We’re used to NFL talent playing against one another every Saturday in this great conference, particularly on the defensive line, and week seven is certainly no different. There are several future next-level-type players going against one another, and we’ll take a minute to highlight two big ones.
#3 South Carolina at #9 LSU
Buzz: You want the two best defensive lines in the SEC on one field? You got it with the Gamecocks and the Tigers. Particularly at defensive end, future NFL stars will roam the field in Death Valley. There’s a lot of pride from both of these two defensive lines, wanting to prove one is inferior to the other. They have a chance to all be on the field together Saturday night, which is must-watch TV.
South Carolina: Jadeveon Clowney would be a first-round pick if he were eligible for the Draft this season. The sophomore is wreaking havoc for opposing offenses through the first six weeks, helping lead the Carolina defense to an SEC-leading 25 sacks. Clowney, alone, is second in tackles for loss (11.5) and second in sacks (6.5) in the SEC. Opposite Clowney, Devin Taylor is a baller, too. When double teams come Clowney’s way, Taylor cleans up the mess. Unsung hero Chaz Sutton has been a huge difference maker and an upgrade to the line in Melvin Ingram’s vacancy. He’s currently sixth in the SEC with four sacks. South Carolina has a package on defense where all four down linemen are defensive ends, and it’s proven to be very effective getting to opposing quarterbacks.
LSU: Not to be outdone by the Gamecocks, LSU rolls with two future NFL players in bookends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Montgomery is currently tied for 11th in tackles for loss. Both Montgomery and Mingo are future NFL defensive ends who can put the heat on quarterbacks, although their sack numbers are down through six weeks. Defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Bennie Logan are also studs. Johnson has six tackles for loss. However, the biggest difference maker on the LSU defensive line has been Lavar Edwards. Edwards has 3.5 sacks on the season and will be a primary contributor Saturday night.
The Edge: Whichever offensive line can hold up the best against the pass rush will have the biggest edge. Both offensive lines have been suspect at times, and the defensive lines will have a chance to have huge games and be the difference. However, the best player on the field will be Clowney, and the edge has to go to the Gamecocks.
Tennessee at #19 Mississippi State
Buzz: To the common football fan, this game may not be interesting at all, unless you pledge your allegiance to either team. It’s a late game and will be going on while the Gamecocks and Tigers go to battle. However, there is a sexy matchup between the Tennessee passing offense and the MSU secondary, particularly between the receivers and corners.
Tennessee: We know Tyler Bray’s big arm will get him a shot at the NFL one day, as he leads the SEC in passing touchdowns, but it may not be after this season. However, wide receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson are two Vols who will get a shot at the next level, too. Hunter is projected to be a first rounder, and Patterson’s stock is rising as a playmaker. Hunter has had some problems catching passes at times, but he’s third in the SEC with 33 catches for 456 yards and four touchdowns. He’s long, lean and athletic, while Patterson is more of a physical receiver and a long-strider and better in traffic. Patterson has caught 21 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Bray, Hunter and Patterson will be key going against a greedy MSU defense.
Mississippi State: Senior Darius Slay’s emergence at corner has been the best thing for State’s defense. Slay is tied for the SEC lead in interceptions with four, returning one for a touchdown. Opposite Slay is Johnthan Banks who has 15 career interceptions, and he is a ball hawk in the secondary. Both seniors have great size, as each are around 6-1 to 6-2. They match up particularly well against the bigger Tennessee wide receivers. Safeties Nickoe Whitley and Corey Broomfield have done a fantastic job, and the MSU secondary is fourth in pass defense efficiency.
The Edge: Tyler Bray has turned the ball over six times in two SEC games against Florida and Georgia, with five of them being interceptions. With that being said, the MSU defense is +11 in TO margin, second in the SEC and the country. As evidenced by the way these two positions of interest have played through six weeks, you have to give the edge to the Mississippi State secondary. Bray’s ability to limit turnovers will be the key to this matchup and ultimately the outcome of the game.