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Barnhart's burning questions for Week 5

37 days ago
Tony Barnhart | SEC Network

Yes, there have been some bumps and postponements along the way. We expected that.

But friends, we have made it to Week 5 of the SEC football season.

Some of those postponements leave us with a four-game schedule for Saturday. Still, there is no shortage of good storylines and most, as you shall see, deal with the quarterback position.

So here are our Five Burning Questions about SEC football for Saturday, Oct. 24. Enjoy.

Will Mac Jones post yet another 400-yard passing game?

Here is a stat that blew my mind: In the long and storied history of Alabama football, there have been only nine 400-yard passing games by five different Crimson Tide quarterbacks.

Three of those 400-yard games belong to current quarterback Mac Jones, and they have come in the past three weeks. Jones had 435 yards on Oct. 3 vs. Texas A&M, 417 yards against Ole Miss on Oct. 10 and another 417 yards last week against Georgia.

His three 400-yard games tie Tua Tagovailoa for the most in Alabama history. Jones will hold that record alone if he can post 400 yards against Tennessee.

400-yard games by Alabama quarterbacks
Rank Player Year Opponent  Yards
1 Scott Hunter 1969 Auburn 484
2 Blake Sims 2014 Florida  445
3 Tua Tagovailoa 2019 South Carolina 444
4 Mac Jones 2020 Texas A&M  435
5 Tua Tagovailoa 2019 Southern Miss 418
6 Tua Tagovailoa 2019 LSU 418
7 Mac Jones 2020 Georgia 417
8 Mac Jones 2020 Ole Miss 417
9 David Smith 1988 Army 412

Who's going to start at quarterback for Tennessee against Alabama?

We don't know and coach Jeremy Pruitt is not saying.

Jarrett Guarantano has shown flashes of brilliance during his career as Tennessee's starting quarterback. But he has also found it difficult to take care of the football.

Last week against Kentucky, he had an early fumble (which probably wasn't his fault) followed by a pair of pick-sixes on consecutive possessions. Tennessee went to backup J.T. Shrout, but he threw an interception on his first attempt. Tennessee finally went with highly-recruited freshman Harrison Bailey.

Bailey looks like the quarterback of the future but consider this: Do you give Bailey, from Marietta, Ga., his first career start against the Crimson Tide, which very well could be the best team in college football? Or does Tennessee stick with Guarantano because of his experience and save the freshman for another day? Tennessee has an open date next week and then goes to Arkansas.

Will LSU quarterback Myles Brennan be able to play against South Carolina?

It's doubtful at best.

Brennan suffered an abdominal injury two weeks ago in a 45-41 loss to Missouri. Had LSU and Florida been able to play on Oct. 17, Brennan would not have been available. The game, however, was postponed to Dec. 12 due to an outbreak of positive COVID-19 tests at Florida.

On Wednesday morning's SEC coaches teleconference, coach Ed Orgeron said: "We don't think that Myles Brennan is going to play. It is still not 100 percent yet but he's very questionable."

If Brennan can't go, look for true freshmen TJ Finley and Max Johnson. Orgeron said both would play in the game.

This is not a good time to play South Carolina with a rookie quarterback. The Gamecocks put together one of their most complete games of the season in a 30-22 win over Auburn last Saturday in Columbia.

Will Auburn go "Smash Mouth" in hopes of slowing down the Ole Miss offense?

The numbers do not lie. Auburn has a rising star in freshman running back Tank Bigsby, who posted his second straight 100-yard rushing game last week against South Carolina. But Bigsby only got 16 carries in the game, while quarterback Bo Nix threw the ball 47 times. Three of those passes were intercepted in a 30-22 loss to the Gamecocks.

Coach Gus Malzahn said this week that he wanted to get back to more physical, blue-collar football when the Tigers travel to Ole Miss, which is fourth in the SEC in scoring at 36.5 points per game.

Here is an interesting stat: From 2009 to 2017, Auburn had nine straight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher. Malzahn's offensive attack has always been more effective when it runs to set up the pass. But Auburn did not have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2018 or 2019.

How many carries will Bigsby get in this game? Bet it's more than 16.

How many interceptions will Kentucky have against Missouri?

Let's do the math. Two weeks ago against Mississippi State, the Wildcats had six interceptions in a 24-2 win.

Last week against Tennessee, Kentucky had three interceptions in the first half, including two returned for touchdowns. Kentucky won that game 34-7.

Kentucky has nine interceptions in the past two games while recording only eight in 12 games last season.

Now the Wildcats (2-2), whose losses were to Auburn (29-13) and Ole Miss (42-41), go back on the road to play a Missouri team (1-2) that did not play its scheduled game with Vanderbilt last week.

Missouri is minus five in turnovers this season but has thrown only one interception in 99 passing attempts.