Forgive us if we can’t take our eyes off Mississippi.
If this were circa 1260 BC, the Magnolia State would have Paris rethinking his infatuation with Helen of Troy (a Pac-12 fan, no doubt) or at least keeping a wandering eye, with Mississippi State and Ole Miss, tied for third in the AP poll. It’s the Rebels’ highest spot in a non-preseason Top 25 since 1963 and it’s the Bulldogs best ever.
But while we focus on those schools, the SEC’s defending champion is making some serious noise, with Auburn rising to No. 2, and has a chance to deliver a major statement this week against the Bulldogs.
If anyone had their doubts, last weekend was about the SEC asserting its dominance. Week 7 presents a chance to contend for the No. 1 ranking along with Heisman Trophy-resume building opportunities for Georgia’s Todd Gurley, Auburn’s Nick Marshall and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott — and that’s just a sampling of the menu.
So dig in and enjoy the SEC Coming Attractions.
Voters have been souring on top-ranked Florida State. The defending national champions opened the season with 57 of the first-place votes in the AP Top 25 poll, but week after week, the Seminoles have been unimpressive and that share of the No. 1 votes has dropped as low as 27 and is currently at 35 after a 43-3 win over Wake Forest. With the Seminoles unlikely to gain much support back this week with 2-3 Syracuse on the schedule, the No. 1 spot would seem ripe for the taking and the SEC has an opportunity to grab it. The winner of No. 2 Auburn — which drew 23 first-place votes — and No. 3 Mississippi State’s (one such vote) clash in Starkville would have a strong chance to supplant the Seminoles and give the SEC its first No. 1 ranking since Nov. 24. A dominant win by either the Bulldogs — who would then have three straight wins over teams within the top eight — or Tigers — this would be their third Top 25 victory — would be hard to argue with, but even a narrow victory should be a stronger claim in voters’ eyes than Florida State, which doesn’t have a win over a currently ranked team and — let’s face it — is only in the top spot based on what happened a season ago. The Seminoles can make their on Oct. 18 against No. 6 Notre Dame, but this weekend the SEC would seem primed to reclaim the No. 1 for the first time since Week 14 of last season. That stands as its longest time out of the top spot since Weeks 2-11 of 2008.
Grab Your Popcorn: So it’s not even in the same hemisphere as actually ending someone’s life like the contestants dying in ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous,’ but a series of unexpected outcomes do have the Tigers and Bulldogs on the cusp of winning college football’s weekly beauty pageant. Also, the swimsuit portion of the contest between Gus Malzahn and Dan Mullen would be can’t-miss.
The schedule was to Mississippi State’s benefit after it beat then-No. 8 LSU in Baton Rouge, as the Bulldogs got a bye week to soak up their newfound national respect. But Hugh Freeze’s crew doesn’t have that same luxury and seven days after knocking off the then-third-ranked Crimson Tide, have to travel to No. 14 Texas A&M. Bo Wallace, much-maligned for his career for making bad decisions, was sensational in the win over Alabama, throwing for 251 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Now he has to maintain that against in College Station, which wouldn’t seem that daunting given how mediocre the Aggies defense has been (56th against the pass and 87th in red-zone D), but a big-time performance on the road against a ranked opponent is something Wallace has yet to deliver. He thrown for an average of 194 yards and combined for three TDs and seven interceptions in four games at Top-25 opposition, with Ole Miss dropping all of them. Knocking off the Tide with the world watching showed the Rebels can compete in the West, but contending for a division title means getting over all those old demons, including their QBs road problems against elite teams.
Grab Your Popcorn: You can have the ‘Exorcist.’ Give me my horror throwbacks to the seminal 1970s flick via the Wayans, who don’t have you up screaming in a pool of sweat in the middle of the night.
The jury is out on Kentucky, which stands at 4-1 overall and 2-1 in the East after its win over slumping South Carolina. Mark Stoops and Co. still have to play at LSU, then get a rough stretch of Mississippi State, at Missouri and Georgia. So for the immediate future, all division title thoughts surround No. 13 Georgia and No. 23 Missouri, who meet Saturday in Columbia in a game that serves as an opportunity to plant their respective flags in the terrain that is the East. Through five games we don’t really know that much about the Tigers. While they beat South Carolina by one, their other wins came against an FCS squad (South Dakota State), a MAC team (Toledo) and 2-2 UCF, and they suffered a bad loss to Indiana. Georgia would seem to have the advantage, but can its 108th-ranked passing offense (170.2 ypg) do Gurley any favors? Mizzou beat the Gamecocks despite Mike Davis running for 104 yards on 22 carries and could absorb a similar day from Gurley if Hutson Mason and Co. can’t get going. But the most critical matchup here is Maty Mauk vs. the Bulldogs’ front seven. In wins over Clemson, Troy and Vanderbilt, which Georgia won by a combined score of 155-38, it gave up an average of 186 yards through the air. But in a narrow loss to South Carolina and a three-point win over Tennessee, it allowed 277.5. If the Bulldogs can’t provide pressure it could be another long day as Mauk (14 TDs) has a deep group of receivers that includes four players with at least 10 receptions and a TD.
Grab Your Popcorn: So it’s not completely in line with a movie billed as "a look at the top-secret, high-tech espionage war going on between cats and dogs." But this game does have cats, and it has dogs, and they’re battling.
The Crimson Tide find themselves in a precarious position. Coming off their earliest loss since 2007 — Nick Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa — at the hands of Ole Miss, they now face a rested Arkansas team that leads the SEC in rushing with 316.8 per game. It would seem to play into Alabama’s hands, what with it ranking third vs. the run (64.0), but the Tide haven’t seen anyone with the weapons the Razorbacks possess, having faced three offenses that came in ranked 72nd or lower on the ground. Add in that Alabama will be missing a big piece of its run support in starting linebacker Denzel Devall — who is out three-to-four weeks after undergoing ankle surgery — and the Razorbacks’ gameplan of consuming clock time (16th in FBS at 33:04 per) and keeping the opposing offense off the field could lead to their first SEC win since Oct. 13, 2012. But the flip side is the Razorbacks have been bad vs. the pass (98th) and the Tide still have arguably the nation’s top wide receiver in Amari Cooper. Expect the Hogs to keep it close, but Alabama’s run under Saban has been defined by an ability to bounce back, having not suffered back-to-back losses since 2007.
Get Your Popcorn: According to eHarmony.com, this is one of the essential films to watch after a breakup, which should help soothe some Crimson Tide fans sad to see that Top-5 ranking gone. Also, Saban, Lane Kiffin wants his two dollars.
The Gators had a true freshman do what veteran Jeff Driskel couldn’t in their come-from-behind escape from Knoxville, and the Tigers didn’t get any resemblance of consistency from either of their passers. But when it looked like Florida may have a controversy on its hands or at least a player who can provide a spark, Treon Harris was suspended indefinitely Monday amid a police investigation for an on-campus incident. If Harris is unavailable the only other options for Florida are freshman Will Grier or sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg, neither of who have played this year. The Gators are likely stuck with Driskel, who is coming off the two worst games of his career, with a 39.2 completion percentage combined vs. Alabama and Tennessee. This may not be a vintage Les Miles defense, but it remains 11th in pass efficiency D, and with Driskel’s recent woes, the Gators could be forced to go with a vanilla game plan and try to take advantage of LSU’s troubles against the rush (89th, with 184.3 ypg). Miles has a tougher decision. Freshman Brandon Harris was abysmal in his first start (3 for 4 for 58 yards, 52 of which were on one play) and sophomore Anthony Jennings wasn’t much better (5 for 10 for 84 yards and zero points). That Harris played so poorly in a tough environment may make it unlikely Miles throws him into that same situation in Gainesville (at least to begin with). Of course, with the way these offenses have struggled, ranking 53rd (LSU) and 74th (Florida) in FBS, it may not matter who’s at the controls of what figures to be an ugly, low-scoring affair.
Get Your Popcorn: It has to feel like a bad relationship for Florida fans with Driskel, one that they can’t get out of. Meanwhile, LSU faithful thought they had Mr. Right come along, but for now, he’s no better than the guy who couldn’t be their knight in shining armor. Luckily, romantic comedy smorgasbord ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ hits on just about every movie cliche involving affairs of the heart.