Barnhart’s Five Burning Questions for Week 4

2 hours ago
Tony Barnhart | SEC Network

Photo: AP Photo/Michael Woods

I don’t know about you, but for your humble correspondent, the first three weeks of the 2021 football season have been nothing short of a joy-filled celebration.

And if there was ever any doubt that college football is better, exponentially better, when played in front of a full house – the first three weeks have proved it once and for all. Football is meant to be played with fans in the stands:

 — Georgia won a 10-3 slugfest with No. 2 Clemson in Charlotte, where the energy was off the charts.

 — The magic of Florida’s Swamp returned and No. 1 Alabama had to scratch and claw to get out of there with a 31-29 win. At the end of the third quarter, when Florida plays the Tom Petty classic “I Won’t Back Down,” it made the hair stand up on my arms.

 — Arkansas upset Texas 40-21 and when it was over the students stormed the field. The unrestrained enthusiasm cost Arkansas AD Hunter Jurachek and his budget a cool $100,000 but it sent a message that the Hogs are headed in the right direction.

 — Auburn lost a tough one at Penn State, 28-20, but the players will remember being in the “White Out” for the rest of their lives. It was just an incredible scene. So as we close out the month of September (did I just write that?), let’s remember what a gift we have been given. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Now on to this week’s Five Burning Questions about SEC football:

1. Is Arkansas-Texas A&M going to be an old-fashioned defensive struggle?

It sure looks that way. Texas A&M leads the nation in scoring defense (5.7 ppg) and passing defense (77.3 ypg) under DC Mike Elko. Arkansas DC Barry Odom has a knack for dialing up the right defense and his head-to-head battle with Texas A&M Coach Jimbo Fisher, one of the best play callers in the game, will be your game within a game.

2. Why do I get the feeling that Tennessee at Florida will be closer than the experts think?

After watching what Florida did last week against Alabama (244 yards rushing in a 31-29 loss), it is tempting to say the Gators will have an easy time of it at home against their old rival from Knoxville. But I just have a feeling that Florida is going to sag a little after investing so much emotionally against the Crimson Tide. Tennessee (2-1) cruised last week (56-0) against Tennessee Tech and is looking for a statement game in its SEC opener under Josh Heupel.

3. Last season Mississippi State torched LSU with an SEC-record 623 yards passing by K.J. Costello. The two teams combined for 968 passing yards.

Will Saturday’s game look anything like that?

I don’t think we’ll see those kinds of numbers, but we will see two teams with a lot to prove in Week 4.

LSU (2-1) is still a bit of an unknown after losing its opener to UCLA (38-27) and easily beating two overmatched opponents in McNeese State and Central Michigan. Trust me when I tell you this is a huge game for LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.

Mississippi State (2-1) was impressive in beating N.C. State (24-10), but lost a tough decision at Memphis (31-29) last week.

It is the SEC opener for both teams.

4. Do the Wildcats’ bounce back and take care of business at South Carolina?

Before last week’s games, Kentucky (3-0, 1-0) was considered by some to be the second-best team in the SEC East ahead of Florida. But the Gators gave Alabama a run for their money and Kentucky had to rally to beat Chattanooga at Kroger Field. Given the improvement of the Kentucky roster with quarterback Will Levis and wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, this is a game where the Wildcats take care of business early. Kentucky has won six of its past seven meetings with South Carolina. It is the first road game of the season for the Wildcats. Kentucky hosts Florida on Oct. 2.

5. Is Georgia’s offense starting to get better ahead of a Saturday game at Vanderbilt?

Georgia’s defense has allowed only one touchdown in three games, and that one came against South Carolina’s backup defense.

Points will be hard to come by for Georgia’s opponents all season. So if quarterback JT Daniels and the Bulldogs’ offense keep on their current pace (106 points vs. UAB and South Carolina) we may be looking at the most complete team in college football.

Georgia has a big game with Arkansas coming up next week in Athens. If the Hogs can knock off Texas A&M that game becomes HUGE!!!!!!!

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