It’s unofficial Purdue week in the SEC, as a pair of former Boilermakers prepare to lead SEC teams into key road games on Saturday.
Austin Appleby and Danny Etling were teammates back in 2014, but both transferred after getting beat out for a starting role. However, each will get an opportunity on a national stage this Saturday. It will be key to see how they respond to starting on the road for the first time in an SEC uniform.
Other quarterbacks will try to capitalize on the early-season success they have built, including two in a rivalry game on Saturday night.
Here are five quarterbacks with the toughest tasks in Week 4.
Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Season stats: 67-106 for 953 yards, 10 TDs, 3 INTs
Kelly is the best quarterback in the conference, but the pressure is starting to rise after Ole Miss blew another 21-point lead on Saturday. Granted, the two leads were against No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Florida State in Orlando, but Rebels fans hoped for better than 1-2 through the first three games.
It’s hard to call a Week 4 game a must-win, but Saturday’s game against Georgia is a must-win. The Rebels are barely hanging onto the AP poll, and remain one of just two 1-2 teams in the rankings. Even though their losses have come to elite programs, this will only get Ole Miss so far.
Kelly’s decision-making will be tested on Saturday against an outstanding Georgia secondary. Safety Dominick Sanders leads one of the most talented defensive backfields in the SEC, including Alabama transfer Maurice Smith. However, Missouri quarterback Drew Lock proved that the Georgia defense is beatable after throwing for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Kelly needs to avoid the three interceptions that ended up costing Mizzou a win.
Austin Appleby, Florida
Season stats: 2-5 for 30 yards
Despite what this season’s numbers may show, Appleby is an experienced quarterback. In three years with Purdue, Appleby accumulated 11 starts and 2,800 yards. However, he struggled to hold onto his job throughout and eventually transferred to Florida.
Starting his first game against an SEC opponent on the road at Neyland Stadium is less than ideal. Even though he has those starts, the only major stadium he played at during his time in the Big Ten was Memorial Stadium in Nebraska. He went 2-9 as a starter. Neyland boasts 15,000 more screaming fans than Lincoln, and this is the first time he will be expected to win a major road start.
As if the stage wasn’t big enough, Tennessee’s defense has been fearsome. Even though All-American cornerback Cameron Sutton is out with an injury, Appleby will have to deal with a dominant defensive front featuring defensive end Derek Barnett and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. If wide receiver Antonio Callaway is out with an injury, it will be a long day for Appleby.
Austin Allen, Arkansas
Season stats: 53-79 for 655 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs
When Allen traveled to Fort Worth on Sept. 10, few expected the Razorbacks to have a real chance against the Horned Frogs. TCU had more experience across the board, while Arkansas was breaking in several new pieces. However, Allen made his mark that night and took control of the team.
After a cupcake game against Texas State, Allen and the Razorbacks are back on the road to take on Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Considering that TCU’s defensive line was disappointing, this will be a test unlike any that Allen has faced in his short career.
Defensive end Myles Garrett might be the single most electrifying defensive talent in the country, while defensive tackle Daylon Mack and defensive end Daeshon Hall complement him perfectly. Safety Armani Watts also has no trouble picking passes out of the air. Allen will need to pass the ball well enough to allow a developing run game to open up under the bright lights of AT&T Stadium.
Danny Etling, LSU
Season stats: 25-44 for 315 yards, 2 TDs, INT; 6 carries for 29 yards, TD
Etling was exactly what LSU fans hoped he could be: A perfectly average quarterback. He threw for 215 yards and a touchdown in his first start with the Tigers and managed to avoid turnovers in a win over Mississippi State. The offense was basic in the second half, but Etling did enough to win.
When a quarterback has all-world running back Leonard Fournette and elite prospect Derrius Guice in the backfield, being a game manager is perfect. However, things immediately get tougher as LSU travels on the road to face Auburn.
The other Tigers have yet to find any assemblance of an offense, but the defense has been stout enough to keep Auburn within striking distance of No. 2 Clemson and No. 17 Texas A&M in its two losses. Etling will have tremendous pressure from an Auburn front that has hurried the quarterback 27 times in three games.
Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
Stats: 63-119 for 830 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs; 28 carries for 151 yards, 3 TDs
Knight was a pedestrian quarterback at Oklahoma, but has emerged as a nice fit in Texas A&M’s offense through three games. The senior is not an exceptional passer, but does enough with his arm to keep defenses honest and can move the ball with his feet.
Auburn probably has a better base defense than Arkansas, so this isn’t necessarily a new test. However, the Razorbacks have a much better offense. While Knight could sit back and wait for the offense to come to him against Auburn, he will have to make plays against Arkansas.
The Aggies have inflated numbers thanks to a 67-0 win over Prairie View A&M, but the offense has been inconsistent against the better teams on its schedule. Luckily, Josh Rosen made enough mistakes and Auburn’s offense was bad enough that it didn’t end up mattering. Knight needs to take advantage of a poor Arkansas secondary for Texas A&M to extend the winning streak to five games.