There are two massive matchups in the SEC this weekend with #20 Kentucky visiting #1 Georgia and #11 Alabama visiting Texas A&M. Can either of the underdogs pull the upset? The answer is yes, but how they could happen is where it might get difficult.
No. 20 Kentucky at No. 1 Georgia:
Kentucky’s biggest key is on their offense. Their strength is with Ray Davis running the ball and he is coming off a game where he ran for 280 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 26 carries. Overall, he has 78 carries, 594 rushing yards, and eight rushing touchdowns. The Georgia defense is built to stop the run, but there were potential issues that rose with their rushing defense after they allowed 219 rushing yards to Auburn last week. Overall, they allow 113.4 yards per game on the ground, so this matchup will be key. The running game for Kentucky is also a massive key because if Kentucky can run the ball, then they will be able to control the game across the board tempo and clockwise.
The biggest issue with the Kentucky offense up to this point is the passing game. Devin Leary was a highly touted transfer that came over from NC State and so far, things just haven’t completely worked in that department. He has 1,129 passing yards, 10 touchdown passes, five interceptions, and a 57.7% completion percentage. Georgia allows 173.8 passing yards per game. They also have seven interceptions on the year, which is a bad matchup for Leary. The difference in this game needs to be Leary because Davis has been great, but he needs help against a team as good as Georgia. The Bulldogs seem like they’ve been playing down to teams, but this is a difficult spot for Kentucky because they’re going to Athens and it’s going to be Leary’s toughest road test, probably in his entire career.
The Georgia offense has been very good still and we saw Carson Beck have one of his best games last week against Auburn. He has 1,497 passing yards, seven passing touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 72% completion percentage. The running game has been solid with Daijun Edwards, who has 260 rushing yards and five rushing yards. The biggest key for the Bulldogs on offense is Brock Bowers and his dominance. No one can guard Bowers one-on-one and he’s going to cause issues for the Kentucky defense. He has 413 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. The Kentucky defense has been very good, and they allow 297.2 yards per game. Maxwell Hairston is a huge piece for them in the secondary. He leads them in tackles at 33 and in interceptions at three per game.
There are two things working in this game for the Bulldogs that will get decided one way or another. The two are that we are trying to figure out if this is who Georgia is or if they are playing down to teams and haven’t flipped that switch yet. The odds are stacked against Kentucky in this one. This feels like a game where Kentucky might hang around for a bit in the first half, but then Georgia wears them down and is too much in the second half.
The spread is Georgia -14.5, and they should cover late. Georgia wins 31-14.
No. 11 Alabama at Texas A&M
This is the biggest game in the SEC this weekend with the winner controlling its own destiny to Atlanta in the SEC West.
Texas A&M beat Alabama the last time they met at Kyle Field two years ago. Max Johnson is more of a question mark at quarterback than Connor Weigman (who began the year as the team's starter), but he has starting experience dating back to his time at LSU and has been solid whenever he’s seen the field. In his first start last game against Arkansas, he had 210 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, one interception, and a 60.7% completion percentage in a win. The Aggies also have some great receivers that are going to cause issues for the Alabama secondary. Evan Stewart is a game-changing receiver on his own and then A&M also will have Ainias Smith back who’s been banged up here and there and he’s also a game-changer in his own right. It helps Johnson a ton that he has those two receivers to throw to against a defense as good as Alabama. Kool-Aid McKinstry is the leader in the secondary and a key component for a passing defense that allows 184.2 passing yards per game.
The running game for A&M is by committee with Le’Veon Moss and Amari Daniels having similar rushing totals with 276 and 270 rushing yards a piece. Alabama has a good rushing defense with the Tide allowing 114 rushing yards per game. The leader of the rushing defense is Dallas Turner at linebacker. He has 22 total tackles so far this season. This is a massive key to the game because this game has the feel of a game that’s going to be relatively low scoring, so if A&M can try and establish the run at all it’s going to be a huge difference in the game. Alabama has had to lean on its defense more this season so this will be a huge key.
The Alabama offense seems like it’s gotten back on track a bit after struggling out of the gate to start the year. The solution has been to run the ball. In their last game alone, they ran the ball 43 times, compared to only throwing the ball 12 times. They seem to have unlocked something because they are using Jalen Milroe in the running game more with designed runs. Milroe is also capable of hitting home run shots when needed, so for the Alabama a lot is on his shoulders in this game. The A&M defense is also very good and has only allowed 253.8 total yards per game. They have the personnel to contain this Alabama offense because they allow 157.6 passing yards per game and 96.2 rushing yards per game. Edgerrin Cooper at linebacker, Shemar Turner on defensive line, and Josh DeBerry in the secondary have stepped up the most, but there’s talent across this A&M defense.
Alabama is not the normal dominant team they usually are this season. They seem like they are more vulnerable, but they may have turned a corner recently with how much they’re running the ball. Still, this is a daunting task for an Alabama team that has had its fair share of issues. The Aggies are a tough team and they have gotten made fun of and left for dead since the Miami team, but situationally this is a great spot for them. It’s awful that Connor Weigman is out, but Max Johnson is a proven quarterback in the SEC still.
This should be a back and forth game, and the Aggies are going to win the game and upset Alabama, 27-24 and put the SEC into even more chaos.