Here are things to watch in Week 5 in the Southeastern Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
Apologies to the purists: the “Third Saturday in October” rivalry between No. 2 Alabama and Tennessee actually falls on the fourth weekend of the month. But it’s one of the few games that remained in its original spot when the Southeastern Conference ripped up schedules and switched to a 10-game, league-only setup because of COVID-19 concerns. No one will give the Volunteers a shot — oddsmakers installed them as 21-point home underdogs — after consecutive drubbings at Georgia and against Kentucky that prompted Jeremy Pruitt to fire defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh. But Tennessee led the Bulldogs 21-17 at halftime and would have had a better shot against the Wildcats if not for four consecutive turnovers, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, in the first half. And last year in Tuscaloosa, the Vols settled for two field goals in the red zone and trailed 28-13 in the fourth when Jarrett Guarantano fumbled at the goal line. Trevon Diggs recovered and took it 100 yards the other way for a game-sealing score that gave the Tide its 13th consecutive victory in the series. Maybe Tennessee will have better luck Saturday since Alabama is coming off the SEC’s final game featuring undefeated teams in 2020.
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Six teams versus bye weeks. It's clear based on COVID-19 numbers made public that SEC football programs fared better against the coronavirus during training camp and before students returned to campus. Getting a little time off could be the most significant challenge yet, especially after a week in which two games had to be postponed because of outbreaks. Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt have bye weeks this week, with the Gators getting theirs early because of a spread that included at least 25 players and coaches, including head coach Dan Mullen.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Alabama is playing consecutive games against SEC East teams for the second time in three years. The Tide has won 28 consecutive meetings against East teams, dating to a 35-21 loss at then-No. 19 South Carolina on Oct. 9, 2010. ... Alabama coach Nick Saban is 19-0 against his former assistants. He can extend his teacher-versus-pupil dominance against another former defensive coordinator, Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt. ... Auburn has won four in a row against Ole Miss. Eleven of the last 16 games in the series have been decided by double digits. ... The SEC has six teams ranked 50th or below in yards allowed a game (only 77 FBS teams playing): No. 54 Missouri, No. 58 Vanderbilt, No. 61 Alabama, No. 71 LSU, No. 72 Florida and No. 76 Ole Miss. ... Kentucky has allowed nine points in back to back wins, the program's fewest in consecutive games in league play since 1976.
LSU is a seven-point favorite at home against South Carolina, which has won two in a row thanks partly to forcing five turnovers. But the Tigers could be without starting quarterback Myles Brennan. Coach Ed Orgeron called Brennan questionable with a “significant” lower body injury. If he can't go, freshmen Max Johnson or TJ Finley would get the start. That has to make the Gamecocks like their chances more, especially if it's a against a new starting quarterback.
South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn vaulted into the national spotlight with a dominant performance against Auburn last week. Horn had the first two interceptions of his career and a pass breakup that led to another as the Gamecocks upset the Tigers 30-22 and notched their first victory against Auburn in 87 years. Horn was instrumental limiting Auburn star Seth Williams to four catches for 74 yards and no touchdowns. Now he likely will get another tough matchup, this one against LSU's Terrace Marshall, who has 424 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in three games and is averaging more than 20 yards a catch.
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