Last week’s record: 7-4 (63.6%)
Season record: 35-5 (87.5%)
The SEC intraconference schedule gets cranked up in a big way this week with several interesting matchups. Alabama-Ole Miss is the headliner, but Auburn and Texas A&M will each find out what kind of teams they have in a game in College Station, while Arkansas looks to salvage its season and South Carolina and Mississippi State play a game of interest between midcard teams.
CHARLOTTE at FLORIDA
Florida wasn’t supposed to beat Tennessee last week, much less by the margin that it did. The Gators will get a pseudo-week-off this week against a 1-2 Charlotte team that got beaten handily last week by Georgia State. We will eventually see what the Gators are made of, but that information won’t come this week. After dispensing with Charlotte, the Gators will play seven straight SEC games. This game is simply a chance to set the roster for those contests.
MISSISSIPPI at ALABAMA
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ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM at GEORGIA
UAB has made a lot of headlines thanks to new head coach Trent Dilfer, but it isn’t making a lot of positive results. After opening up with a win over an overmatched FCS team, North Carolina A&T, UAB has lost to Georgia Southern and Louisiana. The Blazers are struggling on defense and can’t run the ball. Not the best combination for facing Georgia.
KENTUCKY at VANDERBILT
Vanderbilt did the most Vanderbilt thing possible last week, losing to UNLV. Kentucky has been on a tour of the MAC conference, finishing off a three-game stretch with a win over Akron. Neither team is setting the world on fire, but Vanderbilt’s struggles are more critical. Kentucky needs to get the running game in gear, and the Wildcats haven’t shown the kind of explosiveness on offense it will need to go up against better teams later on in its SEC schedule. Vanderbilt isn’t likely to win again this season; the Kentucky game might be the most potentially out of a what’s left. Clark Lea will probably get another season at Vandy regardless, but the Commodores need to show more life, quickly, to keep the heat off.
MEMPHIS at MISSOURI (at St. Louis, Mo.)
Somehow, this game rated a neutral site. Both teams are 3-0 and coming off close wins in Week 3, but Missouri’s was much more impressive, seeing as how the Tigers beat a ranked Kansas State team. Missouri still has room for improvement – a 4-point win over MTSU the week before, in which the Tigers struggled on offense in general, was potentially problematic. Memphis has also made a habit of playing spoiler against better teams over the years, particularly those from the SEC. Missouri should win the game, but can’t sleep on it.
TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO at TENNESSEE
Fortunately for Tennessee, which is coming off a dreadful loss to Florida in Gainesville, the Volunteers will get to face one of the worst teams in FBS. UTSA is 1-2 with losses to Houston and Army and a narrow win over Texas State. The Roadrunners’ stat sheet is an exercise in mediocrity; they do nothing particularly well, and quite a few things poorly. Tennessee needs to get the passing game on track, given how much emphasis the Vols put on it and how important it is to the success of the offense in general. Questions are beginning to arise in Knoxville as to whether Tennessee has the right quarterback under center, and others are pointing to Josh Heupel’s history of struggles at UCF after early success there. Suffice to say this isn’t how Tennessee fans thought the 2023 season would pan out in the early going.
MISSISSIPPI STATE at SOUTH CAROLINA
The Bulldogs appear to be coming down a bit while South Carolina is making slow progress. MSU’s struggles were expected given the amount of transition the Bulldogs were being forced to deal with as a result of an unwanted coaching change, but the Bulldogs were barely competitive against LSU last week. South Carolina lost to Georgia to go to 1-2 on the year, but the Gamecocks gave Georgia all it wanted, and led for a decent stretch of the game before finally falling 24-14. This is a key game for both teams, as South Carolina was likely counting on this as a win from the outset of the season, while Mississippi State fans believe they have a darkhorse contender on their hands, but a second loss would kill the notion for good. If LSU was able to expose State in a way that South Carolina and other opponents can copy, the impact of last week’s loss to the Tigers will reverberate for quite some time. We’re still not quite sure what Mississippi State is just yet; South Carolina is a potentially exciting, scrappy team but lacks talent on its lines of scrimmage. A tough pick here.
South Carolina 27
Mississippi St. 24
ARKANSAS at LOUISIANA STATE
Arkansas’ loss to BYU last week might just be the thing that gets the ball rolling on head coach Sam Pittman’s eventual demise. Arkansas was already walking a thin line, with an offensive system change in the works plus general issues regarding talent level. The win over Kent State in Week 2 wasn’t impressive, and then BYU came to town and popped whatever balloon was still floating above Fayetteville. Now Arkansas has to face off against an LSU team on the road that looked pretty sporty against Mississippi State, dominating that game. The decision to try to make QB K.J. Jefferson more of a traditional quarterback has not been the play; while Jefferson is completing 71.4% of his passes and has 6 touchdowns against just 1 interception, his overall production is down and his impact on games seems a bit more muted than before. LSU won’t need any help from Jefferson here, because the Tigers have a solid talent advantage across the board. With each passing week, the pressure on Pittman grows greater.
AUBURN at TEXAS A&M
Auburn’s early results don’t tell us much; the road win at Cal was a quality performance, but Auburn’s other two games have come against FCS Samford and Massachusetts, one of the worst teams in FBS. This will be the Tigers’ first challenge against an SEC foe, and it’s one they simply don’t match up with in terms of overall talent. That isn’t always the telling factor with a Jimbo Fisher-led team, however; Texas A&M has found ways to lose multiple times over the last couple of years, and Texas A&M’s only game this year against legitimate competition ended in a Week 2 loss to Miami that probably wasn’t as close as the score indicated. If this game was in Jordan-Hare Stadium, we might think about taking the upset, even though Texas A&M hasn’t succumbed to the Jordan-Hare voodoo the way other teams have been affected. We just don’t think Auburn is ready to win a game at Kyle Field.
Texas A&M 30
Follow Jess Nicholas on X at @TideFansJessN