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This upcoming weekend’s slate of SEC East games will provide a few teams the opportunity to prove themselves to the rest of the conference. There are three games that standout to me as measuring stick outings.
Kentucky vs South Carolina (Kentucky favored by 4.5 points, according to FanDuel.com )
The talk coming into the season was that Kentucky could take the next step in 2021 and actually give the rest of the division problems. Instead, this past Saturday, we saw a team that was on the brink of imploding against Chattanooga. The running game was stagnant, and the defense often looked confused. We did not see the same Chris Rodriguez that we all saw play against Missouri, and Will Levis looked mediocre.
As this team re-enters SEC play on Saturday against the Gamecocks, they need to do it in a complete way. This team will not go far if Will Levis can’t get the ball down the field and spread out the defense with his legs. So far this season, the Wildcats QB is 51-79 for 800 yards and 7 touchdowns, while throwing 4 interceptions. This offense moves at the pace of Levis, so he must control his urges to make the crazy play. We know what he is capable of:
causing problems for opposing defenses with his dual-threat capabilities. This South Carolina team is coming off a tough loss to Georgia, where they managed only 13 points and 55 yards rushing through three quarters in a 40-13 blowout. The Gamecocks still need to find their identity, but the Wildcats shouldn’t let them figure it out this weekend.
Missouri vs Boston College (Missouri favored by 1.5 points, according to FanDuel.com )
After losing a close game to Kentucky in Week Two, the Tigers beat up on SEMO this past Saturday. The level of difficulty will change this weekend, as Eli Drinkwitz takes his team on the road to Boston College. Yes, this is a very interesting matchup in a weird part of the season. But after dropping that game in Lexington, this Missouri team needs to show they can handle the pressure in Boston.
The Missouri offense is led by Connor Bazelak, who is 78-113 for 897 yards, 9 touchdowns and only 1 interception. This team can score on quickly, especially when Bazelak runs the play action, which they’ve had success with this season. As a team, the Tigers have rushed for 550 yards, on 94 attempts. The leading rusher, Tyler Badie, is averaging 7.2 yards per attempt, and he accounts for 345 yards on the ground this season. The Tigers will need their defense to get into the backfield pretty often on Saturday and add onto their 12 sacks. Missouri shouldn’t think they will roll into Boston College, who is 3-0, and just grab the win. This team will have to prove itself to the conference and the best way to do it is on the road.
Tennessee vs Florida (Gators favored by 18.5 points, according to FanDuel.com )
I think we all know what this game means for Florida, but Tennessee is the one that needs to prove a few things. It’s been a very long time since the Vols have gone into “The Swamp” and left with a victory, and no one knows that better than the fan base. But this Tennessee team is fighting for relevance, and I can’t think of a better way to prove it than by going to Gainesville and giving the Gators a fight.
The QB situation is still unknown for the Vols. Josh Heupel mentioned on Thursday that they don’t know who will be starting. Now, I find that hard to believe, just 48 hours away from kickoff, but the staff isn’t going to give the Gators a heads up. The Vols’ offense has the ability to spread the field and go vertical, especially with their WRs. But, they have to establish some kind of running game if they’re going to have success on Saturday. This is the same Florida team that held Alabama to under 100 yards rushing, so it won’t be easy.
The Vols’ defense has been somewhat surprising so far, in a good way. But can they stop Emory Jones, Anthony Richardson and the rest of a team that rushed for over 230 yards against the Tide? This seems like a tall task, in all honesty. But this Tennessee team must show they can at least hang with the Gators, as losing by 20+ points will only drag the fan base down further. I am not implying the Vols must win, but they need to prove they are on the right track. And what better place to do it than Gainesville?