SEC Notebook: Turmoil — on and off the field — surrounding multiple programs

Can Mizzou defeat BYU?
Dale Zanine/Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Can Georgia or Auburn capitalize on new-found momentum? 

Amid the rumors of discord within the coaching staff, Georgia was able to defeat Kentucky, 27-3. 

The bizarre rumors surrounding head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt have — at least temporarily — been squashed. It remains to be see whether this has a lasting impact. However, against Kentucky, the Bulldogs came together for an impressive home victory. Running back Sony Michel also publicly voiced his support for Richt and the rest of the staff. 

While rival Florida clinched the SEC East with a victory over Vanderbilt, the result over the weekend has to be a positive sign for Richt heading into this weekend’s game against Auburn.

The Tigers surprisingly went into College Station and upended Texas A&M by a score of 26-10. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson — who had been much maligned before being benched earlier in the year — went 13-of-17 for 132 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t put up huge numbers, but it was an efficient outing nonetheless. 

Sitting at 5-4, Gus Malzahn’s team is trying to salvage the season. If the Tigers are to defeat the Bulldogs, the rushing duo of Jovon Robinson and Peyton Barber will have to be fixtures. 

Robinson is coming off of a 27-carry, 159-yard outing. In fact, 250 of his 270 total yards on the season have come in the last two contests. 

Barber — a Georgia native — is the team’s leading rusher with 828 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

Georgia will surely have to stop this run-centric attack. On the other side, look for Auburn to also try and disrupt the Bulldogs’ ground-game. This could ultimately become a low-scoring game as a result. 

Missouri football team reaches clarity ahead of BYU clash

In response to student and team protests over his handling of race-related issues, Tim Wolfe resigned from his post as president of Missouri on Monday.

Football practice was canceled Sunday, and multiple players (and head coach Gary Pinkel) tweeted their support for the cause of solidarity within the team.

If Wolfe had remained president, the team was prepared not to play against BYU this weekend. Pinkel’s squad also was reportedly unwilling to practice until graduate student Jonathan Butler ended his hunger strike (in response to the incidents on campus). 

As such, the game will go on as scheduled. 

The season has been a tumultuous one for the Tigers. Not only have they failed to live up to expectations, but they also witnessed starting quarterback Maty Mauk get suspended for a month — before being reinstated for five days — and then suspended again for the remainder of the year. 

The emotions surrounding this game should be considerable. It will truly be fascinating to see what mindset Mizzou will have against a quality nonconference opponent. 

Can Kentucky bounce back from a rough stretch?

Mark Stoops has seen his script before. 

Last year, his Wildcats started 5-1 — before dropping their last six games. In 2015, Kentucky began 4-1. A conference win over the reigning SEC East champs Missouri had Stoops’ team riding high, and perhaps in contention for the division title. 

However, the wheels have begun to come off of the big blue bus. Kentucky has lost its last four contests. In the last three, the Wildcats have lost by an average of 27 points. A once-promising start has faded in the midst of the conference schedule for a second-straight year. 

With a road game at Vanderbilt this weekend, it’s a near must-win game for Stoops’ program. It’s a game it should win, based on talent. While the head coach has done a nice job of replenishing the vacant talent pool from when he first took over, the Wildcats still haven’t been able to put together a whole lot in the way of consistency.

Stoops has an 11-22 overall record in Lexington, and the Wildcats haven’t been to a bowl game since 2010. With games against Charlotte and Louisville remaining, Kentucky’s bowl hopes could be boosted in a big way with a victory here in this contest. 

For Vanderbilt (3-6), it needs to win its next three games in order to become bowl eligible. While it may be a tall task to defeat the entire trio of opponents (Kentucky, Texas A&M, Tennessee), the Wildcats perhaps represent the best chance of Vandy garnering a victory.

If anything, Derek Mason’s team has to feel good about itself at this point. It narrowly lost in "The Swamp" last weekend, and will want to atone for the tough defeat with a win in this game. 

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