10 burning SEC questions for Week 11
Last week, the SEC’s marquee matchup remained scoreless for three quarters, while Mississippi State knocked Texas A&M off its College Football Playoff perch. This week, there are plenty of intriguing matchups, although none of them carry the same cache as Alabama-LSU. Here are 10 burning questions:
- The first big game among SEC West teams involves Mississippi State’s visit to Tuscaloosa. Obviously, the biggest question is: Can the Bulldogs pull off two upsets in a row? While it seems unlikely, Nick Fitzgerald is a remarkably athletic quarterback who may actually give Alabama’s defense a challenge.
- The first game in CBS’ SEC game of the week doubleheader is an SEC East showdown made more interesting by South Carolina’s late-season surge and Florida’s loss at Arkansas. The biggest question surrounding this game is: Can Austin Appleby excel as the starter for Florida at quarterback? Luke Del Rio is out with a shoulder injury. While it isn’t nearly as big a story, the Gators will sorely miss linebacker Jarrad Davis, too. Meanwhile, Appleby made two starts earlier this season and did modestly well. The team could turn to highly touted freshman Feleipe Franks to kickstart a stagnant offense, although Franks is very raw.
- The big matchup question for LSU-Arkansas is: Who wins between the Arkansas offense and the LSU defense? LSU’s defense has limited opponents all season, and Arkansas’ porous offensive line likely won’t provide a different result. Just thinking about the hits Austin Allen may take makes one cringe. However, Allen is a tough competitor and probably the best quarterback in the SEC right now. If he can get rid of the ball quickly, he may keep the Razorbacks in this game.
- Can Ed Orgeron take his team into hostile territory on the road, recover from a physical loss to Alabama and overcome back-to-back losses against Arkansas? LSU’s chances of winning the SEC West were a longshot at best, and now those hopes are dead. However, Orgeron’s job is on the line in the final three SEC tilts. Win out and he might just stick around next season.
- The big question out of Oxford is: Who replaces Chad Kelly? The senior quarterback will be hard to replace. Jason Pellerin appears to be the likely quarterback to replace Kelly. He replaced Kelly against Georgia Southern, and Hugh Freeze expected Pellerin to receive most of the snaps at practice this week. There is some thought that perhaps Ole Miss gives highly touted freshman Shea Patterson a shot at the job despite earlier plans to redshirt this season.
- When the Rebels travel to Kyle Field, the Aggies will get a better answer to the question: Is Jake Hubenak the favorite next season at quarterback? Trevor Knight is out for the remainder of the regular season, so Hubenak gets his second start at A&M and first this season. Hubenak stepped in after Knight was injured in an effort to rally the Aggies, an attempt that ultimately fell short. He also lost his lone start last season in the Music City Bowl against Louisville.
- Who wins the matchup between the rushing offense of Auburn and the rushing defense of Georgia in the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry”? The Bulldogs are actually the SEC’s third-ranked team in rushing defense, right behind Alabama and LSU. Nationally, Georgia is 20th in rushing defense, while Auburn is third in rushing offense. Auburn’s worst rushing performance of the season came against LSU, 19th in the nation in rushing defense. Auburn was held to 154 total rushing yards against LSU.
- One of the biggest questions surrounding the aforementioned matchup is: How will injuries affect the game, specifically Kamryn Pettway’s leg injury? Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn hasn’t revealed much about Pettway’s injury, so it’s unclear whether he will start, play in an emergency situation like Sean White against Vandy or not be available to play. The Tigers have plenty of injury question marks elsewhere, too.
- Could Kentucky upset Tennessee? Kentucky stunned Tennessee back in 2011, and an upset win here would keep the Wildcats’ SEC East hopes alive while definitively knocking Tennessee out of the race. On the other hand, Tennessee is squarely in the race with a home win.
- In the battle between the East basement dwellers, there are really only two questions: A) can Missouri earn an SEC win? B) Can Vandy get a road win in an effort to move close to being bowl-eligible? Missouri is winless in SEC play so far and is desperate to get a conference win. Vandy must win two of its final three games to become bowl-eligible.