The SEC schedule in Week 6 features one of the most highly anticipated SEC West matchups of the season. Instead this showdown being a de facto division championship game like many believed, however, it has transformed into a lifeline for a program on the decline. Texas A&M has been one of the biggest disappointments in the country but is traveling to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to take on No. 1 Alabama as it searches for its second straight win over the Crimson Tide. This game features two coaches -- Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban, respectively -- who got into a heated war of words last offseason over Fisher's supposed use of name, image and likeness (NIL) in order to reel in the best recruiting class of all time.
Elsewhere, No. 2 Georgia will host Auburn in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry as the Bulldogs look to gain more confidence after two straight sloppy wins. Meanwhile, No. 8 Tennessee will head to Baton Rouge to take on No. 25 LSU in what could be a statement game for a Volunteers team that is coming off a bye week.
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: LSU has to open it up
The Tigers clawed out of a 17-point hole at Auburn last weekend, but quarterback Jayden Daniels -- the SEC's ninth-leading rusher -- didn't exactly light up the stat sheet through the air. He was just 8 of 20 for 80 yards and didn't toss a touchdown in the 21-17 win. Auburn's offense isn't exactly threatening, and that was a big reason why Daniels' struggles through the air weren't crippling to coach Brian Kelly's crew. This week, against a Tennessee up-tempo offense that can dictate style due to its ability to score fast, Daniels will likely need to make a gigantic step forward. Kelly talked about how to do that during his press conference on Monday.
"We've gotta get Jayden a little more on that edge and a little more aggressive, and we will. We'll get there with him because that's the nature of this position," Kelly said. "With the skill players we have, we've gotta get that ball down the field and into some tight windows. Those guys can make plays and we've gotta get them the ball."
He didn't exactly stretch the field in LSU's other conference game, either, averaging just 5.7 yards per attempt in the 31-16 win over Mississippi State. Sure, he didn't have to do much considering the style of that game, but it is a trend that needs to change. If LSU doesn't open things up downfield against the Vols, things could get sideways.
Main course: Focus on the field
All eyes immediately shifted to the Texas A&M-Alabama game as soon as Saban and Fisher went back and forth about Texas A&M buying its class (according to Saban). Neither coach seemed overly excited about discussing the beef during their Monday press conferences. In fact, Fisher reiterated that he and Saban are all good.
"That's over with," Fisher said. "He and I are in great shape. We're great things and we've moved on. We're moved on. We're in good shape, we're moved on."
What isn't in good shape, though, is the Aggies offense. It ranks next-to-last in passing, and lost superstar wide receiver Ainias Smith for the season prior to last week's loss to Mississippi State. To compound matters, starting quarterback Max Johnson, who took over for an ineffective Haynes King prior to Week 3, injured his hand in the waning moments of the loss in Starkville, Mississippi. There is a chance that Johnson won't be available against the Crimson Tide.
"No, we'll go day to day" said Fisher. "He banged his hand. We'll evaluate him as he goes day to day."
While the college football world focuses on the status of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, don't forget about what's going on at LSU. King was benched after throwing three picks in two games, and tossed two more against Mississippi State. The Aggies don't stand much of a chance to begin with, but without Johnson, it could be the biggest blowout since a Kenny Hill-led Aggies team lost 59-0 in 2014.
Dessert: What's up with Georgia?
Teams are allowed to use a "mulligan" if they sleepwalk through a sluggish victory, just as Georgia did two weeks ago vs. Kent State. When you shank the next tee shot into the woods, there is a justifiable reason for concern. That's exactly what happened last week when the Bulldogs escaped the clutches of lowly Missouri.
So what's the issue? The offensive line hasn't performed the way it needs to in order to keep quarterback Stetson Bennett IV on schedule. It gave up nine tackles for loss to the Tigers, which is a big reason the Bulldogs averaged just 4.69 yards per carry -- its worst mark against an FBS team this year.
More importantly, though, is a concerning sense of entitlement. Jalen Carter and several Missouri players got into a jawing match before last week's game, which included Carter pointing to his ring finger presumably boasting about last year's national title win. Championship-caliber teams with the right attitude don't do stuff like that.
Coach Kirby Smart needs two things: He needs Bennett and the offensive line to get on the same page, and he needs the veteran leaders on that roster to step up. Sleep-walking through entire games vs. Kent State and Missouri is concerning, but they were fortunate to win both. Sleep-walking through just a few drives vs. a team like Tennessee or Alabama can wreck a season.
Straight up: 45-8 | Against the spread: 20-25-1
*Previous picks were made on Instagram since SEC Smothered & Covered starts in Week 3
No. 8 Tennessee at No. 25 LSU
The Volunteers have had two weeks to prepare for LSU, and the Tigers have issues in the passing game. Offense drives the bus, and nobody dictates tempo in the SEC better than the Volunteers. Home games in Death Valley are always concerning, but an 11 a.m. CT kickoff will take some of the bite out of the Tigers' home-field advantage. Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker will make a Heisman statement and lead his team to a big win over coach Brian Kelly's crew. Pick: Tennessee (-3)
Arkansas at No. 23 Mississippi State
Hop on board the Mississippi State bandwagon before it's too late. The Bulldogs have a tremendous passing game led by quarterback Will Rodgers and wide receiver Caleb Ducking (whom I will call "autocorrect" due to the spelling of his last name until the end of time). That one-two punch, combined with the play-calling acumen of coach Mike Leach, will be enough to get the win. However, defensive coordinator Zach Arnett will have enough issues against this unique Arkansas offense to keep the Hogs close until the bitter end. Pick: Arkansas (+8)
Missouri at Florida
Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson has thrown for over 200 yards in each of his last two games, including a 240-yard performance on just 8-of-10 passing in the 52-17 win over Eastern Washington on Sunday. He suffered a slight leg injury and limped off in that game but should be good to go this week vs. the Tigers. He will have to deal with a Tigers defensive front that is playing with confidence after notching 21 tackles for loss over the last two weeks, including nine last week against reigning national champion Georgia. That pressure will force Richardson into enough mistakes to make it a single-digit game, but not enough for Missouri to spring the upset. Pick: Missouri (+11)
Auburn at No. 2 Georgia
Auburn, when it's on script, is actually pretty decent. It built a 17-point lead on LSU midway through the second quarter, scored touchdowns on its first two drives against Missouri the week before and had field goals on two of its first three possessions against Penn State. Auburn, when it's off script, is an abject disaster under second-year coach Bryan Harsin. In second halves (excluding overtime), the Tigers are averaging 2.6 points per game over their last eight games against Power Five opponents, including goose eggs in regulation the last two weeks. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, Georgia wakes up on the wrong side of the bed for the third straight Saturday against the Tigers. Will it matter if Auburn can't score? Nope. This one will get very, very sideways. Pick: Georgia (-30)
No. 9 Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
The Rebels defense came up huge on Saturday in the win over Kentucky, and that won't change this week against the Commodores. Their defense ranks fourth in the SEC in interceptions at four and fifth in yards per attempt at 5.9. That might not seem ground-breaking, but it's a fairly significant leap forward for a team that has the best rushing offense in the country and a genius play-caller. Commodore quarterback AJ Swann and wide receiver Will Sheppard are dangerous, but the Rebels will get enough stops to make this a three-touchdown game. Pick Ole Miss (-18.5)
South Carolina at No. 13 Kentucky
The Wildcats have struggled to run the football all season, but the Gamecocks rushing defense has been less-than-stellar. That won't be what keeps this game close, though. Gamecocks running back MarShawn Lloyd has been rounding back to form over the last two days, and he'll have enough success against an average Wildcats pass defense to keep this one close. In the end, the erratic nature of Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler's play will cost them the win in what will still be a single-digit game. Pick: South Carolina (+10.5)
Texas A&M at No. 1 Alabama
This will be the biggest blowout in this series since the Crimson Tide wrecked former Aggie quarterback Kenny Hill and the Aggies 59-0 in 2014. Even if it's Jalen Milroe taking the snaps in place of the Tide's Bryce Young, their defense will key in on running back Devon Achane, who has essentially been the Aggies' only bright spot this year. Saban will make this one hurt because his team is a 900-pound gorilla, not because he got into a spat with Fisher several months ago. Pick: Alabama (-24)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 6, and which Top 25 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 more than $3,100 in profit over the past six-plus seasons -- and find out.