Early impressions of every SEC game in Week 7
How in the world do you follow that up?
I honestly have no idea. There are Saturdays that we’ll never forget, and Week 6 was one of them. We got arguably the game of the year in the morning with Arkansas and Ole Miss. Then we got Alabama-Texas A&M, which will go down as one of the most stunning games of the 21st century.
So Week 7, what will you do to follow that up? We can only hope for more magic like that. We’re getting the Lane Kiffin reunion in Knoxville, which now looks even better that what we could’ve expected in the preseason. We’ve also got an SEC East Championship game in Athens.
I’m here for all of that. Let’s dig into some early impressions for the Week 7 slate:
Texas A&M vs. Mizzou — How does Zach Calzada’s knee hold up? And does it matter for A&M?
I ask that because even if Calzada isn’t a full go, there’s a good chance that A&M could line up, tell Mizzou “hey, we’re running the football,” and the Tigers would still allow 300 on the ground. Calzada responded to that potential knee injury by delivering the game-winning drive of his life, so we don’t know what he’ll look like. Could it be similar to KJ Jefferson after the A&M game wherein his mobility vs. Georgia was limited? It’s possible.
Mizzou’s run defense still doesn’t have the answers. It allowed nearly 500 yards of offense at home to North Texas. It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which A&M struggles to run the football, especially after how much the offensive line showed out against Alabama.
Auburn vs. Arkansas — The Hogs’ defense isn’t reeling, but …
It really struggled to stop the run against Ole Miss. Tre Williams was banged up in that one, but let’s call it what it is. Barry Odom’s defense looked more vulnerable than it has all year. Bo Nix isn’t Matt Corral, so it’s not necessarily a total comp in terms of prep, but does Arkansas spy the Auburn signal-caller with Hayden Henry?
The Hogs fell apart defensively at the end of last year. This year’s group had more depth, but after getting off to a banner start, those were consecutive weeks of getting punched in the mouth via the ground game. How does Grant Morgan hold that group together? And can they prevent the chunk plays against Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter?
As strange as it sounds, this is going to let us know just how ready Arkansas is to hang tough in the West. Avoiding a 3-game losing streak should provide just a little bit of motivation.
Florida vs. LSU — I have zero faith in the Tigers to show up
That probably means the Tigers will come out and hang 50 on Florida. But after watching LSU’s brutal showing in Lexington in person, it’s fair to wonder how motivated this team will be. There still isn’t much of an offensive identity, and without Kayshon Boutte, good luck. Max Johnson is being put in tough spots with that offensive line, and asking him to read coverages without some of the pre-snap window dressing certainly isn’t ideal.
Ed Orgeron’s team picked the Florida game to finally show up last year. Will the Gators wake up LSU this year? Or will we just watch their ground game blow LSU off the blocks like Kentucky did? I’d bet on the latter. There’s no reason why Dan Mullen shouldn’t pick up his first win in Death Valley.
Kentucky vs. Georgia — I love this Kentucky offense, but I think this is a brutal matchup
Yes, the fact that Liam Coen and I are twins impacted my belief in the Kentucky offense. So did watching the Cats bulldoze their way to north of 300 rushing yards against LSU. Wan’Dale Robinson can go off against anyone, including a team loaded with talent like Georgia. And I don’t doubt Will Levis’ toughness.
Then could Kentucky pull off a stunner? Um, I wouldn’t feel great about those odds.
Georgia won’t miss tackles in space like LSU. Ask Bo Nix about that. That’s why I’d be worried about Levis behind that Kentucky offensive line, who could struggle. Darian Kinnard got rolled up on in that game and returned. If he’s less than 100%, though, that’s not ideal against Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt and Jalen Carter. Also not ideal is missing Josh Ali. That means Georgia can bracket Wan’Dale Robinson. And they’re good enough to rush 3-4 and get pressure on Levis. They’re also good enough to stop the run without loading the box.
I fear for Kentucky that it’ll struggle to stop Georgia’s emerging ground game, and it’ll be a lopsided game early. That would put the Cats in a spot they haven’t been in all year. That is, trailing and in obvious passing situations. Coen’s offense is versatile, but it isn’t built for that type of game.
Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina — I’m just gonna keep predicting Kevin Harris breakout games until they happen
Man. We’re in Week 7 and Harris doesn’t have a run longer than 13 yards. That’s stunning. Even with the back injury, nobody would’ve expected him to have such a slow start after he was a breakout star last year. He’s averaging 42 yards per game, and Saturday against Tennessee was a season-high 61 rushing yards. He came into the weekend ranked No. 32 in the SEC in rushing.
So that has to change against Vandy … right? The Commodores are ranked No. 111 against the run. As bad as the Gamecocks offense has been, perhaps a struggling Vandy defense is exactly what the doctor ordered for Harris? He’s too good of a player not to break one loose. My guess is that happens in Week 7.
Alabama vs. Mississippi State — Is Alabama just going to play down to its competition on the road?
I’m really starting to wonder about that because against teams who now have multiple losses, we saw the Tide play down to the wire. MSU has multiple losses. It also has an offense that is getting better with Will Rogers under center. Did I say under center? I meant shotgun. Obviously.
But think about how un-Alabama it was to watch the Tide struggle to get off the field. Whether it was blowing coverages or failing to make tackles in space, the Tide really didn’t feel like an all-world defense in either the Florida game or the A&M game. We also saw Alabama’s offensive line struggle with protection and pre-snap penalties. Bryce Young has to figure out how to steady the ship after his first career loss at Alabama.
Zach Arnett is going to try to mix up coverages. Shoot, the MSU defensive coordinator had more success against Zach Calzada than Nick Saban and Pete Golding did. Let that sink in. I wouldn’t assume an Alabama bounce-back blowout is a given by any means.
Ole Miss vs. Tennessee — Tempo, tempo, tempo! The defense who can handle it wins this one
Yeah, we’ve got the Kiffin reunion in Knoxville, but we’ve also got the reunion of former UCF coaching staff mates Jeff Lebby and Josh Heupel. Both of them utilize those Baylor principles with the up-tempo offense. Right now, both of them have to be feeling awfully confident about the way their units are playing. They have prolific ground attacks, they have mobile quarterbacks who both have an excellent feel for when to tuck it and run and most importantly, they can hit the home run play.
That’s why this one is all about who can handle the tempo on the defensive side. Ole Miss had a setback week against Arkansas’ tempo with Kendal Briles. It looked more like the 2020 Ole Miss defense than the 2021 group. At least with what we had seen in the first 4 games. Tennessee’s defense has been in a unique spot lately with 2 early monster leads to protect. It’ll be a different spot against Matt Corral and Co. At least I’d think.
Bring your popcorn to Knoxville.