One of the great SEC rivalries will be in the spotlight on Week 8 with Alabama and Tennessee now set to face off in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week. The Oct. 24 date between the Crimson Tide and Volunteers will be the 102nd meeting in the series with the Tide holding a 56-38-7 all-time advantage.
The game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET from Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, with Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson and Jamie Erdahl on the call.
Among the many interesting storylines surrounding this year’s meeting is the latest chance for Jeremy Pruitt to measure his program against the class of the conference. Coming off a second-half collapse against Georgia, the Vols and their fans will be looking for a full four-quarter show of competitiveness against their traditional October rival. There is a lot of excitement about how Pruitt has elevated the program on the recruiting trail and in its eight-game winning streak that stretched from the 2019 season to the loss at Georgia. Hower, as Phillip Fulmer has mentioned, Tennessee will be judged by how it performs against three teams: Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
Other highlights from the Week 8 schedule in the SEC include Georgia’s trip to face Kentucky, Auburn traveling to take on Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss, and Florida hosting a Missouri team that’s looking more dangerous after a win against LSU.
All times Eastern
Noon — Auburn at Ole Miss — SEC Network
3:30 p.m. — Alabama at Tennessee — CBS
4 p.m. — South Carolina at LSU — SEC Network
7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. — Missouri at Florida — ESPN or SEC Network
7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. — Georgia at Kentucky — ESPN or SEC Network
One of my favorite parts about the month of October in college football is how quickly the rankings adjust to those initial reactions from the opening weeks of the season. In “normal” seasons this, would still be the point where teams have finally have a couple conference games in the books and whatever kind of overreaction we made from the few September results worth noting has been put to the test by the grind of league play.
Even in a “normal” year, this is the point where we identify an early-season result that has been proven to be wildly misleading. In 2020, that game is Mississippi State’s 44-34 win at LSU. The biggest game on the SEC’s opening-week schedule had everything fans could want, from the intrigue of seeing how the defending champs would replace Joe Burrow and more than a dozen starters to the SEC debut of Mike Leach. By the time K.J. Costello and the Bulldogs (who entered the game as 18-point underdogs) were done carving up LSU for 623 passing yards in the upset win, a new era was proclaimed in the conference. Mike Leach was here, we thought, and the league would never be the same.
Well, while we did see scoreboard-breaking totals in the SEC this past weekend, none of it came from Mississippi State. The Bulldogs did not even score an offensive point in a 14-2 loss to Kentucky, a result that was preceded by a 21-14 loss to Arkansas. Ever since the Leach era started with lighting up LSU, Costello has thrown the ball 114 times and the Mississippi State offense has scored just two touchdowns.
Now at 1-2, Mississippi State finds itself at the bottom of the SEC West standings with LSU. That same LSU team that started in
If you like SEC defenses, you had a bad week. Yards and points were coming quick and easy almost everywhere in the SEC on Saturday. Alabama saw Ole Miss explode on its defense, though the Crimson Tide held on to win 63-48. That game featured the most points and yards in an SEC regulation game ever. Ole Miss racked up 647 yards, the most ever allowed by Bama. Only two of Alabama’s 11 drives did not end in touchdowns, and one of those ended on a fumble at the 1-yard line. The Crimson Tide maintain the No. 2 spot in the College Football Playoff projections after the win.
That will get tested next Saturday when Georgia visits Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The Bulldogs defense has been pretty stout this season, but they gave up 21 first-half points to Tennessee before locking them down in the second half. Georgia cruised to a 44-21 victory over the previously unbeaten Vols.
Alabama and Georgia have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the SEC now following Florida’s 41-38 loss at Texas A&M. The Gators offense has been impressive through the first three weeks, but the defense has been a suspect. The Aggies lit them up for 543 total yards, including 205 on the ground. As good as Florida’s offense has looked, the Gators will have to tighten that up if it hopes to make a run at an SEC title. Florida remains projected for a spot in the Peach Bowl for now, but it’s precarious.
The most surprisingly bad defense so far in the SEC belongs to LSU. The Tigers opened the season giving up an SEC-record 623 passing yards to Mississippi State in a 44-34 loss. This week, they gave up 586 yards of total offense in a 45-41 loss to Missouri. For both
Being a defensive coordinator in this era of college football was already somewhat of a thankless (albeit well-paid) job, but playing in the middle of a pandemic season has made it particularly stressful.
The lack of a real offseason conditioning program, the inability to spend as much time on fundamentals and the lack of practice tackling (in some cases due to social distancing guidelines) has undoubtedly left defenses even further behind offenses early in the season.
Those factors will make it difficult to judge which defensive coordinators are doing a bad job this season and which have been dealt an impossible hand. But that’s not going to stop criticism from being levied against several high-profile defensive coordinators whose teams have really struggled so far this year.
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At LSU, it’s already fair to ask if hiring Bo Pelini to replace Dave Aranda was a mistake. At Florida, Dan Mullen seems to have an offense that can score on anybody but a defense that simply isn’t up to par for a team that wants to contend for the College Football Playoff. And at Alabama, 36-year-old coordinator Pete Golding has not impressed this season despite a lot of returning talent.
The Big 12’s chicken or the egg conundrum has fully engulfed SEC country: Are the offenses really that good or are the defenses really that bad?
Just a fair warning, SEC: it’s a tired debate that goes in circles. The Big 12 spent years fighting the notion that its teams didn’t play defense. In some respects, it’s still fighting it. But like most answers, the reality was/is somewhere in the middle. Big 12 defenses always should have been graded on a curve given how good the offenses were.
Much of the same can be said for the SEC and the ACC exiting Week 6 with overs on totals hitting in 13 of the 14 games played. Are the offenses that good, or are the defenses that bad? In short: yes.
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How could you not look at No. 2 Alabama’s 63-48 win over Ole Miss and not be blown away by the offenses? The 1,370 total yards of offense between the two were the most in the history of a regulation SEC game. There’s first-round talent up and down Alabama’s offense, but Lane Kiffin has Ole Miss’ Xs and Os dialed up for maximum point scoring. There was some truly great football being played.
At the same time, Alabama’s defense is clearly not what it used to be. The Tide have allowed at least 42 points three times in the last eight games. Before that, Alabama had allowed at least 42 in three of its previous 65 games, per CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. And Ole Miss’ defense? Somehow even worse.
Let’s switch to No. 21 Texas A&M’s 41-38 win over No. 4 Florida. Was that