The SEC’s Big Picture: Aggies await ‘Bama, down go the Dawgs
A Heisman Trophy contender went down, another kept chugging along and Tennessee flipped the script on its season during another thrilling round of Saturday action in the SEC.
But we begin at the top, where Florida and LSU continued on their collision course for a massive matchup in Death Valley next weekend. The Gators certainly had their shaky moments against Mizzou, and the same could be said for an LSU team that allowed South Carolina to hang tight for a half. But for a pair of teams that were picked by the media to finish third (LSU) and fifth (Florida) in their divisions, the fast starts welcomed by each have largely defined a surprising season in the SEC.
Can the ambitious Gators survive on the road against the Bayou Bengals? The odds are in favor of the squad with mighty Leonard Fournette (LSU opened as a 7.5-point favorite), but Florida seems to keep getting better as the season progresses.
Here’s a look at how else Week 6 shaped the SEC title race:
What a difference two weeks have made for the Bulldogs, who went from No. 8 to falling out of the AP Top 25 entirely on Sunday. If the blowout loss to ‘Bama was not the mortal wound for coach Mark Richt’s 15th UGA team, Saturday’s 38-31 collapse in Neyland Stadium certainly carried a grim aura around it — much like it did in 2013. The injury to star tailback Nick Chubb should be crippling, as the lack of a reliable quarterback leaves little faith in the passing game to relieve the weight of his absence, and the inexperience on defense glared while Vols quarterback Joshua Dobbs morphed into the second coming of Vince Young. The result offered Tennessee fans some satisfying consolation for the way the season started. But for the Bulldogs, a win over Missouri next Saturday might be their only chance at salvation.
Rolling past the Razorbacks
Alabama would not win many pageants wearing its 27-14 victory over Arkansas. Then again, coach Nick Saban never cared much for glamour, and escaping past a team that pushed Texas A&M to the overtime brink is no insignificant feat. Coupled with its statement road win two weeks ago, Alabama has recovered nicely from a loss to Ole Miss that, for less resilient teams, might have carried over into the following weeks (see: UGA). But the toughest test for the Crimson Tide yet will come next week in the vibrant confines of Texas A&M’s redone Kyle Field. The undefeated Aggies have some fearsome talent on their side, as well as the memory of last year’s 59-0 stomping delivered by Saban’s squad.
LS-who have you played so far?
The No. 7 tour performed another great show in Tiger Stadium on Saturday, as LSU’s leading rusher racked up another 158 yards on the ground (a season-low, if you can believe that). Fournette and the stellar linemen paving his path have taken full advantage of Auburn (No. 108 rushing defense), South Carolina (No. 107) and Mississippi State (No. 74) thus far. But the stingy Gators’ defense is permitting a mere 99 yards on the ground per game. Even with the benefit of home field, what happens if this rampaging rushing attack hits a pothole and Les Miles has to navigate around Vernon Hargreaves with the arm of Brandon Harris?
Projected SEC Championship game, Week 6:
Texas A&M (11-1, 7-1 SEC) vs. Florida (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
Which brings us to a bold prediction: The Gators have what it takes to beat LSU in its own, fearsome house. A trap game could maybe rear its head in Jacksonville, Fla., the following week when UGA travels to Duval County, but that might be wishful thinking at best. Florida finishing the regular season undefeated is a real possibility. As for the Aggies, a revenge game against ‘Bama in front of the home crowd presents the perfect chance for them to keep marching toward Atlanta.
Whether these projections prove right or need another update, next Saturday will be a crucial one in defining the landscape of the SEC East and West.
Alabama now a 3.5-point favorite at Texas A&M, per http://t.co/MpwNzWJg0U. Crimson Tide opened at -3.
— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) October 11, 2015