It took double overtime, but Texas A&M made its national statement against No. 9 Tennessee last weekend. With the Aggies enjoying the week off, the Vols have that opportunity against No. 1 Alabama at home.
The Volunteers were a team of destiny of sorts before Texas A&M broke the magic, but Tennessee still could alter the national landscape with a win on Saturday. Florida and LSU had their game canceled last week, so both should be energized to release emotions against lesser opponents.
Here are the top five SEC games you should be watching this weekend:
(All games on Saturday unless noted; all times ET)
No. 1 Alabama at No. 9 Tennessee (3:30 p.m., CBS)
Tennessee and Alabama are both ranked in the top 10, but both could not have had more different paths to get there. No. 1 Alabama has obliterated the competition, winning games by an average of 29 points per game. Even its five-point win over Ole Miss was not as close as the scoreboard indicated. Tennessee has had two overtime games and a Hail Mary win over Georgia.
This matchup could be one of the best of the college football season. Tennessee might be coming off a loss to Texas A&M, but the Vols are still on a hot streak and have won 11 of 12 games dating back to a loss at Alabama last season.
Alabama is the prohibitive SEC favorite, but Tennessee is one of the few teams that can compete with the Tide in the trenches. However, Nick Saban made it clear that this is a major rivalry game for the program and won’t be overlooked.
No. 12 Ole Miss at No. 22 Arkansas (7 p.m., ESPN)
The last time these two teams played, it was an instant classic. Arkansas looked to be out of it with a 4th-and-25 at the Ole Miss 40-yard line in overtime, but TE Hunter Henry threw the ball backwards, where it was recovered by Alex Collins and run for a ridiculous first down. A touchdown and two-point conversion launched the Razorbacks to a shocking 53-52 win.
This game features two teams heading in opposite directions. Ole Miss dropped two of its first three, but the Rebels looked dominant in wins over No. 12 Georgia and Memphis. Arkansas started 3-0 with a win over No. 15 TCU in Fort Worth, but has now lost two of three against No. 10 Texas A&M and No. 1 Alabama.
More than just standings, this is a key momentum game. If Ole Miss can finish on top, it would help set the team up to compete heavily for the SEC West title. But if Arkansas tops the Rebels, Ole Miss’ SEC West title dreams would be officially over.
Missouri at No. 18 Florida (4 p.m., SEC Network)
Florida has had to hear all week about how it “dodged” LSU, even though the Gators actually sought to reschedule to try and “dodge” a potentially catastrophic hurricane. The players have to be frustrated and ready to get back on the field.
Missouri has been impressive in stretches this season, but it’s hard to think of a tougher matchup for the Tigers’ air-raid offense. The Gators have the No. 2 defense in the nation, behind only Michigan, and boast perhaps the best secondary in America between cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson, and safety Marcus Maye.
Missouri relies on the pass more than every other team in the conference, so seeing how it handles incessant pressure will be telling. Florida QB Luke Del Rio is also back from injury and has an opportunity to get back on track quickly against a struggling defense.
Southern Miss at LSU (7:30 p.m., SEC Network)
Even though the Tigers should win this game seamlessly, every Ed Orgeron-coached game has quickly become must-watch television. LSU displayed its firepower against Missouri in Orgeron’s first game, but was robbed of an awesome matchup against Florida thanks to Hurricane Matthew last weekend.
The unscheduled bye week did come at a perfect time, as it allowed Orgeron to continue putting his fingerprints on the LSU offense. Even just six days after his hiring, the offense had several different concepts involved. A week off should give Orgeron even more opportunity.
Saturday is a chance to do some experimentation with additional concepts and perhaps even personnel. RB Leonard Fournette will be out, but that shouldn’t matter against the Southern Miss defense. LSU also will have a good opportunity to test its defensive backs against an underrated passing offense.
Mississippi State at BYU (10:15 p.m. Friday, ESPN)
This is an underrated game considering Mississippi State’s struggles early in the year. However, the Bulldogs have an opportunity to prove that their poor performance is a product of a difficult SEC schedule. Traveling to take on a strong BYU team could flip the narrative.
Mississippi State has losses to Auburn, LSU and South Alabama. The first two are forgivable, but the third looks bad. After this weekend, Mississippi State only has two winnable games left on the schedule: Kentucky and Samford.
BYU would love to take advantage of a weakened MSU and pick up a key win over an SEC opponent. After a slow start, the Cougars topped a good Toledo team and demolished Michigan State on the road. This game could get interesting if BYU QB Taysom Hill outplays Nick Fitzgerald.