10 burning questions for Week 13 in the SEC
Ten SEC teams have qualified for a bowl. Three others have a chance to do so in Week 13; only Missouri knows it will put away its pads for good.
Five games this week are SEC head-to-head battles, while four involve SEC-ACC matchups.
Here are 10 burning questions for SEC teams.
1. Rivalry Week starts tonight, when LSU visits Texas A&M. The big question for the home team is: Can the Aggies finally beat LSU in an SEC game and how will it do so?
LSU is 4-0 vs. the Aggies since they joined the SEC in 2012. LSU and Alabama are the two programs that have beaten A&M each of the previous three seasons. (Alabama made it four straight earlier this season.) Apparently rugged defenses are the kryptonite for the Aggies’ high-octane offense. Trevor Knight reportedly will start, but he’s returning from a shoulder injury.
2. For LSU, the biggest question is the obvious question: Who will be their next head coach? On the field, the big question is: How will injuries and coaching searches affect the team? It was painfully clear during Saturday’s loss to Florida that the team sorely missed its leading tackler Kendell Beckwith. Beckwith left the game with a knee injury and has been ruled out against Texas A&M. LSU also missed running back Leonard Fournette when the team was stonewalled at the 1-yard line to end the game. Fournette won’t play against the Aggies.
3. Friday’s game between Arkansas and Missouri involves the intriguing matchup of Missouri’s pass-happy offense vs. Arkansas’ wildly inconsistent defense. The big question: Which Arkansas defense will show up? When Arkansas’ defense plays well, the team as a whole does well (see: Florida). However, the defense has allowed 40+ points in losses to Texas A&M, Alabama and Auburn.
Missouri’s numbers appear better than they are. Against SEC teams, the Tigers have scored 30 or more points just once this season — last week in a 63-37 loss to Tennessee.
4. Kentucky is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. With a win Saturday against Louisville, coach Mark Stoops has a chance to help Kentucky to its first winning season since 2009, Rich Brooks’ final season in Lexington. Also, Kentucky has not defeated Louisville since 2010. Can Kentucky contain Lamar Jackson and Louisville’s offense? The Wildcats struggled against one of the SEC’s better offenses in Tennessee and Louisville is the most explosive offense in America (46.0 points per game).
5. Nobody runs on Alabama. Auburn certainly will try to Saturday in the 81st Iron Bowl. Kamryn Pettway will play, but will he be effective? If he is, he’s the most punishing back Alabama will face this season. If he isn’t, the Tigers might be held below 100 yards for the first time since the season-opening loss to Clemson. Pettway, incidentally, didn’t have any carries in that game.
6. Among the many storylines surrounding the Iron Bowl, one involves Hurts. Specifically, can he perform enough magic to seriously threaten Louisville’s Jackson in the Heisman race. Jackson separated from the field early, but Louisville’s loss opens the door for at least some discussion. Hurts’ numbers don’t jump off the page relative to Jackson’s, but another 300-yard, 100-yard day could force voters to take a deeper look at the impact the true freshman has had on the Tide.
7. Florida vs. Florida State is the marquee SEC-ACC matchup, one involving two Top-25 teams. The big question: Can Florida generate enough offense to keep pace with FSU? Last season, the Gators’ offense was shut out; a safety provided their only points. The Florida offense committed to the run in the second half last week against LSU. Could it work again this week against FSU?
8. Both teams are fighting for bowl eligibility in this year’s Egg Bowl. Ole Miss (5-6) qualifies if it wins, and Mississippi State (4-7) gets in the mix if it wins because its APR is high enough to possibly go bowling as a 5-7 team. Can either defense stop the opposing quarterback? Shea Patterson already has a 300-yard game to his credit, and while Nick Fitzgerald isn’t a dynamic passer, he’s an absolute weapon running the football.
He needs just 15 yards to reach 1,000 rushing yards for the season. He might pick that up on the first designed run.
9. South Carolina has already doubled last season’s win total and is bowl-eligible. However, could the team pull off a signature win for coach Will Muschamp with an upset win against Clemson? If the Gamecocks manage the upset, it would shake up the College Football Playoff picture. Clemson would still earn a trip to the ACC Championship, but two losses would make the Tigers a much less attractive playoff selection among the top 4 teams.
10. Tennessee is playing for a possible Sugar Bowl spot, while Vanderbilt is trying to guarantee a bowl selection; the Commodores still are a good bet to go at 5-7 because of their high APR.
Bowls aside, the biggest question is can Ralph Webb break Zac Stacy’s single-season rushing record? Webb only needs 27 yards to replace Stacy as Vandy’s career rushing leader (3,143). He needs 136 Saturday to break Stacy’s single-season record (1,193).
A big day from Webb could be enough to help the Commodores pull off the home upset.