What you need to know about every SEC West opponent in Week 5
Week 4 brought us lopsided victories by Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas A&M, as well as the conference’s first fired coach, Les Miles at LSU. Although this weekend marks the first week for an SEC West team to have a bye — Mississippi State is off after beating UMass 47-35 on Saturday — the rest of the division will continue their respective schedules.
As you prepare for another Saturday, here is a preview of every SEC West team’s opponent for Week 5.
KENTUCKY (AT ALABAMA)
Kentucky 2016 PPG: 30.3
Kentucky 2016 PPG allowed: 35.3
Strength: After opening the season with back-to-back losses, the Wildcats have won two in a row since quarterback Stephen Johnson came in relief of Drew Barker — who went down with a back injury — against New Mexico State in Week 3. Johnson led Kentucky to a 62-42 victory over the Aggies after completing 17-of-22 pass attempts for 310 yards and 3 scores. Although he only finished 11-of-19 for 135 yards and an interception against South Carolina on Saturday, it seems as though the junior signal-caller rejuvenated the Wildcats’ offense the past two weeks. Fortunately for Johnson, Kentucky boasts a strong running game which has already recorded 787 yards and 9 TDs through four games.
Must stop: The Wildcats’ two-headed monster in the backfield, junior Stanley Williams and freshman Benjamin Snell Jr. Williams leads Kentucky in carries with 58, and he has already rushed for 464 yards and 2 touchdowns. Williams has reached the century mark each of the past two weeks, finishing with 181 yards and 123 yards against New Mexico State and South Carolina, respectively.
Snell has been equally impressive during his first season in Lexington. After missing the first two games, he went for 136 yards and 4 touchdowns in his debut against the Aggies. Last week, the freshman had 16 carries and finished with 73 yards and a score against the Gamecocks.
Notable: Alabama holds a 36-2-1 all-time record against Kentucky in 39 meetings. The Wildcats last toppled the Crimson Tide, 40-34, in Lexington in 1997. Kentucky has never beaten Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
ALCORN STATE (AT ARKANSAS IN LITTLE ROCK, ARK)
Alcorn State 2016 PPG: 27.3
Alcorn State 2016 PPG allowed: 35.3
Strength: Even though Alcorn State will enter Little Rock with a 1-2 record, the team’s offense has still put up 1,260 yards of total offense through three games. The Braves have used a balanced attack — 691 passing yards, 569 rushing yards — to generate 71 first downs thus far. While three different quarterbacks have lined up behind center, it’s been Noah Johnson (43-of-69 pass attempts, 482 yards, 4 TDs) who has primarily led the offense during the early part of the season. Even though Johnson completed 8-of-17 pass attempts for 65 yards and a touchdown against Grambling State on Saturday, the Braves’ first-year head coach Fred McNair — who is the brother of Steve McNair — turned to junior Lenorris Footman midway through the second quarter. Footman finished with 137 yards and an interception, though Alcorn State ultimately fell 43-18 at Grambling.
Must stop: While there is no telling who will be behind center, the Razorbacks should focus on the Braves’ backfield. Alcorn State has had three different players rush for 100 yards or more — including Johnson, who has rushed for 162 yards and a team-high 4 touchdowns in three games.
At running back, redshirt junior Arron Baker has run for 179 yards on 25 carries, while De’Lance Turner has recorded 162 yards and a score on 36 carries.
Notable: The Braves have been named the Black College National champions five times, most recently in 2014. Alcorn State finished that season with a 9-3 regular season mark before winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game. It was the team’s first Black College national title in 30 years.
LOUISIANA-MONROE (AT AUBURN)
UL Monroe 2016 PPG: 25.3
UL Monroe 2016 PPG allowed: 34.3
Strength: The Warhawks love to go deep, and with quarterback Garrett Smith and wide receiver R.J. Turner leading the way, the offense possesses the talent to churn big plays. Through three games, Smith has completed 59-of-101 passes for 742 yards and 6 touchdowns. His 58.4 completion percentage isn’t stellar, though Smith has connected with three different receivers for gains of 40 yards or more.
Must stop: At the forefront of the big-play machine is Turner, who has recorded 12 receptions for 239 yards, both of which lead the team. Although the Warhawks were blown out 59-17 at Oklahoma in Week 2, Turner was at his best in the loss. He caught 7 passes for 135 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown against the Sooners. Marcus Green (7 catches, 138 yards, 2 TDs) has also hauled in a pass for 65 yards, while one of Alec Osborne’s two catches went for a 43-yard touchdown.
Notable: Auburn holds an unblemished 9-0 record over UL-Monroe in previous meetings. While the majority of those games have been one-sided in favor of the Tigers, the Warhawks did provide Auburn with a scare when they last met in 2012. Ultimately though, the Tigers escaped with a 31-28 victory in that game.
MISSOURI (AT LSU)
Missouri 2016 PPG: 44.5
Missouri 2016 PPG allowed: 18.8
Strength: Even though it enters Week 5 with a 2-2 record, Missouri has showcased talent on both sides of the ball thus far. Both units were perfect on Saturday as the Tigers set a new scoring record in a 79-0 rout over Delaware State. Throughout the season, Missouri has counted on its passing attack with Drew Lock (96-of-162, 1,508 yards, 14 TDs) leading the way.
Must stop: As good as Lock has been, junior wide receiver J’Mon Moore has been exceptional out wide. Moore is on pace to shatter his numbers from a year ago (29 catches, 350 yards, 3 TDs), and he has established himself as one of the best receivers in the SEC through four games. So far, Moore has led the Tigers’ offense in three categories as his 26 catches, 434 yards and 6 touchdowns all rank first on the team. He also provides Lock with a deep threat as the duo has already connected for a 79-yard score in Missouri’s 28-27 loss to Georgia in Week 3.
Notable: Missouri and LSU have only met once before as Mizzou came away with a 20-15 victory in the 1978 Liberty Bowl.
MEMPHIS (AT OLE MISS)
Memphis 2016 PPG: 51.7
Memphis 2016 PPG allowed: 9.0
Strength: Through three games, the Tigers have been dominant on both sides of the ball. They will be riding high after creaming Bowling Green 77-3 on Saturday, though they also cruised past Kansas, 43-7, on Sept. 17. While the offense has ranked atop the nation in scoring, the defense has also allowed just Southeast Missouri State to reach double digits in a 35-17 season-opening win. With Jake Elliott at kicker, Memphis truly is dangerous in all three phases of the game.
Must stop: Much of the team’s success on offense can be attributed to quarterback Riley Ferguson, who has completed 67 percent of his passes (61-of-91) for 843 yards and 11 touchdowns, compared to only two interceptions. Eight different players have hauled in touchdown passes, though Anthony Miller (17 catches, 273 yards, 2 TDs) and Phil Mayhue (8 catches, 127 yards, 2 TDs) are the most dangerous out wide. Patrick Taylor Jr. (25 carries, 219 yards, 1 TD) and Doroland Dorceus (30 carries, 178 yards, 3 TDs) lead a running game which can be dangerous if Memphis is able build an early lead.
Notable: A year ago, the Tigers upset the Rebels 37-24 when the two non-conference foes met last October. Ole Miss was ranked No. 13 for that matchup.
SOUTH CAROLINA (VS. TEXAS A&M)
South Carolina 2016 PPG: 14.3
South Carolina 2016 PPG allowed: 17.3
Strength: With freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain setting the tone, the entire Gamecocks offense has experienced growing pains this season. Fortunately for South Carolina, the defense has done its best to keep the team in games. The 17.3 points the unit has allowed per game ranks 24th nationally, though the Gamecocks’ offense has been the big reason the team will enter Week 5 with a 2-2 mark.
Must stop: On the defensive side of the ball, senior defensive end Darius English has been among the best pass-rushers in the SEC thus far. His four sacks, three of which came against Kentucky on Saturday, ranks second in the conference behind just Arden Key (6.5 sacks) of LSU. In addition to English, a pair of upperclassmen have helped anchor South Carolina’s defensive efforts. Senior linebacker T.J. Holloman leads the team with 25 tackles and an interception, while junior defensive back D.J. Smith has recorded 23 tackles and registered both an interception and a fumble recovery through four games.
Notable: The Aggies and Gamecocks have met twice, with Texas A&M winning back-to-back games in 2014 and 2015. The Aggies pulled out a 35-28 win on Halloween a year ago after rolling to a 52-28 victory at South Carolina in both teams’ season opener in 2014.