A key clash in the SEC East between Missouri and South Carolina highlights the Week 5 slate in the SEC. There is also an intriguing matchup in the West as Arkansas and Texas A&M meet in Arlington, Texas. Elsewhere, Georgia hopes to get back on track (in SEC play) against Tennessee in Athens, and Kentucky looks to snap a three-game losing streak to Vanderbilt.
Week 5 Previews and Predictions:
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SEC Week 5 Game Power Rankings
1. Missouri (+5) at South Carolina (7 ET, ESPN)
This game was attractive enough to lure ESPN’s College GameDay to town, but the Battle of Columbia lost a bit of its luster after Missouri’s shocking loss at home to Indiana on Saturday. The Tigers’ defense, impressive in the early going of the 2014 season, gave up 241 yards rushing and 252 yards passing en route to the school’s first non-conference loss at home since 2005 (New Mexico). South Carolina survived a scare in Nashville on Saturday night against Vanderbilt. Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier wasn’t too impressed with his team’s 48–34 win: “We’ve all seen good football teams. We ain’t one,” he said after watching his team give up two kickoff returns for a touchdown and allowing Vanderbilt to average 6.9 yards per play. South Carolina is good enough offensively to win the SEC East but will need to show vast improvement over the next two months on the defensive side of the ball to remain in the race.
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2. Arkansas (+8) vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas) (3:30 ET, CBS)
Here’s some evidence why the SEC West is so strong: Virtually every preseason prognostication had Arkansas picked last in the division, and most had Texas A&M picked fifth or sixth. Well, it’s still early, but the Aggies are 4–0 and ranked among the top six nationally in virtually every poll. Arkansas, meanwhile, is 3–1, highlighted by impressive wins at Texas Tech (49–28) and vs. Northern Illinois (52–14). The Hogs, as expected, have been extremely effective running the ball; they lead the SEC with 324.5 yards per game and are averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Texas A&M held South Carolina to 67 rushing yards in Week 1 — due in part to A&M’s early lead that forced the Gamecocks to throw the ball — but gave up 240 to Rice in a Week 3 win. Stopping the run will be of paramount importance for the Aggies.
3. Tennessee (+17) at Georgia (12 ET, ESPN)
The boys in Vegas don’t think this will be much of a game — Georgia is favored by 18 points — but don’t be surprised if Tennessee makes the Bulldogs sweat. The Volunteers have looked pretty good on offense through three games despite ranking near the bottom of the league in most categories. Their troubles on the offensive line are well-documented, but they boast some exciting young playmakers at running back and wide receiver and have a solid senior quarterback in Justin Worley. Georgia, which let one get away at South Carolina two weeks ago, got back on track Saturday afternoon with a dominant win over a really bad Troy team. The Bulldogs will need to prove they can slow down a top-flight passing attack before we can consider them a Playoff-caliber team.
4. Vanderbilt (+17) at Kentucky (12 ET, SEC Network)
It’s safe to say that no team that lost by 40 points to an opponent has been favored by 17 points over that same team two years later. That’s the case with Kentucky, which lost at home to Vanderbilt 40–0 in November 2012 in what turned out to be the final game of the Joker Phillips era. Now, the Wildcats, rejuvenated under second-year coach Mark Stoops, are a prohibitive favorite over a Vanderbilt team struggling under its new coach, Derek Mason. The Commodores showed significant signs of progress in last week’s loss to South Carolina, but this is still a team that is giving up just under 40 points per game on defense and could be without its starting quarterback (Patton Robinette) on offense. Kentucky hasn’t played since its heartbreaking overtime loss at Florida. The Cats looked much improved in that 36–30 setback — but a close loss to Florida, even in Gainesville, might not end up looking so good if the Gators continue to struggle.
5. Memphis (+19) at Ole Miss (7:30, FSN)
This is a very dangerous spot for Ole Miss, which is 4–0 and oh-so-close to a epic battle with Alabama that could be the most highly anticipated home game in decades. But first, the Rebels must deal with vastly improved Memphis. The Tigers are 2–1, with the only loss by seven points at UCLA, and they are playing with a ton of confidence. Ole Miss is also a confident bunch — and for good reason. The Rebels have been extremely impressive en route to a 3–0 start and are loaded with All-SEC-caliber players on both sides of the ball. This might not be as stress-free as Ole Miss fans would like, but the Rebels should be fine as long as Bo Wallace — who has thrown an SEC-high four interceptions in only three games — takes care of the ball.
6. Louisiana Tech (+32.5) at Auburn (4 ET, SEC Network)
Things were going relatively well in Skip Holtz’s second season at Louisiana Tech … until the Bulldogs lost at home to Northwestern State. Tech rolled up 413 total yards — 106 more than NSU — but lost the turnover battle 5-to-2. Auburn is fresh off a hard-fought 20–14 win at Kansas State. The Tigers managed only 359 yards of offense, the fewest of the Gus Malzahn era, but any win in Manhattan is a good win. Still, you can bet that Malzahn would like to see his offense get its swagger back as it prepares for a brutal stretch that begins with a date with LSU in two weeks and features six straight games against top-20 teams.
7. New Mexico State (+42.5) at LSU (7:30 ET, SEC Network)
There is no shame in losing to Mississippi State, even at home. But it had to be troubling to Les Miles and his staff that LSU was dominated so thoroughly through the first three-plus quarters of the 34–29 loss at Tiger Stadium. This team, while very talented, clearly has some issues. New Mexico State, however, is not close to good enough to expose those issues. The Aggies have improved, but they are still one of the worst FBS teams in the nation. This will not be close.
Week 5 SEC Predictions
Vanderbilt at Kentucky
Tennessee at Georgia
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M
La. Tech at Auburn
Mizzou at S. Carolina
New Mexico St. at LSU
Memphis at Ole Miss