The past week has been brutal for Kentucky football fans, first watching a tough loss at Ole Miss on Saturday, and then sitting on pins and needles as quarterback Will Levis remains a “game time” decision for Saturday’s home matchup against South Carolina.
Levis, projected as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, dislocated his finger in last week’s loss in Oxford, but news broke on Wednesday of another injury, this one also coming from the Week 5 loss, as a leg issue could sideline the Penn State transfer against the Gamecocks. If Levis is unavailable, the Wildcats will turn to two backups in former Somerset standout Kaiya Sheron and Iowa transfer Deuce Hogan.
In addition to Levis, Kentucky is banged up at several key positions and is also expected to be without linebackers Jacquez Jones and J.J. Weaver this week, along with starting offensive lineman Jeremy Flax. But that’s just part of the problem for a team that sits 4-1 overall, and has dropped to No. 13 this week.
First, the Cats must get better play up front to protect the quarterback, and even more importantly, create some gaps for Chris Rodriguez and the run game. Secondly, fixing the kicking game has to be a top priority as a couple of botched extra point attempts last week completely changed the flow of the game at Ole Miss. While Matt Ruffolo has hit some big-time kicks in his time at UK, leaving points on the board is a recipe for disaster so a quick fix is essential to getting back into the win column.
If playing an SEC opponent this week at home is not enough to get the juices flowing, there’s plenty of bulletin board material coming out of South Carolina. Earlier in the week, former Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia (2008-11) said that Kentucky was “severely overhyped” and that Kroger Field was an easy environment to win road games. Add the fact that Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops and South Carolina’s Shane Beamer exchanged some comments in the pre-season about “culture building” and this makes for a very good SEC East showdown in Lexington this week.
Beamer, now in his third season, is 10-8 overall with signature wins over Florida, Auburn, and a Bowl victory against North Carolina in 2021. However, beating Kentucky has been an uphill battle for the Gamecocks as the Wildcats has won seven of the last eight meetings, with South Carolina last winning in Lexington in 2012.
Our Sea of Blue staff has once again provided our picks for Week 6 (see below) as Adam Haste and James Streble are tied for the top spot as each has picked winners at a 90 percent clip. This week, a majority of the staff is picking LSU to pull off the upset at home against Tennessee, while a few of us are on the Arkansas train to upset Mississippi State.
Be sure to share your picks with us this week in the comments below.
Game of the Week - (8) Tennessee at (25) LSU
Under Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel, the Vols have climbed to No. 8 in this week’s poll, and can move to 5-0 for the first time since 2016 with a victory.
This will be a battle between Tennessee’s high-powered offense that scores 48.5 point per game against a solid LSU defense that had held opponents to 17 points or less over the past four games, including wins over Mississippi State and Auburn.
LSU is a 3-point underdog at home and is currently 3-7 against ranked SEC opponents in its last ten games. However, the Tigers are certainly trending in the right direction after the Brian Kelly era began with a season opening loss to Florida State.
This week, all eyes will be on Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, who is 81-for-113 for a completion rate of 71.68%. The dual-threat signal caller has not thrown an interception this season and is getting some national buzz as a Heisman candidate and top draft pick.
Something has to give this week - either Heupel’s uptempo offense comes up big or Kelly’s defense puts LSU back in the national conversation about elite college football programs.
Upset Special - Arkansas at (23) Mississippi State
Coach Sam Pittman and the Arkansas Razorbacks have fallen on hard times, going from a top 10 ranking in Week 4 to being outside of the top 25 after losses to Texas A&M and Alabama in back-to-back weeks. To make matters worse, the Razorbacks could be without starting quarterback K.J. Jefferson who practiced for the first time on Wednesday after taking a blow to the head in the last week’s loss to the Crimson Tide.
With Jefferson, Arkansas has developed a strong ground attack that also includes running back Raheim Sanders who leads the SEC in rushing with 609 yards, good for fifth among FBS schools. He is also the only player in the nation to have at least 600 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving.
As for Mississippi State, you won’t find a better passing attack this season as Will Rogers continues to light up opposing defenses with a league-leading 1,715 passing yards. However, the Arkansas defense could be a disruptive force to the “Air Raid” offense as the Razorbacks currently rank second in all of college football with 21 sacks this season.
So here’s the big question: Which Arkansas team shows up this week? The one that was ranked No. 10 a few weeks ago or the one that currently sits 1-2 in the SEC West? If Jefferson is able to play, you could see an upset this week in Starkville.
Things to Know for Week 6
Close Calls: At the halfway point of the season, Alabama and Georgia have looked anything but invincible as each program has had to orchestrate come-from-behind wins against Texas and Missouri, respectfully. In Week 2, the Longhorns outplayed Alabama until the very end when reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young lead a game-winning drive as the Crimson Tide escaped on a late field goal. Georgia trailed by 10 points in the third quarter at Missouri last week before scoring 14 fourth quarter points to remain undefeated at 5-0. At times, both have been dominant, scoring points at will and putting up impressive defensive numbers. However, any talk about these two programs waltzing into the national title game again might be a bit premature.
Rankings: With Georgia’s lackluster win against Missouri last week, Coach Nick Saban and Alabama reclaimed the top spot in this week’s Top 25 AP College Football Poll with half of the teams in the SEC ranked with Alabama (1), Georgia (2), Tennessee (8), Ole Miss (9), Kentucky (13), Mississippi State (23), and LSU (25) all represented. Texas A&M, Arkansas and Florida have all been ranked this season and will have to fight to get back into the mix after some tough loses.
Hot Seat: The heat has been turned up on Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher and Auburn coach Bryan Harsin as both find their teams headed in the wrong direction as they prepare to play the top two teams in the country this week. After making a big splash in the pre-season, the Aggies are now unranked and have losses to Appalachian State and Mississippi State. Things get even tougher this week with a road game at No. 1-ranked Alabama amid this offseason’s Jimbo-Saban banter.
Auburn is currently 3-2 on the year with wins over Mercer, San Jose’ State, and Missouri. The Tigers will take on No. 2 Georgia this week and may not have a chance for another victory until a November 19th date against Western Kentucky.
SEC Football TV Schedule Week 6
- Texas A&M at (1) Alabama (8:00 p.m. on CBS)
- Auburn at (2) Georgia (3:30 p.m. on CBS)
- (8) Tennessee at (25) LSU (12:00 p.m. on ESPN)
- (9) Ole Miss at Vanderbilt (4:00 p.m. on SEC Network)
- South Carolina at (13) Kentucky (7:30 p.m. on SEC Network)
- Arkansas at (23) Mississippi State (12:00 p.m. on SEC Network)
- Missouri at Florida (12:00 p.m. on ESPNU)