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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Around the SEC: Week 2

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In the highlight of Week 1 SEC action, Mississippi State’s air raid offense sparked an upset against the defending national champion LSU Tigers. The rest of the SEC’s games played out in line with preseason rankings. With the first games of the season decided, teams look to iron out any issues in preparation for Saturday’s matchups.
No. 7 Auburn (1-0) at No. 4 Georgia (1-0)
Saturday, Oct. 3 — Sanford Stadium  — Athens, Ga.
6:30 p.m. on ESPN
Although both Auburn and Georgia won last week, the Bulldogs’ success was significantly uglier than the Tigers. Georgia went into last week at Arkansas with questions at quarterback, and those questions still remain unanswered for the most part. Quarterback D’Wan Mathis started last week, but after an underwhelming first quarter that included an interception, Stetson Bennett stepped into the second half to lead Georgia in the win. Bennett completed 20 of 29 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, likely earning him the starting spot this week. Their defense played well, but more so because of Arkansas’ shortcomings than the Bulldogs’ successes. On the other hand, Auburn was dominant throughout last week’s match against Kentucky, particularly on defense and in the air. Auburn’s ground game is currently lacking. With quarterback Bo Nix having a star receiver in Seth Williams, expect the Tigers to keep the ball in the air. Nix completed 16 of 27 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns, two of which Seth Williams accounted for, along with 112 yards. Both teams have proved to be strong, but the certainty in Auburn’s play could be the edge they need to upset Georgia. 
Prediction: Auburn 31, Georgia 28
Arkansas (0-1) at No. 16 Mississippi State (1-0)
Saturday, Oct. 3 — Davis Wade Stadium  — Starkville, Miss.
6:30 p.m. on SEC Network Alternate
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach and quarterback K.J. Costello made a statement in the SEC. Upsetting the defending National Champion LSU Tigers through an SEC record-breaking performance, Costello passed for 623 yards and five touchdowns on 36 of 60 attempts. Although the completion percentage and two interceptions for Costello were not ideal, that is to be expected in a pass-first, pass-second and pass-third style offense such as this one. The Bulldogs also played great defensively, running a 3-3-5. They forced two interceptions and applied plenty of pressure to LSU’s quarterback. Arkansas knows about effective defense as well. Despite losing 37-10 to Georgia last week, the Razorbacks outscored Georgia in the first half 7-5, mainly due to a crushing defense. Considering they held the No. 4 team in the nation to 387 total yards and that nine of Georgia’s points scored were on defense, it becomes hard to deny Arkansas’ strong defense. Its offense dragged its feet throughout that game, though, struggling to push the ball and only netting 280 total yards. Quarterback Feleipe Franks, who threw two interceptions last week, will likely have turnover issues yet again against a high-pressure Mississippi State defense. Poor offensive production will make it hard for Arkansas to win games, regardless of its strong defense.
Prediction: Mississippi State 35, Arkansas 17
South Carolina (0-1) at No. 3 Florida (1-0)
Saturday, Oct. 3 — Ben Hill Griffin Stadium — Gainesville, Fla.
11 a.m. on ESPN
Two dominant passing games were the showcase of the SEC last week. One of those games came from Florida quarterback Kyle Trask with the help of tight end Kyle Pitts. Trask completed 30 of 42 passes for 416 yards and all six of the Gators’ touchdowns against Ole Miss. Four of the touchdowns went to Pitts, who led Florida’s targets with 170 yards. However, Florida’s defense was notably weak, allowing 642 total yards and 446 passing yards. Although the Gators won convincingly at 51-35, improvements need to be made from the defensive backs for continued success as the competition gets more robust. Looking to exploit Florida’s unpolished defense is South Carolina. Last week’s 31-27 loss to Tennessee was not a remarkable showing by the Gamecocks by any means. However, it is a step in the right direction for the team’s offense, which struggled in 2019. First time starting quarterback Collin Hill threw well at 25-of-39 for 290 yards and a touchdown. At the same time, South Carolina shuffled through a trio of running backs. Although the Gamecocks grabbed an interception last week, their ground defense struggled, allowing 133 yards. Serious defensive production from South Carolina is vital for it to succeed against this heavy-hitting Florida offense.
Prediction: Florida 48, South Carolina 24
Ole Miss (0-1) at Kentucky (0-1)
Saturday, Oct. 3 — Kroger Field — Lexington, Ky.
3 p.m. on SEC Network
Turnovers plagued Kentucky in last week’s 29-13 loss against Auburn. Despite three turnovers, Kentucky still totaled more yards than Auburn, proving the Wildcats have an explosive offense when they maintain possession. Quarterback Terry Wilson completed 24 of 37 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 42 yards on 13 carries. Kentucky spread the rushing game between four players, ultimately led by Kavosiey Smoke, who ran for 62 yards on seven attempts and a touchdown. Kentucky will look to its defense that held Auburn to 324 yards to slow down a quick Ole Miss offense that can score plenty. Ole Miss, coming off a fiery 613-yard game, will look to quarterback Matt Corral for offensive production. Corral completed 22 of 31 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns and 50 rushing yards on 13 carries against a poor Florida defense. The Rebels have their own problems on defense, as they allowed 446 passing yards and 642 total yards last week. The key to an Ole Miss victory will be for its defense to step up and force turnovers, allowing its quick offense to capitalize.
Prediction: Kentucky 27, Ole Miss 21
Missouri (0-1) at No. 21 Tennessee (1-0)
Saturday, Oct. 3 — Neyland Stadium — Knoxville, Tenn.
11 a.m. on SEC Network
Last week’s win over South Carolina marks Tennessee’s seventh straight win. Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano passed for 259 yards and a touchdown, completing 19 of 31 attempts, while also getting the Volunteers their first touchdown of the night on the ground. Despite nearly blowing a 14-point lead due to some lackluster defense and unproductive offensive drives, Tennessee managed the clock well, running for 133 yards in 30 attempts, which covered its occasionally shabby play. Despite issues with consistency, no facet of Tennessee’s game stood out as poor, leaving the Volunteers looking poised to continue winning with a round of adjustments under their belts. Missouri, on the other hand, had significant issues on offense, particularly in their offensive line. Last week, Missouri fumbled three times, losing two of them, and were sacked three times. Add a grain of salt because this was at the hands of a defensive powerhouse in Alabama. However, 16 of the 19 points Missouri scored in the 38-19 loss were while Alabama gave playing time to backups. A weak offensive line and inefficient running and passing game by Missouri give Tennessee a clear edge heading into Saturday’s matchup.
Prediction: Tennessee 41, Missouri 20
No. 20 LSU (0-1) at Vanderbilt (0-1)
Saturday, Oct. 3 — Vanderbilt Stadium — Nashville, Tenn.
6:30 p.m. on SEC Network
LSU’s massive collapse in its 44-34 loss to Mississippi State last week cannot be blamed on one particular thing. Chiefly though, the Tigers’ secondary fell apart, their rush offense was weak and their offensive line could not hold its own. Add two interceptions by quarterback Myles Brennan, who otherwise passed well, and LSU seems to be in a bad spot in terms of succeeding in the SEC. However, this week, facing perhaps the worst team in the SEC, LSU will manage and buy time to fix issues. Look for the Tigers to work on Brennan’s inaccuracies and move the ball on the ground more. Vanderbilt, coming off a tight 17-12 loss to Texas A&M, hopes to prove it is not the weakest in the SEC. The only place to go is up. Quarterback Ken Seals threw two interceptions last week, while only passing for 150 yards. Expect Vanderbilt to rely on the run, rather than exploiting LSU’s secondary issues, through Ja’Veon Marlow, who ran for 65 yards on 16 attempts last week.
Prediction: LSU 42, Vanderbilt 10 

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