SEC Notebook: Ole Miss to make Auburn pay for last season? UT/UK winner headed for 8 wins?
Ole Miss travels to Auburn nearly one year from catastrophic ending
Laquon Treadwell and his Ole Miss teammates have been waiting a year for this game – since Nov. 1, 2014 to be exact. On that date, the Rebels lost in the most excruciating fashion possible at home to the Tigers when Treadwell broke two bones in his leg as he was crossing the goal line for what would have been the game-winning score. Understandably, Treadwell dropped the ball and Auburn prevailed 35-31 when a Tiger defender came away with the football.
Auburn senior linebacker Kris Frost was the Tiger involved in the play that injured Treadwell.
"It was kind of bittersweet," Frost said during SEC Media Days. "It was hard to really be super excited about the win when you know it came down to such a heartbreaking play like that for him. But it’s kind of part of this game we play, unfortunately."
Now Ole Miss has a chance to return the favor and drop Auburn to a .500 record overall in front of its home crowd. After losing a four-overtime game at Arkansas, one has to wonder how much fight the Tigers have left in them. Facing four SEC opponents in five weeks, Auburn will need to upend at least one more conference opponent to qualify for a bowl.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze isn’t buying into the theory that Auburn may have given up on the season following its tough loss.
"Auburn is a scary team. They are hungry,” Freeze said Monday. “(Malzahn’s) kids are right there on the edge of having the success they desire. It’ll be a great challenge."
Considering the Rebels have dropped its last two on the road, Ole Miss was a heavy favorite in both games, Freeze may have to work hard in order to keep his team’s focus heading into a beaten down Auburn.
True freshman quarterback Sean White continues to show promise for Auburn, as he threw for 254 yards without an interception on the road at Arkansas and would have had significantly more had his receivers not dropped eight passes in the game.
The Tigers have won the last two in this series and five of the last six overall.
Hopes of ending the season on a high note likely extinguished for loser of Tennessee-Kentucky game
The perception of these teams could not be more polar, as Tennessee appears to be headed to an eight-win season and Kentucky continues to search for that first elusive bowl trip under Mark Stoops.
Tennessee dropped yet another game after failing to hold a late lead, this time against rival Alabama. While many teams would likely be discouraged by such results, the Tennessee players appear encouraged by their efforts.
“If this doesn’t prove that we can play with any team in the country, then I don’t know what to tell you,” Tennessee receiver Josh Smith said following the 19-14 loss at Alabama. “We’re one of the top five teams in the country, easily, in my opinion. We’re right there. Stats don’t lie."
Senior offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson went a step further and made a bold prediction after the game, “I’m not going to lose another game in a Tennessee uniform."
The player’s emotion notwithstanding, the stats also suggest a strong finish for the Volunteers down the stretch. ESPN’s Football Power Index, which measures a team’s strength versus remaining opponent’s strength to calculate an accurate measure of prediction, has Tennessee with the best odds to win out among all FBS teams.
Despite what perception and analysis may be heading into the weekend, Kentucky is currently ahead of the Vols in the SEC East standings and has expectations of its own after the getting off to a 4-1 start. While Big Blue has dropped its last two league games, with a strong finish the Wildcats could potentially capture the SEC East.
Tennessee blew Kentucky out 50-16 last season, something not lost on head coach Mark Stoops.
“Well, I think any time you’re playing a team that’s a rival and they’re right down the road, we compete with them,” Stoops said. “Certainly I was not very happy with the way the game got away from us last year. It was reminiscent of this past Saturday in Starkville as well where you felt like you were doing some good things and then it got away from you very quickly. That can happen against good teams on the road.”
If the Wildcats can top a team that has beaten it 29 out of the last 30 contests, there’s no reason Kentucky can’t close out the season with at least eight wins.
Of note this week:
Vanderbilt at No. 18 Houston – Derek Mason has an opportunity to completely cool any hot seat talk by upsetting a ranked Cougar team on the road. Despite the discrepancy between the two team’s records, the Commodores have just as much talent on its roster as Houston.
Quick Hits: Tennessee’s 14-13 advantage was its first fourth-quarter lead over Alabama since 2011… After Missouri’s 10-3 loss to Vanderbilt, the Tigers have gone three straight games without a touchdown… Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers leads the SEC with 103 tackles, 31 more then any other player… Vanderbilt last met Houston in the 2014 BBVA Compass Bowl, a 41-24 Commodore victory
Michael Wayne Bratton covers the SEC for FOX Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWBratton