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SEC Rundown: Disappointing Rivalries

Adam Luckett10/05/22

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Article written by:On3 imageAdam Luckett

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(John Bunch | Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After last week, every SEC team has played at least one conference game as things are developing throughout the college football landscape. On Saturday, we could have our best SEC weekend of the year.

Unfortunately, the two rivalry games on CBS won’t be the games that make it a great day.

Both Auburn at Georgia and Texas A&M at Alabama lost some luster this year as the Tigers seem ready to fire Bryan Harsin at any moment now and Jimbo Fisher has big-time problems on offense. Despite the yearly CBS double-header coming up short of expectations, we are set for another strong day in the SEC.

Three exciting games in the noon window should lead to an excellent day.

Arkansas is losing momentum fast

After a hot start to the season with solid home wins over Cincinnati and South Carolina to begin the season, things have started to slip away from Arkansas over the last three weeks.

The Hogs needed a valiant effort to get by Bobby Petrino’s Missouri State squad in Week 3 and then dropped a very winnable game to Texas A&M. Arkansas then followed that up with a double-digit home loss to Alabama despite Bryce Young being knocked out of the game with an injury.

With consecutive road games on deck before getting to the bye week, Sam Pittman’s team needs to turn things around fast.

On Saturday, the Hogs will travel to Starkville to face Mississippi State. Pittman is 2-0 against Mike Leach since joining the conference, but the Arkansas pass defense (No. 106 in passing EPA) is a huge concern facing Will Rogers and the Air Raid attack at Davis-Wade Stadium.

Saturday is a very big game for Arkansas. A win could get things right, but a loss could turn a losing streak into a tailspin.

LSU is a home dog again

After knocking off Mississippi State in Week 3 as a small home dog, LSU finds itself in the same place when Tennessee rolls into Tiger Stadium this weekend. Only this time, the game will start in the morning instead of at night.

It’s the rare 11:00 a.m. local kickoff in Baton Rouge as Brian Kelly and Josh Heupel get ready to face off for the first time. It’ll be strength on strength as Matt House’s first defense at LSU has been very solid, but Hendon Hooker might be leading the best offense in college football that is powered by tempo and spacing.

We haven’t seen Tennessee since that big home win over Florida, so the hangover effect could be in play following two weeks of praise on Rocky Top. Fortunately, the Vols aren’t walking into the typical crazy night atmosphere on the Bayou.

Regardless, this is the best game of the noon window, and the winner could emerge as the early No. 1 contender in their divisions as SEC title races begin to heat up.

Florida and Missouri look to stay out of the SEC East cellar

Both Florida and Missouri are off to 0-2 starts in SEC play with a close loss on the road and a tough loss at home. Each program is looking to avoid the dreaded three-loss start in conference play.

That could give us a heated game in The Swamp on Saturday afternoon.

The fun part will be seeing this Florida offense against a resurgent Missouri defense under new play-caller Blake Baker. The Tigers rank in the top-25 of defensive EPA as this group has been very efficient led by Florida transfer Ty’Ron Hopper (33 tackles, 8 tackles for loss). Meanwhile, Anthony Richardson is playing much better and the Gators have a very good rushing attack (No. 7 in EPA) that is putting up over 200 yards per night with Richardson, Montrell Johnson Jr., and Trevor Etienne all averaging over 5.7 yards per attempt.

Things will get ugly when Missouri has the ball as both Eliah Drinkwitz’s offense and the Florida defense are playing some bad football to this point in the season rankings in the 100s nationally. However, whichever side plays best on this end will probably have the advantage on Saturday.

The Tigers are 3-2 in the last five meetings with Florida and logged a 21-point victory on the road back in 2018. Don’t be surprised if Mizzou is another live dog on Saturday.

SEC notebook

— After Saturday’s big home win against Kentucky, Lane Kiffin’s third Ole Miss team has a chance to go on a real run. The Rebels are a big road favorite against Vanderbilt this weekend and then draw an Auburn program that could fire Bryan Harsin at any point at home next weekend. Ole Miss is looking at a 7-0 start heading into road clashes with LSU and Texas A&M to end October. Kiffin could host Nick Saban on Nov. 12 with the division title on the line. That could be fun.

South Carolina has been blitzed in its only two Power Five games this season and now must travel to a venue that the program hasn’t won at since 2012. Shane Beamer’s second team in Columbia is a double-digit dog this weekend and desperately needs to put out a good performance after getting an extended week after playing on Thursday. Look for the Gamecocks to give Kentucky a good swing on Saturday night. A loss puts them at 0-3 in the league and makes getting to bowl eligibility very difficult.

Bryce Young‘s status is still undetermined for Saturday. If the defending Heisman Trophy winner is unable to go, that could give us a good look at Jalen Milroe. The former top-100 recruit out of Katy (Texas) Tompkins had some good moments last week against Arkansas but will now have the advantage of going through game prep as the starter this week. Alabama could find their future at quarterback or Milroe could be trying out for those programs that may be looking for a starting quarterback in the transfer portal after the season.

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2022-12-03