Week 4 was fascinating. Tennessee snapped a long losing streak against Florida, Texas A&M ran away from Arkansas and Auburn nipped LSU, sending coach Les Miles to the unemployment line.
So, Week 5 has a tough act to follow.
Let’s see how it might measure up in the Week 5 storylines for each SEC team.
Back to basics: Blocking and tackling are football basics. Teams can run whatever scheme they like on offense or defense, but a failure to block and tackle renders all of them ineffective.
Both were trouble spots for the Razorbacks in a 45-24 loss to Texas A&M. A date with Alcorn State in Little Rock is a chance to iron out the issues on both lines before Bret Bielema’s squad hosts Alabama on Oct. 8.
Shake it off: The numbers are staggering. Tennessee erased a 21-0 Florida lead with 38 unanswered points, snapping the Gators’ long winning streak over the Vols and loosening the defending champions’ grip on the SEC East crown in one Rocky Top-laden afternoon.
The SEC doesn’t care about the Gators’ feelings, and neither will Vanderbilt. Florida needs four quarters out of its defense, and a consistent effort out of its skill position players to leave Nashville with a victory.
Cashing in: The Commodores showed plenty of grit in an overtime win at Western Kentucky last week, and will look to bring that momentum into the Florida game.
Derek Mason’s squad just missed scoring an upset over the Gators, falling 9-7 in The Swamp last year. Expect the same recipe — stingy defense and a heavy dose of Ralph Webb — in this year’s contest.
History is working against Vanderbilt, however, as Florida has won 24 of the last 25 games in the series.
Picking up the pieces: Georgia wasn’t just beaten by Ole Miss in Oxford Saturday, it was demolished. However, the bad day at the office can be quickly forgotten if the Bulldogs can find a way to knock off Tennessee this weekend.
It’s a critical game in the SEC East race, as a Tennessee win would give it tiebreakers over Georgia and Florida. It’s hard to imagine the Volunteers losing enough SEC games the rest of the way to let anyone else back in it.
“We’ve always said around here ‘humility is a week away,'” coach Kirby Smart said. “When you talk about the SEC, you never get a chance to rest. All the teams we play are really good, well-coached teams. I’ve got a lot of respect for Tennessee. … We’ve got to show improvement at pretty much every position, especially from the last game. We’ve got to get after it this week and make sure our guys know what they’re in store for”
Avoid the letdown: Tennessee is 4-0 for the first time since 2003, and it finally figured out a way to beat Florida in an emotionally charged contest. Heading into Week 5, the Volunteers are on track to accomplish all of their preseason goals.
A loss on Saturday at Georgia would toss a wrench into those plans.
“We’re going to get their best,” coach Butch Jones said. “They’re a really, really good football team. Isaiah McKenzie can change the game on one return. … They have our attention. They have our respect.”
Turning point or delaying the inevitable?: Auburn survived a thriller against LSU, and it was a good win in many ways. It prevented a seventh-straight SEC home loss, cooled off Gus Malzahn’s seat a bit and added a bit of stability to the Tigers’ season.
Now, where do Malzahn and Auburn go from here? Do they use the win as a springboard for a winning streak, or will it be a small uptick in the program’s fortunes?
Thumping Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday would be a good start toward the former.
How good are the Aggies?: Texas A&M starting a season 4-0 is nothing new. This is the third season in a row that Kevin Sumlin’s squad has achieved that feat. Is this team different from the last two, which started 5-0 before losing multiple games in a row?
Trevor Knight has brought talent and maturity to the quarterback position, and John Chavis’ defense is allowing six fewer points per game than last year’s version.
How good can the Aggies be in 2016? Our next chance to find out arrives this Saturday in Columbia against South Carolina.
Time for a rethink?: For a team picked to finish in the cellar of the SEC East, a 2-2 record isn’t the worst result after four games. Last week’s loss to Kentucky stung a bit, though.
It was a game there to be had, but the Gamecocks couldn’t find enough offense to take it. That frustration is sending Will Muschamp back to the drawing board.
“I think, first of all, we look at our personnel, whether they do well and if we need to make some changes, we’ll make some changes,” Muschamp said during Sunday night’s teleconference. “We’re in the middle of that process tonight, so that’s what we’re going through right now.”
Signs of life?: Was Kentucky’s defense improved against South Carolina or was that effort a function of the Gamecocks’ inability to move the ball on offense? Since the Wildcats came away with the win, perhaps it’s a moot point.
Kentucky will take its modest two-game win streak to Tuscaloosa to face top-ranked Alabama this week. As a 35-point underdog, it may prove to be a steep hill to climb for Mark Stoops’ team.
Taking care of business: After demolishing Kent State, Alabama gears up for homecoming and a visit from Kentucky. Nick Saban isn’t taking his foot off the pedal in terms of his preparation.
“If we want to be the team that we’re capable of being, we need everyone to buy in,” he said. “The SEC is a tough league and every game is going to be important, starting with this game against Kentucky.”
The injury bug has hit the Tide, with Damien Harris (ankle), ArDarius Stewart (knee) and Robert Foster (knee) are all questionable for the game.
Moving forward: After hammering Georgia, Ole Miss turns its eyes a home date with Memphis this week. The Tigers handled Ole Miss, 37-24, last season, and apparently, the players haven’t forgotten.
“We started talking about Memphis literally the last seconds of the (Georgia) game,” Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram said. “Of how we need to attack this week, celebrate that Saturday with a great win against Georgia. But once Sunday hit, it was time to get to work, fix mistakes, get the plan in place and start getting ready mentally and physically for the battle that’s going to be this week.”
The coach (Justin Fuente) and quarterback (Paxton Lynch) from that team are gone, but Memphis is still unbeaten. Its wins against Southeast Missouri State, Kansas and Bowling Green don’t exactly inspire fear, however.
Fly under the radar: Missouri visits LSU this week, but good luck finding it in a headline. LSU has dominated the college football news with its coaching change, and that might not be a bad thing for Missouri.
Coach Barry Odom had some fun with it by taking a playful jab at LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron, saying “he’s a tremendous defensive line coach. I hope he’s 0-1 in a couple of days.”
Who knows how LSU’s offense is going to look? Who knows how the team will respond? Missouri’s plan should be to show up, play mistake-free football and try to catch LSU napping during its transition.
A new day: Ed Orgeron will lead the Tigers against Missouri this week. Orgeron chose for Steve Ensminger to take charge of the offense.
Aside from this nugget, it’s not really clear what approach LSU will take when it has the ball.
“Be more creative, find ways the QB can get the ball down the field throwing it,” Orgeron said. “We know people load the ball on Fournette and Guice, so make nice, easy throws down the field and score points.”
The oddsmakers have tabbed LSU as a 13-point favorite, so they’re expecting a little success in that area from the Bayou Bengals Saturday.