We’re getting close to crunch time, folks.
While Georgia is already locked into the SEC championship game as the Eastern Division champion, we arrive at the second Saturday of November with Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, and Ole Miss still mathematically in the hunt for the Western Division.
Alabama takes the week off from conference play. ESPN’s College Game Day will be in Oxford for a huge prime-time battle between Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
Auburn wants the Iron Bowl on Nov. 27 to be for division title but first the Tigers have to take care of Mississippi State on Saturday and South Carolina on Nov. 20.
So don’t go anywhere. This is going to be fun. Here are our Five Burning Questions for Saturday, Nov. 13.
1. Can Georgia’s defense, as great as it is, keep Tennessee from making big plays?
Tennessee (5-4, 3-3 SEC) did something extraordinary in last week’s 45-42 win over Kentucky. The Wildcats held the ball for over 43 minutes in time of possession and ran a school-record 99 plays. But Tennessee had a 75-yard touchdown pass and a 73-yard touchdown pass, plus a bunch more big plays to win the game.
Now the Volunteers have a chance to go to a bowl if they can win one of their last three games. Odds are it won’t be against No. 1 Georgia (9-0, 7-0) but Tennessee’s big-play capability may keep this one closer than the experts think.
2. So what’s the best matchup on Saturday?
It has to be the Texas A&M defense against Matt Corral and the Ole Miss offense. Last week the Aggies, who are second only to Georgia in scoring defense (14.7 ppg), held nationally-ranked Auburn to only a field goal. When Corral, who is third in the SEC in passing (280.8 ypg) turned on the video this week he saw a Texas A&M defense that harassed Auburn quarterback Bo Nix into costly turnovers in his worst game of the season.
Look for Texas A&M to try and do the same against Ole Miss, which has given up 21 sacks this season, the fourth-worst total in the SEC.
3. Both Mississippi State and Auburn are coming off of very difficult losses last week. Which team is going to bounce back the best?
It depends on the quarterbacks.
Last week Mississippi State’s Will Rogers had his best statistical game of the season against Arkansas, completing 36 of 48 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns. But the Bulldogs lost 31-28.
Auburn’s Bo Nix is coming off one of his most difficult performances of his career last week at Texas A&M, when he completed only 48 percent of his passes for 153 yards. He had two turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Another was a crucial interception in a 20-3 loss.
4. Is LSU going to change quarterbacks, letting freshman Garrett Nussmeier burn his redshirt for this season?
It could happen. There is no question that LSU quarterback Max Johnson struggled in a 20-14 loss at Alabama last Saturday.
But the morning after the game Nussmeier was in the office of head coach Ed Orgeron. He wanted to play and he wanted to play now, even if it cost him a year of eligibility down the road.
NCAA rules allow a player to participate in four games without losing a year of eligibility. So Orgeron said that there would be a quarterback competition in practice this week. Orgeron told the media this week that Johnson would start but that Nussmeier would play early.
5. Can the South Carolina Gamecocks make it two SEC wins in row?
Last week South Carolina gave first-year coach Shane Beamer his signature win as the Gamecocks dominated Florida 40-17 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Now South Carolina (5-4, 2-4), needs a win at struggling Missouri (4-5, 1-4) to qualify for a bowl, which would be a major achievement in Beamer’s first year as head coach.
Here is a story to watch. Quarterback Jason Brown, a transfer from tiny St. Francis College in Pennsylvania, will get this second start for the Gamecocks.
Last week Brown completed 14 of 24 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns against the Gators.