Last week, the top-tier Southeastern Conference teams cemented their place in the playoff discussion, while the lower-tier teams continued their season long struggles. While Week 5 provides fewer SEC games, it showcases some quality matchups, pitting teams of various levels against one another. Here is a rundown of the top games around the SEC.
Mississippi State (3-1) at No. 7 Auburn (4-0)
Saturday, Sept. 28 — Jordan-Hare Stadium — Auburn, Alabama
6 p.m. on ESPN
The headline matchup of the weekend pits Auburn against Mississippi State in an SEC West showdown. Auburn will look for revenge against the Mississippi State team that upset the Tigers in Starkville last year. To open this season, Auburn has impressed early, putting itself in position for the College Football Playoff with non-home victories against ranked opponents in No. 13 Oregon and No. 23 Texas A&M. With freshman quarterback Bo Nix under center, the Auburn offense has seen steady improvement, scoring 28 points in its matchup against the Aggies. The Tigers also have a tough run defense which held A&M to 56 rushing yards. With a balanced and talented team, Auburn has kept itself in the mix with the other SEC West powerhouses. Last week, Mississippi State responded to its loss to Kansas State by dominating Kentucky at home. The Bulldogs’ rushing attack has been impressive, with star running back Kylin Hill rushing for 100 yards in each of their first four games. Starting for the Bulldogs at quarterback is true freshman Garrett Shader, who ran for 125 yards in the win over Kentucky. The Bulldogs being able to run against the stout Auburn rush defense will be a key factor in determining who wins.
Prediction: Auburn 31, Mississippi State 14
Kentucky (2-2) at South Carolina (1-3)
Saturday Sept. 28 — Williams-Brice Stadium — Columbia, South Carolina
6:30 p.m. on SEC Network
This Eastern showdown between the Wildcats and the Gamecocks features two teams who are trying to salvage their seasons after losing starting quarterbacks to injury. Kentucky is looking to find an identity, as two straight losses to Florida and Mississippi State have killed what started off as a season with high expectations. Against Mississippi State, Kentucky’s usually decent run defense struggled, giving up 225 rushing yards to the Bulldogs. Kentucky quarterback Sawyer Smith struggled against Mississippi State, completing less than 37 percent of his passes, including an ugly interception that was returned for a touchdown on the first drive of the game. South Carolina is hoping to rebound after back-to-back blowouts against SEC teams. In their last game against Missouri, the Gamecocks’ offense struggled, picking up 16 total rushing yards with quarterback Ryan Hilinski completing less than 50 percent of his passes. South Carolina will look to snap a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
Prediction: South Carolina 20, Kentucky 17
Ole Miss (2-2) at No. 2 Alabama (4-0)
Saturday, Sept. 28 — Bryant-Denny Stadium — Tuscaloosa, Alabama
2:30 p.m. on CBS
This weekend, Ole Miss travels to Tuscaloosa to attempt the unlikely upset of top dog Alabama. Ole Miss started off the season slow, losing to Memphis in a game where the Rebels only scored 10 points. Over the last three weeks, the Rebels’ offense has picked up the pace, topping Arkansas and Southeastern Louisiana and ending up one controversial call away from an upset against Cal. The Crimson Tide has started this season as dominantly as ever, winning all four of its games while averaging 50 points across each. Led by Heisman candidate quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Alabama offense has started off the season hot, with the No. 9 total offense and No. 6 scoring offense. Expect a lot of scoring this week.
Prediction: Alabama 52, Ole Miss 20
Northern Illinois (1-2) at Vanderbilt (0-3)
Saturday, Sept. 28 — Vanderbilt Stadium — Nashville, Tennessee
11 a.m. on SEC Network
After a humiliating home loss to LSU, Vanderbilt looks to rebound and earn its first win of the season against Northern Illinois. Vanderbilt has had a rough start to the season, with two tough matchups against Georgia and LSU to open the year. Northern Illinois started the season 1-2, with blowout losses to Utah and Nebraska. The Huskies have struggled offensively, only scoring eight points in their loss to Nebraska. Vanderbilt’s defense, which scored twice against LSU, should look to capitalize on that.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 21, N Illinois 10