Coaches with the most to gain, lose in Week 5
Here’s our weekly look at the coaches with the most riding on this weekend’s games.
MOST TO GAIN
Gary Pinkel: Taking on one of the conference’s toughest defenses with a freshman quarterback is less than ideal, but a cogent argument could be formed that Missouri is catching Florida at the right time. The Gators turned in one of the most surprising performances of the year in last week’s throttling of Ole Miss and will now have to guard against the dreaded let-down game. Missouri seems to have fallen out of the conversation after losing to Kentucky, but as we’ve learned, that seems to be when Tigers are at their most dangerous. Last year, they rebounded from a loss to Indiana to earn a second straight appearance in the SEC championship game, and an upset of Florida (5.5-point favorite) would put Missouri right back in the thick of the hunt for a three-peat.
Bret Bielema: Yes, an Arkansas win over Alabama seems like a virtual impossibility. The Tide is favored by more than two touchdowns and after the display of dominance it put on against Georgia, it’s hard to imagine any team taking Alabama down just seven days later. And that’s precisely why Bielema is on this list. Arkansas got back on track with a win against Tennessee last week and in its last two games has looked much more like the team we saw in the last half of 2014. That team, by the way, lost by just one point to Alabama in Fayetteville. Of course, it’ll be a different environment in Tuscaloosa with the Tide fans riding high on last week’s win. But if the Hogs were to pull off the stunner, it might change the narrative of the Hogs’ entire season.
Mark Richt: The Bulldogs got embarrassed last weekend; there’s really no more honest way to describe what happened against Alabama. Richt & Co. can save face — and more importantly maintain their position in the race for the SEC East crown — with a bounce-back win against Tennessee on Saturday.
MOST TO LOSE
Mark Richt: Tennessee has already had to re-calibrate its expectations for the season. If Georgia loses in Knoxville, the Bulldogs will be in the same spot. The question here: does Georgia limp in with wounded pride or brush off last week’s defeat and stride into Neyland Stadium like the SEC East favorite it was seven days ago?
Jim McElwain: Florida’s rookie coach is the first head Gator since Steve Spurrier to win his first five games at the school. Following last week’s resounding win over Ole Miss, Florida shot up to No. 11 in the rankings and looks like a strong contender to represent the East in Atlanta this year. But going into Missouri will be no easy task. The Tigers have a stout defense and played their best offensive game of the season last week with freshman Drew Lock calling signals. A Florida win solidifies its spot atop the division; a loss and the Gators will be thrown into a potential four-way scrum of one-loss teams.
Les Miles: In back-to-back weeks, LSU has played down to the level of its competition. It hasn’t cost the Tigers yet — primarily because Leonard Fournette hasn’t let it. And though South Carolina is down this year, playing on the road in the SEC is typically tougher than winning at Syracuse, and the Gamecocks will bring more artillery to the fight than the Eastern Michigans of the world can muster. LSU has the talent to contend in the West this season — and maybe do much more than that. But heading into the meat of the schedule, it’s time for the Tigers to start playing like it, four consecutive quarters at a time.