Only six games comprise the SEC slate in Week 9. And while two of them against inferior opponents don’t offer much in the watchability department — outside of Starkville and College Station, that is — the weekend’s top two tilts should go a long way toward determining positioning in both the SEC East and West.
We know it’s difficult to squeeze a half-dozen 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 Week 9 contest, using our unique rating scale of one-to-Verne. Verne being the best, naturally.
Bye week: Alabama (Week 10 at LSU), Arkansas (Week 10 vs. Florida), LSU (Week 10 vs. Alabama), Vanderbilt (Week 10 at Auburn)
All games take place Saturday; times are Eastern
Samford (6-1, 4-1 Southern) at Mississippi State (2-5, 1-3 SEC)
Watchability rating: 1 snoozer
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., SEC Network
If Mississippi State can’t generate any consistency out of its offense, could it be possible the Bulldogs sustain another devastating defeat to an FCS school, such as they did in 2004 to Maine? While it likely won’t happen when Dan Mullen’s program plays host to Samford in Week 9, the mere thought is an indictment of some of the struggles the Bulldogs have faced this season. Mississippi State, losers of three straight, needs this win desperately, as it might be its last of season — and perhaps last of the Mullen era in Starkville — with contests against Texas A&M and Alabama, as well as Arkansas and Ole Miss, left on the schedule.
New Mexico State (2-5, 1-3 Sun Belt) at No. 9 Texas A&M (6-1, 4-1 SEC)
Watchability rating: 1 half of excitement
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., ESPNU
Getting a chance to see Texas A&M and its No. 17 nationally ranked offense work its magic against a New Mexico State defense that allows more yards per game than all but four teams in the FBS comes with its share of entertainment value. But don’t expect the starters to see much action. Tune in to watch Kevin Sumlin’s program recalibrate after its first loss of the season last week to Alabama.
Kentucky (4-3, 3-2 SEC) at Missouri (2-5, 0-3 SEC)
Watchability rating: 2 porous defenses
Kickoff: Noon, SEC Network
Aside from a blemish in Week 1 — in which Kentucky coughed up a 25-point lead in the second half to Southern Mississippi — the Wildcats’ only other losses have come at the hands of the SEC East and West leaders in Florida and Alabama, respectively. Mark Stoops’ squad can move to within one victory of bowl eligibility with a win over a Missouri program seeking its first conference win since Oct. 3, 2015 versus South Carolina. Both programs can score (Mizzou, 505.0 YPG; Kentucky, 34.7 PPG in wins) and aren’t terrific on defense (Mizzou, 458.9 YPG; Kentucky, 426.3 YPG). Tune in for what should be another a high-scoring affair in Columbia.
No. 18 Tennessee (5-2, 2-2 SEC) at South Carolina (3-4, 1-4 SEC)
Watchability rating: 3-game losing streak?
Kickoff: 7:15 p.m., ESPN2
Tennessee badly needs a win after seeing its hype train derailed by consecutive losses to then-No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 1 Alabama. South Carolina is looking for its first signature win during the Will Muschamp era and would love nothing more than to thoroughly bury the Volunteers in front of the Gamecocks faithful in Columbia. That said, Tennessee is roughly a two-touchdown favorite to become bowl eligible for the third time during the Butch Jones era on Rocky Top. Working in the Gamecocks’ favor is the injury bug that’s decimated the Vols of late and what appears to be the emergence of South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley. The freshman threw for 201 yards and 2 touchdowns in his collegiate debut in Week 8 as the Gamecocks downed Massachusetts.
No. 14 Florida (5-1, 3-1 SEC) vs. Georgia (4-3, 2-3 SEC)
Watchability rating: 4 rum runners
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., CBS
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is almost always entertaining and usually comes with plenty of SEC East-deciding connotations. This year’s matchup brings a Georgia team looking to play the spoiler and ruin Florida’s chances of claiming its second straight division crown. The Gators have owned the rivalry of late, winning the last two contests by an average of 21 points. Defense will likely be the ultimate decider in this one as Florida’s No. 1 unit in the SEC goes up against a Bulldogs front seven that’s stingy against the run and will force Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio (3 interceptions in Week 7 against Missouri in his return from injury) to beat them through the air.
No. 15 Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) at Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3 SEC)
Watchability rating: Verne
Kickoff: 7:15 p.m., SEC Network
If Ole Miss wants to get back in the good graces of the AP Top 25 voters — who kept the Rebels off their list for the first time in 33 games this week — beating a revived Auburn team is a good beginning point. It won’t be easy, especially when you consider that the betting line switched from favoring Ole Miss to visiting Auburn within about an hour after its posting this week. In short, confidence is waning in the Rebels. But this is still a very dangerous Ole Miss squad that’s played arguably the toughest schedule in the nation entering Week 9, including its matchup with the Tigers, the sixth game against a ranked opponent this season. Auburn has gotten the job done with a staunch defense, the SEC’s fewest penalties (fourth lowest in the nation) and a running game that set the country’s highest single-game rushing total this year with 543 yards on the ground against Arkansas in Week 8.