There are just four intraconference matchups this weekend, but a couple games do feature teams with national title aspirations, highlighted by #7 Auburn (9-1, 5-1 SEC) hosting #25 Georgia (6-3, 4-2 SEC).
The Tigers have reeled off six straight wins since their lone loss of the season to LSU back on September 21st, and a win over the Bulldogs would set up a colossal matchup against Alabama in the Iron Bowl on November 30th. Auburn ranks third in the nation in rushing, averaging 320 yards per game led by junior Tre Mason (1038 yards, 16 TDs). However, they average just 173.3 passing yards per game which puts them at 108th in the country in that category. QB Nick Marshall has been a little dinged up throughout the year, but head coach Gus Malzahn says his ability to air it out will be instrumental in beating UGA.
“He’s getting a lot healthier,” Malzahn said. “And I believe that when the time comes, he [Marshall] can be effective throwing the football.”
On the other sideline, Georgia is coming off two straight victories and will be looking to keep their hopes for Atlanta alive. The Dawgs have owned the Tigers lately, winning the last two meetings by a combined score of 83-7. However, the script has been flipped so far this season and UGA will have hone in on containing Auburn’s explosive ground attack. UGA head coach Mark Richt says stopping the run will allow for his defense to lock down the passing game as well.
“I think they can throw the ball, and I think that they can throw it well,” Richt said. “We’re preparing for play action pass and we’re preparing for them taking shots.”
Kickoff from Jordan-Hare Stadium is set for 3:30.
Top-ranked and still undefeated Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) is also on the slate, as they head to Starkville for a matchup with Mississippi State (4-5, 1-4 SEC). The Crimson Tide haven’t allowed more than 10 points during their five-game winning streak against the Bulldogs, and the Bama defense has been just as dominant this season as well, ranking first in the country in points against (10.6 per game). But coach Nick Saban doesn’t want his squad to sleep on MSU, whose five losses have all come against top-20 teams.
“This is a real challenge for our team after a very emotional win against a very good LSU team,” Saban said. “Mississippi State has probably the best 4-5 team in the country.”
For a Bulldogs squad that has yet to grab a statement win this season, hanging around with the Tide would certainly give the crowd at Davis Wade Stadium some hope for a huge upset. MSU head coach Dan Mullen says his players know what’s at stake and will feed off the maroon-clad fans on Saturday night.
“It’s a great chance for our guys, we’ve had a good week of practice,” Mullen said. “Hopefully it’ll be another sellout crowd and an exciting atmosphere.”
Alabama started horribly against Texas A&M following a last-minute victory over the Tigers last season, and suffered their only loss. The Bulldogs will likely need that to happen again for them to ruin the Tide’s chance of getting to the SEC Championship and possibly the BCS Championship. Kickoff is set for 7:45.
In the SEC East, Vanderbilt (5-4, 2-4 SEC) will be looking to get bowl-eligible following their victory over Florida last Saturday in The Swamp, as they play host to Kentucky (2-7, 0-5 SEC). The Commodores had the same record at this point last year, before winning three straight games to end the regular season. VU head coach James Franklin says late season momentum can really resonate in the locker room.
“We’ve been able to finish strong,” Franklin said. “Our kids believe in our process, and it’s amazing what you can get done with a positive attitude.”
For a struggling Kentucky team, it’s a similar mindset as Vandy; they want to finish the year on a high note to get some positive thoughts heading into the offseason. Head coach Mark Stoops says his players are geared up to take on the Dores.
“Nobody’s deterred, everybody knows where we’re headed. We’re moving towards good things,” Stoops said. “The wins and losses on the field has not hurt us at all.”
The matchup from Nashville gets under way at 12:21.
The other SEC team playing this week is Ole Miss (6-3, 3-3 SEC) as they host Troy (5-5, 3-3 Sun Belt) at noon from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
To hear coaches comments, click below.