SEC Preview: Five Questions And Predictions For The College Football Weekend

We are entering week two of the college football season and hopefully it lives up to the first week, especially across the SEC. A lot of attention is being put on the Texas versus Alabama matchup in Austin, but there are a number of storylines that have potential this weekend.

Here are five questions I have for the upcoming slate of SEC games.

Can Tennessee Put Up Enough Offense To Beat Pittsburgh?

Tennesse quarterback Hendon Hooker      (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

I think we all know by now that Hendon Hooker can and will be a threat against opposing defenses in 2022. But how this plays out on the road at Pittsburgh will be intriguing. Pat Narduzzi knows the Josh Heupel system, as they have played each other the past four seasons.

So, Tennessee’s scheming intrigues me, especially with how much pressure the Panthers defensive line will look to bring at Hooker. One of the biggest aspects of this game is the scrambling of Hendon Hooker, knowing he is so important outside the pocket.

If you give him time to throw the football to Cedric Tillman, Jalin Hyatt or Bru McCoy, Pittsburgh will be in a shootout. Having Jabari Small for this rematch should help when it comes to pass-rush blocking, so keep an eye out on the backfield.

If Tennessee can get to Kedon Slovis and make him uncomfortable, this could lead to the mistakes we’ve seen in the past. Now, if the Vols give the panthers QB enough time to pick them off down the field, Josh Heupel will need as much offense as possible. Either way, I like where Tennessee sits in this game, but it all comes down to converting third downs and exposing the Pitt linebackers.

Prediction: Tennessee 34, Pittsburgh 28

How Does Arkansas Slowdown Spencer Rattler

I am counting on this game to be one of the best in the SEC on Saturday. I really like this matchup between Spencer Rattler and the Arkansas defense.

It wasn’t pretty last weekend for the Gamecocks, but Rattler showed enough to make me think this will be a tight game. My biggest question is how the Razorbacks will scheme against the agile quarterback from South Carolina.

We have all seen Rattler make plays outside the pocket, so containing him is pivotal for this Barry Odom led defense. Whether that’s putting a spy on Rattler and letting LB Bumper Pool come after the gunslinger or bringing enough pressure off the edge to make him uncomfortable, it will come down to which defense contains the opposing QB better.

KJ Jefferson can do enough on offense for Arkansas to make the Gamecocks try to keep pace. But not letting Rattler get creative outside the pocket is key. So don’t be surprised if the Razorbacks force South Carolina to beat them through the air. I like Arkansas in this game, if Odom can make Rattler uncomfortable.

Prediction: Arkansas 28, South Carolina 24

Arms Race: Spencer Rattler, K.J. Jefferson Prepare For South Carolina-Arkansas Battle

Will Vandy Hit Its Projected Win Total v. Wake

Most Vegas insiders had the over/under for Vanderbilt wins at 2.5 for the 2022 season. Well, the bad news for some of these bettors is the Commodores have already won two games.

Behind quarterback Mike Wright, we’ve seen the Vandy offense explode. Yes, I know it was against Hawaii and Elon, but it feels as if this team is different than in years past. The Dores have now tasted consecutive victories and even for a Vanderbilt game, the atmosphere could be nice in Nashville this weekend.

The news of Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman returning couldn’t come at a worse time for the Dores defense, but both teams are averaging over 44 points per game. Mike Wright has 638 total yards through two games, with ten touchdowns.

I know it might feel like a stretch, but I think Vanderbilt can hang with Wake Forest if they can force a few turnovers and Mike Wright gets loose outside the pocket. Yes, the Deamon Deacons are 13.5-point favorites, but I think it’s closer than Vegas thinks.

Prediction: Wake Forest 31, Vandy 23

Will Alabama Be Tested By This Texas Offense

Yea, this one has the feel of a beatdown, but I guess anything is possible. I want to see if Texas can come out swinging on offense in the first half.

Nick Saban has an offense that can score quick, behind reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young. So how does Texas stop the Tide’ attack? Well, put Young on the grass every chance you get, even if it cost you 15 yards a few times.

Putting Alabama into as many third-and-long situations is one way Texas can keep this game closer than the oddsmakers think. Alabama is heading to Austin to destroy Texas on national television, it’s really that simple.

Longhorns QB Quinn Ewers will have to deal with Will Anderson Jr. on just about every play, so his ability to scramble will be critical. If the Texas quarterback tries to get fancy, Alabama will make him pay in the secondary.

But can Steve Sarkisian scheme the Alabama defense like Georgia did in the title game? Sure, he can try, but Texas doesn’t have the type of athletes that Kirby Smart had.  And they certainly don’t have the type of defense to keep Alabama off the board consistently.

Prediction: Alabama 37, Texas 17

Does Florida Take A Step Back After The Utah Win?

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

The biggest question is how Florida responds after defeating No. 7 Utah last week. I’ve had this game circled on the calendar for months, knowing how big this game will be for both teams. But now, after seeing both teams play a game, the storylines have changed.

This will be a massive test for a Kentucky team with high expectations. But without RB Chris Rodriguez, backup Kavosiey Smoke will get most of the carries, especially with Ramon Jefferson out for the season.

Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello will have his work cut out for him, after his unit only rushed for 50 yards against Miami (Ohio) last week. This is a problem that the Wildcats defense will have to answer, by making Anthony Richardson beat them with his arm, not legs. If Richardson ends up running for over 100 yards and gets the opportunity to make plays outside the pocket, this will be tough for the Wildcats.

The Gators showed enough on offense last week to worry Mark Stoops and Kentucky. But if Florida gets fancy with their play calling, Stoops is a good enough coach to find a way to counter.

Billy Napier knows the Wildcats will try and make Anthony Richardson sit in the pocket. We still have a lot to learn about this Billy Napier led team, but if they bring the same type of ferocity as last week, this game will be fun to watch in the trenches.

I expect a blue-collar battle in the trenches and Florida looking for revenge of last season. The Cats’ last won in ‘The Swamp’ in 2018, so this isn’t farfetched. The Gators offensive line showed promise last week at different points, which is a step in the right direction. I like the swagger of Will Levis and think Kentucky will hang with Florida, but not having some of their running back’s will hurt.

Prediction: Florida 27, Kentucky 23

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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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