Texas A&M QB Trevor Knight made a national statement last week in a win over No. 9 Tennessee, but now it’s someone else’s turn.
Alabama QB Jalen Hurts and Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs face off in one of the most intriguing quarterback battles of the season. Elsewhere, an SEC East gunslinger faces off against a brick wall of a pass defense on the road.
Here are four quarterbacks with the toughest tasks in Week 7.
Drew Lock, Missouri
Season stats: 113 of 199 for 1,675 yards, 14 TDs, 4 INTs
No quarterback has benefited more from a coaching change than Lock, who has thrived in Josh Heupel’s air-raid spread offense. The sophomore already has exceeded his yardage from last season despite attempting 60 fewer passes to this point. The offense has gone from averaging 280.9 yards to 508.6 yards per game — nearly double.
However, Lock has his work cut out against maybe the best defense in the SEC. Florida’s secondary has been tremendous this season, holding teams to just 139.8 passing yards per game, best in the SEC and No. 4 in the nation. Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor might be the best cornerback combination in college football. Lock has plenty of options around the field, but he might struggle with the pressure and heavy coverage.
Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
Season stats: 105 of 180 for 1,433 yards, 14 TDs, 8 INTs; 82 carries for 324 yards, 5 TDs
Even though the Vols came up short against Texas A&M, Dobbs has been one of the most important players in the SEC. The senior leader might be an inconsistent passer, but he has made winning plays in the biggest spots this season. However, nothing has prepared him to face No. 1 Alabama on Saturday afternoon.
The Crimson Tide boast the best front seven in the nation, featuring DE Jonathan Allen, rush LB Tim Williams and LB Reuben Foster, among many others. The secondary is well-equipped to shut down the run game, too, with standout corners Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey, not to mention Eddie Jackson at safety. Many teams recruit elite talent, but Alabama gets more out of its defensive talent than anyone. Dobbs will have his work cut out both passing and running the ball.
Austin Allen, Arkansas
Stats: 119 of 187 for 1,632 yards, 15 TDs, 5 INTs
Allen has managed to put up ridiculous numbers despite Arkansas struggling to run the ball and get a push from the offensive line — the team’s two usual hallmarks. Additionally, the pass defense has been inconsistent at best. Really, Allen is the primary reason that Arkansas sits at 4-2, and he has maintained competitiveness in all six games.
However, hosting Ole Miss in Fayetteville will be one of his toughest tasks yet. Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly is one of the most dynamic players in college football, and Allen almost singularly will be tasked with keeping up. Ole Miss DE Marquis Haynes also will make Allen’s life miserable by taking advantage of the inconsistent offensive line. If Allen doesn’t throw for 300 yards, Arkansas has little chance to win. Even if he does, the Razorbacks still could be in trouble.
Jalen Hurts, Alabama
Stats: 97 of 152 for 1,242 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs; 62 carries for 296 yards, 5 TDs
Hurts fumbled the ball on the first play of his college career. Since that moment, he has been tremendous. The true freshman from Channelview, Texas, is already one of the most efficient passers in the conference (3rd in SEC in completion percentage at 63.8). Only one Alabama quarterback in the Saban era has posted even 100 rushing yards: Blake Sims with 350 yards in 2014. Hurts has 296 yards halfway through the regular season.
The true freshman passed his first road test against Ole Miss with flying colors, but has another difficult test on the road Saturday at Tennessee. The Volunteers have one of the better defenses in the conference, even with numerous injuries. Dobbs also is on the other sideline, and he has proven the ability to put up gaudy numbers.