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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Barnhart's burning questions for Week 8

82 days ago
Tony Barnhart | SEC Network

Our Five Burning Questions about SEC Football for Oct. 19:

 After a tough 42-28 loss at LSU, can Florida go right back on the road and handle what will be a wild scene at South Carolina? Should the Gators be on upset alert?

Florida coach Dan Mullen is not into moral victories, but you have to be impressed with how the Gators played in Baton Rouge. They led LSU, now the No. 2 team in the nation, 28-21 in the third quarter.

Florida (6-1, 3-1) knows if it wins out the Gators will go to the SEC Championship Game. But they can't afford another stumble.

Speaking of stumbles, South Carolina (3-3, 2-2) put one on No. 3 Georgia last week (20-17 in 2OT) in Athens and, as a result, should be sky high when the Gators arrive at Williams-Brice Stadium for a Noon kick.

A win over No. 9 Florida would not only keep South Carolina in the SEC East race, it would mark the first time in school history that the Gamecocks have beaten a Top 10 team in consecutive weeks.

 Does Kentucky continue to use wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. at quarterback against Georgia?

Kentucky lost starting quarterback Terry Wilson for the season in the second game against Eastern Michigan. His backup, Sawyer Smith, was so beat up that he couldn't be effective last week against Arkansas.

So Kentucky coaches took their best athlete - wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. - and put him at quarterback. Then they cobbled together an offensive package to take advantage of his skill set.

It worked, as Kentucky won 24-20 over Arkansas for its first SEC victory of the season.

So what do you do on Saturday, when the Wildcats have to go to No. 10 Georgia? Georgia (5-1, 2-1) will be in a foul mood, having lost to South Carolina last week in Athens.

Bowden is a great athlete, but Sawyer is a better passer. It will be an interesting decision. Here's guessing both will play.

 Is the LSU running game starting to round into shape just in time to play Alabama?

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow had another exceptional performance in last week's 42-28 win over Florida, completing 21 of 24 passes for 293 yards.

So on the season, Burrow has completed 79.6 percent of his passes for 2,157 yards, 25 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He's been remarkable.

But the stat that jumped off the page in the Florida game was the fact that against one of the best defenses in college football, LSU ran for 218 yards on 24 attempts, an average of 9.1 yards per carry.

Keep an eye on the LSU running game, led by Clyde Edwards-Helaire (134 yards on 13 carries against Florida) on Saturday at Mississippi State (3-3, 1-2). The Tigers are going to need it in their following two games against No. 11 Auburn and No. 1 Alabama.

 Who will step up at running back for Auburn when it goes to Arkansas?

Auburn (5-1, 2-1) lost more than a game when it fell at Florida (24-13) on Oct. 5. The Tigers lost their leading rusher, Boobie Whitlow, for at least a month.

This is no small injury. Whitlow leads the team in rushing with 544 yards on 110 carries, which led the SEC when he went down.

The only good news is that Auburn had last week off, so head coach Gus Malzahn and running backs coach Cadillac Williams had a chance to rotate a number of players.

Kam Martin, the senior, will probably get the nod. He has been a reserve tailback during his entire career, but he has had 10 games with double-digit carries. He has 34 carries for 174 yards in Auburn's first six games.

Other backs in the mix are sophomore Shaun Shivers (27 carries), redshirt junior Malik Miller (4 carries), redshirt freshman Harold Joiner (4 carries) and true freshman D.J. Williams (7 carries).

Auburn should be okay against the Razorbacks (2-4, 0-3), who have lost 14 straight SEC games. The goal will be to get the running backs ready for next week's trip to No. 2 LSU.

 Can Tennessee beat Sweet Home Alabama?

Alabama (6-0, 3-0), the nation's No. 1 team, already has a lot going for it. The Crimson Tide have a roster full of future pros and, in the opinion of many, the greatest coach in the history of college football in Nick Saban. They have a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback and what may be the best collection of wide receivers the game has ever seen.

If Tennessee (2-4, 1-2) didn't already have enough problems matching Alabama's talent, the Volunteers also have to face this: the Crimson Tide just don't lose at home.

Going into Saturday night's game, Alabama has won 29 straight and 44 of its last 45 games at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Oh, one other thing. In a 24-year college coaching career, Saban has a home record of 139-19 (.879).