There are other teams playing in the Southeastern Conference this week besides Alabama and LSU.
The titanic matchup in Tuscaloosa is getting all the publicity, but there are a trio of other conference battles going on as well as three more SEC teams playing in non-conference games.
Vanderbilt travels to Florida for an 11 a.m. game on ESPN, followed by Alabama-LAU on CBS at 2:30, Missouri at Georgia on ESPN at 6 p.m. and Tennessee at Kentucky at 6:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.
In addition, Arkansas will be entertaining Western Kentucky at 11 a.m. on the SEC Network, New Mexico State will be at Ole Miss at 3 p.m. on the SEC Network and Appalachian State will be at South Carolina at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
Auburn is one of three conference teams that are idle this week, along with Mississippi State and Texas A&M. The Tigers resume play next week at home against Georgia, while Mississippi State will play host to Alabama and Texas A&M will play host to South Carolina in its final home game this season.
Facing the best: LSU coach Ed Orgeron was asked about Alabama cornerbacks Trevon Diggs and Patrick Surtain and answered by noting that both LSU and Alabama cornerbacks are prepared for Saturday’s game because they face good receivers in practice every day.
“We have that matchup every day,” he said. “That’s going to help us, obviously. We feel we have outstanding corners here at LSU. Those guys are really good … and obviously they see great receivers every day. I think that helps them, also.”
Tae Crowder goes from overlooked player to Butkus semifinalist: Crowder was recruited to Georgia as an in-state star who played receiver and running back but was converted to inside linebacker with the arrival of new head coach Kirby Smart during Crowder’s redshirt freshman year. Now, Crowder is one of 12 finalists for the award given annually to the nation’s top collegiate linebacker.
“It’s a story of perseverance,” Smart said. “He was a lightly recruited kid as far as I know. They took him on the last couple of days as a big athletic running back. He just transformed himself. He wanted to play and came to me and said he wanted to play special teams. One thing led to another and he grew himself into a really athletic, good inside ‘backer. He’s become really smart and instinctive for a kid that didn’t play much defense his whole life.”
Mullen likes team’s resiliency: Florida has never played the week after the Georgia game with the same intensity reserved for the Bulldogs, but head coach Dan Mullen likes his team’s focus as it tries to rebound this weekend against Vanderbilt.
“We’ve had a great week,” he said. “I thought our intensity at practice has been great, our guys have been fired up. We’ve had two really good days, but that needs to translate into performance on Saturday, too. That’s all of us. We need to pack The Swamp, we need to have that home-field advantage, we need the energy in the stadium, our team’s got to come out with intensity to go play hard. To be honest with you, that’s all it is.”
Vandy looking for healthy quarterbacks: The Commodores were already without Mo Hasan. When his backup, Riley Neal, left the field with an injury, it left head coach Derek Mason considering whether he would turn to Deuce Wallace, who finished the game, or Allan Walters, who has never played in a college game, to take the field at Florida Field on Saturday.
“(Neal) may or may not make it back for this game,” Mason said, adding he would find out late Wednesday. “I’m pretty sure in my mind who’s going to play quarterback, it’s just a matter of making sure that we get the reps and get that guy comfortable with what we’re doing. I pretty much know in my mind who’s going to have first crack to win this game.”
Vols have to find Lynn Bowden: Kentucky wide receiver Lynn Bowden may be moving back to his old position after spending a month at quarterback, but Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said the Volunteers need to keep an eye on Bowden wherever he lines up.
“I think he’s one of the best athletes in the SEC,” Pruitt said. “He’s a fantastic wide receiver when he was in the slot. He’s very hard to guard and really good with the ball in his hands after the catch. He’s a dynamic return guy. Obviously, him playing quarterback shows his versatility and creates all kinds of opportunities for them in the run game.”
The development of John Stephen Jones: Despite the lopsided loss to Mississippi State last week, Arkansas coach Cha Morris said he likes what he has seen from his freshman quarterback in the last two quarters at Alabama the previous week as well as the game against the Bulldogs.
“His decision making is really good,” Morris said. “Coming out of the Alabama game and all the read game we asked him to do, he did not miss a read, which is a credit to those long drives that we’ve had.”
No more Muse for Gamecocks: Junior tight end Nick Muse was one of the bright spots for the Gamecocks this year, a graduate transfer from William and Mary who was notified of his eligibility the day before the second game of the season against Charleston Southern and went on to have 17 receptions for 158 yards, including a career-high four against Alabama and Tennessee before suffering a torn ACL last weekend against Vanderbilt.
“Nick’s a very mature young man,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said. “He’s obviously frustrated but very upbeat, ready to have the surgery once they get the swelling down a little bit and attack the rehab the right way.”
Supporting the playoff: Ole Miss coach Matt Luke was asked in a story for ESPN his feelings on the College Football Playoff and said he supported the idea of a four-team format over any expansion ideas.
“It’s the format that we’re given so you have to work with it,” Luke said, “but I think they have to figure out how many games, realistically, these young men can play (in a season). And, obviously, the Southeastern Conference has been represented every year and in some instances had more than one team so I think, for us, the system has been working.”
Supporting Willie Taggart: Florida State coach Willie Taggart was hired by the Seminoles to replace Jimbo Fisher after the 2017 season, but Taggart didn’t make it through the 2019 season before he was fired. On Wednesday, Fisher offered his support for the coach, the Seminole players and the athletic program.
“I hate it for the program, himself and all the kids and everybody involved,” Fisher said. “I wish them nothing but the best. My time there was wonderful. We had great times, great wins, won a national championship, five straight (New Years Day) Six games, we had some great times there. I know they’ll do well. I wish the school the best, I wish Willie the best and all those players. I still have a great fondness and love for Florida State and want them to do very well.”
Sawyer Smith’s ready to go: Kentucky coach Mark Stoops had inserted wide receiver Lynn Bowden at quarterback after losing his starter and the backup to injuries during the season, but announced on Wednesday that Sawyer Smith, the backup to Terry Wilson at the beginning of the season, would be ready for Saturday’s game against Tennessee.
“Sawyer’s back,” Stoops said. “He’s back to about as good as he’s been in a while. I feel good about him and his availability. He’s really thrown the ball well and getting some of the accuracy back and the velocity on the football.”
An open date for healing quarterbacks: Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead hopes the open date will allow quarterbacks Garrett Shrader and Tommy Stevens to heal up from nagging injuries that sidelined Stevens earlier this season and has slowed Shrader at times.
“I believe (injuries affected Stevens’ performance) pretty significantly,” Moorhead said. “I think it kind of showed – I don’t want to say in his performance, but I guess in a certain way it did. Garrett’s first start was the practice week Tommy really looked like he was 100 percent healthy and obviously this week he had another great week of practice (leading up to the Arkansas game). I brought him in later in the week and said … to win this game we’re going to need to use your arm and your feet, and I think that was one thing (that factored in the win) was him being comfortable running the ball.”
Bryant ready to take on Georgia: A Missouri win over Georgia would create a three-way tie in the East (with two losses each) and head coach Barry Odom said starting quarterback Kelly Bryant should be ready for Saturday’s game after Taylor Powell came on to relieve Bryant last week against Kentucky.
“We just finished up practice and Kelly took the majority of snaps with the ‘ones,’” Odom said. “We always make sure, as we get into game week, that our number two quarterback takes some meaningful time with the ‘ones’ because that position is so important and they’re always a play away from being the guy that’s calling it. I think Kelly’s on track to play and I think he’ll play well.”