Week 10 in the SEC saw Georgia secure first place in the SEC East with a victory in the Swamp, Mississippi State dominate Arkansas behind Kylin Hill’s 234 rushing yards and Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix leading the Tigers to a victory against Ole Miss. This week, with Texas A&M enjoying its second bye of the season, SEC fans turn their attention to the most critical football games of the season. Here’s a look at what’s happening around the SEC this week.
No. 2 LSU (8-0) at No. 3 Alabama (8-0)
Saturday, Nov. 9 — Bryant-Denny Stadium — Tuscaloosa, Alabama
2:30 p.m. on CBS
Ever since LSU entered into the Top 2 of the AP Poll, this rivalry game has set itself up to decide which team will represent the SEC West and secure an easy route to the College Football Playoff. This is the first time the two programs have faced each other while ranked this high since 2011 when LSU defeated Alabama in a 9-6 slugfest. The difference for both teams from 2011 to now is drastic, as both LSU and Alabama have turned from defensive dominators to offensive juggernauts. This season, the Tigers, led by Heisman frontrunner Joe Burrow, are No. 4 in total offense and No. 2 in passing offense in the nation, throwing for over 370 yards per contest. Alabama is not far behind, ranking No. 9 in total offense and No. 5 in passing offense, boasting three first round prospects at wideout. The big question mark for this game will be the health of star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who injured his ankle against Tennessee. He is expected to play against LSU, but may not be 100 percent healthy for the matchup. Tagovailoa’s health, as well as the excellent play of LSU and Burrow in particular this season, will give the Tigers an advantage in this high-scoring matchup.
Prediction: LSU 31, Alabama 28
Tennessee (4-5) at Kentucky (4-4)
Saturday, Nov. 9 — Kroger Field — Lexington, Kentucky
6:30 p.m. on SEC Network
In a matchup that would have been difficult to watch a month ago, Tennessee takes on Kentucky in an SEC East showdown between two teams that have seen steady improvement over the last four weeks. For Tennessee, a slow start to the season left the Volunteers without an offensive identity, as the team sat at 1-4. Since then, Tennessee has found consistency on offense, which helped the Volunteers win three of their last four games. While quarterback Jared Guarantano is a focal point of the offense, the big difference maker has come from the backfield, as the tailback tandem of Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan have been impressive over the last four weeks, rushing for a combined 109 yards per game. For Kentucky, an early season injury to quarterback Terry Wilson limited the team’s offensive output, which resulted in the Wildcats losing three games in a row, including an embarrassing loss to South Carolina. However, since the Wildcats have placed wideout Lynn Bowden at quarterback, the offense has dramatically improved behind a rush-first system. This has helped Kentucky win two of its last three matchups. Look for the wildcats to run well against Tennessee’s defense.
Prediction: Kentucky 21, Tennessee 14
Appalachian State (7-1) at South Carolina (4-5)
Saturday, Nov. 9 — Williams-Brice Stadium — Columbia, South Carolina
6 p.m. on ESPN 2
Until Appalachian State’s stunning loss to Georgia Southern this weekend, the Gamecocks were on track to face a ranked non-Power 5 opponent for the first time in school history. Having lost their chance to be undefeated, the Mountaineers still have a lot to play for against the Gamecocks and provide a tough challenge for South Carolina. Appalachian State features a tough rushing attack led by tailback Darrynton Evans and dual threat quarterback Zac Thomas, rushing for over 232 yards per game. South Carolina also possesses a strong rushing attack, averaging 185 yards on the ground per game. In addition to their strong running game, the Gamecocks have one of the best wideouts in the SEC in Bryan Edwards. Despite quarterback Jake Bentley getting injured in their first game of the season, Edwards has been dominant for South Carolina, totaling 139 receiving yards in its last game against Vanderbilt. With Appalachian State possessing a tough passing defense that gives up only 165 passing yards per game, look for the Gamecocks and Mountaineers to be close until the very end, with South Carolina holding a slight advantage.
Prediction: South Carolina 31, Appalachian State 24
Western Kentucky (3-3) at Arkansas (4-1)
Saturday, Nov. 9 — Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium — Fayetteville, Arkansas
11 a.m. on SEC Network
2019 has not been kind to the Arkansas Razorbacks, as a season that should have seen them grow under coach Chad Morris has instead seen them regress in multiple areas, most concerning of all on offense. The Razorbacks have rotated through quarterbacks on a weekly basis and have been unable to pick up any momentum against tough SEC defenses, ranking 104th in total offense. Defensively, Arkansas hasn’t fared much better, with the John Chavis-managed defense giving up an average of over 35 points per game. This week, Arkansas will face a Hilltopper team that is ranked near the top in both passing offense, throwing for over 252 yards per game, and scoring defense, giving up only 20 points per game. Western Kentucky is led on offense by a familiar face for the Razorbacks, Arkansas transfer quarterback Ty Storey. In this matchup, the Razorbacks will turn to freshman John Stephen Jones at quarterback. With Jones’ dual threat ability and tailback Rakeem Boyd’s ability on the ground, rushing for over 100 yards against Mississippi State, look for Arkansas to try and rebuild its confidence offensively against Western Kentucky.
Prediction: Arkansas 21, Western Kentucky 17