Week 7 in the SEC features two massive cross-division games between ranked opponents that could go a long way toward separating the contenders and pretenders. No. 3 Alabama will head to Rocky Top take on No. 6 Tennessee in the annual rivalry game known as the "Third Saturday in October." Both teams will enter this matchup with undefeated records for the first time since 1989, and it's the first time since 1998 that Neyland Stadium will host a meeting between two teams ranked in the top six of the AP Top 25 poll.
What else can we look forward to in SEC play this week? Let's dive into some of the top storylines around the conference and make picks in this week's edition of SEC Smothered and Covered.
Appetizer: Not the same Mississippi State
Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers set an SEC record last weekend when he completed his 922nd pass, breaking the record set by former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. The junior from Brandon, Mississippi, leads the SEC in completion percentage in passes of 15 or more air yards (52.4%). That is a stark contrast from the reputation coach Mike Leach's offense has as more of a dink-and-dunk operation.
More importantly, though, is that this Bulldogs offense actually runs the football. It is averaging 4.72 yards per rush in conference games (No. 6 in the SEC), and just put up 173 last week vs. Arkansas. That is a huge change from an offense that ranked last in the conference in yards per carry in conference games in each of Leach's previous two seasons. It's time to believe in the Bulldogs.
Main course: Alabama's defense matters most
Tennessee didn't punt in its game vs. Florida in late September, and after the bye week, followed it up with four straight punt-less possessions last week against LSU. Whether it's Bryce Young or Jalen Milroe taking the snaps for Alabama, a Volunteers offense that can put up points in bunches will be, by far, the biggest challenge this Crimson Tide defense has faced all year. Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday that he is well-aware of what this unit brings to the table.
"They're probably one of the most explosive offenses, if not the most explosive offense, in the country," he said. "They got really good wide receivers. Four guys have lots of production. They've got two really good running backs, lots of production. The quarterback, [Hendon] Hooker has really done a nice job of executing their offense. He's one of the leading pass-efficiency guys in the country, as well as has the ability to extend plays and make plays with his feet. He's a very good athlete all the way around and has had an outstanding year."
Alabama has to force some empty possessions early because the last thing it needs is to get into a shootout situation in front of a hostile environment considering its current issue at quarterback. Even if Young plays, it's unlikely that he will be 100%. That's a sketchy situation going up against these Volunteers.
Dessert: Not a joke anymore
The Ole Miss defense has been a joke for a half-decade, but that's not the case anymore. In fact, it will be the key factor in the ninth-ranked Rebels' game vs. Auburn. Ole Miss ranks third in the SEC in tackles for loss per game (6.67) and is going up against an Auburn team that is giving up 9.0 tackles for loss per game and averaging 4.12 yards per game on the ground (13th in the SEC) despite stud running back Tank Bigsby toting the rock.
The best scenario for Auburn to hang in this one is to run the ball effectively and keep that potent Ole Miss offense on the sideline. That hasn't happened very often this year. If Bryan Harsin's Tigers can't get it going, he might be looking for work on Sunday.
Straight up: 51-9 | Against the spread: 25-27-1
*Previous picks were made on Instagram since SEC Smothered & Covered starts in Week 3
Auburn at No. 9 Ole Miss
This game is going to get sideways in the second half. Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart is coming off of his best game of the season -- a 448-yard, three-touchdown performance vs. Vanderbilt. Coach Lane Kiffin will build on that success and make sure that his foot stays on the gas deep into a game. Ole Miss plays fast and scores fast, two things that don't sit well with a reeling Tigers' team. Pick: Ole Miss (-14.5)
Vanderbilt at No. 1 Georgia
The Bulldogs defense got right last week against Auburn when it allowed just 10 first downs. Will Vandy keep up the offensive success that it had last week against Ole Miss? Nope. Georgia's defense is just too versatile and deep. Plus, the Commodore rush defense ranks 10th in the SEC. That won't work against a Bulldogs offense that racked up 292 yards last week vs. the Tigers. Pick: Georgia (-38)
No. 3 Alabama at No. 6 Tennessee
Tennessee will not only cover the spread, it'll win this one outright. The Alabama defense will struggle against an offense that features wide receivers Jalin Hyatt, Bru McCoy and star Cedric Tillman, who should be back after undergoing the "tight rope" surgery. That, coupled with the dual-threat ability of Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker, will be too much for the Tide. Pick: Tennessee (+7.5)
Arkansas at BYU
This intriguing out-of-conference matchup looked like it could have been a meeting of CFP dark-horse contenders midway through September, but the month of October has been a horror show. The health of Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson is still in question, which isn't exactly a good thing when going up against a deep and physical Cougars defense. Pick: BYU (+1.5)
LSU at Florida
LSU had its best passing game of the year last weekend against Tennessee, but that was due in part to the fact that the got into an early hole and was scrambling to keep up. The Tigers are averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt against Power Five competition and has issues along the offensive line. The fact that a three-point win cashes for the Gators makes this one a "lean" toward the boys in Gainesville, Florida. Pick: Florida (-2.5)
No. 16 Mississippi State at No. 22 Kentucky
Wildcats quarterback Will Levis missed last weekend's loss to South Carolina, and the Kentucky running game has been awful all season. Those are two massive issues going up against a Bulldogs offense that has been one of the most potent and consistent in the conference. This game will get sideways in the second half, and Mississippi State will keep momentum going. Pick: Mississippi State (-7)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 7, and which top-15 favorite will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,000 in profit over the past six-plus seasons -- and find out.