What you need to know about every SEC East opponent in Week 7
Tennessee’s magic finally ran out.
The Volunteers lost a thrilling overtime game at Texas A&M last weekend, opening up the SEC East race six weeks into the season. Kentucky and South Carolina are off Saturday, but a pair of divisional matchups gives teams a chance to inch closer to Tennessee in the standings.
As for the Vols? Well, their harsh road only continues as top-ranked Alabama comes to town.
Here’s what you need to know about SEC East opponents in Week 7.
No. 18 Florida (4-1, 2-1) vs. Missouri (2-3, 0-2)
Missouri PPG: 37.0
Missouri allowed: 23.4
Tigers’ strength: Though LSU tamed Missouri’s high-octane spread attack two weeks ago, offense is still the strength of coach Barry Odom’s squad. The Tigers still have the No. 8 passing offense in the country behind quarterback Drew Lock despite being held to just 188 yards through the air against LSU.
Must stop: Lock, a sophomore, is the SEC’s leading passer at 335 yards per game and he’s tied for second with 14 touchdowns. He’s paired with junior J’Mon Moore, one of the league’s most productive receivers (450 yards and six touchdowns).
Notable: Missouri is 2-2 against Florida since joining the SEC in 2012.
Florida PPG: 28.4
Florida allowed: 11.6
Gators’ strength: Fortunately for Florida fans, the Gators have a strong enough defense to balance out their currently sluggish offense, which gets Luke Del Rio back Saturday. In fact, they rank in the top three nationally in both scoring defense and total defense (229.8 yards per game).
Must stop: A pleasant surprise this season, redshirt freshman defensive end Jabari Zuniga is tied for 17th among FBS players with five sacks to go along with a forced fumble. Sophomore receiver Antonio Callaway, meanwhile, is a big-play threat as a receiver and kick returner.
Notable: The Gators and Tigers’ lone pre-SEC meeting came in the 1966 Sugar Bowl, which Missouri won 20-18 despite Florida’s furious fourth-quarter rally.
Georgia (4-2, 2-2) vs. Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3)
Vanderbilt PPG: 19.0
Vanderbilt Allowed: 23.0
Commodores’ strength: A concern through the first month of the season, Vanderbilt’s defense has suddenly become its strong point. The Commodores are 40th nationally in scoring defense, keeping games close in the absence of a reliable offensive attack.
Must stop: Junior Zach Cunningham is possibly the best linebacker in a conference full of talented ones. His 62 tackles are sixth-most among FBS players, and he’s fourth nationally with 10.5 tackles for loss. Vanderbilt’s lone offensive threat is running back Ralph Webb, who averages 113.7 yards per game on the ground.
Notable: The Commodores have beaten Georgia only twice since 1994, with its most recent win coming in 2013, 31-27.
Georgia PPG: 26.7
Georgia allowed: 28.0
Bulldogs’ strength: As Nick Chubb battled injury over the past few weeks, Georgia proved it has what’s possibly the deepest running back group in the SEC. The Bulldogs did so again last Sunday when Chubb (121 yards), Sony Michel (133) and Brian Herrien (82) split 46 carries en route to a season-high 326 yards against South Carolina.
Must stop: Chubb looked fully healthy in his 17-touch outing against the Gamecocks, and he’s one of the most dangerous players in college football when at 100 percent. Sophomore linebacker Natrez Patrick has been a steady presence for Georgia’s defense, leading the team with 36 tackles to go along with four tackles for loss.
Notable: The Bulldogs lead this lopsided series 55-19-2.
No. 9 Tennessee (5-1, 2-1) vs. No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0)
Alabama PPG: 44.8
Alabama allowed: 15.8
Tide’s strength: You know the drill by now. Alabama is the most complete team in the country, one that has coasted by all but one opponent while maintaining its No. 1 ranking all season. But the Crimson Tide ranks 11th in scoring defense and 12th in total defense (292.5 yards per game), which could mean trouble for a slow-starting Tennessee team. The Tide also have scored at least one non-offensive touchdown in eight consecutive games dating to last season.
Must stop: Senior linebacker Reuben Foster is the unit’s enforcer, a savage hitter who leads the team with 37 tackles. Minkah Fitzpatrick, fresh off a three-interception performance against Arkansas, is a ball-hawking defensive back with five pass breakups, a forced fumble and 27 tackles. He returned one of those interceptions from deep in his own end zone for a touchdown.
Notable: The Tennessee-Alabama rivalry, known as the “Third Saturday in October,” is actually being played on that date for the first time since 2012. Alabama has won nine consecutive in the series.
Bye: Kentucky (3-3, 2-2), South Carolina (2-4, 1-4)