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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Barnhart's Five Burning Questions for Week 5

796 days ago
Tony Barnhart | SEC Network
Photo: Ole Miss Athletics

Friends, I've been privileged to cover SEC football for a long, long time. So, trust me when I tell you this has a chance to be one of the most competitive Saturdays I've ever seen in this conference.

There are six conference games including a Top 10 matchup (No. 8 Arkansas at No. 2 Georgia), a Top 12 matchup (No. 12 Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama), and a Top 10 team (No. 10 Florida) going to an undefeated Kentucky (4-0).

And it will be capped off with No. 22 Auburn (3-1) going to LSU (3-1). Auburn will be trying to snap a 10-game losing streak at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

That's pretty compelling stuff.

So, in that spirit, here are Five Burning Questions as the 2021 season moves to the first Saturday in October.

Now on to this week's Five Burning Questions about SEC football:

1. Alabama Coach Nick Saban is 23-0 against his former assistant coaches.

Will Lane Kiffin of Ole Miss be the first Saban pupil to beat the teacher?

It's going to be tough. Kiffin, now in his second season at Ole Miss, rolled up over 600 yards of total offense against Alabama in last season's game (a 63-48 loss) in Oxford. That got everybody's attention.

But remember that the game is at Bryant-Denny Stadium, where Alabama is 84-5 since the 2008 season.

Three of those five losses came to teams that had quarterbacks that went on to win the Heisman Trophy: Cam Newton (2010), Johnny Manziel (2012) and Joe Burrow (2019).

Ole Miss has a Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback in Matt Corral. If Ole Miss wins and Corral has a big day, he will become the clear favorite to win the Heisman.

2. It wasn't that long ago that Arkansas had a 20-game losing streak in SEC games. Now the Hogs are a Top 10 team playing in a huge matchup between the Hedges in Athens. Sam Pittman has put the pride back into the Razorbacks. But........

Can Arkansas score enough points to win against a defense that has given up only one offensive touchdown in four games?

It really depends on the health of Arkansas quarterback K.J. Jefferson, who tweaked his knee against Texas A&M last week but did return to the game, a 20-10 win by the Hogs. If Jefferson is close to 100 percent his mobility gives the Razorbacks a chance to make some big plays, which they will need to keep this game close.

3. Can Kentucky make some history against Florida?

Remember that in 2018, Kentucky beat Florida 27-16 in Gainesville to snap a 31-game losing streak to the Gators. But Kentucky has not beaten Florida in Lexington since Nov. 15, 1986 (10-3).

While a lot of attention is being paid to the high-profile games in Athens and Tuscaloosa, the scene a Kroger Field will be equally electric.

It's an important game for both teams, but it is a crucial game for Florida (3-1), which lost to No. 1 Alabama (31-29) on Sept. 18. Florida can still win the SEC East by winning out. Another loss would make that very, very difficult.

A Kentucky win would be huge with LSU coming to Lexington next week.

4. Speaking of crucial games, isn't Texas A&M facing one of those at home against Mississippi State?

Absolutely. Here's why.

The Aggies (0-1 in the SEC), still have a shot to win the SEC West if they can run the table, which would include a game with Alabama next week in College Station. Arkansas would have to lose twice but the Hogs may have the toughest schedule in the nation that includes No. 2 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama, and No. 12 Ole Miss.

In short, Texas A&M really can't afford another conference loss and hope to win the West.

Mississippi State (2-2) lost a tough game to LSU (28-25) last week.

5. Who is going to start at quarterback for Auburn against LSU? And who is going to finish?

Auburn was in trouble last week at home against Georgia State, trailing 29-24 late the fourth quarter. Coach Bryan Harsin pulled quarterback Bo Nix and inserted transfer TJ Finley, who rallied the team to a 34-24 victory.

So does Harsin replace Nix, a legacy whose father (Patrick) played at Auburn? Or does he go with Finley who transferred from-you guessed it-LSU?

The game is in Baton Rouge and it will be interesting to see how Finley is received. This has a chance for some real drama.