The Week 9 slate is highlighted by Ole Miss’ trip to Baton Rouge to face an LSU team that has won two straight games. Elsewhere, Kentucky returns home after a sobering loss in Baton Rouge to host the No. 1 team in the nation, Mississippi State; Alabama heads to Tennessee seeking its eighth straight win over the Volunteers; Auburn hosts a South Carolina team that is seeking to get back to .500 in the SEC; and Missouri will look to improve to 3–1 in the league against struggling Vanderbilt.
SEC Week 9 Game Power Rankings
1. Ole Miss (-3.5) at LSU (7:15 ET, ESPN)
Ole Miss is set to embark on the toughest two-game stretch of its season, with a trip to resurgent LSU followed up with a home date against Auburn. The Rebels will be in a great position — both in the SEC West and on the national scene — if they manage to win both games. LSU has won two straight to even its SEC record at 2–2 — but it’s a bit early to assume this edition of the Tigers is among the elite teams in the league. LSU’s wins have come against Florida (by three points) and at home against an improved-but-not-quite-ready-for-primetime Kentucky team. The Tigers still have issues at quarterback — Anthony Jennings is only 17-of-35 with 230 yards in the last two weeks — and you cannot be one-dimensional against the Ole Miss defense. The Rebels lead the nation in scoring defense (10.6 ppg, seven touchdowns allowed in seven games) and rank third nationally by allowing only 4.2 yards per play.
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2. Mississippi State (-13.5) at Kentucky (3:30 ET, CBS)
This game looked a lot more appealing a few weeks ago — maybe that’s why CBS tabbed it as the No. 1 game in the SEC — but has lost a bit of its intrigue after Kentucky’s 41–3 loss at LSU on Saturday night. Still, it’s a big game in Lexington, where the locals will be eager to see the Wildcats tangle with the No. 1 team in the nation. Kentucky is 5–0 at home against a soft schedule — South Carolina is by far the best team the Cats have played at Commonwealth — and could have a hard time finding that sixth win against a backloaded schedule. Mississippi State has passed every test in what has been a magical season to date. This could be a tricky spot, however; Mississippi State has been surprisingly vulnerable on defense — the Bulldogs rank 10th in the SEC, allowing 5.4 yards per play — and Kentucky has some quality playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
3. Alabama (-17) at Tennessee (7:30 ESPN2)
Alabama has dominated this series of late, winning the last seven by an average margin of 26.3 points. Only one of the games — a 12–10 Bama win in 2009 — was decided by fewer than 20 points. The 2014 Crimson Tide are fresh off one of the most impressive performances of the Nick Saban era, a 59–0 victory over Texas A&M. This team has lacked consistency — especially on the offensive side of the ball — but is clearly talented enough to win a national title. Tennessee has talent as well but lacks the depth of teams like Alabama and is painfully young. The Volunteers did some good thing offensively against Georgia (401 yards and 32 points) but has averaged only 245.6 yards and 7.3 points in its three other games against Power 5 conference teams. It’s tough to envision Tennessee scoring more than 14 points in this game.
4. South Carolina (+17.5) at Auburn (7:30 SEC Network)
It’s been over a month since South Carolina last won an SEC game. And barring a major surprise, the Gamecocks will have to wait at least another week to get back into the win column. South Carolina, which is allowing a league-high 6.2 yards per play, has not shown the ability to slow down quality offenses. And Auburn, of course, possesses one of the top offensive teams in the league. The Tigers do more of their damage on the ground, but they are more than capable of making big plays in the passing game. Auburn is averaging 225.8 passing yards per game, up from 173.0 last season. It will be a challenge for South Carolina to keep the Tigers from scoring at least 30 points.
5. Vanderbilt (+21) at Missouri (4 ET, SEC Network)
If all goes according to plan, Vanderbilt will start its fourth different quarterback of the season — and this is only the Commodores’ eighth game. Johnny McCrary, a redshirt freshman, is expected to get the nod after he came off the bench and played relatively well in the Dores’ 21–20 win over Charleston Southern two weeks ago. McCrary is more mobile than the only other healthy option — true freshman Wade Freeback — and that could come in handy against a Missouri defense that leads the SEC with 24 sacks. Missouri is 2–1 in the SEC despite only averaging 182.0 yards of offense in those three games. The Tigers are searching for more consistency from quarterback Maty Mauk and better play from the offensive line.
6. UAB (+23.5) at Arkansas (12 ET, SEC Network)
UAB has done some good things under first-year coach Bill Clark, a former high school coach in the Birmingham area who is bringing stability to the program. This, however, is a tough matchup. The Blazers have struggled to stop the run — they gave up 292 yards to Mississippi State, 184 to Western Kentucky and 229 to Middle Tennessee — which does not bode well for this trip to Arkansas. The Razorbacks are averaging 256.9 rushing yards per game. Expect them to hit the 300 mark this weekend.
Week 9 SEC Predictions
UAB at Arkansas
Miss State at Kentucky
Vanderbilt at Mizzou
Ole Miss at LSU
S. Carolina at Auburn
Alabama at Tenneesee