SEC Notebook: Prepare for a QB duel in Fayetteville; Can Mizzou win one more for Pinkel?
Showdown of the SEC’s best quarterbacks in Fayetteville
Who is the Southeastern Conference’s best quarterback?
Most would have said Dak Prescott only a week ago, but the Mississippi State quarterback’s failure to help his team find the end zone against Alabama opened the title up for debate, especially considering how well Brandon Allen is playing.
Allen has sparked Arkansas to four straight victories, including two overtime wins in conference play.
After getting off to a rocky start, Arkansas may be the playing the best football of any team in the SEC not named Alabama. MSU head coach Dan Mullen took it a step further Monday with his comments on the Razorbacks.
“Arkansas is one of the hottest teams in the SEC, and one of the hotter teams in the nation,” Mullen said. “(If) they get a lead, it’s tough to come back. They control the clock, they control the tempo of the game. It’ll be a huge challenge for our team to go out there and find a way to win.”
Despite the bold words, it would be wise to refrain from writing off the Bulldogs. They still have Prescott – who has racked up at least 300 passing yards in five consecutive games. The senior quarterback has 18 passing touchdowns and two interceptions on the season.
Meanwhile Allen has thrown 12 touchdowns against two interceptions for the Razorbacks during the four-game winning streak. Arkansas’ senior quarterback has yet to throw more than one interception in a game and leads the SEC with a passer rating of 163.2.
Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema proclaimed the quarterbacks playing in this game as the only options for first team All-SEC. His praise of Prescott was the first thing mentioned when discussing the challenges State’s personnel will cause his team this weekend.
“Incredible player, puts a lot on his shoulders, tough, tough kid -- he’s just so resilient,” Bielema said. “He’s a tough competitor, you can see (they) feed off his energy.”
Can Missouri send Gary Pinkel off with a win in his final game at Faurot Field?
A turbulent week in Columbia ended with Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel fighting back tears after his team’s 20-16 victory against BYU. Following a trying week that would shake the strongest football programs to its core, Mizzou was able to rally for Pinkel and earn it’s fifth win of the season – one shy of bowl eligibility.
The Tigers’ first opportunity to extend the season will come Saturday, as Tennessee travels to Columbia attempting to earn its first victory over Missouri. While the Vols have won three games in a row for the first time this season, the last two victories over South Carolina and North Texas have been far from impressive.
“I can see the transformation in our football program now, because now just winning isn’t enough -- which probably is a good thing,” an unapologetic Butch Jones said Monday. “But from where we’ve come from in this football program over the last 10 years, I’m never going to apologize for winning.”
The challenges the Missouri defense pose are clearly weighing on Jones’ mind.
“They have one of the best defensive football teams we’ve faced to date,” Jones said. “They’re second in scoring defense, third in total defense and third in rush defense (in the SEC). It’s going be a great challenge for us.”
Only surrendering 14.7 points per game, good for fifth best in the nation, the defense has done its part. Mizzou has lost four games in which the defense allowed 21 or less points, in two of those games the defense gave up 10 or less and still found a way to lose.
In what could be a low-scoring contest, turnovers are likely to play a huge factor in the outcome of the game. Tennessee is tied at last in the league with only 12 takeaways on the season – half of which came in the first three games of the season. Meanwhile Missouri has turned the ball over four times the last two games.
Expect a low-scoring game, featuring more punts than touchdowns. The first team to 20 should come away with the win in Columbia, the question is will it be Pinkel carried off the field or will Jones continue to push the Vols in the right direction?
Quick hits: Alabama registered nine sacks against Mississippi State, the most by any Tide defense since 1998. … Speaking of Alabama, Derek Henry has scored a rushing touchdown in 15 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the nation … LSU has allowed five or more sacks in back-to-back performances, which marked the ninth time a Les Miles led LSU team has allowed that many in 11 seasons…
Michael Wayne Bratton covers the SEC for FOX Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @MichaelWBratton