Five SEC games to watch this weekend
Week 1 of college football treated fans of the SEC well. The conference went an impressive 12-1 (looking at you Vanderbilt) in the opening week, with four of those victories coming against Conference 5 opponents.
The most impressive victories were No. 2 Alabama’s 35-17 win over then-No. 20 Wisconsin, and previously unranked Texas A&M’s 38-17 upset of then-No. 15 Arizona State.
Week 1 was a success but Week 2 provides tougher tests for multiple teams. Here are the top five games to watch in the SEC in Week 2:
1. No. 14 LSU at No. 25 Mississippi State, ESPN 9:15 p.m. ET
The SEC would have likely posted a 13-1 record in Week 1 had LSU’s home opener against McNeese State not been canceled due to weather. Instead, LSU’s first game will come on the road against senior quarterback Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs.
There were advantages and disadvantages for LSU not playing in Week 1. On one hand the players got another week to rest, but they also missed out on a chance to get their feet wet against a team that would have provided little resistance. It would have been a good opportunity for the Tigers’ coaching staff to evaluate the roster in a game situation, but it could help when you consider that Mississippi State doesn’t have game tape to watch on LSU from Week 1.
Mississippi State is coming off a comfortable 34-16 win against Southern Miss. Prescott racked up 309 yards of total offense and three touchdowns to begin his Heisman campaign.
Last season Prescott led the Bulldogs to their first win in Death Valley since 1991. That game also marked the beginning of Mississippi State’s ascension to the top of the AP poll.
LSU is eager to return the favor this time around, as both teams want to get their first signature win of the season. The two teams have playoff aspirations, so a win here would be crucial even though the season is still young.
2. 19 Oklahoma at 23 Tennessee, ESPN 6 p.m. ET
This game is another rematch from last season. Oklahoma won round one 34-10 at home last year forcing three Volunteers’ turnovers. This Tennessee team is a lot more experienced than the team that lost last season, but Tennessee just suspended one of its best defensive players.
That won’t help the pass rush, but Tennessee put up 604 yards of total offense in Week 1 with 399 of those yards coming on the ground. Oklahoma blew out Akron 41-3 and junior quarterback Baker Mayfield ended up with nearly 400 yards passing.
Oklahoma will likely test a Tennessee secondary that struggled to defend the deep ball against Bowling Green last week. Tennessee must establish the ground game early.
The team that is successful in these feats will leave with a nice win on its resumé.
3. Kentucky at South Carolina, SEC Network 7:30 p.m. ET
South Carolina survived a mediocre game from quarterback Connor Mitch last week. Linebacker Skai Moore had two key red zone interceptions to preserve the Gamecocks’ opening 17-13 win over North Carolina.
This week South Carolina opens conference play against Kentucky, who also barely held on to defeat Louisiana-Lafayette 40-33.
South Carolina and Kentucky both entered the season as long shots to win the SEC East. Kentucky’s defense, which was fourth worst in the SEC last season, still appears to be an issue after the first game. South Carolina’s defense is a lot better than last season, but now the offense seems to have taken a step back with Mitch under center.
South Carolina needs to improve before traveling on the road to face Georgia next Saturday, while Kentucky gets Florida at home.
The two teams both have major flaws, so we could be headed for a shootout in Columbia.
4. 10 Georgia at Vanderbilt, CBS 3:30 p.m. ET
If last week is any indication this game will be over quickly, but it still has big implications for both teams involved.
Georgia’s new starter, Greyson Lambert, will start his second game at quarterback. The Virginia transfer played well in his first game and it is important that he continues that against a bad Vanderbilt team.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason is probably coaching for his job the remainder of the season. After an embarrassing 14-12 home loss to Western Kentucky, Mason could be on the hot seat. He went winless in the SEC in his first year with the Commodores, and a repeat could spell Mason’s doom.
No one could logically pick against Georgia here, but Mason and Vanderbilt should be desperate at home. The Bulldogs have been known to lose games they should win, so the game could end up being closer than it should be.
5. Jacksonville St at 6 Auburn, SEC Network Noon ET
Auburn should win this game easily, but it is important for Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson to have a clean game. Johnson came into the season as a Heisman favorite for some, but threw three interceptions in the Tigers’ 31-24 win over Louisville last Saturday.
It was just Johnson’s third career start, but the junior made some inexplicable decisions with the football. Jacksonville State is an FCS team, so Johnson should be able to execute much better than he did last week.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said this week that their confidence in Johnson was still high, but if he struggles again it may be time to worry.