SEC football: 5 things to watch for in week 8
A look at five things to watch in the Southeastern Conference during Week 8 of the season:
GAME OF THE WEEK:
No. 20 South Carolina at No. 5 Missouri. In a development that no one saw coming at the beginning of the season, the Tigers could basically wrap up an Eastern Division title with a win on Saturday in Columbia, Mo. The upstart Tigers have had three straight impressive victories over Vanderbilt, Georgia and Florida and now face the Gamecocks. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel says, "Our players are aware of one thing, and that is keep playing and good things are going to happen. That is where our focus is at."
Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews against Texas A&M's porous defense. The No. 16 Aggies can score with the best of them, but their defense has been terrible for most of the season. In four SEC games, Texas A&M has surrendered more than 41 points per game. Vanderbilt's Matthews could exploit those problems on Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound senior has caught 58 passes for 798 yards and five touchdowns for the Commodores, who are coming off a big win against Georgia.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
Alabama has held its opponents to 10 points or fewer 46 times since coach Nick Saban took over the program in 2007. Texas A&M is the only team to exceed 10 points against Alabama this season. ... After Saturday's upset of South Carolina, Tennessee coach Butch Jones now is 43-2 in his career when leading at halftime. ... Mississippi (4-3) has played the toughest schedule in the country according to Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings. The Rebels have lost to No. 1 Alabama, No. 11 Auburn and No. 14 Texas A&M while beating No. 13 LSU, Texas, Vanderbilt and Southeast Missouri.
Tennessee is a 28 1/2 -point underdog against top-ranked Alabama and has lost each of its last three meetings with the Crimson Tide by 31 points, but the Volunteers head into Tuscaloosa with momentum after beating South Carolina and scaring the heck out of Georgia in their last two games. There aren't many potential upsets on the schedule this week with LSU, Auburn and Mississippi facing overmatched non-conference opponents, so we'll be keeping an eye on whether Tennessee can keep this game close.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson and Missouri QB Maty Mauk. These two backup quarterbacks will square off against each other Saturday, though both have starting experience. Thompson is stepping in for Connor Shaw, who sprained his left knee last week at Tennessee. Mauk threw for 295 yards and led Missouri past Florida last week in his first career start in place of James Franklin, who has a sprained right shoulder.
Compiled by AP Sports Writers David Brandt in Jackson, Miss., and Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tenn.