5 things I can't wait to see today in the SEC
First, a disclaimer: I don’t root for anything other than a great story.
Now … what would make a better story than No. 9 Tennessee knocking off No. 1 Alabama today in Knoxville, ending the Volunteers’ 9-game losing streak in the series and making the SEC races, much, much more fun to watch unfold.
That’s just one of five things I can’t wait to see today in Week 7 in and around the SEC.
1. The SEC needs Tennessee to win: Tennessee was so impressive last week in its double-overtime loss at Texas A&M that AP voters — normally a reactionary bunch — didn’t drop them in the AP Poll. The Volunteers stayed at No. 9.
I kept them at No. 2 in our Week 7 SEC Power Rankings, too — good thing I don’t plan to run for mayor in College Station any time, soon.
A Tennessee win today makes the SEC and College Football Playoff races infinitely more interesting than it was Friday night.
One Tide loss opens the possibility of … perish the thought … a second Tide loss? It would set up a winner-take-all showdown the following week, too, as those unbeaten Aggies get their shot at Alabama.
A Tennessee win would also firmly stamp the Volunteers as a legitimate playoff contender, not merely the latest East paper champion headed to Atlanta to face the West’s paper shredder.
Will it happen? Road games don’t scare Alabama. Tennessee is so banged up and Jalen Hurts is so good I can’t logically find a single reason to think it will. And that’s exactly why I’ll be glued to the TV, just like you.
2. If we can’t get a Tennessee win, I want an Alabama blowout: Close games are always more dramatic, but if Hurts is going to seriously enter the Heisman discussion, he needs a signature game. When better to deliver his first 300-yard passing day than at Peyton’s Place?
He’s already topped 250 yards three times. He’s already knocked off two ranked teams on the road and sparked the domination of a third at a neutral site. He played the role of Deshaun Watson last year with the Tide’s scout team; he needs to play like Deshaun Watson on Saturday.
3. Four (yes, four!) 300-yard passing games: We’ve seen 15 300-yard passing games thus far from SEC QBs in 2016. We saw three against Power 5 opponents in Week 3.
I want four today. It’ll be an upset if we don’t get at least two. Chad Kelly and Austin Allen square off against each other. Defensive backs beware.
Hurts has a chance, especially if Tennessee can push the game into the 30s.
Josh Dobbs has a chance, too. He’s topped 300 yards twice in the past three weeks after reaching that milestone just twice in his first three seasons. He’s as hot as any SEC quarterback.
Jacob Eason, dreadful last week, has a huge bounce-back opportunity against Vanderbilt, which has already allowed a 399-yard day and a 291-yard performance.
4. Ohio State blow out Wisconsin: You are quite familiar with the SEC West’s dominance over the East. The Big Ten has the same dynamic, except its scales tip toward the East.
The Big Ten has 4 teams ranked in the Top 10. It wants us to believe it’s the best conference in America. I believe it’s the same one-team league it has been for the past 20 years.
As much as outsiders complain that Alabama is holding up the SEC, the truth is four SEC teams have combined to win eight national championships in the past 10 years. Auburn, in 2013, almost became the third SEC team to win two national championships in that span.
The Big Ten has … Ohio State. That’s it.
Michigan has history, but not much to speak of in the way of recent success. The Buckeyes have won 11 of the past 12 matchups. Michigan State has been a more worthy adversary, but the Spartans haven’t done anything of note in the postseason.
Which leads us to No. 8 Wisconsin … and Saturday’s home date with Ohio State.
Wisconsin beat LSU by two points, in Green Bay. Nice, but forgive me if I’m not ready to plan the parade route through Madison.
Just as the SEC East needs Tennessee to knock off Alabama, the Big Ten West needs Wisconsin knock off Ohio State. Otherwise, this talk of gaps closing is just that … talk.
5. Florida break out: Jim McElwain has had to juggle game plans and quarterbacks throughout his stint at Florida. Saturday, Luke Del Rio returns from injury. Del Rio played well early — 6 TD passes in three games — but hasn’t faced a good SEC defense.
He will today against Missouri.
Florida’s offensive issues prevented it from becoming a legitimate challenger last season.
The Gators still have a realistic shot of getting to Atlanta, but it will need much more than the offense showed in Del Rio’s absence.
Chris Wright is Executive Editor at SaturdayDownSouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.