The stakes got a little higher this week when The College Football Playoff Committee released its first of four rankings for the 2022 season on Tuesday.
Despite being ranked tied for second in the AP Poll, Tennessee gets the nod as the No. 1-ranked team in the college football playoff poll with a total of five SEC teams making the cut with Georgia (3), Alabama (6), LSU (10) and Ole Miss (11) all represented.
With a pair of college football polls now in play, we have not one, but two No. 1 ranked teams in the mix as the Bulldogs remain the top-ranked team in the AP Poll. But however you slice it, it’s safe to assume that the best two teams in college football will go toe to toe on Saturday afternoon in Athens.
For those on the outside looking in, many teams are focused on becoming Bowl eligible and will begin jockeying for position. Kentucky, 5-3 overall, is projected to play in either the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa, TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, or the Music City Bowl in Nashville. The Wildcats could get into the mix elsewhere with a strong finish.
The other marquee game this week features Alabama and LSU, who both need a win to move up the playoff rankings. Kentucky, coming off the loss in Knoxville, will try to regroup and get back into the win column against a Missouri team that has improved to 4-4 overall.
We now have a two-way tie for first place among our Sea of Blue Staff Writers as Jason Marcum and James Streble are hanging on to a small lead over Adam Haste, Samuel Hahn, and yours truly. Marcum and Nick Wheatley are the only two to go with the Vols this week, while the staff is split on the UK-Mizzou game.
Check out our weekly picks below and enjoy a great weekend of SEC football. Go Cats!
Games of the Week
(1) Tennessee at (3) Georgia
The Clash of the Titans will take place between the hedges on Saturday in Athens as the two best teams in college football will face off to gain control of the SEC East division.
Georgia, the defending national champions, is an 8.5 point favorite and has won five of the last six games against the Vols under head coach Kirby Smart.
Under Coach Josh Heupel, Tennessee is now in the driver’s seat with a new No. 1 ranking, and has blitzed opponents with a high-tempo offense that features quarterback Hendon Hooker, who has thrown for 2,338 yards and just one interception. Likewise, the Georgia offense has been outstanding behind quarterback Stetson Bennett, who ranks second in the SEC is passing statistics.
Tennessee currently averages 49.4 points per game and will face a Georgia defense that has only allowed 10.5 ppg as both teams have a perfect 8-0 record. The Vols have played just two road games all season, an early season victory at Pitt, and a 40-13 win at LSU, so we’ll find out if the Vols are for real this week at Georgia.
(6) Alabama at (10) LSU
With Alabama coming in at No. 6 in the new college football playoff rankings, many consider this to be a must-win game for the Crimson Tide. However, LSU has clawed its way back into the Top 10 and is looking to beat Alabama for only the second time in their last 12 meetings in front of a sell out crowd at Death Valley.
The game will feature the two winningest active coaches in college football, as Alabama’s Nick Saban and LSU’s Brian Kelly have combining for 565 victories. Each has also coached at LSU with Saban leading the Tigers from 2000 to 2004, winning a national title in 2003. Look for two of the SEC’s top quarterbacks - Bryce Young and Jayden Daniels to create some fireworks in Baton Rouge.
Wildcat Watch - Kentucky at Missouri
It’s gut-check time for the Kentucky Wildcats after last week’s beat down in Knoxville has now tempered expectations with just four games left in the regular season.
Kentucky opened the year with high hopes, even talking openly in the pre-season about a potential trip to Atlanta for the conference championship game. However, with a 5-3 overall record, the Wildcats need to win three of its last four games to salvage an eight-win season that might improve its Bowl Game projections.
The Cats need to take to care of business against Missouri, Vanderbilt and Louisville to get to an 8-4 record, assuming Georgia will be a huge favorite when the Cats and Dawgs square off on November 19th at Kroger Field.
However, before we look too far ahead, the Cats need to have a short memory from last week and find a way to get a struggling offense back on track. Here are the big questions for the Wildcats as they travel to Columbia.
Can Rich Scangarello’s offense put enough points on the board to right the ship?
Despite having an NFL-caliber quarterback, one of the school’s all-time leading rushers, and its best group of receivers and tight ends in years, Kentucky is next to last in the SEC in total offense and averages just over 23 points per game. One issue remains inconsistent play from the offensive line, but Levis needs to step up during the month of November and throw the ball down the field to salvage the season.
Can the Kentucky defense get more pressure on the quarterback?
As the offense continues to struggle, the Kentucky defense will need to step up to give Levis and company more opportunities to find the end zone. At times this season, the Kentucky defense has been very good and White deserves a lot of credit for making adjustments as injuries to linebackers Jacquez Jones and DeAndre Square have forced some young guys into action during crucial situations. Kentucky is currently 12th in the SEC in tackles and sacks and will need to get more pressure on the quarterback to get back in the win column.
Can the kicking game be salvaged after numerous botched extra point attempts this season?
When the offense does move the ball, it seems that most drives are ultimately doomed, either with a botched extra point attempt or little confidence in the field goal unit. Kicker Matt Ruffolo has had a solid career at UK and has connected on some big kicks over the past several seasons. However, this year has been more about bad snaps, bad luck, and bad results as too many kicks are blocked or bounce off the uprights.
Around The SEC
- Auburn has now officially parted ways with head coach Bryan Harsin, who was fired on Monday after losing seven of the last eight SEC games. Harsin ends his time in Auburn with a 9-12 overall record with a 4-9 mark in conference games. The Tigers will travel to Mississippi State this week under the direction of interim head coach Cadillac Williams, a fourth year assistant, who was an All-American running back for the Tigers in 2004.
- Two struggling programs will face off this week as Texas A&M (3-5) and Florida (4-4) are both hoping to finish strong and carve out a Bowl Game invitation to close the year. However, things have really gone south for Coach Jimbo Fisher and the Aggies who may be without key players this week due to a flu outbreak to go along with some recent suspensions. Texas A&M, filled with a roster of blue chip recruits, was ranked as high as 6th early in the season but has fallen short of expectations. The Aggies play three of its final four games at home and needs a signature win to close the season.
- Since dropping three in a row to Texas A&M, Alabama, and Mississippi State, the Arkansas Razorbacks have averaged 46.5 points in its last two games in wins over BYU and Auburn and will need to keep the momentum going this week against No. 23-ranked Liberty. Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has led the Flames to national recognition this year with a 7-1 record, but this will be a much different challenge against an SEC opponent that is one win away from being Bowl eligible. The Hogs, 5-3 overall, are the betting favorite in this one despite being unranked.
- Georgia 5-0
- Tennessee 4-0
- Kentucky 2-3
- Missouri 2-3
- South Carolina 2-3
- Florida 1-4
- Vanderbilt 0-4
- Alabama 4-1
- LSU 4-1
- Ole Miss 4-1
- Mississippi State 2-3
- Arkansas 2-3
- Auburn 1-4
- Texas A&M 1-4
SEC Football TV Schedule Week 10
- (1) Tennessee at (3) Georgia (3:30 p.m. on CBS)
- (6) Alabama at (10) LSU (7:00 p.m. on ESPN)
- Kentucky at Missouri (12:00 p.m. on SEC Network)
- Florida at Texas A&M (12:00 p.m. on ESPN)
- Liberty at Arkansas (4:00 p.m. on SEC Network)
- Auburn at Mississippi State (7:30 p.m. on ESPN2)
- South Carolina at Vanderbilt (7:30 p.m. on SEC Network)