A total of 19 former SEC players will take part when the Eagles and Patriots meet in Super Bowl LII on Sunday in Minneapolis. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
Of those 19, some have a better chance to make an impact than others, and unsurprisingly, many play defense.
Here are the five former SEC players to watch, as they could very well affect the outcome of the big game:
1. Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles (Mississippi State)
Cox is a three-time Pro Bowler and one of the most disruptive interior defensive linemen in the entire NFL.
Since the former Mississippi State star was selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he’s wreaked havoc on quarterbacks, recording 34 sacks in his six-year career.
New England QB Tom Brady can often avoid pressure from defensive ends by stepping up in the pocket, but he doesn’t move around as well as he used to when he’s forced outside the pocket. If Cox can get some pressure up the middle, it could be a long night for Brady, and that favors the Eagles.
2. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots (South Carolina)
Gilmore is in his first year with the Patriots, and the 2017 season didn’t get off to a good start. However, the ex-Gamecock is playing much better lately and has helped the defense improve over the course of the year.
He’ll now be tasked with stopping another former South Carolina standout in Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery (see below). He’ll be on Jeffery for most of the game, and preventing the Eagles and QB Nick Foles from connecting on big plays will be crucial.
Gilmore has been solid this postseason, but he has yet to face a receiver of Jeffery’s caliber, so that’ll be a matchup to watch. Speaking of that matchup …
3. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (South Carolina)
Jeffery had a big day in the Eagles’ 38-7 victory over Minnesota in the NFC Championship Game, recording five catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
The Eagles are 8-1 this season when Jeffery has caught a touchdown pass, with the only loss coming in Week 2 against Kansas City. Therefore, the Patriots will need to try to shut the star wideout down Sunday night.
If Jeffery can get the best of Gilmore, his former South Carolina teammate, the Eagles will have a good chance of returning to Philadelphia with their first Super Bowl title.
4. Derek Barnett, DE, Philadelphia Eagles (Tennessee)
Barnett had a solid rookie year, recording five sacks and recovering two fumbles (one for a touchdown). The first-round pick showed he has what it takes to succeed in the NFL, and the Eagles certainly aren’t regretting their pick.
As mentioned above, Fletcher Cox is the star of the Eagles’ defensive line, but he can’t do it alone. If the Eagles are going to bring down Brady early and often, Barnett is going to have to get some pressure on the five-time Super Bowl champion as well.
Barnett had a sack in the NFC Championship Game, and if he can get another one Sunday, it’ll help the Philly defense against one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
5. Deatrich Wise Jr., DE, New England Patriots (Arkansas)
Wise recorded two sacks in the Patriots’ divisional round victory over the Tennessee Titans, but he made less of an impact in the AFC Championship Game against Jacksonville, recording only one tackle.
Wise doesn’t get the amount of love that fellow SEC rookie defensive linemen like Myles Garrett, Derek Barnett (see above), Dalvin Tomlinson and Carl Lawson get, but his seven sacks are impressive.
The Eagles’ offense can’t afford any negative plays under Foles, so if Wise can cause some disruption in the backfield, either against the run or the pass, it’ll be a great sign for the Pats.