Following a week of upsets in the SEC, six teams have the week off. In the showcase match of Week 4 in the SEC, Alabama coach Nick Saban improved his record to 22-0 against former assistant coaches. Alabama now stands at the top of the SEC as the only team left undefeated.
No. 2 Alabama (4-0) at Tennessee (2-2)
Saturday, Oct. 24 — Neyland Stadium — Knoxville, Tenn.
2:30 p.m. on CBS
The Alabama team that played against Georgia in the 41-24 Alabama win is the best it has been in years. Quarterback Mac Jones is white hot, now leading the NCAA in QBR with three consecutive 400-yard passing games. His last 400-yard performance was against a top-three defense. Much of Jones’ performances have been assisted by wide receiver Jaylen Waddle who should seriously be considered in Heisman talks. Waddle has averaged over 20 yards per catch through four consecutive 100-plus yard receiving games and has demonstrated an aptitude for big plays, boasting two games with 85-plus yard receptions. Heading into last week’s game, it was well known that Alabama had one of the best offenses in the country. The main takeaway from the game was how well the defense — which had been lackluster to say the least — stepped up, forcing a scoreless second half. Tennessee’s trajectory is nearly opposite from the Tide’s. After the last two weeks of self-destruction, the Volunteers find themselves with identity issues and quarterback doubts. Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw two interceptions last week, both of which were returned for touchdowns in the 34-7 loss to Kentucky. Running back Ty Chandler, who seemed to be the starter through the first two weeks, has now been replaced by Eric Grey, who rushed for 128 yards on 24 carries. The Volunteers need a bye week, but instead they get to host the SEC’s top team.
Prediction: Alabama 45, Tennessee 14
Kentucky (2-2) at Missouri (1-2)
Saturday, Oct. 24 — Faurot Field — Columbia, Mo.
3 p.m. on SEC Network
Two teams that have shown tremendous up-ticks in performance will meet in Columbia on Saturday. Missouri had a week of rest to hone in the potential it displayed in its Week 3, 45-41 upset over LSU. Freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak, who started his first game of the season, completed a tremendous 85 percent of his passes for 406 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Larry Rountree III also posted his best game of the season, rushing for 119 yards on 18 attempts. After missing last week when the Tigers were set to host Vanderbilt but ultimately did not due to Vandy being unable to field the minimum number of athletes, Missouri might have some tricks up its sleeve despite being largely unproven. The Kentucky Wildcats have dominated the rushing game in the SEC. Six players had rushing attempts in last week’s showing against Tennessee, contributing to Kentucky’s average of 206 rushing yards per game. The Kentucky defense was key in last week’s performance, forcing two interceptions that were both returned for touchdowns. This allowed Kentucky to play its brand of football that chews through the clock. If Kentucky can continue to force mistakes on the opposing defense, their offensive game plan can be a serious issue for teams that cannot consistently make defensive stops.
Prediction: Kentucky 35, Missouri 28
Auburn (2-2) at Ole Miss (1-3)
Saturday, Oct. 24 — Vaught Hemingway Stadium — Oxford, Miss.
11 a.m. on SEC Network
Both Auburn and Ole Miss fell victim to upsets last week. Auburn’s 30-22 loss to South Carolina seems to have exposed the biggest issue for the Tigers. Quarterback Bo Nix has been unremarkable this year averaging 55 percent completion and 217 yards per game. Where he had excelled was in protecting the football, but as he threw three interceptions last week, this became questionable. Expect to see more conservative passing from Nix this week in attempts to bring his completion percentage up and limit turnovers against a weaker defense. Also, rushing attempts are likely to increase, as Nix has been a solid rusher. Running back Tank Bigsby has averaged 6.1 yards per carry and could be leaned on more, especially after his two consecutive 100-plus yard rushing games. Ole Miss might be facing very similar struggles to Auburn, or even more vividly, Mississippi State. Last week, quarterback Matt Corral, who had previously been exceptional, threw six interceptions in the 33-21 loss to Arkansas. After Arkansas exposed Mississippi State’s air raid and forced three interceptions in Week 2, Mississippi State has been winless. The same thing will happen to the Rebels unless they show the ability to adapt and adjust their game plan.
Prediction: Auburn 31, Ole Miss 24
South Carolina (2-2) at LSU (1-2)
Saturday, Oct. 24 — Tiger Stadium — Baton Rouge, La.
6 p.m. on ESPN
LSU, like Missouri, missed last week’s game because its opposition was not able to field the minimum number of players due to COVID-19. The Tigers’ last game showed signs of improvement, despite being a loss. In that game, quarterback Myles Brennan threw no interceptions for the first time this season while putting up 430 yards and four touchdowns. One issue for LSU is that it has pivoted to an Air Raid offense, and South Carolina proved last week that it has very capable cornerbacks. The biggest issue for LSU, is that its defense has allowed nearly 500 yards and 32 points per game. For the Gamecocks, who have been toward the top of the SEC in defensive measures, their balanced offense will prove to be an issue for LSU. Running back Kevin Harris is third in the SEC at 409 yards with a five yard per carry average. The defensive pressure from South Carolina has also been impressive, as defensive linemen Kingsley Enagbare and Keir Thomas are first and tied for third in sacks, respectively. Against the strong South Carolina pass rush and ball-hawking secondary, LSU will need to adapt to a run game to get back on track for the season.
Prediction: South Carolina 38, LSU 35