It feels good to be here.

We’ve got 5 SEC games in Week 5, which means that from start to finish, we should have quality games. At least I hope we will. Coming off a Saturday in which there were only 3 SEC games with spreads less than 20 points, that’s a victory.

The start of October always feels like the unofficial start to conference play. I realize it isn’t the case for everyone, but the end of the weekend, everyone in the SEC will have played at least 1 conference game.

Well, now that I preached about the way the calendar works, lets break down some early thoughts about Week 5:

Alabama vs. Arkansas — Nothing suggests “blowout” … besides a 16.5-point spread

I get it. Alabama just got some things figured out offensively and Arkansas had a humbling, very pre-Sam Pittman loss at the hands of A&M. But I can’t close my eyes and picture Alabama dominating on the road. Why? With Bryce Young as the Tide’s starting quarterback, Alabama was in a 1-score game in the 4th quarter in 4 of those 5 true road games (last year at MSU was the lone blowout). I want to see how Young holds up against that relentless Arkansas pass rush, which is suddenly loaded with guys who can get home.

Speaking of that, could this be a little revenge game for Drew Sanders? I could picture him frustrating this Alabama offensive line, which struggled in its only real test of the season. Could we see Young use his legs a bit more past the line of scrimmage to perhaps combat the Arkansas pressure? A fascinating chess match awaits, and in Fayetteville, I wouldn’t be surprised if an Alabama team who committed a Nick Saban era record 15 penalties at Texas had some more troubles cruising to a victory.

Kentucky vs. Ole Miss — The return of Chris Rodriguez is ___________.


Nobody in the SEC is better with yards after contact than Rodriguez under normal circumstances. Can you imagine what he’ll look like with fresh legs? Even if his conditioning isn’t in peak form — he’s still been practicing with the team but game speed is a different beast — I’d still expect Kentucky to lean on the senior coming off his suspension. So far, the Cats have been atypically disappointing in the ground game. As my guy Peter Burns pointed out, through 4 games, Georgia tight end Brock Bowers has as many RUSHING touchdowns (3) as Kentucky. That’s wild.

That’s also why Rodriguez’s return will be welcomed with open arms. It’ll be a great test for an Ole Miss defense who hasn’t seen a 1-2 punch anywhere close to Will Levis and Rodriguez. This is a prime opportunity for Kentucky offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello to take the Kentucky offense, which has been somewhat hurky jerky in this 4-0 start, to a different level on the road.

Eastern Washington vs. Florida — There’s another “first” we need to see from Anthony Richardson

Come out and look the part in consecutive weeks as a starter. That’s something that Richardson has a chance to do after he was mostly excellent in a loss to Tennessee. Against an FCS foe, I would expect Richardson to have limited running opportunities dialed up. Remember, quarterback depth is still an issue with the Jack Miller injury. That can be a blessing and a curse for Billy Napier. We need to see Richardson build on his career day at Tennessee (had a career-high in passing yards by halftime). He appeared to clean up some of his sloppy footwork mechanics, and we saw more touch from the Florida quarterback.

The Gators have had 4 drama-filled games to start the year. Richardson could use a day of putting together 3 solid quarters and earning a nice early break with a headset.

South Carolina State vs. South Carolina — Sooner or later, the passing game has to get going

It was great to see MarShawn Lloyd look like the guy South Carolina fans hoped he’d be when he was a decorated 2020 recruit. He took over against Charlotte, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he took over against FCS South Carolina State. But is it too much to ask to see the passing game show some sign of life against an inferior opponent? As my guy Brad Crawford pointed out, it’s weird to think that South Carolina scored 56 points and Rattler wasn’t responsible for a single touchdown. I’m not saying he didn’t play a part in those drives or that he was a bystander.

But think about this. Through 4 games, South Carolina’s passing game ranks:

  • No. 10 in SEC in yards/pass attempt
  • T-No. 11 in SEC in passing touchdowns
  • No. 11 in SEC in quarterback rating
  • No. 1 in SEC in interceptions thrown (7)

The good news is that Rattler has only been sacked once in the last 2 games, one of which was against Georgia. As much as Marcus Satterfield would probably like to avoid exposing Rattler to taking hits, it also seems like the perfect time to build his confidence up, especially if he’s going to get plenty of protection.

Texas A&M vs. MSU — The Ainias Smith injury is brutal with what MSU’s defense is capable of

It was a bittersweet victory for the Aggies in Jerry World because they lost their captain to a season-ending injury, according to TexAgs’ Billy Luicci. A broken leg to the most valuable passing game option means that Max Johnson’s safety valve is gone. That’s tough because you need your quick reads against the looks Zach Arnett will throw at you in the 3-3-5. Johnson had a lot of success against MSU last year because he knew where he was going with the football — to Kayshon Boutte. There’s no Boutte on that A&M roster. At least not yet.

The raw numbers for the Bulldogs defense might not blow you away, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see that they allow just 5.5 yards per pass attempt (No. 13 in FBS), their opposing quarterback rating is 109.1 (No. 23 in FBS) and they’ve only allowed 3 passing plays of 30 yards (No. 18 in FBS). They’re going to force Johnson to trust true freshman Evan Stewart, and if Devon Achane isn’t a fixture in the passing game, I’d be surprised. But those A&M passing game limitations are why MSU is a 3-point favorite. All signs point to an excellent matchup in StarkVegas.

LSU vs. Auburn — Say a little prayer for these QBs with the edge rushers they’ll face

BJ Ojulari and Derick Hall are never going to earn the pub of someone like Will Anderson, but if you love watching a dominant edge rusher take over a game, well, you should get that in spades on Saturday night at Jordan-Hare. Ojulari sat against New Mexico because he was dealing with a patella injury, but assuming he’s back against Auburn, Robby Ashford might be in some trouble. Ask Will Rogers, a Year 3 starter, what it’s like to see Ojulari rushing off the edge with a head of steam.

Hall, meanwhile, looked darn good in every phase against Mizzou. He even had an interception off a tipped ball from Brady Cook. Hall is in the early running for the “dudes who deserve better” category because if Auburn’s season goes sideways as many expect, he’ll be put in some tough spots. He should feast on a young LSU offensive line who allowed 13 sacks through 4 games. Only 2 Power 5 teams (Kentucky and Boston College) have allowed more than that. Ashford and Jayden Daniels are going to do a whole lot of scrambling with Ojulari and Hall lined up.

Georgia vs. Mizzou — How obvious is it that Kirby Smart orchestrated a brutal week of practice?

Meaning, does UGA come out and put up a 28-0 halftime lead? After a rare lackluster showing against Kent State, a bounce-back game should be in store. The question is whether the Dawgs come out like the team we saw against Oregon and South Carolina. That’s on both sides of the ball, too. Offensively, Stetson Bennett and Ladd McConkey had off days. Against a Mizzou team who lost in embarrassing fashion at Auburn, is it a given that the UGA offense looks crisp on the road? Maybe, maybe not.

Oh, who are we kidding? Georgia is a 4-touchdown favorite. Smart is 28-2 against the SEC East since 2017. If the Dawgs get AD Mitchell back, I’d fully expect this offense to snap back into place. Perhaps the better question is whether Brock Bowers will continue to pile up the rushing touchdowns. Whatever the case, Todd Monken’s game plan will give Mizzou more problems than what it saw at any point in that debacle against Auburn.