Last week, the SEC saw a top-15 matchup go down to the wire, several bowl eligible teams strengthen their record in hopes of a College Football Playoff spot and other teams on the hunt for a bowl game make their cases. This week, a matchup between two SEC West teams fighting for their bowl eligibility fates stands tall amongst other SEC teams facing non-conference opponents from the Football Championship Subdivision.
Tennessee (5-5) vs Missouri (5-5)
Saturday, Nov. 23 — Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium — Columbia, Missouri
6:30 p.m. on SEC Network
Both these teams are fighting for bowl eligibility but are trending in completely different directions. After starting 1-4 in the first five games, Tennessee has won four of its last five games with its lone loss in that span coming to Alabama. A big reason for this sudden success is the improved play of junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. In the last five games, Guarantano has completed 61.9 percent of his passes and has thrown six touchdowns to one interception. Even though Guarantano has only attempted 71 passes in this span, his consistency off the bench has helped Tennessee score at pivotal times. That will be important as Missouri’s defense has been a problem for opposing offenses and especially quarterbacks. The Missouri pass defense has only allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 51 percent of their passes and an average of 161 yards per game. Meanwhile, Missouri started off the season 5-1 and in the AP Top 25 rankings, but a loss to Vanderbilt started a four-game losing streak. Last week, the return of quarterback Kelly Bryant was not good enough to energize an otherwise dormant Missouri offense as the Tigers lost to Florida 23-6. While the production of Kelly Bryant will be important for the team, running back Larry Rountree will need to step up after failing to rush for 60 yards in each of his last four games. Missouri’s offense needs to wake up if it is going to win, as the team has not scored a touchdown in its last nine quarters of football. However, making it to the endzone may be hard to do against a team that has allowed only 20 points combined in the last two games.
Prediction: Tennessee 24, Missouri 20
Arkansas (2-8) vs No. 1 LSU (10-0)
Saturday, Nov. 23 — Tiger Stadium — Baton Rouge, Louisiana
6 p.m. on ESPN
After an offseason that saw the Razorbacks bring in two transfer quarterbacks, SMU transfer Ben Hicks and Texas A&M transfer Nick Starkel lacked any consistency, eventually forcing redshirt freshman quarterback John Stephens Jones into the starting role. Yet even with this switch, the team wasn’t good enough to stop a Western Kentucky team, led by former Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey, from scoring at will against the Razorbacks. The lone bright spot for the Razorbacks this season has been running back Rakeem Boyd, whose 6.7 yards per carry have helped him eclipse 1,000 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the season. Meanwhile in Baton Rouge, the Tigers are continuing their dominance of the SEC with Heisman front-runner quarterback Joe Burrow leading the charge. Burrow has thrown for over 3,600 yards, with 38 touchdowns to only six interceptions. His 78.6 percent completion percentage is the best in the country and on pace for the NCAA record season. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is continuing his career season reaching over 950 yards and 12 touchdowns on 6.1 yards per carry. In addition to the dynamic duo of Burrow and Edwards-Helaire, a wide receiving corps consisting of Justin Jefferson, Ja’Mar Chase and Terrace Mitchell will wreak havoc against a young Arkansas secondary and is sure to light up the scoreboard in Baton Rouge.
Prediction: LSU 55, Arkansas 14
Samford (5-6) vs No. 12 Auburn (7-3)
Saturday, Nov. 23 — Jordan-Hare Stadium — Auburn, Alabama
11 a.m on SEC Network
Auburn is coming off of its third loss to a top-10 opponent this season. This week, the Tigers will have the ability to recover from that loss against Samford, an FCS team currently fifth in the Southern Conference and averaging a staggering 35 points per game. Auburn is led by freshman quarterback Bo Nix. In the last two weeks, Nix has completed 64 percent of his passes for 585 yards but has only averaged 6.2 yards per attempt and scored three touchdowns. This week, he, and running back JaTarvious Whitlow will have the ability to run up the score and increase their yardage totals on the season against Samford. Defensive tackle Derrick Brown and defensive end Marlon Davidson will be disruptive as they have been all season and should make things extremely difficult for a Samford offense that has the potential to be potent.
Prediction: Auburn 28, Samford 14
Western Carolina (3-8) vs No. 5 Alabama (9-1)
Saturday, Nov. 23 — Bryant-Denny Stadium — Tuscaloosa, Alabama
11 a.m. on ESPN
Last week, Alabama was on a mission to prove it belonged in the top four of the College Football Playoff after losing at home to LSU the week prior. After taking a convincing 35-7 lead against Mississippi State, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury. In a game showcasing Alabama’s talent for the College Football Playoff committee, Tagovailoa’s injury could not have happened at a more inopportune time in the game and in the season. Now led by sophomore quarterback Mac Jones, the Crimson Tide should have the opportunity to work out any kinks in its offense against FCS opponent Western Carolina, a team currently eighth in the Southern Conference and averaging 21.4 points per game. So far this season, Jones has completed 69 percent of his 65 attempts for 566 yards and four touchdowns. Even without defensive end Raekwon Davis, who is currently questionable with an ankle injury, the Crimson Tide has defensive playmakers in linebacker Anfernee Jennings, safety Xavier McKinney and cornerback Trevon Diggs to shut out this Western Carolina offense.
Prediction: Alabama 38, Western Carolina 3