No. 3 Georgia at No. 2 Alabama. The mid-week news that Alabama coach Nick Saban tested positive for COVID-19 added a challenging backdrop for the season’s first Top 5 matchup. Saban figures to be communicating his marching orders and input from home while offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian likely serves in his stead on the sidelines. The Crimson Tide sends quarterback Mac Jones and the nation’s top scoring offense against linebacker Monty Rice and the No. 2 scoring defense. Georgia coach Kirby Smart attempts to become the first ex-Saban assistant to beat their old boss. Alabama running back Najee Harris has run for 10 touchdowns in three games while the Bulldogs haven’t allowed a TD on the ground. Alabama receivers like Jaylen Waddle, John Metchie III and DeVonta Smith face their biggest test by far.
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
COVID-19 versus the SEC. This week has provided the toughest test yet for the SEC. Two games were postponed, the league’s most prominent coach is off the sidelines and Mississippi had an outbreak affecting an undisclosed number of players. It also happens to come on the week when the SEC was going to be dominating the national spotlight in a good way thanks to Georgia-Alabama.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Two games — LSU-Florida and Missouri-Vanderbilt — have been postponed to Dec. 12 because of COVID-19 outbreaks. … Alabama has won 27 consecutive meetings against teams from the SEC East, dating back to a 35-21 loss at then-No. 19 South Carolina on Oct. 9, 2010. … Auburn has held South Carolina to just three rushing touchdowns since 1996, while scoring 22 of them against the Gamecocks. … The SEC has six teams ranking worse than 50th in the nation in points allowed per game: LSU, Vanderbilt, Florida, Texas A&M, Missouri and Mississippi. All of them are giving up 32-plus points.
Mississippi State (1-2) brings the nation’s top passing attack against a Texas A&M defense that is pretty close to the bottom (64th). K.J. Costello has put up huge yardage numbers but has also been picked off nine times already and the Bulldogs haven’t put up the points to quite match those yards. The Aggies are giving up 299 yards per game through the air while allowing nine passing touchdowns. That secondary and defense will be tested, though the Aggies are only four-point favorites.
Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks had a huge game — 318 yards, four touchdowns — against No. 15 Auburn. It wasn’t enough, partly because of an officiating call on a backward spike by Tigers quarterback Bo Nix. Franks and the Razorbacks will try to rebound against Mississippi, which has a pass defense that ranks 73rd of 76 teams nationally. They’ll have to keep up with the fast-paced, high-scoring Rebels offense, though.