Trey’s Take: Three Questions I Have For The SEC East This Weekend

We are heading into a weekend that brings us only three games that include SEC East teams. The others will all enjoy a bye week, so the division needs some uplifting performances. Heading into Saturday, these three teams have something to prove, as 2 of the 3 games are on the road.

Can Tennessee put together another solid offensive performance at Alabama?

This past Saturday, we witnessed the Vols almost pull the upset win against Ole Miss, even with Matt Corral rushing for 195 yards and causing problems for the Tennessee defense. But to their credit, the Vols held the Rebels to only one touchdown in the second half. Unfortunately, Josh Heupel and the beaten up Vols travel to Tuscaloosa this Saturday for a matchup with the Tide. It certainly doesn’t help that Vols QB Hendon Hooker is dealing with a knee injury, which could force him to miss the game. During his Thursday press conference, Heupel did give a little hope to Tennessee fans, saying Hooker has been a participant in some of the practice work this week. If Hendon cannot play, the Vols will turn to Joe Milton, who was the starter for the first two games of the season. We’ve seen the inaccuracies of Milton already this season, so fans better hope he’s learned a few things over the last few weeks.

The offensive line could be hurting this weekend as well, with Cade Mays exiting the Ole Miss game with an ankle injury. On the bright side, there is a good chance Cooper Mays will return to the lineup at the center position. This could help the Vols out a ton, especially if they can get Tiyon Evans, who was also dealing with an ankle injury, back.

There is no denying that this matchup on Saturday will cause problems for the offense. So, Josh Heupel will have to get creative with his game plan, hoping to catch the Tide sleeping down the field. If the Vols have any chance of upsetting the Tide, it will have to start with the running game, which could set up a few vertical passes to open things up. Unfortunately, this Alabama defense is good and will be the toughest test for Tennessee this season.

Can Vanderbilt build off last weekend’s gutsy performance against Mississippi State?

I want to see this Vanderbilt offense try to establish the run game, as the Bulldogs have had problems on that defensive side at times this season. The Dores are coming off a near win at South Carolina, which should give them some kind of hope at pulling off an upset at home. Now, Mississippi State is going to pass for a ton of yards, but can they actually finish off the plays with points? They rushed for -1 yards against Alabama, while trying to beat them down the field, which didn’t work out well since they lost 49-9.

The only thing that would give me some kind of hope for Vanderbilt would be the fact it took the Bulldogs 55 attempts to reach 300 yards passing last week. If the Dores can force a few turnovers, then maybe they can keep this game close for a while, potentially giving them the confidence they need to play a solid four quarters of football. It’s hard for me to imagine Vanderbilt pulling off the upset this weekend, but we’ve seen crazier things in college football this season.

Could Zeb Noland and South Carolina catch Texas A&M sleeping?

Look, there’s no denying that losing Luke Doty for the season will hurt the Gamecocks and their chances of pulling off this upset. But Zeb Noland is at least experienced, having started three games this season so far. It’s hard to trust a team with a leading rusher who has gained just 247 yards total this season, but this is where South Carolina sits at the moment. Shane Beamer has had his moments of bad play-calling, which have affected this team, so it’s possible they’ll try to switch it up this weekend and test the Aggies over the middle.

On defense, the Gamecocks have 18 sacks on the season, which is no doubt their strong suit. The defensive line has a knack for putting pressure on the quarterback, which could come in handy against Zach Calzada. But the Aggies rushed for 283 yards against Missouri, who has been bad on defense all season. I don’t expect the Gamecocks to be awful this weekend on that side of the ball, but I do expect Jimbo Fisher to try and play fast and catch South Carolina off-guard. If the Gamecocks can find a solution in the passing game, maybe they can hang with the Aggies for a while, but that will all depend on whether Zeb Noland can produce and whether Texas A&M is sleepwalking through this game.

Enjoy the weekend games, even if there aren’t many good ones.

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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