin’ Dawgs: Georgia continues to pile up eye-popping offensive numbers. The Bulldogs rank 21st in the nation in scoring offense (41.3 points per game), ninth in passing offense (345 yards per game) and sixth in total offense (554 yards per game). Quarterback Aaron Murray ranks eighth in total offense, averaging 339.5 yards per game.
- Alternate uniforms bring success: Tennessee will wear their “Smokey Gray” uniforms for the first time on Saturday. The uniforms are a departure from the team’s traditional orange. The last time the Vols wore something other than orange was the lone time the team wore black jerseys on Rocky Top. That game, a 31-13 victory over then-number 21 South Carolina, took place on Halloween night in 2009. That was the last victory Tennessee secured against a ranked team.
#10 LSU (4-1, 1-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 SEC), 7pm ET, ESPN
- .667: LSU has won 66.7 percent of conference road games under Les Miles. Miles’ club has won eight of its last ten road games against SEC competition. The Tigers have won six straight in Starkville, dating back to their last loss at MSU in 1999.
- Playing keepaway: Mississippi State sports the best turnover margin in the conference (+5). LSU is tied for sixth (+1), having turned the ball over once against Georgia last week. The Tigers also forced a turnover in the contest.
- You don’t score until you score: LSU has scored 30-plus points in the first five games of the season, a feat the school has never accomplished. The Tigers rank third in the SEC in scoring offense, averaging 42.8 points per game. Mississippi State ranks third in scoring defense, surrendering just 14.8 points per game. MSU has allowed greater than twice the scoring output to conference teams (24 points per game) as non-conference foes (11.7). LSU averages 38 points per game against SEC teams, while scoring 46 per contest against non-SEC clubs.
Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC) at #13 South Carolina (3-1, 1-1 SEC), 7:30 pm ET, FSN (regional)
- Perplexing passers: South Carolina’s passing game faces quite the challenge this week. As though Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw’s injury weren’t bad enough, Carolina welcomes the SEC’s second-best pass defense (175 yards per game). The Wildcats held top Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater to just 250 yards earlier this season.
- South Carolina success: The Gamecocks are 12-1 in their last 13 games against the Wildcats. Steve Spurrier has won 19 of his 20 career games against Kentucky, including a 7-1 record since taking over the Gamecocks. If Spurrier’s club wins Saturday, he would gain his 20th career victory against Kentucky, a distinction held by no coach over any other school.
- It’s been awhile: Kentucky last defeated South Carolina in Columbia in 1999. The Wildcats’ last victory against an AP Top 25 opponent also came against the Gamecocks in Lexington on October 16, 2010. The Wildcats won the game 31-28. The last time Kentucky defeated a ranked opponent outside of Lexington came in a 22-17 victory at Louisville in 2002.
Missouri (4-0, 0-0 SEC) at Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-2 SEC), 7:30pm ET, CSS
- Finding themselves offensive: The Tigers are a top-30 team in the FBS in every offensive category. Missouri averages 549 yards per game, good for eighth in the nation. Missouri’s rushing game ranks sixteenth (262.3 yards per game). Mizzou also ranks eighth in the nation in scoring offense (45.5 points per game).
- 10 of 12: Vandy has won 10 of their last 12 contests. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, those two losses came in the Commodores’ only two SEC contests in 2013. Vanderbilt has allowed 37 points per game to SEC opponents in 2013.
- Keeping drives alive: Missouri has converted 57.4 percent of third down attempts this year (31-of-54). This is the second-best conversion rate in the conference. Vanderbilt ranks twelfth in the conference in third down conversions allowed, giving up 42.1 percent of third down conversions (32-of-76).
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is just 100 yards away from breaking the SEC record for career passing yards. Which passer currently holds that record?
Fellow Bulldog David Greene (2001-04) is the career SEC leader in passing yardage, throwing for 11,528 yards during his career in Athens. Murray currently stands at 11,429 yards.