Burning questions around the SEC after Week 6
It took just one offensive play for calamity to strike Georgia tailback Nick Chubb on Saturday.
By the time the game was over, the Bulldogs had blown an early 21-point lead and dropped a crushing 38-31 decision at Tennessee to render their entire season as a whole in an equally as precarious position.
The injury to Chubb’s left knee appeared serious, and a once-promising season appears to be slipping away from coach Mark Richt’s team.
Here’s a look at the burning questions from around the SEC after Week 6:
Alabama: Is the Crimson Tide defense the best in the country? It’s hard to argue otherwise after another dominating performance in throttling Arkansas, 27-14, on Saturday. A week after manhandling Georgia, Alabama limited Razorbacks running back Alex Collins to a mere 26 yards rushing and added three sacks and an interception. Ninth-ranked Texas A&M awaits this week.
Arkansas: Was it a mistake for the Hogs to go for the fake field goal when they trailed just 10-7 late in the third period? I don’t think so at all because an underdog Arkansas team was on the road playing against a deeper and more talented Alabama team. Coach Bret Bielema’s team had nothing to lose with the call.
Auburn: Will Jeremy Johnson again be the Tigers’ starting quarterback when they play at Kentucky on Thursday night? I’d be shocked if he doesn’t supplant freshman Sean White. Johnson had struggled and looked like a deer in headlights before getting benched, but coach Gus Malzahn knows that he offers a much greater upside. This will likely be Johnson’s last chance.
Florida: Are the Gators now in the driver’s seat in the SEC East? Georgia’s collapse means Florida is the only undefeated team in the SEC East. Just one win against either LSU this week or against the Bulldogs in Jacksonville on Oct. 31 will all but assure coach Jim McElwain’s team a trip to Atlanta.
Georgia: How could a season that began with so much promise have gone so terribly wrong for the Dawgs? The 38-10 loss to Alabama on Oct. 3 was bad, but blowing a 21-point lead, losing Chubb to an injury and falling to Tennessee was far worse for the Bulldogs. The disappointment is palpable in Athens, but Georgia will have to pick up the pieces when it hosts Missouri this week.
Kentucky: Who will be the Wildcats’ starting tailback when they host Auburn on Thursday night? Starter Stanley “Boom” Williams sat out the Eastern Kentucky game on Oct. 3 as he dealt with personal issues. UK struggled to run the ball in his absence, so it’s likely Boom starts again against Auburn.
LSU: How good is Derrius Guice and how talented is the LSU backfield with him and Leonard Fournette? Guice, a true freshman, rushed for a team-high 161 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, while Fournette added 158 more yards and an 87-yard score on 20 carries. They became just the second duo in LSU history to chew up at least 150 yards apiece, joining Kevin Faulk and Rondell Mealey against Houston on Sept. 7, 1996.
Mississippi State: Do Bulldogs fans have reason to be optimistic that redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Fitzgerald will fill in nicely following Dak Prescott’s graduation. Most definitely, as Fitzgerald looked very good playing for a sick Prescott during Saturday’s 45-17 win over Troy. Fitzgerald showed a deft touch in completing six of seven pass attempts for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
Missouri: Will Maty Mauk return as the Tigers’ starting QB at Georgia on Saturday? Assuming his suspension is lifted, I would think Mauk will be back in the lineup as he probably gives Mizzou the best chance to win for right now. A true freshman who was making just his second career start, Lock struggled against Florida, completing just 16 of 39 passes for 151 yards and two interceptions.
Ole Miss: Are the Rebels back on track following Saturday’s 52-3 thumping of New Mexico State? Beating up on the hapless Aggies is hardly a barometer, but the lopsided was good for Ole Miss as it rid itself of the sting of the lopsided loss to Florida the previous week. Ole Miss should again be the overwhelming favorite this week when it plays at Memphis, but a more telling matchup with Texas A&M awaits on Oct. 24.
South Carolina: What will it take for the Gamecocks to get their running game going again? Senior Brandon Wilds should be back this week when the Gamecocks host Vanderbilt after missing the last three games with a cracked rib and his return can’t come soon enough. Coach Steve Spurrier’s team managed just 74 yards rushing as a team in Saturday’s 45-24 loss to LSU. Shon Carson was the team’s top rusher with 26 yards.
Tennessee: Did the stunning come-from-behind 38-31 win over Georgia buy coach Butch Jones a reprieve of sorts from the heat he’s been feeling the last few weeks? Yes, but that goodwill will be short-lived if the Volunteers don’t at least play well at Alabama on Oct. 24. Tennessee trailed Georgia 24-3 late in the second period before scoring 35 of the game’s following 42 points for the stunning upset.
Texas A&M: Will we know more about the Aggies after they host Alabama this week? Most definitely, as the Crimson Tide will be the first ranked team coach Kevin Sumlin’s team has faced this year.
Vanderbilt: Can the Commodores win at South Carolina? Neither team boasts many play-makers on offense, but Vanderbilt may have the better defense of the two. These Gamecocks are by no means the Gamecocks of old. Don’t expect a lot of offensive fireworks.