No. 22 Mississippi St, No. 5 LSU meet for big SEC West game

Here are a few things to watch during Week 8 of the Southeastern Conference season:

GAME OF THE WEEK

No. 22 Mississippi State at No. 5 LSU: The Bulldogs moved back onto the national radar with an impressive 23-9 win over then-No. 8 Auburn back on Oct. 6. Mississippi State’s resurgence has come thanks to an improved running game that features QB Nick Fitzgerald and RB Kylin Hill. LSU will counter with a fantastic defense, a solid offense and plenty of momentum after a convincing 36-16 win over then-No. 2 Georgia last week. LSU lost to Mississippi State 37-7 last season in Starkville.

MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

Tennessee receivers vs. Alabama secondary: Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano threw for a career-high 328 yards in a 30-24 upset at Auburn last week because he capitalized on the playmaking ability of the receiving trio of Marquez Callaway, Jauan Jennings and Josh Palmer, who caught a combined 10 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. Those receivers will face a tougher test against an Alabama pass defense that has 12 interceptions, including a team-high three from Saivion Smith. North Texas is the only Football Bowl Subdivision team that has picked off more passes than Alabama this season.

NUMBERS GAME

Alabama coach Nick Saban owns a 14-0 record against his former assistants heading into the top-ranked Crimson Tide’s game Saturday at Tennessee, which is coached by former Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. That 14-0 record includes victories over Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Billy Napier this season. … Tennessee’s victory at Auburn last week snapped the Vols’ 11-game losing streak in conference games. … Mississippi’s Jordan Ta’amu rushed for 141 yards in a 37-33 victory over Arkansas last week. That’s the highest single-game total for an Ole Miss quarterback since John Fourcade ran for 169 yards against Vanderbilt in 1979. … LSU hasn’t allowed a first-quarter touchdown in 11 straight games. … LSU’s Cole Tracy scored 18 points (five field goals, three extra points) last week in a 36-16 victory over Georgia. Tracy set a school single-game record for points scored by kicking.

UPSET WATCH

Missouri is favored by 9½ points over Memphis, which has the nation’s leading rusher in Darrell Henderson. Memphis has beaten at least one Power Five team each of the last three seasons and is facing a Missouri team that has lost three straight. If Memphis isn’t still brooding over its heartbreaking 31-30 home loss to No. 10 Central Florida , the American Athletic Conference upstart is certainly capable of winning this game. Missouri coach Barry Odom was Memphis’ defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 2012-14.

IMPACT PERFORMER

Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons: The Sweat-Simmons combo along the Bulldogs’ defensive line has been among the best in the country. Sweat leads the SEC with 7 ½ sacks per game — including three in a win against Auburn on Oct. 6 — and Simmons is fourth in the league with 8½ tackles for a loss. They should be fresh after a week off and ready to cause trouble against LSU.

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