Week 7 in the SEC features two enormous games. We’ll see a head-to-head matchup between unbeaten teams when Florida visits LSU, and then get a better idea of undefeated Texas A&M’s legitimacy when defending SEC champ Alabama visits Kyle Field.
Here are a few of the storylines to watch in Week 7:
Two top-10 matchups: Texas A&M’s rise ranks among the sunniest storylines in the first half of the season. We’ll find out this weekend whether the Aggies’ 5-0 record (2-0 SEC) is a product of more than fortunate early scheduling.
Only one of A&M’s first five opponents is in the top 25 in ESPN’s Football Power Index (No. 24 Arkansas) and none of those teams is currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. But Alabama is. The Crimson Tide (5-1, 2-1) is still the SEC’s biggest of big dogs -- and in case you’ve forgotten, the Tide beat A&M 59-0 last season. This is a test-your-manhood game for the Aggies. They failed miserably last year, but believe times have changed. We shall see.
The SEC’s other top-10 game features another pleasant surprise, Florida (6-0, 4-0), which already answered questions about its early schedule when it walloped Ole Miss 38-10 barely over a week ago. The Gators have made huge strides under Jim McElwain -- particularly with improved play in the passing game from quarterback Will Grier and his receivers -- but a trip to LSU (5-0, 3-0) will easily rank as Grier’s biggest road test to date. Can the rookie keep it up before a rowdy night-game crowd at Tiger Stadium? And will Florida’s nasty defense be able to contain FBS leading rusher Leonard Fournette? This will be an intriguing matchup on a variety of levels.
Kentucky takes center stage: Rarely does Kentucky (well, the football team. John Calipari’s basketball program is another story) play a national showcase game, but the Wildcats have that opportunity this week.
Mark Stoops’ Wildcats (4-1, 2-1) will host Auburn (3-2, 0-2) on Thursday night on ESPN, providing an opportunity for Kentucky to get some more eyeballs on an improving team that has a good chance to beat one of the conference’s marquee programs.
Both teams took the weekend off to prepare for the odd scheduling this week, and both are coming off shaky wins against nonconference opposition. Kentucky needed overtime to beat Eastern Kentucky 34-27, while Auburn beat San Jose State 35-21. At the end of the season, the result of this game might be one that we circle as a determining factor in whether at least one of these teams played in a bowl game.
Trap game for the Rebels? Ole Miss (5-1) is unquestionably the favorite when it visits Memphis (5-0) this week, but this doesn’t look like a gimme road win for the Rebels. When we last saw Memphis, it beat South Florida 24-17 two weeks ago to remain unbeaten -- continuing the program’s best start in 54 years and extending the Tigers’ winning streak to 12 games. Only Ohio State has won more consecutive games among FBS teams.
Ole Miss routed New Mexico State 52-3 over the weekend, getting some of the bitter taste out of its mouth following the embarrassing loss to Florida. The Rebels will need to play that kind of crisp game against quarterback Paxton Lynch (1,535 passing yards, 10 TDs, 0 INTs) and Memphis on Saturday or they might have a fight on their hands from their neighbors to the north.
How will Missouri, Georgia respond? We might have expected Saturday’s Georgia-Missouri outcome to help determine the SEC East winner -- and maybe it still will -- but things aren’t looking too hot at either program these days.
Missouri’s sputtering offense was completely ineffective against Florida, picking up just 257 yards and mustering only three points. The Tigers (4-2, 1-2) visit Sanford Stadium on Saturday to face a Georgia team that might be even more depressed about the recent turn of events.
The Bulldogs harbored national championship hopes until last Saturday, when Alabama humiliated them 38-10. Things got even worse over the weekend when the Bulldogs (4-2, 2-2) not only blew a three-touchdown lead in a 38-31 loss to Tennessee, they lost star running back Nick Chubb to what appeared to be a serious knee injury.
Depending on what happens with Florida, maybe these teams can still contend in the East. But they need to get their respective acts together -- starting this Saturday.