Line play is critical in football and Week 5 in the SEC presents several daunting challenges for a handful of the conference’s offensive lines.
Among those who will have their mettle tested this week are a pair of linemen from Georgia and Missouri. Not to be outdone, several marquee matchups will also be worth watching as the secondary’s of LSU, Ole Miss and South Carolina will also come under aerial fire.
We took a look at 10 of the best matchups (both individual and unit) to take the field in Week 5.
RB Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt vs. Florida run defense
What happens when the SEC’s rushing leader collides with the conference’s second-best run defense? We find out in Week 5 when Ralph Webb, owner of 472 yards and 5 touchdowns, and Vanderbilt play host to Florida. Only Alabama has surrendered fewer yards-per-game this season to opposing running backs than the 76.5 YPG allowed by the Gators. This matchup could be telling, in that, either Webb will prove he’s among the SEC’s best or there could very well be a new rushing leader come Week 6, as Kentucky’s Stanley “Boom” Williams and Rawleigh Williams III of Arkansas are close on the heels of the Commodores tailback.
QB Trevor Knight, Texas A&M vs. South Carolina secondary
The calling card of most Will Muschamp defenses is a strong secondary and South Carolina has fit that mold in the coach’s first year as head of the Gamecocks. Muschamp’s defensive backs are yielding 200.8 YPG through the first four matchups of the season, runner-up to Florida for tops in the SEC. They’ll be tested early and often against quarterback Trevor Knight, who leads a dangerous Texas A&M passing attack into Columbia in Week 5. The Oklahoma graduate transfer has 1,055 yards through the air, spreading around his seven scoring tosses to the likes of Josh Reynolds (3 TDs), Christian Kirk (3) and Speedy Noil (1).
QB Riley Ferguson, Memphis vs. Ole Miss secondary
Memphis hasn’t missed a beat with the departure of quarterback Paxton Lynch to the NFL, replacing the star signal caller with Riley Ferguson. The former Tennessee prospect, who lost out to Josh Dobbs as the Vols’ starting quarterback, eventually made his way to Memphis where he’s flourished in his first three career starts. Despite playing in one less game, Ferguson leads the American Athletic Conference with 11 touchdowns, to go along with 843 yards. Ole Miss has allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw just 2 touchdowns against them all season long, tying the Rebels with LSU for fewest in the SEC.
CB Tre’Davious White, LSU vs. WR J’Mon Moore, Missouri
In what could be one of the more intriguing one-on-one battles of the entire season, Missouri’s J’Mon Moore will line up against LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White in a Week 5 contest under the lights in Baton Rouge. Moore leads the conference in total receiving yards (434) and touchdowns with 6 scoring grabs. White does a little bit of everything, and does them well, with an interception for a touchdown, a fumble recovery, and 11 tackles on the year — to go along with kick-return duties.
KRs Marquis Warford and Tavares Johnson, Alcorn State vs. Arkansas special teams
The best kick-return unit in the Southwestern Athletic Conference runs full steam in the SEC’s worst kick-return defense in Week 5 when Alcorn State travels to Little Rock to face Arkansas. The Razorbacks have easily surrendered the most yards this season at a clip of 25.1 YPG per kick return. Led by Marquis Warford (188 yards, TD) and Tavares Johnson (149 yards), Alcorn State sits atop the SWAC in return yardage. Field position will be critical if the Braves want to dole Arkansas another devastating defeat on the turf of War Memorial Stadium.
RB Stanley “Boom” Williams, Kentucky vs. Alabama linebackers
Stanley “Boom” Williams has emerged as one of the better running backs in the SEC, bolstering the claim with 304 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Kentucky’s last two games — both wins for the Wildcats. The junior, however, will have the monumental task of breaking through the Alabama linebacker corps in Week 5. The aforementioned Crimson Tide are stingy when it comes to the run, allowing opponents 67.5 YPG and just one rushing touchdown all season long. If Williams survives the Alabama defensive line, chances are he won’t get far past linebackers Reuben Foster and Keith “whole nother animal” Holcombe.
OLB Arden Key, LSU vs. LT Tyler Howell, Missouri
You can forgive Tyler Howell if he’s had the night sweats this week while preparing to face LSU outside linebacker Arden Key. The sophomore leads the nation with 6.5 sacks on the year and is just an overall menace with 4 quarterback hurries. Or perhaps he’s slept comfortably. The 6-foot, 8-inch, 320-pound left tackle Howell is the rusty anchor along the Missouri offensive line. The line play is one of the biggest factors in Mizzou’s turn-around this season. The unit has yielded just 1.0 sack and 7.0 tackles-for-loss this year — both about twice as fewer as the next closest SEC team.
LB Jordan Jones, Kentucky vs. Alabama running backs
When it comes to making tackles in the SEC this season, there’s Jordan Jones and then everyone else — not even his own Kentucky teammates. The Wildcat linebacker leads all Power 5 programs in solo tackles with 30 take-downs, or five more than runner-up Zach Cunningham of Vanderbilt for the SEC lead. The Alabama offensive line hasn’t necessarily been the Crimson Tide’s strong point this year, giving up a pair of sacks and more than five tackles-for-loss in each of the team’s first four contests. The ankle injury to running back Damien Harris, the Tide’s leading rusher who Nick Saban is hopeful can play in Week 5, doesn’t help matters. Alabama might defeat Kentucky handily, but not before the sophomore Jones makes his presence felt.
DE Carl Lawson, Auburn vs. Louisiana-Monroe offensive line
Carl Lawson is finally beginning to live up to his expectations at Auburn. The defensive end came up with an enormous sack of LSU quarterback Danny Etling on second-and-10 with 24 seconds remaining in Week 4 to help preserve Auburn’s upset victory over its Tigers namesake. Lawson brings 3 sacks into Auburn’s Week 5 matchup with Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks offensive line can stand its ground, allowing just 5 sacks all year in Sun Belt play. They’ll get their biggest test of the year when Lawson lines up across the line of scrimmage.
RG Lamont Gaillard, Georgia vs. Tennessee defensive tackles
Georgia’s offensive line has struggled during coordinator Sam Pittman’s first year in Athens. None of that blame, however, can be pinned on Lamont Gaillard. In 117 snaps this season, the right guard has yet to give up a quarterback pressure and leads all Power-5 schools with a run-blocking grade of 87.8, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s tasked this week with protecting freshman quarterback Jacob Eason from the snarling Tennessee defensive tackles, namely Kendal Vickers and Danny O’Brien, as well as Kahlil McKenzie and Shy Tuttle. The Volunteers are adroit at getting in opponent’s backfield, with 25.0 tackles-for-loss this year.