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.
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.
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.
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.