Some quick thoughts as we head into the weekend:
1. The field has flipped on Tennessee in a hurry. Butch Jones campaigned harder for anyone that Florida-LSU gets played. And it made sense at the time. A 6-1 Florida advancing past a 6-2 Tennessee would be an embarrassment for all involved. But the whispers emanating out of the South over the week — that only intra-division games would count toward the standings or, as SEC commissioner Greg Sankey indicated Thursday, that neither the Tigers nor Gators would be eligible for the SEC title game without playing a full eight-game schedule — means no one stands to lose more from this game actually being played than Tennessee. Because it certainly looks like Tennessee will be in second place in the SEC East by the time the sun sets on Saturday evening.
No one wants to concede an event before it happens, certainly not in college football and certainly not with these Vols, but this game shapes up to be another Alabama win. Nick Saban is undefeated against Tennessee since his 2007 Tuscaloosa arrival, and this year’s Tide is strong where Tennessee is not. Specifically: the first quarter. The Vols have been outscored 49-7 in the first quarter in five games against Power 5 opponents, while Alabama has outscored its foes 51-23 in the opening frame. Now add in the fact Tennessee enters off of three straight emotional, fourth-quarter games, and this game feels like the Vols will need a change in their opening mojo to avoid digging themselves yet another hole.
2. Ohio State faces its toughest test yet. We’ve previously praised Ohio State’s incredible road success under Urban Meyer: 19 visits to opponents’ stadiums, 19 wins. But Wisconsin presents a different challenge than Ohio State has faced under Urban, especially this season: a team that can live inside your shirt defensively. The Badgers have allowed 34 total points in three games against Power 5 foes and rank No. 4 nationally in scoring defense. Of course… Ohio State is No. 2.
But wait, there is this: On Oct. 16, 2010, an undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State team visited to play a one-loss and 18th-ranked Wisconsin in a night game at Camp Randall. Final score: Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 18.
3. We’ll see how much Mark Richt has progressed at Miami on Saturday. In 2013, Miami entered the Florida State game 7-0, lost to the ‘Noles and finished 2-4 down the stretch. In 2014, Miami entered the Florida State game 6-2, lost a close home game and went 0-3 after that. In fact, one could argue inability to recover after the FSU game was one of the reasons Al Golden was pushed out of South Beach.
Fast forward to this year and Miami was an impressive 4-0 before the Florida State game, lost a close decision to the ‘Noles, and face four extremely losable games in a row now, starting with a visit from North Carolina this weekend.
4. Is Arkansas a contender or pretender? Ole Miss will tell us. Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks are ranked again this week after losing 49-30 to Alabama on Saturday which, on its face, is no sin. But the Hogs’ four wins have come against Louisiana Tech (by one), TCU (in double overtime) and over Texas State and Alcorn State.
The Razorbacks rank No. 120 nationally in yards per play allowed, while Ole Miss is No. 10 offensively.