Arkansas has been in great position to beat Alabama in two straight seasons.
In 2014, the Razorbacks blew a 6-point fourth-quarter lead. Last fall, they were up 7-3 until the closing moments of the third quarter, when the Crimson Tide launched an 81-yard touchdown pass that opened the floodgates.
Bret Bielema obviously has learned how to successfully combat Nick Saban’s game plan (he’s learned some other things, too) after taking a 52-0 beating three years ago.
Now, can they finish?
Here are the other things we’re wondering about in Week 6:
2. What’s it gonna take to kill Tennessee?
Ten points. Fourteen points. Seventeen points. Twenty-one points. The Volunteers have faced and overcome all of those deficits in four of their first five games.
This start has Vols fans completely stressed out, but it’s also given them a rare opportunity to watch three quarters of each game without really caring what happens. When things go wrong early, they’re really — we’re learning — going right.
So, what kind of halftime lead will Texas A&M need to build in order for us to declare Tennessee dead? 31-0? 38-0? 63-0?
(Volunteers fans: Let us know your answer in the comments.)
3. Bigger surprise: LSU resurgence or Missouri collapse?
There were plenty of dumb people who picked Missouri to knock off LSU in Baton Rouge’s first post-Les Miles game.
When Leonard Fournette was ruled out, the case seemed even stronger; Mizzou had piled up 167 points in three games (albeit two against awful teams) and appeared to be rapidly turning a corner after last year’s awful offensive display.
Alas, Barry Odom’s team got shellacked by a well-prepared, well-coached Ed Orgeron side that didn’t seem to miss Fournette while collecting 418 rushing yards on 52 carries.
LSU suddenly looks scary again, while Mizzou will need to dig itself out from “pretender” status for the second time this fall.
4. Does LSU still have a shot in the West?
Of course the Tigers do. They’ve lost only one SEC game and are still in control of their own destiny as far as the conference title is concerned (barring a miracle finish by Auburn).
LSU gets Ole Miss and Alabama at home, and will need to pass a few road tests — including this weekend at Florida, Nov. 12 at Arkansas and Nov. 24 at Texas A&M — in order to stay afloat, but Coach O appears to have his boys in position to make a run.
5. Who is the SEC’s Heisman frontrunner?
With Fournette sidelined, we need a new hero. Our own Alec Shirkey made a compelling case for Vols quarterback Josh Dobbs, who certainly had the requisite “Heisman moment” in Athens this past Saturday.
Other potential candidates: Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly (361 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception vs. Memphis), Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight (290 total yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 1 interception at South Carolina) and Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen (206 passing yards, 3 touchdowns vs. Alcorn State).
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts (287 total yards and 2 passing touchdowns vs. Kentucky) and receiver Calvin Ridley (11 catches for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns) stayed on the fringes of the conversation, but they’ll need to ramp up their production during the Crimson Tide’s scary upcoming four-game stretch at Arkansas, at Tennessee, vs. Texas A&M and at LSU.
6. Is Hurts ready for another big test?
We know he’s already dominated USC and Ole Miss, among weaker opponents. But — if you were paying attention earlier — we also know that Arkansas appears fit to finally pull off an upset against its bully of an older brother.
Mistakes and poor throws cost Hurts in the first half against the Rebels, while the defense and special teams bailed him out during a big win. If he doesn’t have that kind of support, can he pull through for a “W,” as Blake Sims and Jake Coker managed to do in ’14 and ’15?
7. Can the Gamecocks take advantage of the Dawgs?
Outside of a solid — but not great — defense, there’s not much hope for South Carolina this season. The Gamecocks have a few winnable games left on their schedule, but a bowl appearance seems like a pipe dream at this juncture.
Tennessee’s game-winning touchdown might have opened the door for a big win in Year 1 of the Will Muschamp era, though. Georgia is thoroughly wiped after a blowout loss in Oxford, Miss., and this past weekend’s heartbreaker; the Bulldogs could be major targets for an upset loss in Columbia. We’ll see if the ‘Cocks can capitalize.
8. Which coach is next after Les Miles?
If LSU keeps winning with its interim coach, that’s a bad sign for the rest of the SEC’s hot-seat sitters.
Would any other school have reason to join a very short list of programs that have made mid-season changes? Probably not. But there are plenty of people feeling the pressure. Here are the three coaches with the most to lose in the coming weeks:
- Mark Stoops, Kentucky
- Gus Malzahn, Auburn
- Derek Mason, Vanderbilt
Things still can go south for some of the contenders — Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin, Tennessee’s Butch Jones and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema will begin to feel the heat again if they drop a couple games in October.
9. What should we call Tennessee’s Hail Mary at Georgia?
The Clarke County (Surrender) Cobra Conductor? The Sanford Stunner? The Heave Between the Hedges? The Dobbsnail Boot? Cast your vote here.