SEC Notebook: SEC's playoff spot will go to winner of Alabama-A&M game
Texas A&M can legitimize championship run with win over Alabama
Texas A&M entered the SEC in 2012, but it wasn’t until the 11th game on the schedule that the Aggies and Johnny Manziel captured the attention of the college football world and earned the respect of its SEC brethren as they upset Alabama 29-24 in Tuscaloosa. Three seasons later, the A&M program will be looking to take the next big step and claim its status as a College Football Playoff contender by once again beating the Tide on Saturday.
On the other hand, Alabama remains alive for the SEC West title. However after falling to Ole Miss, the Tide cannot currently afford to drop another league game. Losing in College Station won’t be an option for a team with hopes of ending the season in Atlanta.
The Tide have looked unstoppable when quarterback Jake Coker plays within offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s system. Coker’s deep throws were essential in victories over Georgia and Arkansas the last two weeks. However, when Coker turns the ball over, as he did twice in the first half against the Razorbacks and twice to Ole Miss, Alabama becomes vulnerable.
The 2014 matchup was ugly for the Aggies, as Alabama won 59-0. The results prompted the Aggies to bench quarterback Kenny Hill for Kyle Allen. With Allen at the helm of the offense and hitting his stride -- he’s thrown for 680 yards the last two weeks against Arkansas and Mississippi State -- it’s unlikely A&M will get shut out once again.
The biggest difference-maker for A&M this time around could be on the other side of the ball with defensive coordinator John Chavis. Chavis has annually coached against Alabama going all the way back to 1989. No opposing coach knows the program better and his experience against the Tide could prove to be invaluable.
“I think we've all seen and played against John Chavis quite a bit when he was at LSU, and he's had lots of good rushers,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday. “He's going to do things to try to get those guys in one-on-one situations. If we don't block the edges well, we'll have some issues."
The matchups suggest this could be one of the best games of the season. Texas A&M is ranked second in the SEC in total offense, passing offense and scoring offense, while Alabama ranks first in total defense and second in passing defense and scoring defense.
Georgia-Missouri loser facing SEC East elimination
With Missouri traveling to Georgia, either the media’s preseason SEC East favorite or the division’s two-time defending champion will all but be eliminated from contention before November.
The Bulldogs are reeling after dreams of a perfect season were put to bed by Alabama in demoralizing fashion, only to be followed by losing the heart of the offense with Nick Chubb’s season-ending injury in the defeat at Tennessee.
“It’s hard to sleep on a night like this,” Mark Richt said after the Bulldogs' latest loss.
Meanwhile Missouri has dropped two of its last three SEC games and failed to register a touchdown against Florida at home. Quarterback Maty Mauk’s availability could be big for the Tigers, as backup Drew Lock performed like a true freshman in his second career start, registering a single-digit QBR of 4.3. However, as of Monday afternoon, Mauk remains suspended by the Tigers.
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel when asked if he would elaborate on the suspension: "No. I told you I'm not going to discuss it." If Mauk misses his third game in a row, Lock will likely get the first road start of his career.
With Florida already at 4-0 in league play, Missouri will need to win and hope the Gators lose two SEC games. On the other hand, Georgia needs to win this game, turn around and beat Florida and hope the Gators suffer another SEC loss before season’s end.
Regardless of the scenarios, one thing is clear for both teams: Lose this game and the countdown to 2016 officially begins.
Ole Miss, Memphis could light up scoreboard
When Ole Miss travels to Memphis, one of the teams is likely playing for a berth in a New Year’s Six Bowl with a win, and surprisingly, it’s not Ole Miss. Memphis, owner of the nation’s third-longest win streak at 12 games, will enter the contest with a perfect record looking for a marquee win to enhance its resume.
After surrendering 38 points to Florida on the road, can Ole Miss slow down a Tigers offense averaging 47.8 points per game? Considering the Rebels are averaging 46.8 points per game, the Liberty Bowl scoreboard operator is likely to be busy Saturday.
QUICK HITS: Tennessee overcoming a 21-point deficit to beat Georgia represented the largest lead the Bulldogs have surrendered in a loss during Mark Richt’s 15-year tenure. ... Chad Kelly tied an Ole Miss single-season record by registering his third 300-yard passing performance against New Mexico State. ... Derrick Henry’s one-yard touchdown against Arkansas made him the only player in Alabama history to record a score in 11 consecutive games.
Michael Wayne Bratton covers the SEC for FOX Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @MichaelWBratton