At first glance, LSU’s game vs. Missouri on Saturday seems like a good way to usher in the post-Les Miles era: in front of a friendly crowd against a team that’s not considered much of a title threat.
But it’s worth asking: Would the Bayou Bengals prefer to be on the road?
There are simpler distractions when you’re headed to play an away game. Plane rides. Bus rides. Boring hotels in boring locations. Unfamiliar surroundings that would help you forget your school just drastically altered its football program by firing the national-champion coach who recruited you to Baton Rouge.
A game at home means Les Miles’ absence will be felt at every moment.
For that reason alone, it might have been better for LSU to deal with its first week without Miles away from Tiger Stadium.
That’s one of the many questions on our mind as we wrap up Week 4. Here are eight more:
2. Can Texas A&M avoid the trap?
Sure, the Aggies are legitimate playoff contenders, but even the best teams can fall victim to looking ahead.
A&M just earned an impressive win against No. 17 Arkansas in Arlington, Texas, and will host No. 11 Tennessee in two weeks. In the meantime, Kevin Sumlin’s squad is headed to South Carolina for a matchup with the lowly Gamecocks. USC is a mess on offense, but its defense is strong enough to stymie Trevor Knight and his all-world receivers if they don’t show up prepared.
3. You good, Myles Garrett?
The future NFL first-rounder went down with an ankle injury against Arkansas, then returned to the game with a limp. He is a huge part of the Aggies’ defensive success, and will need to remain at full health for A&M to continue thinking about January.
4. Can Florida pick itself up off the mat?
Blowing a 21-point lead and an 11-year streak in one day must be exhausting. The Gators are still in the SEC title hunt, but they must avoid a slip-up in Nashville this weekend. We don’t necessarily like Austin Appleby’s chances against a tough Vanderbilt defense, though it’s also hard to imagine the Commodores scoring on a locked-in Gators “D.”
5. Can Derek Mason cool off his seat?
Trailing by 7 in the fourth quarter at Western Kentucky this past weekend, Mason’s future at Vanderbilt looked mighty cloudy. But the ‘Dores pulled out a 1-point win in overtime, and now have a chance to hand No. 23 Florida its second straight loss.
Vanderbilt will be a trendy upset pick this week, and if Mason capitalizes, he’ll likely have earned himself another year on the job.
6. Memphis can’t beat Ole Miss twice in a row, right?
The bordering rivals decided not to extend their football rivalry past 2019, with Ole Miss AD Russ Bjork saying it would be “difficult” to arrange future meetings. Part of that likely has to do with Memphis’ gridiron resurgence, highlighted by an upset win against the Rebels last fall.
With quarterback Paxton Lynch and several other key players gone, the Tigers opened as big underdogs (-14) for this weekend’s game in Oxford. This is a revenge game for Chad Kelly and Co., so the expectation is that Ole Miss will roll, but Memphis has a chance to knock its rival completely out of the College Football Playoff picture for the second year in a row.
7. Does Georgia want a say in the East?
The Bulldogs may have been crushed in Oxford, Miss., last weekend, but they’ll be in the SEC East driver’s seat with a home win against No. 11 Tennessee on Saturday. Lose, and the ‘Dawgs face a long, uphill climb to Atlanta.
There are plenty of problems to address in Athens, but talent might not be the primary issue, per DawgNation.com’s Seth Emerson. A poor game plan and the proverbial “little things” appeared to have doomed UGA on Saturday. If the Bulldogs have a good week of practice, they should not have much reason to fear the visiting Volunteers, who have underwhelmed through four games.
8. Does Stephen Johnson stand a chance against Alabama?
Kentucky’s new quarterback saved the Wildcats against New Mexico State and then helped them defeat South Carolina, 17-10, in Lexington this past weekend.
A trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., looms this time around, which means Johnson likely will need to work miracles against the Crimson Tide defense in order to come home with a “W.” Kentucky opened as a 31-point underdog, and for good reason: The Wildcats’ anemic offense has not reached 30 points in an SEC game since 2014, and they’ve lost 23 of their last 24 conference road games.
9. Who is the favorite to knock off Alabama?
There are plenty of tough games left on the Crimson Tide’s schedule: at Arkansas (Oct. 8), at Tennessee (Oct. 15), vs. Texas A&M (Oct. 22) and at LSU (Nov. 5) constitute a four-game stretch that is likely to test Nick Saban’s team.
At the moment, Arkansas looks like a sneaky pick to knock off the Tide; they led in the third quarter of last year’s matchup, and the Tide barely snuck out a 14-13 win the year before. With everyone looking ahead to the Tennessee and A&M matchups, Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks might be able to land the first uppercut.
Chances are, you missed a few important things during a busy college football weekend. Check out the latest version of The Eye Test, in which we consider Ole Miss’ College Football Playoff odds and break down Les Miles’ final moments as an LSU coach (among other things).