The conference schedule is already here for about half of the SEC, but Week 3 still brings half a dozen out of conference opponents facing off against SEC foes. So omitting the four conference games scheduled for this weekend, here’s the rundown on the six other SEC opponents — and a ranking of who is taking a big challenge, and who might as well be taking a week off.
Georgia Tech: Vanderbilt is 1-1 and figures to have its hands full at Tech. The Yellow Jackets are an ACC member, and were picked to finish sixth in the Coastal Division in 2016 after a disappointing 3-9 year last season.
But as recently as 2014, Tech went 11-3 and thumped Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. For that matter, they upset Florida State in 2015 and lost to Georgia by just six points. Coach Paul Johnson’s triple option attack succeeds by making opponents prepare for something they otherwise won’t see.
Tech beat Boston College 17-14 in Ireland in Week 1, and thumped Mercer 35-10 last week. Tech spreads the ball around, with no 100-yard rushers on the season, but averages 5.0 yards per carry. They have also held opponents to 4.0 yards per carry and 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Tech is favored by 6.5 points over Vandy, and the Commodores will have their hands full with the option offense.
East Carolina: A 1-1 South Carolina team will host East Carolina in what could be a tight matchup.
The Pirates have been picking on the ACC recently, winning their past six against the league.
They’ve struggled with SEC teams, however, losing their past five since 2011.
New coach Scottie Montgomery was Duke’s offensive coordinator over the past three seasons. The Pirates are 2-0 after a 52-7 win over Western Carolina and a 33-30 victory against N.C. State last weekend.
QB Phillip Nelson is a transfer from Minnesota and has thrown for 695 yards and six touchdowns in two weeks. The Pirates have also averaged 6.0 yards per carry. ECU is somewhat vulnerable defensively, but then South Carolina won’t be mistaken for the New England Patriots. Vegas has the Gamecocks as a 3 or 3.5-point favorite, and recent games in this series have often been competitive. Carolina has its work cut out.
Light, But Not Embarrassing
New Mexico State: The SEC’s lone 0-2 program, Kentucky, will look to improve its mark against the Aggies of the Sun Belt Conference. The Aggies are coached by Doug Martin, a former UK quarterback, and haven’t made a bowl since 1960, the longest drought in the nation. Martin is 8-31 in his fourth season, and doesn’t look likely to end the streak soon.
The Aggies have a star, running back Larry Rose, who ran for over 1,600 yards in 2015 as a sophomore. That said, he hasn’t played yet in 2016 and looks unlikely to see the field this weekend. The Aggies lost to UTEP 38-22 in Week 1, and then beat rival New Mexico for the first time since 2011 by a 32-31 count.
QB Tyler Rogers has thrown for 411 yards and is the team’s leading rusher as well. Linebacker Rodney Butler has a whopping 39 tackles in two games. But State has allowed 5.4 yards per carry, and is a 19 point underdog Saturday.
Ohio University: Tennessee is 2-0, and will now take on the Bobcats of the Mid-American Conference. Ohio is expected to be a contender in the MAC and is led by former Nebraska coach Frank Solich, who has taken them to five bowl games in the past six seasons.
Ohio lost a triple overtime heartbreaker to Texas State in the opener 56-54, but rebounded to win at Kansas 37-21 last week.
The Bobcats beat Penn State to open 2012, and they lost by 17 to Kentucky in 2014 and by just three points to Minnesota in 2015.
Ohio has passed for 560 yards without allowing a sack in two games, and also averages 5.2 yards per carry on the ground. Tennessee is favored by around four touchdowns, but the Bobcats’ recent history suggests that they could well play closer than that.
Texas State: Following a lackluster win over Louisiana Tech and an impressive victory over TCU, Arkansas will take on the Bobcats of Texas State. A Sun Belt member, the Bobcats are in their fifth season as an FBS program. They have never appeared in a bowl game, but did win six games in 2013 and seven in 2014 under coach Dennis Franchione.
New head coach Everett Withers inherited a team expected to finish near the bottom of the Sun Belt. State opened its season with a win at MAC opponent Ohio two weeks ago, and was off last week. The matchup with Ohio was a 56-54 triple overtime thriller, with Texas State passing for 440 yards. On the other hand, the Bobcats gave up 630 yards to Ohio. Arkansas is a 31 point favorite, and State lost to Florida State 59-16 and Houston 59-14 last year.
North Texas: Florida will take a 2-0 mark into a matchup with the Mean Green, an expected bottom dweller in CUSA. North Texas has a new coach, Seth Littrell, most recently an assistant at North Carolina. They made a bowl in 2013, but won just five games in the past two seasons.
North Texas lost 34-21 to SMU and beat Bethune-Cookman 41-20 to open their season. The Mean Green have thrown 83 passes in two games, but are switching two quarterbacks, without much success from either.
They have allowed 5.5 yards per carry in their first two games, and find themselves an underdog by 36 or 37 points, even with Florida receiver Antonio Callaway is nursing an injured quadriceps muscle.
Source: Saturday Down South