SEC Football: Week 4 gives us the conference slate we’ve been waiting for

COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 16: Quarterback Stephen Johnson
COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 16: Quarterback Stephen Johnson /

It’s the fourth week of the college football season, and we’re finally getting the slate of conference matchups we’ve been waiting for.

Must Read: What we learned from Week 3 in the SEC

We’ve gotten a taste of SEC football through three weeks, with Florida’s last-second win over Tennessee and Mississippi State’s domination of LSU, but on Saturday, we get the whole thing. 10 of the 14 teams in the SEC we’ll be playing conference games this week, and we’ll finally start to make sense of this thing we call college football.

South Carolina and Tennessee have cupcake matchups this week against Louisiana Tech and UMass, while Ole Miss is on a bye week. But everyone else in the SEC is getting down to business. Here’s my take on the top SEC football games of Week 4.

*Arkansas vs. Texas A&M – 12:00 – ESPN

The SEC football weekend gets started when these two SEC West teams kickoff in Jerry World in Arlington, Tex. You might as well call this game the “Hot Seat Bowl.” Kevin Sumlin’s seat seems to be a little warmer than Bret Bielema’s at the moment, but neither should feel comfortable. Whoever loses this game could see their season take a serious nosedive.

Arkansas has had to wait two weeks since getting blown out by TCU to get back on the field, but we still haven’t seen the best from the Razorbacks. Texas A&M seems to have been a sleep ever since late in the third quarter against UCLA. With Kellen Mond at quarterback, the Aggies’ offense looks more explosive, and I could see this game turning into a shootout.

  • Texas A&M 34, Arkansas 28

(1) Alabama @ Vanderbilt – 3:30 – CBS

Vanderbilt is the flavor of the week in SEC football circles. Everyone seems to be talking about the Commodores’ 3-0 start after last week’s win over no. 18 Kansas State. Even CBS chose this game as their primetime 3:30 game. Statistically, Vanderbilt has the best defense in the country, but they haven’t faced anyone close to Alabama’s level so far.

After a big win over Florida State in the season opener, Alabama coasted through their next two games. They uncharacteristically surrendered 23 points to Colorado State last week, but with the big atmosphere surrounding this game, expect the Crimson Tide to take care of business.

  • Alabama 34, Vanderbilt 10

(17) Mississippi State @ (11) Georgia – 7:00 – ESPN

The Battle of the Bulldogs went from being a decent cross-divisional SEC football game when the schedules initially came out, to being the most anticipated SEC matchup of the young season. Both teams come in 3-0 with their heads held high, but no one in the conference has their heads higher than Mississippi State right now.

Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter will be the key to stopping Nick Fitzgerald. He has 3 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries through three games.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter will be the key to stopping Nick Fitzgerald. He has 3 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries through three games.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

After dismantling LSU 37-7 last week, the Bulldogs vaulted up to no. 17 in the AP poll. Nick Fitzgerald is becoming a Heisman candidate and a win in Athens would put him right in the thick of the race.

This game matches strength against strength. Mississippi State is 11th in the country in rushing offense at 297.7 yards per game, while Georgia is fifth in the nation against the run, allowing 71 yards per game. Georgia has one of the best front sevens in college football, and I expect them to load the box and make Fitzgerald beat them with his arm.

  • Georgia 27, Mississippi State 17

Syracuse @ (25) LSU – 7:00 – ESPN2

Nothing would hurt the perception of the SEC worse than LSU losing to Syracuse at home. The Tigers beat the Orange 34-24 back in 2015, and these programs are closer now than they were then. This is year two of the Dino Babers era at Syracuse, and LSU may still be licking their wounds from last week’s loss to Mississippi State. This game will be a good barometer for Ed Orgeron to see where this team is right now.

  • LSU 24, Syracuse 13

(15) Auburn @ Missouri – 7:30 – ESPNU

These two Tigers enter this game with about as little enthusiasm as anyone in the SEC. These were supposed to be two of the most explosive offenses in the SEC, and through three weeks they have been far from it.

Auburn is 99th in the nation in scoring offense, scoring 23.7 points per game, while Missouri is 74th with 29.3 points per game. However, Missouri scored 72 of their 88 points in their season opener against Missouri State. Auburn is the better football team if they can just hold on to the football. Both of these teams are tied for 119th in the nation with eight turnovers through the first three games.

  • Auburn 31, Missouri 17

(20) Florida @ Kentucky – 7:30 – SEC Network

More from Southbound and Down

1986. A gallon of gas costed 89 cents, the number one movie in America was Crocodile Dundee, and the number one song was Amanda by Boston. It was also the last time the Kentucky Wildcats beat the Florida Gators.

Florida has beaten Kentucky 30 years in a row, but it hasn’t been without some close calls. They won 36-30 in overtime in 2014, and edged the Wildcats 14-9 in 2015, the last time they went to Lexington.

Florida’s offense still has a long way to go to become respectable. They’re 121st in the nation in total offense and 107th in the nation in scoring offense. Meanwhile, Kentucky is third in the nation against the run. If they make the Gators’ offense one-dimensional and force Feleipe Franks to throw, expect the Florida offense to struggle. All things must come to an end, and on Saturday it could be the Gators’ winning streak over the Wildcats.

  • Kentucky 21, Florida 16