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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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Around the SEC: Week 3

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The questions surrounding the SEC are getting answered. Can the air raid — looking at you Mike Leach — work in the SEC? Only so much, SEC defenses are still SEC defenses. Will Georgia’s quarterback situation be its downfall? No, Stetson Bennett proved he is the real deal. How many times are Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts going to connect for a touchdown? A lot. A whole lot.
The one question still looming over the SEC is, “Who is the best team?” This week, the SEC gets closer to that answer, as the matchup between Tennessee and Georgia takes one team’s coveted “and-oh” from their record.
No. 14 Tennessee (2-0) at No. 3 Georgia (2-0)
Saturday, Oct. 10 — Sanford Stadium  — Athens, Ga.
2:30 p.m. on CBS
Georgia’s defense is smothering. Last week, they held Auburn’s quarterback Bo Nix to a pitiful 4.4 yards per attempt and a completion percentage of 52. Among Georgia’s defense is defensive back Richard Lecounte, who is one of three SEC players with two interceptions. The Bulldogs were also brutal on the defensive line, only allowing 39 yards on 22 attempts. Offensively, quarterback Stetson Bennett has helped Georgia ramp up production, putting up 62 total points in six quarters. Now that Georgia has found its source of leadership in a former walk-on, the offense has been unstoppable and the defense has been immovable. Where some SEC teams, such as Florida and Mississippi State, have opted for a modern passing game, Georgia has dominated in an old-fashioned, gritty ground game. The Bulldogs have run for 323 yards and three touchdowns in 87 attempts, the second-most tries in the SEC. This game will be interesting since Tennessee has also dominated the run game, particularly through the legs of SEC-leading running back Ty Chandler. Tennessee matches Georgia with a similarly stingy rush defense that has only allowed 107 yards per game. Add in linebacker Deandre Johnson, who leads the SEC with four sacks, and the defensive battle begins. Tennessee’s quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, as well as Georgia’s Bennett, have protected the ball well, throwing zero interceptions. In a game of stiff defenses and methodical offenses, mistakes and turnovers will be key to give one team an edge.
Prediction: Georgia 24, Tennessee 17
No. 2 Alabama (2-0) at Ole Miss (1-1)
Saturday, Oct. 10 — Vaught Hemingway Stadium — Oxford, Miss.
5 p.m. on ESPN
The Rebels and the Crimson Tide will meet on Saturday with high-caliber offenses holstered. The clock will strike five in Oxford, and an old-fashioned shootout will occur. Ole Miss is fifth in total yards per game in the FBS, while Alabama is fifth in passing yards per game in the FBS. Alabama has not been particularly challenged, and quarterback Mac Jones has been excellent. Jones has thrown for 684 yards and six touchdowns at 74 percent completion, granting Jones the third-best QBR in the FBS. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral has the best QBR at 715 yards and seven touchdowns on 76.7 percent completion. Both quarterbacks have thrown one interception, and both defenses have forced one interception against starting quarterbacks. On the stat sheet, the only separation is the Rebels’ rushing yards allowed, as they gave up an absurd 408 yards against Kentucky in their 42-41 win last week. Alabama coach Nick Saban is undoubtedly looking to exploit this weakness through veteran running back Najee Harris who has 141 yards and five touchdowns on 29 carries this season. Much of Ole Miss’ defensive failures last week came from Kentucky’s dual-threat quarterback Terry Wilson, who rushed for 129 yards. Alabama’s Jones has shown little capability to scramble to Ole Miss’ aid. Nonetheless, Alabama knows how to adapt to its opponents, and barring a turnaround in Ole Miss’ rushing defense, the key lies in ground game production opening up more quality passes for the Crimson Tide.
Prediction: Alabama 52, Ole Miss 38
No. 13 Auburn (1-1) at Arkansas (1-1)
Saturday, Oct, 10 — Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium — Fayetteville, Ark.
3 p.m. on SEC Network
If not for COVID-19, the crowd in Fayetteville would be more electric than ever. Arkansas snapped a three-year, 20-game SEC losing streak with a 21-14 win over No. 16 Mississippi State. Arkansas’ defensive secondary deserves the credit, forcing three interceptions and deflecting four passes. Though, offensive production for the Razorbacks struggled again this week, appreciating a seven-point boost on an interception return. The highlight of this offensive, however, was smart passing as quarterback Feleipe Franks completed 20 of 28 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Auburn is going to have to face its fears this week. Last Saturday’s 6-27 loss to Georgia was entirely at the hands of Georgia’s oppressive defense. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix threw his first interception in six games last Saturday. For Auburn, there is not much to be proud of coming into this game. Despite there being no positives for Auburn this week, an unproductive Razorback offense gives the Tigers room to breathe where Georgia did not. Auburn is still a quality team, Bo Nix is not ruined and Auburn might just bring out some ferocity this week.
Prediction: Auburn 17, Arkansas 10
Mississippi State (1-1) at Kentucky (0-2)
Saturday, Oct. 10 — Kroger Field — Lexington, Ky.
6:30 p.m. on SEC Network
Mississippi State, welcome to the Mike Leach experience. At his best, expect a potent air raid and passing records. At his worst, prepare for a loss to a team that has not beat a conference opponent in three years. Leach occasionally worries about throwing the ball more than throwing the game. Jokes aside, Leach is still a good coach, his offense is still scary and much credit for last week’s loss goes to Arkansas’ defense. The three interceptions from quarterback K.J. Costello significantly altered the expectations for the Bulldogs in 2020. Mississippi State has a lesson to learn from last week: if it can develop any run game at all, its passing options open up considerably and Costello is not subject to so much pressure. Parallels to the NFL’s Jameis Winston are appearing. On the stat sheet, Mississippi State seems to have a strong defense, only allowing 350 yards per game. This does not take into account the weak offenses from LSU and Arkansas, though. Opposite from Mississippi State’s offense is Kentucky’s. Fifth in the FBS in rushing yards, Kentucky allows quarterback Terry Wilson to pass efficiently. Wilson is passing at 69 percent completion for 390 yards and a touchdown, while also leading the team in rushing at 171 yards and three touchdowns on 35 attempts. On defense, Kentucky allowed Ole Miss to fire at will, as Matt Corral had 82 percent completion and 320 yards. Not horrendous in terms of yards allowed, but disrupting the pass will be crucial for Kentucky against Costello, who will likely have 50-plus attempts.
Prediction: Kentucky 52, Mississippi State 49
Missouri (0-2) at No. 17 LSU (1-1)
Saturday, Oct. 10 — Tiger Stadium — Baton Rouge, La.
8 p.m. on ESPN
These two teams share a mascot but have only shared a field twice. Once, in 1978 with a Missouri win, then in 2016 with LSU coming out on top. Saturday makes the third meeting of the tigers. LSU let off some frustration in a much needed 41-7 win against Vanderbilt last week, looking more confident even against a lackluster Vanderbilt squad. Quarterback Myles Brennan still struggled with consistency and threw an interception, though he improved his completion percentage from 58 to 62. Running back John Emery Jr. carried the torch on the ground for LSU, rushing for 103 yards and a touchdown on a great 8.3 yards per carry. Defensively, LSU is still having some identity issues. While LSU forced turnovers and did not allow many yards, this is more Vanderbilt’s fault than LSU’s success. For Missouri, there are questions regarding who will start as quarterback. Most likely, it will be Connor Bazelak who played three quarters, throwing for 218 yards on 13 for 21 attempts, in the loss to Tennessee last week. Although not yet proving to be a huge threat in the air, the stiff Tennessee defense was undoubtedly a factor in the subpar Missouri production. Missouri had a hard time stopping the run against Tennessee, allowing the Volunteers to grind out 236 yards on 49 carries. Ultimately, LSU will expose the weak Missouri rush defense with Emery Jr., and Missouri’s slow offense will make capitalizing on mistakes by Brennan a difficult task.
Prediction: LSU 38, Missouri 17

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