Saturday's 5 best individual matchups
Need a viewer’s guide on what to watch for during the third Saturday in the SEC? We’ve got you covered.
Week 3’s 5 best individual matchups
Ole Miss offensive line vs. Alabama defensive line — SEC games are won in the trenches and Saturday’s showdown in Tuscaloosa won’t be any different. The Rebels must find a way to navigate through a massive defensive front with Jaylen Walton, Jordan Wilkins and Eugene Brazley in the backfield. Alabama’s led the league in rush defense each of the last four seasons and is currently giving up just 63 yards per game in 2015. Protecting Chad Kelly is also vital for an offensive line playing without Laremy Tunsil for the third straight week.
Auburn WR Duke Williams vs. LSU CB Tre’Davious White — I was asked to evaluate several SEC players’ NFL draft stock on a Sports Illustrated podcast earlier this week and this was the matchup I kept coming back to in Death Valley. Talent on talent. White’s in his third year as a starter at LSU coming off a solid performance against Mississippi State. His deflection in the final minute against De’Runnya Wilson on third-and-long forced the Bulldogs to try a long field that went wide as time expired. Wilson still managed a touchdown and 86 yards receiving, but White was a pest throughout. I like physical cornerbacks who aren’t afraid to ‘get in the grill’ of an opposing receiver. Williams is a big-play threat with extreme athleticism, but he’s been quiet thus far during Jeremy Johnson’s inconsistent start under center.
South Carolina RBs vs. Georgia OLBs — Picking up the blitz will be paramount for the Gamecocks in Athens against a defense that will surely pin its ears back against former walk-on quarterback Perry Orth. Brandon Wilds, Shon Carson and David Williams will have their hands full trying to slow down Georgia’s quartet of outside linebackers, headlined by Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd. Jenkins leads the country with 6.5 tackles for loss. It would be in South Carolina’s best interest to take a run-first approach despite the likelihood of Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt stacking the box and tempting Orth to throw.
Arkansas OC Dan Enos vs. Arkansas HC Bret Bielema — Will Bielema continue to allow Enos to steer away from the Razorbacks’ strength on offense? Jonathan Williams is out, yes, but Arkansas is still built to move the football on the ground behind one of the SEC’s most dominant offensive lines. During last week’s inexcusable loss to Toledo, only 1/5 of the team’s total offensive production (515 yards). Disregarding the final drive when Arkansas was forced to throw, the Razorbacks called passing plays on 14-of-22 offensive snaps in the fourth quarter. Brandon Allen threw for a career-high 412 yards, but it wasn’t enough. At what point does Bielema step in and take the stubborn approach? That’s a question I’d like to see answered this week against a team the Razorbacks pulverized between the tackles last season.
Kentucky vs. The Streak (Florida) — Fresh off a momentum-building win at South Carolina, the Wildcats host Florida at night inside new Commonwealth Stadium. Does it get any bigger for Kentucky? The Boys in Blue have lost 28 straight games against the Gators, the longest active streak in college football. “We’re not going to hide from those things,” Mark Stoops said this week. The difference in 2015 is that Kentucky has confidence. The Wildcats were a fourth-down stop away from beating Florida in Gainesville last season and now have depth at the skill positions and a new OC who appears to have a grasp on getting the ball to the Wildcats’ playmakers in space. Florida’s a 3.5-point favorite at last glance, but I’d give Kentucky the slight edge playing at home with more on the line.