It’s hard to believe that Coach Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats were the talk of college football just three weeks ago, moving up to No. 7 in the national rankings, with a future NFL quarterback and a lockdown defense ready to challenge for an SEC East title.
Unfortunately, the wheels quickly fell off with back-to-back losses to Ole Miss and South Carolina as an injured Will Levis could only watch as the Wildcats fell to 4-2 as Shane Beamer danced his way out of Kroger Field.
This week, Levis appears to be healthy enough to get back under center as another future NFL signal caller comes to town as Will Rogers and the 16th ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs take on the Wildcats at 7:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.
Mississippi State Coach Mike Leach and his Air Raid offense will be another big test for the Kentucky defense, who must get pressure on Rogers, a pocket passer who has thrown for a league-leading 2,210 yards and 22 passing touchdowns. He’s only been sacked eight times as compared to Levis who’s been sacked 20 times, the most in the SEC this season.
Of course, the Game of the Week is in Knoxville as No. 3 Alabama and No. 6 Tennessee square off at Neyland Stadium with Heisman winner Bryce Young expected to be back after missing last week’s dramatic win over Texas A&M.
Week 6 games provided a big shakeup in our Big Blue Pick ‘Em standings as James Streble is now in first place with a 56-6 overall record followed by Adam Haste at 55-7. This week, a slight majority of the Sea of Blue Staff is staying with the current line and picking Alabama over Tennessee and Mississippi State over the Wildcats. You can see this week’s picks below. Go Cats!
Game of the Week - (3) Alabama at (6) Tennessee
Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have escaped potential disaster - not once, but twice - as Texas and now Texas A&M have both had chances to knock off a No. 1-ranked team. Of course, both came up short and Alabama remains a perfect 6-0.
Waiting in Knoxville is Coach Josh Heupel and an explosive Tennessee offense that leads the nation in offense, accumulating 502 yards in last week’s 40-13 win over LSU. Quarterback Hendon Hooker leads a quick-hitter type of offense and has yet to throw an interception this season, making this a great matchup - The Vols offense vs. Bama’s defense.
The big question is will Young, Alabama’s star quarterback, be ready to go after missing last week with an injury. Without him, the Crimson Tide are surely an underdog, but oddsmakers currently have Bama as a 7.5 point favorite, leading to speculation that he’s back this week.
One interesting note is that Tennessee and Alabama will be playing for the first time since 1989 as undefeated teams. An even better stat is that the Vols have never beat Alabama in the Nick Saban era. Could this be the end of the streak for Tennessee fans?
Upset Special - (16) Mississippi State at (22) Kentucky
It may seem odd to have Kentucky in this category after a 4-0 start, but Mississippi opened as a 3.5-point favorite to start the week and has gradually moved up to 7-points per oddsmakers. With Levis back, and a keen sense of urgency to get things back on track, this one has all the ingredients for an upset.
If Levis has the mobility to bounce back from injury, look for the Penn State transfer to first get Chris Rodriguez going in the run game before airing it out to an elite group of receivers in Tayvion Robinson, Barion Brown, and Dane Key.
This will also be a huge test for Brad White’s defense, who are skilled in the secondary, but have to get pressure on Rogers to keep the Air Raid offense in check. The third phase - special teams - will also need to shift into high gear and Matt Ruffolo just might get a shot at a game-winner in the final seconds.
Regardless of the line at kickoff, this is a big one for the Cats.
Things to Know for Week 7
Top 25: Georgia is back in the top spot with Alabama falling to its lowest ranking of the year at No. 3. Tennessee (6), Ole Miss (9), Mississippi State (16), and Kentucky (22) round out SEC schools represented. The Top 10 also includes non-SEC schools Ohio State (2), Clemson (4), Michigan (5), USC (7). Oklahoma State (8), and Penn State (10).
Bye Week: South Carolina, Missouri and Texas A&M are all on the bye week with the Aggies still reeling from a missed opportunity at Alabama after failing to score on the final play of the game. Missouri has yet to win a conference game after an 0-3 start.
Mid-Term Grades: Now that we’ve reached the halfway point of the regular season, The USA Today Sports Network has released its report cards after the first six games. In the SEC West, grades are as follows: Alabama (A-), Mississippi State (A-), Ole Miss (A-), LSU (C+), Arkansas (C+), Texas A&M (C), and Auburn (D-), In the East, grades include: Georgia (A), Tennessee (A), South Carolina (B), Kentucky (B-), Florida (B-), Vanderbilt (B-), and Missouri (D+). What grade would you give Kentucky at the halfway point?
SEC Football TV Schedule Week 7
- Vanderbilt at (1) Georgia (3:30 p.m. on SEC Network)
- (3) Alabama at (6) Tennessee (3:30 p.m. on CBS)
- Auburn at (9) Ole Miss (12:00 p.m. on ESPN)
- (16) Mississippi State at (22) Kentucky (7:30 p.m. on SEC Network)
- LSU at Florida (7:00 p.m. on ESPN)
- Arkansas at BYU (3:30 p.m. on ESPN)