10 burning SEC questions for Week 3
The SEC took a step in regaining some respect this season with big non-conference wins by Arkansas over TCU and Tennessee over Virginia Tech.
There are plenty of questions entering Week 3, and the answers will be pivotal as seven teams open SEC play.
- Will Danny Etling get the start against Mississippi State? I mentioned last week in this series that Etling would likely receive some playing time. After Brandon Harris struggled during LSU’s first two offensive drives, Etling entered the game and played the remainder of the game. There is little doubt Etling is in at quarterback until he makes a critical error.
- Is Auburn-Texas A&M actually a more compelling game than Alabama-Ole Miss? A&M has two impressive wins, while Auburn has a blowout win and an impressive loss. Trevor Knight and the A&M offense have brought back visions of the Johnny Manziel-led Aggies, but 67 points against a creampuff opponent like Prairie View A&M has less appeal. The A&M defense might be more impressive in the second year under defensive coordinator John Chavis. The unit held Prairie View A&M scoreless and gave Josh Rosen and the UCLA offense fits for the majority of an overtime win. Meanwhile, Auburn surprised some with a very close game against then-No. 2 Clemson. Then, Auburn blew out Arkansas State, 51-14. Jordan-Hare Stadium should be raucous for the Tigers’ SEC opener. With John Franklin III at the helm, Auburn’s offense looked far more dangerous. Is it possible that was merely due to the level of competition? The Vegas oddsmakers have Auburn as a 3.5-point favorite.
- How will Jalen Hurts handle his first SEC road game? Cooper Bateman didn’t handle the pressure of starting an SEC home opener well last season, but Hurts seems to have an unflappable personality, which may be part of the reason he is starting instead of Blake Barnett. Alabama head coach Nick Saban knows turnovers could be one of the biggest factors in this game. How will Ole Miss handle a dynamic young quarterback with such a young secondary?
- Is a trophy really necessary after beating an ACC team? No, but the game showed Tennessee is still in the East race. The offense still needs work, but the defense looked strong against a much higher-caliber opponent. Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop is clearly helping the team improve.
- Mississippi State answered critics by bouncing back from an embarrassing loss and turning in a solid 27-14 win against SEC foe South Carolina. The final score made it seem closer than reality as the Bulldogs led 24-0 at halftime. In the process, Mississippi State seems to have found a clearer answer at quarterback. Nick Fitzgerald had an impressive outing and appears to be the starter for now. Now, no one expects them to defeat LSU, but can they provide a scare?
- Cause for concern at Georgia? A 2-point win against an FCS opponent? Georgia has discussed the offensive line at length this week and moved back to a two-quarterback system. Greyson Lambert probably gives Georgia a better chance against Missouri. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have an experienced senior game manager start for the team’s first road game. Jacob Eason has looked solid on the whole, but it seems prudent to ease the true freshman into the starting role.
- Does Arkansas carry momentum following a wild win versus TCU? The Razorbacks have an easy game this week to help prepare for a showdown next week against rival Texas A&M. However, the team’s confidence must be growing after knocking off a ranked opponent in dramatic fashion.
- Does Missouri’s improved offense have a chance to help the Tigers upset Georgia? Missouri has the home field advantage, and the offense is much improved thus far. How will the unit fair in SEC play?
- Does Luke Del Rio help make Florida the favorite in the East? The defense has certainly looked strong enough to carry the team to the top of the East. The team gave up an early touchdown to UMass and a late touchdown to Kentucky but has been stellar otherwise.
- Is Mark Stoops edging closer to the hot seat? Stoops has guided Kentucky to back-to-back 5-7 seasons following a rebuild year, but Kentucky also played Florida close in 2014 and 2015. Saturday’s game was not close at all. The team would have been held scoreless if not for a garbage-time touchdown in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. Add in the fact that the Wildcats lost to Southern Miss, and the pressure is building.