Trey’s Takes: Three Questions I Have For The SEC East On Saturday

Here we are, another SEC weekend is approaching with a few pivotal games in the East Division, especially in Jacksonville. Now, we also can’t forget about the game in Starkville, where Kentucky looks to beat Mississippi State for the first time on the road since 2008. And can Vanderbilt figure out a way to win its first conference game? I have a few questions about this weekend.

Does Florida actually have a legit chance at beating No. 1 Georgia? 

Well, in my opinion, the only way Florida can upset the Dawgs is if they can make plays outside the pocket. This Georgia defensive line continues to put up insane numbers, making life for opposing quarterbacks a nightmare. For this reason, Dan Mullen has to go with Anthony Richardson just to remain competitive. We’ve seen Emory Jones throw the football enough to know that he will make a few costly mistakes, but Richardson can get away from the bad decision-making that has plagued the Gators by getting outside the pocket and forcing Georgia to put a “spy” on him.

I personally think this is the biggest decision Dan Mullen will have to make. If he trots Emory Jones out there, Florida fans will be upset because they feel Richardson gives them the best opportunity to upset the Dawgs. But Mullen knows his team and if he feels he can flip-flop QBs all afternoon and find success, well, have at it. If Florida is to have a chance in this game, they must find success on the ground. There’s no other way to put it.

I think this game also comes down to the Gators’ defense. I want to see whether Todd Grantham can come up with something to stop the Dawgs’ rushing attack. This is probably the biggest question of the game because if Florida can’t get off the field, it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. Questions still surround the status of the Gators’ defensive coordinator, which are deserved. The Florida defense averaged more points allowed in 2020 than at any time in more than half a century. So, can Grantham call the game of his life and figure out a way to stop this Georgia offense? That’s my second biggest question.

How does Vanderbilt win its first SEC game under Clark Lea? 

To be honest, I thought Vandy had its first conference win locked up a few weeks ago at South Carolina, but the Dores’ defense couldn’t hold steady in the final minute. Now after a thrashing by Mississippi State, we’re looking at a team that could potentially go win-less in the SEC this season. But here’s the situation. I don’t know if I trust Missouri right now either. Vanderbilt did pull the upset over the No. 22 ranked Tigers in 2019, though they followed it up with a 41-0 loss last season, and head coach Derek Mason was then fired in the following days. But Missouri is coming into this game struggling right now. They haven’t beaten an SEC opponent this season, in the second year of the Eli Drinkwitz experiment.

This game will come down to whether Vanderbilt can force any turnovers. Missouri hasn’t lost a fumble yet this season, while Vandy forced two interceptions last weekend against Mississippi State. I expect the Dores to bring multiple blitz packages at Connor Bazelak to try to make him uncomfortable in the pocket and to force the Tigers to use Tyler Badie for a good amount of the game. Badie does lead the SEC with 13 total touchdowns, so that’s an easy out for Missouri.

But my biggest question concerns Vanderbilt’s mental makeup. Can this football team put the previous weeks behind them and show up on Saturday with the eagerness to get this SEC slump off their back? It’s not like it can’t be done, as they won just two years ago against Missouri. This team needs life, and the Tigers are playing just bad enough to give the Dores a chance.

Can Mark Stoops finally win in Starkville? 

There is no denying that Kentucky has played some really good football this season, already knocking off teams like Florida and LSU at home. Though they were beaten pretty soundly by Georgia in Athens, I do believe this team has what it takes to win ten games. But they are about to face a team that can be explosive on offense in the passing game. Will Rogers has led Mississippi State to a 2-1 record over the last three games, with a win over Texas A&M in the process. The Bulldogs have thrown for 930 yards and 7 TDs in those two wins and have looked impressive with their downfield passing attack.

So, the question is, can Mark Stoops and Kentucky prevent the Bulldogs from having success through the air? It’s not in the Bulldogs’ offensive scheme to run the football a lot, which could benefit the Wildcats on defense if they can shut things down in the secondary. Kentucky should do all they can to force Mike Leach to run the ball, especially with the way the Wildcats have been bringing pressure along the defensive line.

It will take Chris Rodriguez rushing for over 100 yards to make this Kentucky offense comfortable in its game plan. The return of WR Josh Ali should help Will Levis in the passing game, as Wan’Dale Robinson will be guarded tightly on the outside. Levis having another weapon could give Kentucky all the firepower they need, but I still don’t know whether I’ve seen enough explosive plays out of this offense. They must work to stretch the field against this Bulldog defense. Either way, this game should deliver and maybe Mark Stoops will get his team their first win in Starkville since 2008.

Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.

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  1. Florida can certainly beat UGA if they show up. It’s not a question of talent, because the Gators have plenty. It’s about who shows up motivated. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a physical slug fest in the trenches that’s a close game.

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