Here are the top storylines to keep an eye on during Week 8 in the SEC:
Knight knows he can beat Bama: Maybe Trevor Knight went back to visit Oklahoma last weekend to retrieve a lucky undershirt. He could just slip his Texas A&M uniform on over it and remember what it was like in early 2014 when he was a true freshman taking it to the Tide in the Sugar Bowl. To date, it’s the best game of his career. And it’s that kind of performance the Aggies need from their transfer quarterback if they hope to take down No. 1-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Knight has done well moving the ball this season with his feet, and his deep ball hasn’t been bad either. But he must improve his short-to-intermediate passing and get above the 60 percent completion mark to become the kind of two-dimensional quarterback that gives Nick Saban’s defense fits.
The real test for Coach O: It has been fun to see Ed Orgeron get his shot at LSU. Finally, the Cajuns of Baton Rouge have one of their own and it’s understandable that there’s some buzz to keep him beyond this season. But for Orgeron to prove that the hype is real and to have any hope of removing the interim tag, he has to do more than beat Missouri and Southern Miss. The numbers the offense has posted have been impressive post-Les Miles, but the first half of Saturday’s game (LSU was tied with heavy underdog Southern Miss at halftime) was a wake-up call that there’s still some kinks that need to be worked out. Against Ole Miss, the Tigers can’t afford to have a sloppy half. Maybe Leonard Fournette comes back and the offense gets a boost. Maybe not. But either way, Danny Etling and the passing game must continue to progress.
Third best in the West: After Alabama and Texas A&M, who is the third-best team in the West? The answer might not be as simple as you think. It looked like Ole Miss for the longest time, but then the Rebs were dealt their third loss of the season at Arkansas. Now, you have to wonder where Hugh Freeze’s squad goes from here. You have to look at the Arkansas-Auburn game as the test for third best. Arkansas has some momentum after beating Ole Miss and there’s obviously a history of strong second halves under Bret Bielema. Meanwhile, after impressive outings against Louisiana-Monroe and Mississippi State, there’s optimism around Auburn. Fresh legs will favor the Tigers, as they’re coming off a bye week while the Razorbacks are on their eighth straight game without a break.
Stoops seeks bowl eligibility: Don’t look now, but the Wildcats are currently in second place in the SEC East. It’s probably a bit of fool’s gold, but still. After a lousy start to the season by getting upset by Southern Miss and blown out by Florida, Kentucky has recovered to get back to .500. Coming out of a much-needed bye week, the quest for bowl eligibility gets serious. Looking ahead, only a Nov. 19 game against Austin Peay is a gimme. Beating No. 7 Louisville or No. 18 Tennessee is unlikely, which leaves the next three weeks, starting with Mississippi State at home on Saturday. Then it’s on to Missouri before returning home to face Georgia. Getting two out of three is a must for Mark Stoops to finally lead Kentucky into the bowl season.