An epic week in the SEC is highlighted by two huge games in the Magnolia State. Ole Miss hosts Alabama and Texas A&M visits Mississippi State in a pair of crucial matchups that will help shape the SEC West race. Elsewhere, LSU makes the trip to Auburn with a true freshman quarterback making his first start, and Florida and Tennessee get together in Knoxville.
Week 6 Previews and Predictions
ACC| Big 12|Big Ten|Pac-12
Week 6 SEC Games Power Rankings
1. Alabama (-6.5) at Ole Miss (3:30 ET, CBS)
It’s the biggest football Saturday in Oxford in decades. Ole Miss, undefeated and ranked in the top 10 nationally, hosts the mighty Crimson Tide of Alabama. That’s the main event. The pregame party, however, will be legendary, with ESPN’s College GameDay setting up shop in the Grove for the first time ever. Assuming the tailgaters can find their way to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, they will have an opportunity to witness the first of what should be many epic showdowns in the next two months between SEC West contenders. Alabama has ascended to the top of a few national polls on the strength of an offense that is averaging just a shade under 600 yards per game. Ole Miss currently leads the SEC in total defense, allowing only 3.7 yards per play and 248.0 yards per game — but the Rebels have played a relatively soft schedule. The bigger concern for Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is his offense; the numbers have been decent, but the Rebs have lacked consistency and have turned the ball over nine times in four games.
Listen to the Week 6 preview podcast:
2. Texas A&M (+2.5) at Mississippi State (12 ET, ESPN)
Any other Saturday, this likely would have been the Game of the Week nationally. But the Bulldogs are forced to cede the spotlight to their hated rivals to the (relative) north, the Ole Miss Rebels, who host Alabama. Still, this is a huge game between two undefeated teams with aspirations of winning the SEC West. Texas A&M survived a scare on Saturday, rallying from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat Arkansas in overtime. The Aggies’ offense is as explosive as ever, but the defense continues to be an issue. A&M has given up more than 400 yards in three of five games, including 484 to Arkansas on Saturday. Mississippi State passed its only test this season — and did so in impressive fashion with a 34–29 win at LSU two weeks ago. The Bulldogs are stout defensively and feature one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation in junior Dak Prescott.
3. LSU (+7.5) at Auburn (7 ET, ESPN)
True freshman Brandon Harris will be making his first start for an LSU team that is trying to avoid its first 0–2 start in the SEC since 2001 (a year in which the Tigers actually went on to win the conference title). Harris has played very well in relief in recent weeks, but starting a game — especially on the road at night in a hostile environment against a top-10 team — is a completely different challenge. Auburn’s defense appears to be improved in 2014; the Tigers are allowing only 313.3 yards per game and held Arkansas to 328 in Week 1 and Kansas State to 285 two weeks ago. The Tigers would love tailback Leonard Fournette, another true freshman, to break out this week. He had 122 yards on 18 carries against New Mexico State but has a total of 56 yards on 15 carries in two games against Power 5 conference teams. This is a tough spot for LSU.
4. Florida (+2.5) at Tennessee (12 ET, SEC Network)
Once the Game of the Year in the SEC and a fixture on CBS, the annual Florida-Tennessee battle has been relegated to a noon start on the SEC Network. Still, this is a huge game for both programs. It’s almost a must win for Florida coach Will Muschamp, whose team is 1–6 in its last seven SEC games with the lone win coming in overtime at home vs. Kentucky. Tennessee is trending in the right direction, and a win over Florida — something that hasn’t happened for the Vols since 2004 — would be huge step forward for this program. Granted, beating Florida isn’t a huge deal anymore, but this is a game Tennessee simply needs to win.
5. South Carolina (-5) at Kentucky (7:30 ET, SEC Network)
It’s been a strange year for the Gamecocks, who have now lost two home games for the first time since 2008. South Carolina had by far its finest defensive performance of the season on Saturday night — giving up less than 350 yards an fewer than 6.7 yards per snap for the first time — yet still lost to Missouri, 21–20. Anything can happen in the wide-open SEC East, though it’s tough to envision a team with two losses at home winning the division. Kentucky is much-improved in the second season under Mark Stoops. The Cats took Florida to overtime in Gainesville before finally snapping their 17-game SEC losing streak against Vanderbilt last week. Kentucky did, however, have season-lows in points (17), total yards (384) and yards per play (4.8) against the Commodores.
6. Vanderbilt (+33.5) at Georgia (4 ET, SEC Network)
Georgia concludes a three-game homestand against a Vanderbilt team that is struggling to move the ball and score points. The Commodores rank last in the league in both rushing offense and passing offense and are averaging only 254.6 yards per game. They have five offensive touchdowns in five games and have made a total of 11 trips inside the red zone. Georgia has scored at least 35 points in all four games; if you’re Mark Richt, you have to figure 21 points will be more than enough to win this game.
Week 6 SEC Predictions
Florida at Tennessee
Texas A&M at Miss St.
Alabama at Ole Miss
Vanderbilt at Georgia
LSU at Auburn
S. Carolina at Kentucky