1. No. 1 goes on the road for the first time. Mississippi State has held leads of 34-10 over LSU, 48-17 over Texas A&M and 21-0 over Auburn. This team appears to be the dictionary-perfect example of legit.
Kentucky, while undoubtedly improved over recent versions, just went to LSU and lost 41-3. Ah, but nothing is that easy when you go on the road in conference play.
SB Nation’s Bill Connelly dug up this stat, showing that teams carrying a No. 1 ranking away from campus for the first time ever are 3-5 since 1984. (Admittedly, this is just the third time it’s happened since 1990, and al five losses came to teams ranked No. 17 or higher.)
Another nugget from the “Stats That Make You ‘Hmmm'” Department: Kentucky has knocked off a No. 1 at Commonwealth Stadium fairly recently, as the 5-1 Wildcats took down LSU 43-37 in triple overtime. Although if you’re Mississippi State maybe you’re hoping history repeats itself. LSU did go on to win the national championship that season.
2. Will the SEC’s middle class step up and bite someone this year? Mississippi State still must go to Alabama. Auburn owes Ole Miss and Georgia a visit. The Egg Bowl and Iron Bowl are waiting. Carnage is waiting.
But will one of the SEC’s middle class notch a takedown or two and really make things interesting? The best candidate is LSU, back in the rankings at No. 24 consecutive wins over Florida and Kentucky. Les Miles’ Bayou Bengals have the best shot at throwing a wrench into the process with No. 3 Ole Miss and No. 4 Alabama coming to Death Valley in the next three weeks. The Rebels are up first with an ESPN prime time game waiting Saturday.
No. 3 Ole Miss at LSU. Since 2005 LSU 45-4 home at night, 4 losses to teams that reached Top 3 via @ESPNStatsInfo
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) October 23, 2014
Who outside of Baton Rouge will be rooting for LSU to light the top of the SEC West standings on fire? Oh, just everyone from the Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and Notre Dame.
3. Return of the Lane. Lane Kiffin used to be the head coach at Tennessee. Then he left. Now he’s the offensive coordinator at Alabama. Alabama and Tennessee hate each other. With that out of the way: Alabama’s offense has perhaps the biggest home/away offensive splits in the SEC. The Tide average 610 yards per game (fifth nationally), 7.87 yards per play (third) and 48.5 points per game (seventh) in the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium. Away from Tuscaloosa, Alabama puts up 21.3 points per game (91st) on 387 yards per game (69th) and 5.53 yards per game (59th). Tennessee’s defense ranks 17th nationally in yards per play, and seventh in Neyland Stadium. Does Alabama’s make the trip to Knoxville?
4. Return of the… Larry. Lane Kiffin’s isn’t the only homecoming this weekend. After 17 years as a Penn State assistant, Larry Johnson makes his first visit to the visitor’s sideline at Beaver Stadium, leading an Ohio State defensive front hoping to feast on a Penn State running game that ranks 121st nationally.
This game also marks the first of what will hopefully be many meetings between Urban Meyer and James Franklin.
5. When does the trend end? By now you probably know that road teams won 14 of the first 18 Pac-12 games. If ever there was a trend begging to be reversed, it’s this one. There are a number of toss-up games in the league this week – Arizona State at Washington, USC at Utah, even Arizona at Washington State and UCLA at Colorado – that have to start going the way of the home teams.
6. Brady Hoke’s last stand? I don’t claim to be an expert on the Brady Hoke era of Michigan football, but last season’s 29-6 loss in East Lansing where the Wolverines’ offensive line got totally obliterated has to rank as one of the lowest moments.
If Michigan runs for 1 yard against Michigan State on Saturday, it will be 49 more than it did last season. — Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) October 23, 2014
As Michigan heads to East Lansing the athletics department has offered a concession in the form of lowered student ticket prices for next year, protests have stopped, the team hasn’t lost a game in three weeks.Maybe things are turning around in Ann Arbor. Okay, maybe that’s a little too simplistic of an explanation of the complicated web of factors that Michigan football has become, but if things are to turn around for Hoke and company, it has to include a win over Michigan State.
7. SMU try-outs continue. A week ago Tommy Tuberville got his in-person audition for the SMU job and made the most of it with a 41-3 blowout of the Mustangs. This week it’s Justin Fuente’s turn, as everyone’s favorite hot, young name brings his 3-3 Memphis squad into Ford Stadium. For someone who cut his teeth in major college football by spending five years 40 miles west on Interstate 30, he’d love to stretch his legs out on his former rivals. (And from the “Hey, I’m just sayin'” Department: Noted unemployed coach Gene Chizik will serve as CBS Sports Network’s color commentator for Tigers-Mustangs.)
8. West Virginia’s opportunity. What a difference a week makes. After beating (and beating up) Baylor 41-27 in Morgantown, noted Oklahoman scribe Berry Tramel is touting the Mountaineers as a Big 12 championship possibility. And I have to admit, it’s not crazy. You have to love their schedule: entirely winnable road games in Stillwater, Austin and Ames, with newly-anointed favorites Kansas State and TCU coming to Morgantown. None of that can happen without defeating Oklahoma State on Saturday, though.
The last time West Virginia won a Big 12 road game over a team with a winning record? That would be Nov. 23, 2012, when WVU managed a 31-24 win over a 6-5 Iowa State club.
9. The best rivalry you’ve never heard of… probably because it technically doesn’t exist yet. Georgia Southern visits Georgia State on Saturday, two teams that share a state, an acronym, a conference, and not much else. Georgia Southern has six national championships, Georgia State is in its fifth season sponsoring football. Georgia Southern has four wins over FBS opponents in half a season in college football’s largest subdivision, Georgia State has zero in a season and a half. A win Saturday will give Georgia Southern more wins over FBS opponents at the Georgia Dome than Georgia State has…. and it’s Georgia State’s home stadium. Considering their program’s opposite resumes and the fact that Georgia Southern leads the nation in rushing offense while Georgia State ranks 120th in rushing defense, this should not be a fair fight.
Still, one school is in the regional metropolis of Atlanta, and the other is down state in anonymous Statesboro. One school gets to call itself “State”, and the other is relegated to picking a direction. A hundred college rivalries have been built with the exact same formula.
Despite the mismatch on the field, the Georgia Southern fan base is treating this game like it’s a century-old rite of passage (via SB Nation):
— Hail-Southern.com (@Hail_Southern) October 17, 2014
— Ga Southern Troll (@GaSouthernTroll) October 19, 2014
— Billionaire G (@G_YBM) October 21, 2014