Here are things to watch in Week 1 of play in the Southeastern Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 23 Kentucky at No. 8 Auburn in the opening week for the Southeastern Conference:
It’s the only Top 25 matchup in the SEC this week, and both teams would love to establish themselves as potential division challengers. They’ll highlight the opening weekend of what’s set up for a 10-game league-only schedule. Both teams are pinning hopes on their quarterbacks improving. Kentucky’s Terry Wilson returns from a knee injury that cost him most of last season. Auburn’s Bo Nix started every game as a freshman. Most of the 17,490 fans allowed to attend at Jordan-Hare Stadium will be Auburn students.
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask against Mississippi’s secondary. Trask is a preseason All-SEC pick and he’ll go against a defense that ranked 120th nationally and last in the league against the pass last season. Trask has playmakers like tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Kadarius Toney. The Rebels have a secondary led by cornerback Keidron Smith.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
The league has four new head coaches: Sam Pittman (Arkansas); Lane Kiffin (Mississippi), Mike Leach (Mississippi State) and Eli Drinkwitz (Missouri). … No. 5 Florida’s visit to Mississippi marks the first time the Gators have opened with a true road game since playing at Miami in 1987. … Alabama is 13-0 in openers under coach Nick Saban, outscoring opponents by an average of 40.6-11.1. … Kentucky punter Max Duffy, the Ray Guy Award winner, led the nation with a 48.1-yard average.
All the uncertainties from COVID-19-related absences and issues, plus the normal opening game growing pains, make things harder to predict. But Tennessee is only a 3-1/2-point favorite over South Carolina. The Volunteers did win their final six games while the Gamecocks ended on a three-game skid. But South Carolina’s offense can’t get much worse after managing just nine points in its last two games. Colorado State grad transfer Collin Hill beat out incumbent quarterback Ryan Hilinski. Hill played under new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.
Quarterbacks, new and returning, will always be in the spotlight. But inside linebacker Dylan Moses is the quarterback of Alabama’s defense after missing last season with a knee injury. The 2018 Butkus Award finalist is trying to help lift the Crimson Tide defense back to its normal rarefied air after a subpar season by ‘Bama standards. He brings both leadership and production.
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