Our Five Burning Questions about the SEC as we head for the fourth Saturday of the season:
1) What is Alabama’s biggest concern as the Florida Gators come to Tuscaloosa? I know the fans are obsessed about the quarterback situation at Alabama and the match up of WR Amari Cooper vs. Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III. But if I was a Crimson Tide fan this is the stat that would worry me: Since Nick Saban became head coach in 2007, the Alabama defense has forced an average of 25 turnovers per season. Through three games in 2014 the defense has forced exactly one turnover. Alabama has not intercepted a pass since the first quarter of the Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma back in January. That has to change if Alabama is going to get where it wants go.
2) Can Mississippi State break its losing streak against LSU? Mississippi State has had some pretty decent teams in the 22 seasons since the SEC went to divisional play. In that stretch the Bulldogs have fielded 10 bowl teams. They made it to the SEC championship game in 1998.
But only once in those 22 years has Mississippi State found a way to beat LSU, when the Bulldogs won 17-16 in Starkville on Homecoming in 1999.
Mississippi State has lost 14 straight games to LSU and has not won in Baton Rouge since 1991, Jackie Sherrill’s first season as coach.
Dan Mullen probably has his best team in his six years as head coach at Mississippi State. Quarterback Dak Prescott will have to play his best game ever for the Bulldogs to pull off the upset.
3) Will South Carolina have a letdown vs. Vanderbilt? And if they do will it matter?
Nope and Nope. South Carolina goes on the road for the first time this season after two quality wins over East Carolina and Georgia. Now, after having their backs to wall and facing elimination in the SEC East race, Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks control their own destiny. Win the rest of them and South Carolina gets to Atlanta to play for the SEC championship.
Vanderbilt is a mess and was very fortunate to beat UMass last week. For South Carolina this game will be about getting ready for next week’s visit from Missouri, a team could be a lot better than we thought going into the season.
4) Will Georgia look sloppy against Troy or will the Bulldogs take care of business? This is the classic sandwich game. Georgia’s coming off a gut-wrenching loss to South Carolina and has a must-win game next week against Tennessee in Athens. I don’t imagine anybody is very excited about the game with Troy. Georgia is a lot more talented and should put the hammer down early and get the starters out of game. This is a test for the coaching staff and the leadership of the team. This is not a typical Troy team, which is usually a tough out.
5) Will Arkansas even TRY to throw it against Northern Illinois? Since losing their opener at Auburn (45-21), the Razorbacks have simply overwhelmed Nicholls State and Texas Tech with 933 yards rushing. Last week the Hogs attempted only 12 passes for 61 yards against Texas Tech. Coach Bret Beliema has conceded that Arkansas will need to be more balanced when it gets back into the conference schedule, beginning next week against Texas A&M in Arlington, Tex.