Our Five Burning Questions about the SEC as we head for the third Saturday in October:
1) Can Hutson Mason keep it going? Lost in the spotlight of Nick Chubb’s 38-carry performance at Missouri is the fact that Hutson Mason, Georgia’s senior quarterback, played his best game with the Bulldogs. You could see Mason’s leadership of the team growing as he completed 22 of 28 passes with no interceptions. His 9-yard touchdown pass to Michael Bennett in the corner of the end zone was a thing of beauty.
Mason will need to show the same kind leadership with the same kind of performance on Saturday against Arkansas (3-3, 0-3) in Little Rock. Chubb was great against Missouri, but he’ll find the sledding a little tougher against Arkansas, which held Alabama to only 66 yards rushing on 32 carries. The Hogs made Blake Sims throw the ball (11 of 21 for 161). Mason is going to have to complete some key passes for Georgia (5-1, 3-1) to win this game.
2) How good is Texas A&M really? The Aggies (5-2, 2-2) came out of the box just smoking by destroying South Carolina (52-28) and then beating three cupcakes by a combined score of 169-19. Since then Texas A&M has had to rally to beat Arkansas (35-28 OT) and has been dominated by Mississippi State (48-31) and Ole Miss (35-20), two of the top three teams in the current polls.
So have the Aggies been exposed as a finesse team that can’t win in the trenches? Or has the level of competition just gone up dramatically? We’ll find out a little bit more about Texas A&M when they go to Alabama (5-1, 2-1), which struggled on offense last week at Arkansas but still won 14-13.
3) Tennessee is due to beat somebody, could it be Ole Miss? The Volunteers got their collective hearts ripped out in losses to Georgia (35-32) and Florida (10-9), games they could have won. Tennessee (3-3, 0-2) beat FCS school Chattanooga 45-10 last Saturday but is still looking for its first SEC win of the season. You might think that Ole Miss (6-0, 3-0) would be due for a letdown after emotional wins over Alabama and Texas A&M the past two weeks. But you’d be wrong. Two reasons why: Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is playing the best football of his career. In the second half of games this season Wallace has completed 44 of 60 passes for 697 yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. The second reason is that the young Tennessee offensive line, which has given up an SEC-high 23 sacks, is no match the Ole Miss defensive front.
4) Is Kentucky ready to win at LSU? Former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells once said that in the final analysis, football is about players making plays. Kentucky (5-1, 2-1) has better players this season which is why the Wildcats are still in the discussion in the SEC East. They go to LSU (5-2, 1-2) in only their second road game of the season. In Kentucky’s first road game the Wildcats lost to Florida 36-30 in triple overtime. So can Kentucky go to LSU’s Death Valley and win against what is not a vintage Les Miles team? If the Wildcats do win its going to be crazy next week when they host No. 1 Mississippi State.
5) Did you know that Florida can still win the SEC East? Yep, that right. The Gators (3-2, 2-2) have two SEC losses but both are against Western Division teams (Alabama, LSU). If Florida can beat Missouri (4-2, 1-1) in the Swamp and run the table, and if Kentucky loses again, the Gators would win the tiebreaker for the spot in the SEC Championship game. Freshman quarterback Treon Harris, who sat out the LSU loss on suspension, is back and will play. This is a monster game for Florida, which has next week off and then faces Georgia in Jacksonville on Nov. 1.