It is already a stacked card in the SEC on Saturday, with four premier games to keep an eye on, which could complicate some division races. Then we have a few teams that absolutely must win in order to keep their season intact and fans happy.
Let’s start in College Station, where Mississippi State will face Texas A&M. To say the Aggies have had a difficult start to the 2021 season would be an understatement. In the matchup with Colorado, Jimbo Fisher lost Haynes King, his starting quarterback. This has turned into a problem for the Aggies because the offense must now rely on sophomore QB Zach Calzada, who has his limitations. If this offense is going to pick up the slack with King out, their running backs need to do better than four total TDs. RB Isaiah Spiller alone has rushed for 345 yards and 2 TDs on 52 attempts. I don’t imagine Aggies fans thought the offense would put up only 17 total points against Colorado and Arkansas, but here we are.
FILE – In this Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021 file photo, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher argues with a referee in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Colorado in Denver. Texas A&M plays Arkansas on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
I look at this game against Mississippi State, who is coming off a loss to LSU, as very important. The Aggies cannot afford to have two losses before the second weekend of October. If they lose to the Bulldogs, the folks in College Station won’t have a chance to plan for a trip to the SEC Championship. Even right now, that’s a long shot.
The loser of the Missouri vs Tennessee matchup will have a long road ahead as well, if they plan on making a bowl game. The Tigers already have losses to Kentucky and Boston College on their record, with Tennessee looking to make it three. The Tigers must stop the Tennessee rushing attack, especially since the Vols are dealing with a few injuries along the offensive line. If Missouri is going to win this game, the defense must finally show up. And if Connor Bazelak can’t get things going through the air, then Tyler Badie will have to try and carry Missouri. Again.
Tennessee’s Velus Jones Jr. (1) returns a kickoff against Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
For Tennessee, this is also a must-win game, if they plan on going bowling this season. The Vols will rely on Tiyon Evans and Jabari Small to handle the workload out of the backfield, but they will also need another turnover-free game from QB Hendon Hooker, who sounds healthy enough to start. If anything happens to Hooker, Josh Heupel will turn to Joe Milton, who has already been a starter this season, without much success.
This game will come down to which offensive line has the better day and which quarterback can have success throwing the ball. It’s a toss-up for me, but both of these teams need an SEC win, or their season could turn south. Tennessee will host South Carolina, Ole Miss and play on the road at Alabama over the next four weeks. So, they better find a few wins before Lane Kiffin rolls into Knoxville.
There’s no denying it, South Carolina must beat Troy on Saturday. Ok, before you say, “Troy? Really?”, just know the Trojans are top five nationally in sacks, tackles for loss and yards allowed per game. So if you think Luke Doty is going to walk into Williams Brice Stadium and sling it around without defensive pressure, well you’re not thinking right.
South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty (4) runs with the ball in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)
The Gamecocks need a win. Bad. After getting destroyed by Georgia and losing to Kentucky last weekend, this South Carolina team has to get back on track this weekend. Troy QB Taylor Powell has over 1,000 yards passing, along with 7 TDs so far this season, as they sit 2-2. The Trojan defense has 18 sacks this season, so Luke Doty will have to be quick with his release. I expect South Carolina to win this game, but it wouldn’t shock me to see Troy hanging close in the 4th quarter. There’s a reason the Gamecocks are only a 6.5 point favorite, according to FanDuel.
I am just saying, don’t forget these three games and the ramifications.