On a related side note, I apologize to all of you who were waiting for me to write my usual SEC previews and wraparounds these past couple of days. For those of you who don’t know, I am getting married at the end of the month and also work a full-time job that has, recently, become quite stressful. So, I was unable to type out my usual weekly addition to the site. And, for letting y’all down, I am sorry.
With that said, let’s take a look at the games for this coming Saturday, traditionally known as the “Third Saturday in October”!
And it is known as that in college football because of this Saturday’s marquee matchup in Knoxville as the number six ranked Tennessee Volunteers host the number three Alabama Crimson Tide. The stakes have never been bigger for UT, as they have a chance to break into the upper echelon of the SEC with a win in General Robert Neyland Stadium Saturday afternoon. Led by darkhorse Heisman candidate quarterback Hendon Hooker, the Volunteers have moved the ball quite well through the air. Hooker, the 6’4” senior signal caller from Greensboro, North Carolina, has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,432 yards and an amazing ten touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also rushed for 231 yards and three scores. Since transferring from Virginia Tech, Hooker has been a huge spark for the Volunteer offense. On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Aaron Beasley leads the team with 35 total tackles, but defensive lineman Byron Young has been a force, with 3.5 sacks. That said, the Crimson Tide come to Knoxville and are champing at the bit to come after the Vols after a near-meltdown against the Texas A&M Aggies last week. The biggest question for Alabama will be if defending Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young will be healthy enough to play against Tennessee. After what we all saw out of backup quarterback Jalen Milroe, Young may be forced to play against Tennessee in order to give Alabama a chance to win the game. That’s not to say the rest of the team won’t be on their “A” game (pun not intended). Bama running back Jahmyr Gibbs has run for 360 yards and two touchdowns in the past two games while Young recovered from his injury. And, of course, the vaunted Alabama defense will also be ready for this game, led by superstar linebacker Will Anderson, Jr. Looking at Vegas, the line is currently set at Alabama minus 7 and ½. I think this all depends on if Young or Milroe is the man under center. Either way, I think that Alabama will win number sixteen in a row in what has become a one-sided rivalry. Look for the Crimson Tide to beat the Volunteers in this one.
The only other conference game that is between two ranked teams is the nightcap on the SEC Network as number 16 Mississippi State takes on the twenty-second ranked Kentucky Wildcats. These two teams have only met 49 times, and it’s been quite the even split, with the Bulldogs leading the series, 25 to 24. Mississippi State has to be hoping for a win here to keep them in the SEC Western Division race, while Kentucky needs this win to try to bounce back from two back-to-back losses. The key factor in this game is State’s passing attack against the Wildcats’ passing defense. Mississippi State’s quarterback, Will Rogers, leads the conference in passing yards and touchdowns with 2,110 yards and 22 touchdowns in the first six games this season, including 395 yards and three scores against Arkansas last week. Rogers is also one touchdown shy of tying Dak Prescott’s school record of 70 passing touchdowns! What an impressive stat line for this young man. Looming in the wings; however, is the Kentucky defense who counters with the SEC’s third-best pass defense, allowing only a paltry 174.2 yards per game. UK also has the third-best defensive unit as well, only surrendering 307.2 yards a game. That is not to say that Kentucky doesn’t have offensive weapons and that Mississippi State doesn’t have defensive playmakers either. Mississippi State’s linebacker corps is led by Jett Johnson, who leads the team with 57 tackles, which is fourth in the conference. The Wildcats also have their phenom quarterback Will Levis, who has passed for 1,405 yards and twelve touchdowns so far this season. His numbers would probably be higher; however, Levis has been battling a toe injury this season. The Wildcats are hopeful that Levis can return for this game, but if not, it could be a long day for the Blue and White. Look for the Bulldogs to hand the Wildcats their third straight loss and knock UK out of the SEC Eastern Division discussion.
The last game I want to highlight is the match-up in the Swamp on Saturday, between two first-year head coaches. That’s right, the game between LSU head coach Brian Kelly and Florida front man Billy Napier. Both teams can move one step closer to bowl eligibility and of course, disrupt the other team’s season with a win in Gainesville Saturday night. This matchup has become a rivalry game of late, with the Tigers winning the last three games in the series, but the Gators holding the overall series record, 33-32-3. For some reason, in doing research for this article, some publications have called the rivalry the “Swamp Bowl”. Don’t know how I feel about this. Regardless of what you call it, the UF-LSU rivalry has had its share of wild games, including some games like the “Wristband Robbery” game and the “First Overtime” game and the “Spurrier” game I’ve never heard of. Of course, fans from my age group probably remember games like the 2020 “Shoe Throw” game, the “Only Loss” game in 2003 and my personal favorite, the “LSU Beats Number One” game in 1997. All in all, this game does have a bit of extra spice surrounding it, even though both teams are unranked for this matchup, the first time this is the case since back in 2014. The big storyline with this matchup is if the Tigers defense can bounce back from a week ago against Tennessee. LSU were only allowing a miniscule 14.8 points per game before last week’s debacle. Florida’s quarterback, sophomore Anthony Richardson, can be dynamic at times, but also has had his problem with turning the ball over, with at least one giveaway in five straight games. The Tigers defensive front, led by B.J. Ojulari, who leads the team with three and a half sacks, will be tasked with keeping Richardson in check. On the offensive side of the ball, the Tigers will be led by their dual-threat signal caller Jayden Daniels, who currently has 1,215 yards passing and seven touchdowns along with 359 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. One thing of note, the Tigers freshman offensive tackle Will Campbell, is expected to return to the LSU lineup after being hospitalized last weekend. This is especially important as Campbell will be tasked with protecting Daniels’ blind side against a hungry Gators defense. Will the Gators win their third game in row after stumbling against Tennessee and Kentucky? Or will LSU get back to their winning ways on Saturday night? I truly believe it will come down to one miscue. One thing that will tip the scales one way. One little mistake will be the difference in this game. Who makes that mistake, I don’t know. This one is like a coin flip for me. The LSU fan in me wants to say the Fighting Tigers pull this one out, but the realist in me is not one hundred percent sure. I guess we will all have to see come Saturday.
As for the other games on the slate, here are the other games in the SEC on Saturday:
Auburn @ #9 Ole Miss
Vanderbilt @ #1 Georgia
Arkansas @ BYU
Texas A&M, South Carolina and Missouri are idle.
One last thing about the LSU-Florida game, I have to repeat myself and say I’m not keen on the “Swamp Bowl” nickname some people have given this game. What do you readers think is a better name? Let me know in the comment section below!
As always, Geaux Tigers!