Week 4 in the SEC sees its fewest games yet this season, but packs some of the best action since the opening weekend of the season onto its Saturday slate.
While all eyes will on Rocky Top as Tennessee looks to end its 11-game skid to rival Florida, other games, such as matchups between Georgia and Ole Miss, as well as Arkansas and Texas A&M, highlight must-see contests between ranked conference foes.
We know it’s difficult to squeeze nine college football games into your weekend and budgeting your time to get the maximum value for your viewing pleasure can be difficult. That’s where we step in to act as your personal television guide. Think of us as your Tivo for watching Tebow.
Here’s a look at each contest, using our unique rating scale of one-to-Verne. Verne being the best, naturally.
All games take place on Sept. 24; times are Eastern Standard
9. Delaware State (0-2) at Missouri (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Watchability rating: 1 Hornet sting
Kickoff: 4 p.m., SEC Network
Missouri has seen a bit of a resurgence this year, despite what its record says, but it’s still not enough to pull this game up from the watchability basement. Tune into this matchup between the Tigers and the Hornets to witness QB Drew Lock and WR J’Mon Moore pad their SEC-best passing and receiving stat lines. The tandem have combined for 320 of Lock’s 1,106 yards through the air, or roughly 29 percent of the Mizzou passing offense. Or just sit back and see if the Delaware State offensive line has any answer for Tigers defensive end Charles Harris, who enters the contest with 4.0 tackles-for-loss, including 3 sacks.
8. Mississippi State (1-2, 1-1 SEC) at Massachusetts (1-2)
Watchability rating: 1 Deflated football
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., ESPN3
This game offers the surreal visual of Mississippi State battling Massachusetts on the turf of Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. As far as the game itself goes, both teams enter Week 4 with identical 1-2 records, but don’t expect much of a contest. The Bulldogs are favored by three touchdowns over the Minutemen, who lost in the season opener to Florida by a 24-7 score. And, for the record, the Patriots 2016 lineup doesn’t feature any Mississippi State or UMass alums.
7. Kent State (1-2) at No. 1 Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Watchability rating: 2 Points if they’re lucky
Kickoff: Noon, SEC Network
Watching Nick Saban torment his alma mater, Kent State, might be appealing for the Alabama head coach, but, as far as games go, the Week 4 tilt between the Crimson Tide and Golden Flashes promises to be a one-sided affair. Kent State has yielded an average of 26.3 PPG through the first three weeks. Alabama, conversely, is posting 46.0 PPG against, arguably, much, much better defenses in the likes of Southern California, Western Kentucky and Ole Miss. The saving grace here for Tide fans is a chance to see what some of their backup players can do when given a chance to spell the starters.
6. Vanderbilt (1-2, 0-1 SEC) at Western Kentucky (2-1, 1-0 C-USA)
Watchability rating: 3 Hills to top
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Western Kentucky and Vanderbilt went down to the wire last year, as the Hilltoppers escaped with a win after a failed Commodores’ 2-point conversion in the game’s waning moments. The equally dangerous Mike White has replaced Brandon Doughty under center and the Vandy defense has seemingly regressed in the first quarter of the season, surrendering 438.0 YPG. Vanderbilt desperately needs a win if it wants to contend for its first bowl in Derek Mason’s third year in Nashville. The result could be a tight game that once again comes down to the final minutes.
5. South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC) at Kentucky (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Watchability rating: 3 Wins away
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
A win over Kentucky moves South Carolina halfway toward bowl eligibility in Will Muschamp’s first year in Columbia, a feat that was once thought to be impossible given how the Gamecocks’ 2015 season ended. The Wildcats are young with a roster that includes the least amount of seniors (11) in the nation. That makes Mark Stoops’ team young, dynamic and, oftentimes, susceptible to mistakes and self-implosion. Kentucky has won two in a row over the Gamecocks, but both teams enter the Week 4 contest fairly even matched. That’s most evident in the passing game with Kentucky and its 226.3 YPG via the air and South Carolina bringing with it to Lexington a passing defense yielding 222.7 YPG.
4. No. 18 LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC) at Auburn (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Watchability rating: 4 Tigers
Kickoff: 6 p.m., ESPN
After three weeks, it’s Auburn leading the SEC in rushing, rather than LSU and its superstar running back Leonard Fournette. Both squads also possess decent run defenses, meaning this game could be of the low-scoring variety. A more impactful matchup to keep an eye on could be between head coaches Les Miles and Gus Malzahn. A loss for either coach will certainly ratchet up the heat on their respective hot seats.
3. No. 12 Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 23 Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1 SEC)
Watchability rating: Verne
Kickoff: Noon, ESPN
It’s hard to believe that a team in the SEC West cellar and owners of a sub-.500 record is ranked No. 23 in the AP Top 25, but, then again, not many teams in the nation have faced the likes of both Florida State and Alabama in the season’s first three weeks. The schedule doesn’t get any less forgiving in Week 4 for the Rebels, who will face No. 12 Georgia in Oxford. Georgia is coming off a thrilling road win over Missouri, in which Jacob Eason appears to have gained control of the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback role, courtesy of his late-game theatrics in Columbia.
2. No. 17 Arkansas (3-0) at No. 10 Texas A&M (3-0, 1-0 SEC)
Watchability rating: Verne
Kickoff: 9 p.m., ESPN
The Florida versus Tennessee matchup has received the most hype in the run-up to Week 4, but Arkansas and Texas A&M might provide the game with the most firepower on Saturday. ESPN thinks so, also, going live from College Station during prime time. Austin Allen has eased into his role as first-year starter under center for the Razorbacks quite admirably, passing for an average of 218.3 YPG early on in the season. Same goes for the Aggies’ Trevor Knight, the Oklahoma transfer who has led Texas A&M with 830 of his own yards through the air. With possibly the two best wide receiver corps in the SEC, this game promises to be a passing-lover’s dream. Someone is going to receive their first loss of the year, while the other sets themselves up nicely to compete with Alabama for the SEC West crown.
1. No. 19 Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 14 Tennessee (3-0)
Watchability rating: Verne
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., CBS
Tennessee believes this is finally the year it breaks the hex that is the 11-game losing streak to Florida. This will be the first of three heavyweight battles this year that will likely decide the SEC East. Both squads enter their rivalry game undefeated and ranked for the first time since the 2012 season. How big of a game is this for the Volunteers? New Vols defensive coordinator Bob Shoop was basically told what his main goal would be when head coach Butch Jones brought him aboard.
“I know when I got here on the job, I was instructed my responsibility — and winning these first three games was great — but I’ve been told on numerous occasions that my responsibility is to win this game, so we’re excited and we’re looking forward to it,” Shoop said.
Who doesn’t want to watch a game with those stakes?