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SEC Rundown: Tennessee Faces Another Road Test

How do you know that the calendar has shifted from September to October? Six of the seven games on the SEC schedule feature at least one ranked team.

There might be better games on the schedule than the rematch between Texas A&M and Alabama. However, the back and forth between Alabama coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher adds some spice to the matchup.

Linebacker Jeremy Banks #33 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks to defend against the Florida Gators
Donald Page - Getty Images - AFP

Saban accused Fisher and his staff of buying the best recruiting class in the country thanks to the Name and Image Likeness free-for-all.

The coaches haven’t been adding fuel to the fire and the game is flying a bit under the radar. Some of that might have to do with the fact that the Aggies have already lost twice and dropped out of the Top 25 in both national polls. Texas A&M will look to become one of the rare teams to beat Saban and Alabama in back-to-back seasons.

That is not even the top game this week in the SEC. That honor goes to Tennessee and Louisiana State, one of three games on the Week 6 schedule between ranked teams and the only one of three involving two SEC teams.

Alabama and Georgia are tied at -110 in the odds to win the Southeastern Conference title according to the sportsbook. Texas A&M (+2200) and Tennessee (+2200) are the other top contenders along with Ole Miss, Louisiana State and Kentucky, all priced at +4000.

The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide are leading the way at +200 in the odds to win the national title per the college football playoff odds. Ole Miss (+4000) and Tennessee (+5000) are next among SEC teams.

Alabama jumped ahead of Georgia to take over the top spot in both national polls following Georgia’s near upset against unranked Missouri. With Tennessee at No. 8 and Ole Miss moving up in both polls to No. 9, four of the top 10 teams in both polls are from the SEC.

Kentucky fell out of the top 10 while Mississippi State broke into both polls at No. 23. Arkansas is no longer in the Associated Press’ top 25 but the Razorbacks come in at No. 25 in the American Football Coaches Association poll.

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Game of the Week

Tennessee Volunteers vs LSU Tigers

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Noon ET (ESPN)
  • Line: Tennessee -3

The quarterbacks will be headliners in this one. Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker and Jayden Daniels of LSU have combined for 14 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Hooker is the top-rated quarterback in the SEC. Daniels also leads the Tigers with 321 rushing yards.

Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) is the lone SEC team to allow more than 300 passing yards per game.

LSU (4-1, 2-0) has allowed more sacks than any other team in the SEC other than Kentucky and the number could be even higher if not for the scrambling ability of Daniels. On the other side of the ball, LSU defensive ends BJ Ojulari and Sai’vion Jones have combined for six sacks.

Tennessee has scored on all 22 red zone trips in the first four games with 19 of those drives ending in touchdowns. LSU has come up empty on three of 23 visits to the red zone.

The Volunteers and Tigers have combined to force 20 takeaways, but have also turned the ball over 12 times. In a week with so many games featuring double-digit point spreads per the college football betting online lines, this is the game that could be the most competitive.

Arkansas Razorbacks vs Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Date, time (TV): Saturday, Noon ET (SEC Network)
  • Line: Mississippi State -9½

Mississippi State (4-1, 1-1) is gaining momentum following last week’s 42-24 win against Texas A&M. While quarterback Will Rogers understandably gets much of the attention, the Mississippi State defense came up with four turnovers in the victory. The Bulldogs are tied for second in the SEC with six interceptions.

Arkansas quarterback K.J. Jefferson has thrown just one interception. Rogers passed for 417 yards in last year’s loss to Arkansas and the Razorbacks (3-2, 1-2) are 12th in the SEC in passing yards allowed per game.

Arkansas leads the SEC with 21 sacks. With the way the Mississippi State passing offense is run, it can be hard to get to Rogers with all the high percentage passes that require the ball to get out of his hands quickly.

The Arkansas duo of Drew Sanders and Jordan Domineck have combined for 11 sacks. The Razorbacks’ Raheim Sanders has an SEC-best 609 rushing yards as he has already topped his total from his freshman season.

Missouri Tigers vs Florida Gators

  • Date, time, TV: Saturday, Noon ET (ESPNU)
  • Line: Florida -11

Quarterbacks Brady Cook of Missouri and Anthony Richardson have combined for nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Richardson was getting some buzz as a Heisman Trophy candidate coming into the season, but his stock has fallen off a bit.

Both Missouri (2-3, 0-2) and Florida (3-2, 0-2) are looking to finish off drives better than they have in the first five games of 2022. Missouri has scored on just 14 of 19 trips to the red zone while Florida has come away with points in 16 of 20 possessions that reached the red zone.

Missouri has the leading receiver in the conference in Dominic Lovett, who has 27 catches and 460 receiving yards.

Something to consider for those who bet online: Florida has some work to do on defense as the Gators are allowing 421 yards and 5.8 yards per play. Missouri is allowing nearly 100 fewer yards per game than they did a season ago.

Auburn Tigers vs Georgia Bulldogs

  • Date, time, TV: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
  • Line: Georgia -29½

No. 2 Georgia (5-0, 2-0) has won the last four meetings with Auburn and is heavily favored to run the winning streak to five.

With five players selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Georgia’s defense isn’t quite as dominating as last year’s unit. Still, the Bulldogs are second only to Alabama in total defense among SEC teams. Georgia is allowing 264.4 yards per game.

Auburn’s defense has shown signs of growth. This is the first time since 2019 that Auburn (3-2, 1-1) is giving up less than five yards per play.

Stetson Bennett of Georgia is second in the SEC with an average of 307 passing yards per game. However, he is looking to improve his average of one touchdown pass per game. Auburn’s Robby Ashford has just three TD passes and two interceptions.

Having to play Georgia the week after it nearly fell to unranked Missouri is probably not ideal timing for Auburn as the Bulldogs figure to be fired up for this one.

Defensive end Colby Wooden #25 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after a big play
Michael Chang – Getty Images – AFP

Ole Miss Rebels vs Vanderbilt Commodores

  • Date, time, TV: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
  • Line: Ole Miss -17

No. 9 Ole Miss (5-0, 1-0) leads the SEC with 1,309 rushing yards and 17 TDs and the Rebels are facing a 3-2 Vanderbilt team that has surrendered more than 150 rushing yards in each of the last four games.

Neither Jaxson Dart of Ole Miss or AJ Swann of Vanderbilt are off to impressive starts throwing the ball. They are two of the four SEC starting quarterbacks to complete less than 60% of their passes. In an era when attempting 30 passes per game is commonplace, Dart is throwing 22 passes per game with Swann coming in at 18.

The game does feature two of the top runners in the SEC. Ole Miss freshman Quinshon Judkins is second in the conference with 535 yards and Vanderbilt’s Ray Davis is fourth with 402 yards.

South Carolina Gamecocks vs Kentucky Wildcats

  • Date, time, TV: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
  • Line: Kentucky -6

No. 13 Kentucky got Chris Rodriguez, who ran for 1,379 yards a season ago, back in last week’s loss to Ole Miss. He ran for 72 yards in his season debut and his role figures to expand as the season moves on.

A year ago Spencer Rattler was featured prominently on the list of Heisman Trophy candidates early in his final season at Oklahoma. It would be hard to find his name in the Heisman Trophy odds this season as he has seven interceptions in his first five games at South Carolina (3-2, 0-2). He will be facing one of the two defenses in the SEC, holding opposing passes to a passing rating under 100.

Kentucky’s Will Levis is completing 74% of his passes over the last three games. He has six touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games for the Wildcats (4-1, 1-1).

One issue that needs to be addressed for Kentucky is pass protection. The Wildcats have allowed an SEC-high 19 sacks. This might be the week to show some improvement considering that no SEC team has fewer sacks than South Carolina’s total of four.

Texas A&M Aggies vs Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Date, time, TV: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (CBS)
  • Line: Alabama -24

If things get as heated on the field, as they did between the coaches during the offseason, the Texas A&M at Alabama contest could be one heck of a game

When the teams met a season ago, the Aggies pulled off the stunner with a 41-38 upset of Alabama. When looking at the college football injuries, there are questions about the health of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. The Heisman Trophy winner left last week’s game against Arkansas as a result of a shoulder injury.

Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1) is averaging just 160 passing yards in four games against FBS opponents. Now the Aggies face the No. 1 passing defense in the SEC. Alabama has allowed one touchdown pass and just 5.3 yards per passing attempt.

Alabama’s Will Anderson failed to record a sack in last year’s game. Expect him to make more of an impact in this year’s matchup for the top-ranked Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0). The Aggies have just 21 tackles for loss and six sacks in the first five games of 2022.

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