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We are headed down the final stretch of the SEC regular season, a season in which a few teams have taken some interesting turns along the way. Heading into this weekend, we have one premier game in the East Division, while a few other teams are still looking to become bowl eligible. This has been a dominant season so far for Georgia, and they look to continue their winning ways in Knoxville this weekend. But I still have a few questions regarding the East, which we will dive into.
Can Kentucky start another winning streak like the one they opened the season with?
We all witnessed the performance of the Wildcats last weekend against Tennessee. They racked up over 600 yards of total offense, but that still wasn’t enough to win the game. This Kentucky team has sometimes played up to its potential this season, but they’ve also struggled to sustain offensive success. There is only so much the defense can do, and we’ve seen what happens when the Cats can’t establish a rushing attack. This team started the year 6-0 before dropping the last three games, taking away any shot of playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
So, now the question is: can this team shake off the funk and get back into the groove of playing cohesive football? They have an opportunity to start another winning streak this weekend against Vanderbilt, but time will tell which Kentucky team shows up. They shouldn’t have a problem with the Dores, but this team is reeling right now and I’ll have to see it to believe it. The game plan should be to run the football until Vandy cries “uncle,” but that’s easier said than done. Can Kentucky start a new streak, or are they still sulking from last week? We’ll find out.
How does South Carolina respond after beating Florida last weekend?
The Gamecocks will travel to Missouri and look to obtain their sixth win of the season and become bowl eligible. Shane Beamer’s team rushed for 284 yards against the Gators last Saturday and should have the same mindset against the Tigers. Maybe South Carolina has found something in transfer QB Jason Brown, who did a great job managing the game against Florida. If the Gamecocks can bring the same type of excitement to Columbia, I don’t see why they can’t leave with a win.
Unfortunately for Missouri, every team in this conference has found success running the football against them this year. Though the Gamecocks don’t have a superior offensive line, it still doesn’t make up for the fact that Eli Drinkwitz has major problems on defense. Missouri is still a 1-point favorite, according to FanDuel, so don’t think this game will be a one-sided affair. The Tigers could easily rain on the parade of the Gamecocks, as I don’t think Shane Beamer has some world beater of a team. I think Florida was just that bad. Either way, I want to see what kind of team Beamer brings to Missouri and whether they can capitalize off a nice win on paper.
Can Tennessee find a way to land some big shots against Georgia?
One of the top-rated defenses in the country will be playing one of the most explosive offenses in the country. Yep, that’s what we are getting this weekend in Knoxville, as No. 1 Georgia will battle Tennessee on Saturday afternoon. We’ve all seen that this Vols offense can score fast, thanks to Hendon Hooker and a few speedy WRs. This team scored two touchdowns within a minute of possession last weekend against Kentucky. And it’s not like they just scored fast against the Wildcats. The Vols have shown the ability to find the big plays without taking much time off the clock in the process. How this plays out on Saturday is a huge question for me.
Georgia’s defense has given up only five touchdowns all season, and their front four look like something out of the old Pittsburgh Steelers game footage. They attack the QB with multiple blitz packages, and they fill the running gaps with their gigantic size and mobility. This defense, led by Jordan Davis, is giving up only 3.78 yards per play and 231 yards per game. So the likelihood that Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker will have a lot of time to throw the football is very slim. This means it will be up to the Vols receivers to find open space pretty quickly and for Hooker to trust his guys with the deep ball. If Tennessee cannot establish some sort of running game, it will be a long day for this offense. They cannot go one-dimensional against Georgia, so the offensive line better find a way to open up some running lanes.
For the Vols to have a chance, they have to land the big shots and catch the Dawgs sleeping. Georgia will be expecting it, but if Tennessee has any shot of success, they have to keep throwing haymakers and hope they land. If there’s one thing Georgia hasn’t truly been tested on this season, it’s an offensive tempo like the one the Vols run. So, can Josh Heupel find enough bad tendencies from Georgia to open things up down the field? That’s the question I have for this matchup. We’ll see if it gets answered.