Week 4 picks

The Augusta Chronicle

A second straight 4-3 week moves me to 10-11 on the year with my college football picks. Like I said last weekend’s slate of games didn’t look that appealing on paper, but it was a heck of a football weekend.

This weekend’s schedule should leave us more satisfied than the double-brisket cheeseburger with slab bacon and a fired egg I had on Sunday at Big Tex in Decatur.

No. 5 Auburn (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 20 Kansas State (2-0, 1-0 Big 12)- Thursday 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN: Auburn is the highest-ranked non-conference opponent to come into the Little Apple since second-ranked Penn State defeated Kansas State 17-14 in 1969.

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Through two games the big cats are averaging 43.5 (KSU) and 52 points (AU) per game. Kansas State has done it with a balanced attack as quarterback Jake Waters has thrown for 462 yards and two scores, while running for 193 yards and four TDs.

Auburn’s bread and butter is its rushing attack. The Tigers average 330 yards per game on the ground (sixth best in the NCAA) and 6.7 yards per attempt. Senior Cameron Artis-Payne leads the way with 289 yards and four touchdowns. Nick Marshall has been lethal at quarterback with 122 yards rushing, including a 50-yard TD run against San Jose State, and 151 yards passing.

The passing game will get a boost as Sammie Coates is predicted to return against KSU.

Both teams are giving up over 300 yards of total offense per game, but both have five sacks through two games. Elijah Lee has 2.5 for KSU, and Montravious Adams has a sack to go with four tackles for loss for Auburn. The Tigers will be without suspended safety Jermaine Whitehead, who leads the team with two interceptions.

Prediction: Auburn is a 7.5-point favorite on the road in this one. I think Kansas State is a solid team, and you can never count Bill Snyder out of it, but Auburn is just too good on offense. The Tigers win 42-31.

Iowa (2-1) at Pittsburgh (3-0, 1-0 ACC)- Noon ET on ESPNU: Wake up and get ready for some physical football in this one. Iowa is coming off a 20-17 loss to Iowa State, while the Panthers have been able to run away from everyone on their schedule thus far.

Pitt is averaging 344.3 yards per game (fourth best in the country) on the ground, with an average of 6.4 yards per attempt. The Hawkeyes are giving up just 65.7 yards per game on the ground.

Every game has been a grind for Iowa, including its opener against Northern Iowa. Despite Jake Ruddock playing well at quarterback, the Hawkeyes are averaging just 21.7 points per game this year.

Prediction: The Panthers are favored by a touchdown at home. I think that’s about right and I’m going with a 24-13 win for Pitt over Iowa.

Florida (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at No. 3 Alabama- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS: Florida escaped Kentucky in triple overtime last weekend to remain unbeaten heading into Saturday.

Alabama’s offense has cruised, scoring at least 33 points in every game this season, including 52 last week against Southern Miss. Blake Sims continues to be the team’s starter, with 646 yards passing and four TDs, but Jacob Coker has shown flashes during his playing time with 248 yards passing and a TD.

It doesn’t matter who throws it though, because Amari Cooper will catch it. The Miami native has 33 catches for 454 yards and two TDs this year.

He’ll face his toughest match-up of the year on Saturday in Vernon Hargraves III, who is credited with five pass-break ups already this year, and has allowed just one reception per ESPN Stats and Info. Cooper is going to get receptions, but if Hargraves can eliminate the big play in the passing game it could give Florida’s front seven a chance to slow down ‘Bama’s rushing attack.

The Crimson Tide average 6.2 yards per carry on the ground, while Florida has allowed just 2.4 yards per rush. Dante Fowler has been a big part of the Gators’ defensive success with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, six quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

Prediction: Florida didn’t look very good against Kentucky, which has prompted Vegas to make Alabama a 14.5-point favorite at home. I think the Gators’ defense will have some success against Alabama early, but will eventually get worn down because I don’t expect the Florida offense to do much against the Crimson Tide (even with a struggling secondary). I think Alabama wins 27-10.

North Carolina (2-0) at East Carolina (2-1)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU: If it wasn’t for a handful of missed opportunities against South Carolina, the Pirates could have been 3-0 with a win over a pair of ranked opponents entering Saturday’s clash with UNC. Instead ECU has just one win over a ranked opponent, after hanging on last weekend on the road for a 28-21 win over Virginia Tech.

UNC dropped out of the polls after struggling with San Diego State two weeks ago.

ECU can put up points, and has a legitimate star in quarterback Shan Carden. The Texan has thrown for 1,031 yards already this year and ran for the game-winner last weekend against the Hokies.

UNC can also score, averaging 43.5 points per game, but the Tar Heels gave up 509 yards of total offense against SDSU in a 31-27 win.

Prediction: ECU is a three-point favorite and the Purple Pirates certainly have all the momentum entering this one. That’s why I’m going with UNC. The Tar Heels win this one 42-38.

Mississippi State (3-0) at No. 8 LSU (3-0)- Saturday 7 pm. ET on ESPN: The good news for Mississippi State is they started the year off with three straight wins.

The bad news is Saturday’s SEC opener in Baton Rouge, La. is the first of three-straight games against Top-1o SEC West foes.

After an impressive comeback win over Wisconsin to start the year, LSU hasn’t allowed another point this year in wins over Sam Houston and Louisiana-Monroe. The Tigers have a heck of rushing attack, averaging 226.3 yards per game on the ground.

The Bulldogs have been balanced on offense with an average of 266.3 yards passing and 260.3 yards rushing per game. If they’re going to have a chance against LSU they’ll have to show more than short screens in the passing game to move the ball.

Prediction: LSU is favored by 9.5 points. I don’t think Mississippi State is ready for the Tigers and LSU wins 24-7.

No. 4 Oklahoma (3-0) at West Virginia (2-1)- Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX: This will be the second top-four opponent for the Mountaineers in 2014.

West Virgina rode Clint Trickett’s arm to a 40-37 victory last weekend against Maryland. Trickett threw for 511 yards and four touchdowns.

The Sooners made quick work of Tennessee in a 34-10 victory.

West Virgina is averaging 410 yard passing per game (fifth best in the country) this year, but they haven’t faced a defense as explosive as Oklahoma’s (yeah I said it ‘Bama). OU has six interceptions and nine sacks this year, while giving up just 295.3 yards of total offense per game.

Prediction: I guess because they’re on the road and it’s the Big 12 OU is favored by just 7.5 in this one. While Trickett will be able to put some points up for the home team, I just don’t see West Virginia holding Trevor Knight back at all. Another big win for OU  35-21.

No. 22 Clemson (1-1) at No. 1 Florida State (2-0)- Saturday 8 p.m. ET on ABC: This game has taken on some added intrigue with Jameis Winston being suspended for the first half after failing to realize that he truly does live in a bubble and even the slightest misstep will bring scrutiny and embarrassment to Florida State.

Independent Mail.

Sean Maguire will lead the Seminoles’ offense as Winston is on the sidelines. The redshirt sophomore is just 3 of 5 passing this year for 28 yards, but he did attempt 21 passes last season as the third-string QB. Head coach Jimbo Fisher won’t be afraid to let Maguire take his shots against Clemson, but he’ll also rely heavily on a rushing attack that’s averaging 4.8 yards per carry with a senior offensive line.

Clemson will also likely play two QBs in the game. Senior Cole Stoudt is the starter, but freshman DeShaun Watson has come on fast and could unseat the veteran as the starter by the end of the season.

Clemson gave up 45 points to Georgia in its opener, with 21 points coming in the fourth quarter. If the offense can have some success early against an FSU defense that allows just 4.9 yards per play this year, then Clemson has the athletes on defense to make Maguire uncomfortable.

But here’s the thing- Jimbo Fisher has owned Clemson since arriving in Tallahassee. As the offensive coordinator and the head coach (he still calls the plays), FSU has scored an average of 35 points per game in the seven games, and scored at least 30 points the in the last three, including last year’s 51-14 smack-down.

Prediction: Even with Winston suspended for a half, FSU is still favored by 16.5 points at home. Fisher will put up points on Clemson, but I don’t know if the Seminoles’ defense is 17-points better than Clemson this year. I think FSU makes it 19-straight wins with a 28-24 victory.

SEC Power Rankings

14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC): Kentucky played perhaps its best game of the season on Saturday as it scored 21 fourth-quarter points in a 35-28 loss to South Carolina. The Wildcats’ defense is still not up to par with head coach Mark Stoops’ standards but at least UK didn’t quit when USC went up 21-0. QB Jalen Whitlow accounted for 247 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. Kentucky hosts Alabama this weekend so any movement from the No. 14 spot isn’t happening this week.

13. Mississippi State (2-3, 0-2 SEC): For three quarters Mississippi State hung with LSU on Saturday, before losing 59-26. The Bulldogs ran the ball well, averaging six yards per carry en route to 216 yards rushing, but the secondary was torched by Zach Mettenberger. This weekend is a must-win game at home against Bowling Green (5-1), easier said than done.

12. Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3 SEC): Vandy fell to 0-3 in the SEC this weekend after a 51-28 loss at home to Missouri. The Commodores offense racked up 468 yards of total offense, 338 through the air, but couldn’t keep up with Missouri’s attack. Vanderbilt is off this week before hosting Georgia on the 19th.

11. Tennessee (3-3, 0-2 SEC): Butch Jones came awful close to getting his signature first-season win against Georgia, but a costly fumble in overtime allowed Georgia to escape 34-31. It was the best the Volunteers offense has looked all year, with 404 yards of total offense. Running back Rajion Neal racked up 148 yards and two TDs on 28 carries. The Vols get an off week before three straight games against ranked SEC teams.

10. Arkansas (3-3, 0-2 SEC): After a 3-0 start the Razorbacks have now dropped three straight, including Saturday’s 30-10 loss to Florida. Arkansas had just 275 yards of total offense against UF, and just 111 yards on the ground. Arkansas hosts South Carolina Saturday followed by a trip to Alabama, so the Hogs will likely have to bounce back from an 0-4 SEC start.

9. Ole Miss (3-2, 1-2 SEC): The Rebels took a step back on Saturday with a 30-22 loss to Auburn. The Rebels made a late run, but couldn’t catch Auburn after an early 20-3 deficit. Ole Miss really could have used a win last weekend as Texas A&M and LSU come to Oxford in consecutive weeks.

 

8. Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC): Missouri moved into the Top-25 with its win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, but I’m still skeptical of the Tigers. While quarterback James Franklin was impressive, throwing for four touchdowns, the defense allowed Vandy to rack up 468 yards of total offense. If Missouri wants more respect then they have to make a big statement against a vulnerable Georgia team in Athens on Saturday.

7. Auburn (4-1, 2-1 SEC): Auburn came up with a big win over Ole Miss last weekend. Quarterback Nick Marshall did most of his damage on the ground, with 140 yards rushing and two TDs. The Tigers defense wielded late in the game to the Rebels, but Auburn held on. The Tigers host Western Carolina Saturday before traveling to Texas A&M the following week.

6. South Carolina (4-1, 2-1 SEC): The Gamecocks season took a strange turn this week. First Steve Spurrier’s Coaches show was pulled because he said it was too negative, then Spurrier and the coaches blasted Jadeveon Clowney’s decision to not play against Kentucky. The future top-five pick is questionable for Saturday’s trip to Arkansas. The Gamecocks are the most dysfunctional 4-1 team in the nation.

5. Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1 SEC): The Aggies were off this weekend as they gear up for a crucial run to end the season. Johnny Manziel is still the most electric player in the SEC and Texas A&M will have a chance to put up big numbers against Ole Miss on Saturday. After a visit from Auburn, TAMU should cruise until its trip to Baton Rouge, La. on November 23.

4. Florida (4-1, 3-0 SEC): Two straight weeks of Tyler Murphy have done the Gators’ offense good. In a 30-10 win over Arkansas, Murphy was 16 of 22 for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Solomon Patton emerged as his top target, bringing down six receptions for 124 yards and two TDs. Florida’s streak of holding 12 straight SEC opponents under 20 points will be put to the test this weekend at LSU.

3. LSU (5-1, 2-1 SEC): LSU pulled away from Mississippi State late last weekend to improve to 5-1. Zach Mettenberger continues to be impressive. Against MSU he was 24 of 29 for 340 yards and two TDs. LSU still has questions on defense, but its offense is good enough to carry it in most shootouts. Saturday’s battle between LSU’s offense and UF’s defense is infinitely intriguing.

2. Georgia (4-1, 3-0 SEC): The Bulldogs narrowly escaped Tennessee 34-31 in overtime last weekend, but it paid the price. Back-up running back Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley were lost for the year to knee injuries, while Michael Bennett also went down with a knee injury but could return by Nov. 2. With the injuries piling up, Saturday’s home game against Missouri just became a lot tougher.

1. Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC): Alabama fared well in its scrimmage against Georgia State Saturday, with a 45-3 win. Now the Crimson Tide travel to Kentucky before hosting Tennessee and Arkansas. Wake me up when November 9 gets here and Alabama hosts LSU, other than the SEC Championship game (should Bama make it), the Crimson Tide won’t be challenged much all year with the exception of the LSU game.

SEC Power Rankings

14. Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 SEC): Changing the culture of a losing program is no easy task as Mark Stoops has found out. Stoops told the media today that his team will continue to get steamrolled if the finger pointing he saw during a 24-7 loss to Florida doesn’t stop. Wildcat fans should buckle up for a bumpy couple of weeks with a trip to No. 12 South Carolina this weekend followed by a visit from No. 1 Alabama.

13. Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 SEC): The Bulldogs had a week off to prepare for this weekend’s tilt with LSU. Mississippi State has had success on offense lately so it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up against a team with the caliber of athletes that LSU has.  Dual-threat QB Dak Prescott could give State fans hope for the future, but it’s doubtful he can pull of an upset of this magnitude.

12. Vanderbilt (2-3, 0-2 SEC): If James Franklin is going to make it two straight bowls for Vandy then Saturday is a must-win game at home against Missouri. The Commodores cruised by UAB 52-24 last weekend. Running back Jerron Seymour was impressive with 107 yards and two touchdowns, but the defense allowed the Blazers to average 5.4 yards per carry with its own rushing attack.

11. Tennessee (3-2, 0-1 SEC): The Volunteers were anything but impressive in their 31-24 win over South Alabama. It’s obvious they were looking ahead to this weekend’s match-up with Georgia, but there’s still no way USA should be within seven points of an SEC team on the road. Junior quarterback Justin Worley threw three picks in the game. If he turns it over that often this weekend it will be a long day for the Vols in front of a national TV audience.

10. Missouri (4-0, 0-0 SEC): Missouri improved to 4-0 over the weekend with a 41-19 win over Arkansas State. Yet due to the fact that the Tigers have so readily adopted the SEC out-of-conference scheduling approach they received just 21 votes in this week’s coaches poll. A win this weekend at Vanderbilt wouldn’t get them in the top 25, but it would at least get the ball rolling.

9. Auburn (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Auburn had the week off to prepare for a visit from Ole Miss this weekend. Alabama laid out the gameplan to stop the Rebels offensive attack. Quarterback Nick Marshall has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions so far this season. I think the BYE week could be big for him to review the turnovers and his decision making as he adjust to playing quarterback at this level.

8. Arkansas (3-2, 0-1 SEC): The Razorbacks put up a good fight in a 45-33 shootout with Texas A&M last weekend. Freshman Alex Collins rushed for over 100 yards for the fourth time this season and quarterback Bradnon Allen threw three touchdown passes. Allen also threw a pair of picks and the defense gave up 523 yards of total offense. Arkansas travels to No. 19 Florida this weekend for the second of its four-game SEC gauntlet.

7. Ole Miss (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Well it appears that Ole Miss should have just let sleeping dogs lie. Quarterback Bo Wallace boasted that his team could, and would, score on Alabama because they had better receivers than Texas A&M. Ole Miss fell 25-0 to the Crimson Tide. The Rebels turned it over twice and Wallace completed just 54 percent of his passes. A trip to Auburn this weekend would allow Ole Miss to regain the momentum it gained with a 3-0 start to the season.

6. South Carolina (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Despite a slow start the Gamecocks escaped Orlando with a 28-25 win over Central Florida this weekend. Quarterback Connor Shaw was injured early the game, but according to reports he will start this weekend against Kentucky. That’s good news because Dylan Thompson looked shaky when he was handed the keys to the offense, completing 15 of 32 pass attempts for 261 yards and an interception. Running back Mike Davis should be the focal point of the offense, he ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries Saturday.

5. Texas A&M (4-1, 1-1 SEC): The ninth-ranked Aggies can’t stop anybody on defense, but it doesn’t matter because no one can stop Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M offense either. In win at Arkansas Saturday the Aggies showed a new dimension to the offense as sophomores Trey Williams (83 yards and a touchdown) and Tra Carson (64 yards) took the load off Manziel in the second half with a running game. Texas A&M has a BYE this weekend.

4. Florida (3-1, 2-0 SEC): For the first time this season, Florida’s offense didn’t look eons behind its defense on Saturday in a 24-7 win over Kentucky. In his first-career start Tyler Murphy completed 15 of 18 pass attempts for 156 yards and a touchdown, and added 36 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Sophomore running back Matt Jones rumbled for 176 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Meanwhile the defense continued its dominance, allowing just 173 yards of total offense and 12 first downs. The defense gets a good test this weekend from Arkansas’ rushing attack.

3. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC): The Tigers gave Georgia everything they had on Saturday as they came up short in a 44-41 instant-classic. Zach Mettenberger was sensational as he threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Jeremy Hill had to grind for 86 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Ultimately the defense just couldn’t get Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense off the field. LSU need a win this weekend over Mississippi State to get its confidence back before a big stretch to end the season in SEC play.

2. Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC): It really is remarkable what Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs have done this season. After a loss to Clemson, the Dawgs have taken down both South Carolina and LSU to remain firmly in the national championship picture. Aaron Murray has shed the big-game failure label in each of those wins. This time he threw for 298 yards with four touchdowns and an interception, while also scoring on a one-yard TD run. Making it even more impressive was that he did it with tailback Todd Gurley in street clothes for the second half thanks to a sprained ankle. Gurley is listed day-to-day, but with game a trip to Tennessee this weekend, followed by games against Missouri and Vanderbilt, it may be prudent to let Gurley rest up for the Cocktail Party.

1. Alabama (4-0, 2-0 SEC): Alabama dominated Ole Miss on Saturday in a 25-0 shutout. It was the best the Crimson Tide’s defense has looked all season long. ‘Bama allowed just 205 yards of total offense, forced two turnovers, and gave up just 4 of 14 third-down conversions. Perhaps the best bit of news was that the running game got back on track. T.J. Yeldon rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown, while Kenyan Drake added 99 yards and a touchdown. The Crimson Tide will  host an open practice against Georgia State on Saturday.

SEC Power Rankings

Yesterday I gave you my power rankings for the ACC. Now here are my rankings for the SEC.

14. Kentucky (1-2, 0-1 SEC): The Mark Stoops era is off to a hot start on the recruiting trail. Unfortunately none of those kids can suit up for Kentucky this season. The Wildcats opened the year with a 35-26 loss to Western Kentucky in Nashville. Things don’t get better this week with Florida visiting.

13. Mississippi State (2-2, 0-1 SEC): I really do think Dan Mullen is a good coach. I’m just not sure if you can do much more than he has in Starkville. After a slow start on offense the Bulldogs are rolling now, scoring 62 points against Troy last weekend. Thanks to a 24-20 loss to Auburn, a bowl game looks like a tall task for Mississippi State this season/

12. Vanderbilt (2-2, 0-2 SEC): The Commodores started off the season with a heartbreaking loss to Ole Miss at home. They also have a pair of wins over two cupcakes and a ten-point loss to South Carolina. Jordan Matthews is one of the best receivers in the conference, but there’s really no running game to keep offenses off-balance. Vandy has to win it’s next two games to have any hope of bowling.

11. Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC): I’m not really sure how the Volunteers scored 45 points in its season opener and then 52 against Western Kentucky (Ok I know the defense actually did the scoring in this game). Tennessee looked putrid on Saturday, turning the ball over six times in a 31-17 loss at Florida. The Vols will get a chance to lick their wounds this weekend at home against South Alabama.

10. Missouri (3-0, 0-0 SEC): The Tigers are 3-0 to start their second season in the SEC. Missouri is averaging 47 points per game (eight best in the country) and giving up 21.7 points per game (50th best in the country). James Frankling has been inconsistent under center with six touchdowns and three interceptions. Dorial Green-Beckham is averaging 14.4 yards per catch. Still with an underwhelming schedule thus far I’m not willing to buy stock in Missouri just yet.

9. Auburn (3-1, 1-1 SEC): Auburn fell to LSU 35-21 on Saturday. Nick Marshall threw a pair of interceptions to bring his season total up to four. Running back Tre Mason was impressive with 132 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. The offense looked pretty good in the second half, but the defense has work to do. LSU averaged 10 yards per pass play, and 16.4 yards per completion.

8. Arkansas (3-1, 0-0 SEC): The Razorbacks let 4-0 slip through their hands last weekend in a 28-24 loss to Rutgers, bringing shame to the SEC with a loss to an American Conference foe. Arkansas’ running attack looks stout with freshman Alex Collins and sophomore Jonathan Williams. Saturday’s home game against Texas A&M starts a brutal four-game stretch that features trips to Florida and Alabama, with a home bout on October 12 against South Carolina. Shouldn’t have let Rutgers get away Arkansas, it could be a while before your next W.

7. Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC): Things are looking up in Oxford so far this season. The Rebels are 3-0, including a 44-23 win on the road at Texas, all those prized recruits from February are living up to the hype and Ole Miss is even ranked No. 21 in the nation. All that comes crashing down a bit this weekend as the Rebels travel to No. 1 Alabama. Still if Ole Miss can get by Auburn they could finish fourth in the SEC West.

6. South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 SEC): In its conference opener South Carolina was drubbed by Georgia 41-30, but bounced back two weeks ago with a 35-25 win over Vanderbilt. USC has been pretty good on offense. Connor Shaw hasn’t thrown and interception yet and on the ground the Gamecocks average 224.7 yards per game. The defense has actually been the letdown, giving up 25.3 points per game as Jadevon Clowney has discovered teams are game-planning to go almost exclusively away form him. USC has a trap game this weekend at UCF on Saturday at Noon ET.

5. Florida (2-1, 1-0 SEC): The Gators rebounded nicely from a loss to in-state rival Miami with a 31-17 win over Tennessee on Saturday. Jeff Driskel was lost for the year with a broken leg, but Tyler Murphy looked comfortable under center, completing 8 of 14 passes for 134 yards and touchdown, to go with 84 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown. If he can make the Gator offense even mediocre, things could get scary since the best defense in the nation already resides in Gainesville.

4. Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC): Once again Mark Richt has his team back on track after an early season loss, this time a 38-35 loss on the road to No. 3 Clemson. Aaron Murray finnally won, and played well in a big-game as he defeated South Carolina for the first time ever in week two. Murray has completed 72 percent of his passes this season and has a QB’s best friend in the UGA rushing attack. Todd Gurley looks like a Heisman candidate and Keith Marshall has had some big runs as well. Still the special teams, defense and offensive line still have some questions to be answered if UGA is going to win the SEC East. They have a monster game this weekend at home against LSU on Saturday.

3. Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1 SEC): The Aggies offense looks unreal again in 2013. Johnny Manziel has completed 70 percent of his passes, has thrown for 12 touchdowns and 1,228 yards and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry on the ground. Receiver Mike Evans showed defenses that he’s a problem with is massive game against Alabama. The defense is allowing 30.3 points per game and will be the only thing that could keep Texas A&M away from a BCS at-large bid this season.

2. LSU (4-0, 1-0 SEC): Thanks to new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Zach Mettenberger looks like a different quarterback. He’s completing 64.8 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdowns and just one interception through four games. Certainly Cameron is a big reason for that, but he receiving duo of Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry deserve their due as well. Jeremy Hill was named SEC player of the week for his game against Auburn, and he’s averaging 8.3 yards per carry. LSU’s young defense will be tested in Athens this weekend by a potent Georgia offense.

1. Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC): The two-time defending national champions are of course No. 1 not just in the SEC, but in all the land. The defense was shredded by Manziel (who isn’t?) and has still allowed an average of just 19.3 points per game this season. The offensive line could be the only real chink in Alabama’s armor. A.J. McCarron struggled to get comfortable in the pocket against Virginia Tech and the rushing attack has picked up gain longer than 38 yards all season. Look for the Crimson Tide to send a message to Ole Miss and all the potential blue chippers thinking of heading to Oxford this weekend.