Our Five Burning Questions about the SEC before another big regular-season Saturday:
1) Can LSU continue the night magic at Tiger Stadium? LSU Coach Les Miles has called Tiger Stadium at night a “magical place.” Miles probably feels that way because his teams are 46-4 in night games at home since he arrived in Baton Rouge in 2005. Some of that magic appeared two weeks ago when LSU (7-2, 3-2) knocked off No. 3 Ole Miss 10-7. Now comes No. 5 Alabama (7-1, 4-1), which handed Miles one of those four home losses two years ago. The Crimson Tide will make the playoffs if they can win their last three SEC games with LSU, No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 3 Auburn.
2) Is Texas A&M going to finally wake up against Auburn? When Texas A&M demolished South Carolina (52-28) in what seems like a million years ago (Aug. 28), it looked like the Aggies were going to win the SEC West and quarterback Kenny Hill would contend for the Heisman Trophy. Now Texas A&M (6-3, 2-3) has lost three consecutive SEC games and Hill is no longer the starting quarterback. Freshman Kyle Allen, rated by some as the top high school QB in the country last season, now has the job and made his first start last week in a less-than-impressive 21-16 victory against Louisiana-Monroe. It’s pretty clear that the Aggies and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital didn’t show everything they had last week. Can Texas A&M get their swagger back against No. 3 Auburn (7-1, 4-1) or do the Tigers keep rolling as they prepare for next week’s trip to Georgia?
3) Does Vanderbilt have a shot against Florida because of Johnny McCrary? Vanderbilt has started four different quarterbacks in Derek Mason’s first season as coach. It looks like the Commodores (3-6, 0-5) have settled on McCrary, the redshirt freshman from Decatur (Cedar Grove). McCrary has thrown seven touchdown passes with only one interception in back-to-back starts against Missouri (a 24-14 loss) and Old Dominion (a 42-28 win). Mason is sticking with McCrary even though previous starter Patton Robinette (concussion) has been cleared to play. Florida (4-3, 3-3) is coming off an emotional 38-20 victory against Georgia.
4) Speaking of Georgia, how do the Bulldogs respond at Kentucky? The collapse at Jacksonville last week took the Bulldogs (6-2, 4-2) out of the playoff discussion, but they can still win the SEC East if they beat Kentucky and Auburn while Missouri drops one of its final three games against Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas. Kentucky (5-4, 2-4) has lost three games in a row since a 5-1 start but has the kind of offensive personnel to give the Georgia defense problems. This is nothing but a mindset game for Georgia. If the Bulldogs come out flat and dejected, it could be long day in the Bluegrass. I don’t think they will.
5) Does Mississippi State need any style points against UT-Martin? Despite a close 17-10 victory against Arkansas last week, Mississippi State (8-0, 5-0) remained No. 1 when the new CFP rankings were released on Tuesday. Staying No. 1 is important because the top-seeded team in the playoffs gets to play in the semifinal closest to home. So on one hand it would help the Bulldogs to win impressively against UT Martin (which lost 59-14 in its opener to Kentucky). But Mississippi State also wants to keep its troops fresh and healthy for next week’s all-important trip to No. 5 Alabama. It will be interesting to see how long coach Dan Mullen goes with his starters, especially quarterback Dak Prescott.