And then there were two. With Texas A&M pulling off a major upset against Florida and Georgia knocking off Tennessee, half of the SEC’s previously undefeated teams rejoin the middle of the pack. This week, the culling of undefeated records reaches its climax in the SEC with a matchup often reserved for postseason play.
No. 2 Alabama (3-0) at No. 3 Georgia (3-0)
Saturday, Oct. 17 — Sanford Stadium — Athens, Ga.
7 p.m. on CBS
Alabama has beaten Georgia in their last five meetings. Three of those matches were either SEC or NCAA championship games. These are two undeniable dynasties, and this game may very well decide who goes to the College Football Playoffs at the end of this irregular, shortened season. Alabama, needs to be in a state of emergency. Although the Crimson Tide survived Ole Miss last week, allowing 48 points and 670 yards is asking for trouble as a top 10 team. Historically, Alabama defenses have not allowed as many passing yards as this team has (8.4 yards per attempt) in the last decade. Sure, the offense has been electric thus far, but only against subpar defenses. Quarterback Mac Jones is sitting at an incredible 1,101 yards and eight touchdowns through three games. Running back Najee Harris has been very efficient with 347 yards and 10 touchdowns on a 6.7-yard per carry average. Georgia’s defense, sitting at second in the FBS in average yards allowed, will put the Crimson Tide’s production to the test. Georgia has only allowed six points in the second half all season. Offensively, Georgia has been clean and efficient. Quarterback Stetson Bennett, who has 689 passing yards and five touchdowns, is the only starter in the SEC to have not yet thrown an interception. Backed up by a solid rushing game, Georgia won’t hang up 50 points, but it will strangle the life out of offenses, scoring just enough to win. If Alabama wants to see the College Football Playoffs this year, it needs to play better defense and take advantage of Georgia’s clean but lackluster offense before Georgia can do the opposite.
Prediction: Georgia 35, Alabama 27
Kentucky (1-2) at No. 18 Tennessee (2-1)
Saturday, Oct. 17 — Neyland Stadium — Knoxville, Tenn.
11 a.m. on SEC Network
Tennessee needs to get far, far away from what happened in the second half in Athens last week. Entering the half with a four-point lead on Georgia, it seemed like it was going to be a close game for the Volunteers. Then, offensive production came to a screeching halt for Tennessee, and the Bulldogs ran with it. One of the top running backs in the SEC, Ty Chandler, could hardly get past the line of scrimmage, being held to 11 yards on eight attempts. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano did his best to keep the ball moving, but it was not enough. Kentucky is a team that could easily be 2-1 like Tennessee, or maybe even 3-0. Little mistakes such as fumbles and missed extra points have become a huge problem for the Wildcats though, so they stand at 1-2. A great run offense has been the key for this team, with quarterback Terry Wilson having 461 passing yards and 221 rushing yards with five total touchdowns. Last week, in the SEC’s lowest-scoring game thus far, Kentucky held Mississippi State to only two points and forced a ridiculous six interceptions, four from starter K.J. Costello. Kentucky has now proved it can be a problem for offenses struggling to function as a unit. Kentucky is a team that should not be underestimated, however, if Tennessee can get its run game going again, it should be able to get the win.
Prediction: Tennessee 31, Kentucky 24
Ole Miss (1-2) at Arkansas (1-2)
Saturday, Oct, 17 — Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium — Fayetteville, Ark.
2:30 p.m. on SEC Network
Ole Miss joins Mississippi State, Alabama and Florida in an attempt to recharacterize the SEC. These teams are letting go of defensive prowess and instead focusing on moving the ball fast and far. Quarterback Matt Corral leads the FBS in QBR and has only thrown one interception with 1,080 yards and nine touchdowns. On the ground, the Rebels move the ball well, with two running backs having 150-plus yards and four touchdowns through three games. Defensively though, the Rebels seem to be letting teams score. Last week, they allowed Alabama to score 63 points, which Alabama hasn’t achieved against an SEC opponent since Week 6 of 2018. Ole Miss is allowing 641 average per game, which generally is not conducive to winning even when a team averages 41 points per game. Comparatively, Arkansas showed signs of great defense but a lackluster offense through the first two weeks. Last week’s 30-28 loss to Auburn was a slight detour from those signs. However, the defense was still solid, only allowing 187 passing yards on 28 attempts, forcing the ground game. The largest takeaway from last week for Arkansas was the considerable uptick in offensive production, particularly for quarterback Feleipe Franks. Franks completed 22 of 30 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns against a solid Auburn defense. Unless last week was a fluke, Arkansas should be able to score more points than it has all season, but it will likely not be enough against the high caliber Ole Miss offense.
Prediction: Ole Miss 45, Arkansas 35
Vanderbilt (0-3) at Missouri (1-2)
Monday, the SEC received its first COVID-19-related postponement of a game. The game is rescheduled for Dec. 12 due to Vanderbilt not being able to field the minimum number of scholarship athletes (53). Vanderbilt has yet to release specific data regarding COVID-19 in its football program.
LSU (1-2) at No. 10 Florida (2-1)
Just days after the postponement of Vanderbilt at Missouri, news broke that the Florida football team had a spike in COVID-19 cases. Florida has reported 21 positive cases among players, 2 among coaches and 10 players that will undergo mandatory quarantine due to potential exposure. This news led to Saturday’s matchup of LSU at Florida being postponed and rescheduled tentatively for Dec. 12. Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said last week's game at Texas A&M might have been the source of the outbreak, but Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said that there has been “no impact” in the A&M program.