The Week 10 SEC slate is highlighted by the annual Florida-Georgia showdown in Jacksonville. Both teams have struggled in recent weeks — due in large part to injuries — but this game is still very important to both programs.
SEC Week 10 Game Power Rankings
1. Florida (+2.5) vs. Georgia (3:30 ET, CBS)
As poorly as both of these teams have played in the past month, they both still have a shot at the SEC East title — thanks in large part to South Carolina’s comeback win over Missouri last weekend. A lot of things have to happen — most notably, both teams need to start playing better — but it’s possible that either Georgia or Florida could earn a trip to Atlanta with a 6–2 record in the league. Georgia, right now, seems like the candidate more likely to rebound. The Bulldogs are getting healthier — All-America tailback Todd Gurley should be back this week — and are much better at the quarterback position. Florida’s strength (its defense) was exposed in its last game, giving up 500 yards to Missouri, with a backup quarterback making his first start, in a 36–17 loss. Florida has no chance to finish strong unless its defense returns to form.
2. Tennessee (+11) at Missouri (7:00 ET, ESPN)
When you factor in the way the game was lost and what was at stake, no team in the nation has suffered a more painful loss than what Missouri had to deal with on Saturday night. Now, the Tigers must regroup to play a Tennessee team that is good enough to make them sweat. The Vols were manhandled last weekend in Tuscaloosa but beat South Carolina — the same team that defeated Missouri — the week before. Tennessee, however, will be starting a true freshman (Josh Dobbs) at quarterback. Dobbs was pressed into action at Alabama in the second half due to an injury to starter Justin Worley. Dobbs completed 5-of-12 passes for 75 yards and added 19 yards on the ground. Missouri’s defense isn’t quite as formidable as Alabama’s, but the Tigers are very good on the defensive line and feature one of the league’s top cornerbacks in E.J. Gaines. This will be a tough test for the young quarterback.
3. Auburn (-9) at Arkansas (6:00 ET, ESPN2)
How quickly things change in a year. Last October, Auburn — en route to an 0-8 SEC record — managed only 321 yards of offense in a 24–7 loss at home to an Arkansas team that only won one other SEC game. Now, the Tigers are 7-1 overall (3-1 in the SEC) and favored by nine points on the road at Arkansas. The offense, which ranked last in the SEC in 2012 with 305.0 yards per game, now ranks second (511.0 ypg) behind only Texas A&M. Starting quarterback Nick Marshall has been dealing with a shoulder injury and could be a game-time decision, according to coach Gus Malzahn. If he’s unable to play, the Tigers will turn to true freshman Jeremy Johnson. Things are not going well at Arkansas, where Bret Bielema’s first Razorback team has lost five straight games — the last two by a combined score of 104-7. The Hogs have some quality talent at running back and on the defensive line but are lacking top-flight SEC talent elsewhere.
4. Mississippi State (+13) at South Carolina (12:21 ET, SEC TV)
By virtue of its comeback win at Missouri last weekend, South Carolina is now in great position to represent the East Division in the SEC Championship Game. The Gamecocks, who now own the tie-breaker with Mizzou, close their league slate with home games against Mississippi State and Florida. Win those two, and Carolina likely will be playing in Atlanta. Mississippi State, on the other hand, is desperate for a quality win — something the program hasn’t had since beating Wake Forest in the 2011 Music City Bowl (and that’s a stretch). The Bulldogs are 4-3 overall, with wins over Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green and Kentucky — the last two by a combined seven points.
5. UTEP (+45.5) at Texas A&M (9:00 ET, ESPN)
The only thing intriguing about this game was going to be the return of Jameill Showers to College Station. At one point, Showers was listed ahead of Johnny Manziel on the Aggies’ depth chart. Now, he is the starting quarterback at UTEP, where he has thrown for 1,263 yards and 11 touchdowns in six-plus games. Showers will not, however, be in the lineup this week due to a shoulder injury. So now, there’s really nothing that interesting about this game. Texas A&M will score a lot of points, and the Miners, who are 1-6, will not.
6. Alabama State at Kentucky (7:30 ET, CSS)
Kentucky is searching for win No. 2 on Saturday night. The Wildcats should get it without too much trouble, but it is worth noting that Alabama State is 6-2 and has won six straight games. The Hornets are led by tailback Isaiah Crowell, a former Georgia Bulldog who has rushed for 814 yards in seven games. Kentucky hopes to have sophomore Jalen Whitlow, who has been slowed by an ankle injury, back in the lineup at quarterback. If he is unable to play, it appears that true freshman Reese Phillips — not Maxwell Smith or Patrick Towles (a 4-star recruit) — will be pressed into duty.
5 Pivotal Players
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
The Bulldogs expect to have their All-American back in the lineup after missing three games with a high ankle sprain. J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas did a nice job in relief, but Gurley is a true difference-maker who, when healthy, is one of the top two or three running backs in the nation. He will be running against a Florida defense that hasn’t been nearly as formidable since defensive tackle Dominique Easley went down with a season-ending injury. In the last three games, all without Easley, Florida has allowed 163.7 rushing yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry.
The Florida run defense has taken a step back in recent weeks — see above — but the secondary was the biggest issue in the Gators’ 36-17 loss to Missouri two weeks ago. After having allowed no more than 165 yards in any of its previous six games, Florida gave up 295 yards on only 18 completions to a redshirt freshman making his first start. The Gators’ pass defense — led by the league’s best collection of cornerbacks — will need to be more effective against Georgia on Saturday.
Josh Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
The true freshman from Georgia will make his first start on Saturday night at Missouri. Dobbs, who originally committed to Arizona State, was hand-picked by the new staff after its arrival in Knoxville last December. He is one of three freshman quarterbacks on the roster — two true and one redshirt — but most around the program believe Dobbs is the best fit for the offense. He’ll have an opportunity to display his skills in prime time on Saturday night.
Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
At first glance, it appears that Collins, one of the top running backs in the Class of 2013, has struggled against SEC competition. After all, he is averaging 120.3 yards per game in the Hogs’ four non-conference games and 79.0 yards in their four SEC games. But the dip in production is a product of fewer opportunities — he is averaging 13.8 carries against SEC teams and 21.5 against all others. In fact, Collins’ per-carry numbers are better in league games (5.8) than non-conference games (5.6). The Razorbacks need to establish the running game Saturday against Auburn and make sure their star freshman is a big part of the offense.
Jameon Lewis, WR, Mississippi State
The Bulldogs will need some big plays from their top weapons to pull off the upset at South Carolina Saturday. Last week, Lewis, a junior wideout, scored on a 19-yard carry in the first quarter, a 17-yard reception in the second and tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Dak Prescott in the third. Now, it’s not likely that Lewis will duplicate this rare feet against South Carolina, but the Bulldogs will look to their top wide receiver (30 catches for 446 yards) to play a key role against a very good South Carolina defense.
Miss. St. (+13) at S. Carolina
S. Carolina 31-13
S. Carolina 31-17
S. Carolina 34-20
S. Carolina 27-13
Florida (+2.5) vs. Georgia
Auburn (-9) at Arkansas
Tennessee (+11) at Missouri
Alabama State at Kentucky
UTEP (+45.5) at Texas A&M
Texas A&M 52-21
Texas A&M 51-20
Texas A&M 62-14
Texas A&M 58-7