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As we head into Week Six of the college football season, we’ve already seen a few surprises come out of the Southeastern conference, especially from the East division. Kentucky is still sitting undefeated at the moment, while Florida already has two losses in conference play. Now, with several key games in the division this weekend, the separation will begin. I have three questions I need answered, as we approach the mid-way point of the season.
Can Florida actually get things back on track?
As you noticed a few weeks back, this Gators football team can compete with the best of teams when they’re actually playing mistake-free football. After losing to Alabama in a four quarter battle, they backed it up the next week with a comfortable win against Tennessee in the Swamp. But with this Florida football team under Dan Mullen, playing down to an opponent has become common in Gainesville.
There is no reason Kentucky should’ve beaten the Gators, especially with the offensive woes the Wildcats faced all game. But Florida ended up with 15 penalties and a blocked FG returned for a touchdown, which gave the Wildcats all the momentum they needed to pull off the upset. Even though they held Kentucky to just 87 yards passing, the Gators still couldn’t get it done in Lexington. So, now we see what this team is made of. The next three opponents for the Gators are Vanderbilt, LSU and Georgia. If Dan Mullen’s squad drops two out of three, then this could be the sign of things to come for Florida. This team must right the ship, especially on offense. Now.
Can Tennessee continue to impress on offense?
By now we’ve all seen the offensive showcase that Tennessee put on display against a bad Missouri defense. I am not taking anything away from what the Vols did against the Tigers, but I’m going to need to see them to do it again against South Carolina. On Monday, Josh Heupel named Hendon Hooker the starter and outlined the reasons why he publicly deserved the recognition. This was the right move, as Hooker has performed well over the last few games and become the leader this team needs. The QB has thrown for 838 yards and 10 touchdowns, with only 1 interception. His passes have been pretty much on target, something this team struggled with in the first few games. His pocket presence is another factor in this decision, and his ability to make plays with his feet have been on full display. The Vols look like a different team with Hooker behind center, but now they must prove it against a better defense.
Last Saturday, the Vols, led by Tiyon Evans, rushed for 458 yards. This was a performance that Tennessee fans haven’t seen in quite some time. So, the question now is, can they do it against a better defensive line. Judging by practice, they will be missing Cooper Mays at center again, meaning Jerome Carvin will be the guy. The WRs have a new arrangement with Velus Jones Jr. now playing in the slot, which is a great way to get him more touches. We will see who backs up Tiyon Evans this weekend: Jabri Small, Len’Neth Whitehead or Jaylen Wright. No matter who’s in the backfield, the Vols will need their offense to keep this type of production up, as they can’t afford to showcase the lack of depth on defense. Can the Vols have a repeat performance on Saturday?
Can Kentucky keep this momentum rolling into Athens?
There aren’t many teams in the SEC that can play the way Kentucky did against Florida and pull out the win. It’s hard to think a team that hasn’t passed for more than 180 yards per game in the past three games can still be undefeated, but that’s where Kentucky sits. Will Levis threw for 178 yards against Missouri, 102 yards against South Carolina and 87 yards against Florida, but they are 3-0 in the SEC. Yes, I know Chris Rodriguez has been running the football pretty well, but this team will need more from their quarterback through the air if they’re going to beat LSU. The Wildcats outplayed the Gators in key moments this past Saturday, especially on defense and special teams. But, that type of outing could spell trouble against the Tigers. I need to see this offense get Wan’Dale Robinson the ball, even more than they already have. Robinson leads the SEC in receiving, but that’s even a bit hard to believe by looking at the passing stats.
So, can Kentucky control the time of possession and keep the ball away from the LSU run game, which disappeared in the 4th quarter against Auburn last week? The Tigers have nothing to lose and a coach who’s on the brink of being ousted. Meaning, LSU will throw everything they have at Kentucky and hope to escape Lexington with a win. We all know this Kentucky defense, led by Josh Paschal, can get pressure on the QB. But can the Wildcats do enough on offense, especially in the passing game, to cause LSU to panic? The Tigers will probably load the box and make Will Levis beat them, so it’s up to the Kentucky quarterback to lead his team to the win. If Kentucky takes care of LSU, the game in Athens next weekend becomes even bigger than we could’ve expected in the preseason.
By the way, the only question I have about Georgia vs. Auburn is who starts at QB for the Dawgs. If it’s JT Daniels, then good luck, Auburn. But if Kirby Smart must start Stetson Bennett again, then keep an eye on things in Auburn. Just throwing it out.