Multiple storylines surround every SEC team in week five, and the meat of the schedule is starting to kick in for most teams. Non-conference matchups will be sprinkled in throughout the season, and the grunt of the conference schedule is about to become a reality.
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Here are the biggest subplots for every SEC West team:
Jumpstarting the offense: All the concerns surrounding Alabama revolve around their offense. The Tide are last in the SEC in rushing and second to last in third down conversions. AJ McCarron hasn’t been too sharp in two of the three games, but he had his career best game against the Aggies. Against Colorado State, the Tide only rushed for 66 yards, and while nobody is really overreacting to the offense yet, it’s a concern heading into the Ole Miss game. Special teams play has picked up the slack through three games.
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Containing Johnny Manziel: That’s all Bret Bielema and Chris Ash have thought about this week. How are the Hogs going to stop Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M’s electric offense? The Hogs are who we thought they were – a good front seven but struggled in the secondary last week. The key against Manziel is not allowing their two defensive ends – Chris Smith and Trey Flowers – to get too far up field rushing the quarterback, and the linebackers have to tackle very well in space. Teams are learning they can’t stop Manziel, but it’s the players around him who have to be held in check.
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Banged up: The week off will help Auburn get healthy. Dee Ford, Jeff Whitaker, Justin Garrett and Chris Davis, among others, can take an extra week to rest their bodies. DC Ellis Johnson mentioned this week that his unit is just beat up. The banged up veterans along the defensive line have ultimately helped impressive freshmen Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel garner playing time. Auburn returns next week against Ole Miss.
Stopping Georgia’s torching air attack: John Chavis has lost sleep this week thinking about Georgia’s passing game. Aaron Murray is completing 72 percent of his passes for 1,040 yards and seven touchdowns in three games. Those are silly numbers, and Chavis knows it. Auburn had success last week running the ball, and Todd Gurley is a definite worry. The Bulldogs may not have a formidable known deep threat; so, keying in one guy is ultimately not possible.
Dueling QBs: Dan Mullen is faced with starting his senior QB Tyler Russell over the better weapon for his system in Dak Prescott. Prescott has combined for 924 yards and eight TDs, and inserting Russell back into the offense could minimize future success. It’s clear that Prescott is the better choice for the offense, and with a week off, Dan Mullen can figure out the best option next week against LSU.
Shock the world: That’s what Ole Miss is trying to do. They’re trying to go into the No. 1 team in the country’s house and do it. Are they ready? To me, it all comes back to Bo Wallace. Look at the QBs who have beaten the Tide – Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow and, wait for it, Stephen Garcia. Can Wallace have a career game? If so, Ole Miss can pull off the upset.
Get better defensively every week: Texas A&M’s defense showed flashes last week against SMU. The SEC’s worst defense held SMU to just 13 points. The defense was flying around the football much better than the previous week, and it’s paramount that this group, much like last year, improves week to week. The Aggies are allowing an SEC-worst 218.25 rushing yards per game. That will be tested this weekend against Arkansas.
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