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Week 8 SEC Talking Points: West Division

What’re the biggest talking points going into this weekend’s games in the SEC West?

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

So, who has the best chance to beat Alabama? Texas A&M this weekend, LSU, or Auburn?

Joe Clarkin (@Joe_Clarkin): I think it’s LSU. They’ve looked like a different team since they fired Les Miles, and they remain one of the two or three most talented teams in the league. That does not mean I think they’ll actually beat Alabama, of course, but the Tide get A&M and Auburn at home. As good as those teams have looked, I can’t see either of them going to Tuscaloosa and winning a game. LSU gets Bama in their house, and who knows, maybe the combination of Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice is enough to pull the upset.

Jonathan Waldrop (@aukiwal83): I’m going to agree with Joe, here. It’s in Baton Rouge. Probably at night. LSU’s peaking right now. ‘Bama’s gotten them in Death Valley the last two times, but that doesn’t mean they’re not due for a loss. ‘Bama’s secondary is still the most vulnerable aspect of their defense. If LSU can somehow exploit that on top of using Fournette and Guice, then it could be a tough evening for the Tide. That’s not to take away from A&M this weekend. Sumlin has a blueprint to beat them. He also has a quarterback who’s done it before. The next two games could be really tough for ‘Bama. We shall see.

Will Marshall (@awillmarshall): I’m a big believer in Texas A&M, so I think they have the best chance of beating Alabama. They have a terrific defense that can give a freshman quarterback problems, and their offense is better than both LSU and Auburn’s. Alabama’s defense is a juggernaut, but one small mistake or breakdown against TAMU’s offense can result in allowing a big play. I think LSU and Auburn’s offenses are more plodding.

Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t think either team has a great chance of beating Alabama, but if forced to pick between the two, I’ll say Texas A&M. It’s a more difficult matchup for Alabama: Texas A&M is better equipped to attack Alabama’s secondary, while LSU is still a run-first team that’s not going to do much to beat the Tide deep. I still don’t think A&M will win, but I can see that being more likely than LSU.

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): Let’s be real. At this point, I just want one of these teams to push ‘Bama to the final minutes of a game. I believe that A&M for the first time in this league matches up physically with Alabama. You’ve seen the Aggies produced several NFL offensive line but it was essentially the opposite on the other side of the ball. We’ve known that Myles Garrett would be a future first-rounder since his freshman year, but the development of Daeshon Hall and Daylon Mack, along with the linebackers gives A&M a legitimate shot at competing against the Bama offensive front.

Let’s flash back to the 2013 Sugar Bowl when Trevor Knight was at Oklahoma and absolutely torched that Alabama secondary. That has been the only thing that has made people believe in Knight post-Baker Mayfield taking his job at OU. I’m not saying that Knight will do it again, but at least you know that he is capable.

Sean White and Auburn are not capable, especially with the game in Tuscaloosa. Coach O has LSU rolling offensively, even without Leonard Fournette and their are all sorts of voodoo that come into play whenever the two play in Baton Rouge. LSU has beaten Bama with a combination of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson and almost won with Anthony Jennings, so it’s not crazy to think that Danny Etling could find a way to win that game.

All in all, I give the nod to A&M, but would be less shocked if LSU won in Death Valley.

Looking into the future… what’s the biggest takeaway we talk about after Ole Miss-LSU this weekend?

Joe Clarkin (@Joe_Clarkin): That LSU is the second best team in the league. Alabama is going to pound the Aggies, I think, and we’ll all be wondering why anyone thought they could legitimately compete for the West title. Meanwhile, with Fournette back, LSU goes out and runs wild over Ole Miss while shutting down a prolific Rebel passing game. For the first time against a legitimately good team, they’ll look like the LSU we thought they’d be in the preseason and the hype train will be back on the tracks as they head to a bye week before Bama comes to town.

Jonathan Waldrop (@aukiwal83): If LSU wins this game, we’re talking about a legit contender for the West. They need to beat ‘Bama in two weeks and if Auburn just loses one more conference game, which is probably going to happen, then LSU could play spoiler to the entire conference having a shot at the Playoff. Orgeron wants this very much. He wants the gig that will stick. If he gets them to Atlanta, then it probably will.

Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): We’ll be talking about how much money LSU will need to pry Tom Herman away from Houston (and possibly from an offer to coach Texas). Ole Miss is quite likely the best 3-3 team in the country, and I think they’ll come out of Baton Rouge with the win.

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): How in the world is Ole Miss a 3-4 team? Just a week ago, all of the national gasbags were saying that Ole Miss was the best two-loss team. Some even being as bold to say that Ole Miss was a Top 10. The Rebels’ inability to run the football in a line of scrimmage league will likely see them lose their fourth game of the season and have people questioning the state of the program amid an NCAA investigation. Coach O for permanent head coach at LSU will likely be a talking point, but that's a moot point until Alabama comes to town.

Which player makes the biggest impact in Arkansas-Auburn this weekend?

Joe Clarkin (@Joe_Clarkin): Let’s go with Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson. The Arkansas offensive line has been mediocre in pass protection this season, giving up 17 sacks already, and Lawson is one of the premier linemen in the league. Yes, he’ll be going up against Dan Skipper, and while that’s not an easy matchup, it’s one Lawson is more than capable of winning. Look for him to get consistent pressure and possibly force a turnover or two.

Jonathan Waldrop (@aukiwal83): I’m going out on a bit of a limb, here: Kamryn Pettway. Dude just gashed Mississippi State and Arkansas is having some issues with their rush defense. With Kerryon Johnson’s status unclear at this point, I think Rhett Lashlee and Gus Malzahn feed him the ball as much as he can take it. It proved to work with Tre Mason in 2013. Why not an even bigger bruiser of a running back. I could fall completely on my face with this, but Pettway’s a mauler.

Will Marshall (@awillmarshall): Austin Allen. He’s having a great season, and is arguably having a better season than Chad Kelly which many consider the best quarterback in the SEC. He’s been doing it without the skill players that Kelly has too. I’m not sure Arkansas can beat Auburn running the ball which puts the onus even more on Allen. I’m not sure if Arkansas wins, but Allen will get his regardless of whether or not the Razorbacks win.

Tom Stephenson (@tcstephenson1): Sean White. Did you know that White has completed almost 70 percent of his passes this year? While Auburn loves to RUN THE DAMN BALL, White has quietly emerged as a quality signal-caller, and I think he’ll have a big day in an Auburn win.

Julian Council (@JulianCouncil): I’ve said it all year long: As Austin Allen goes, Arkansas goes. The junior signal-caller was instrumental in Saturday’s win against Ole Miss and will have to play the same type of roll against a stout Auburn front seven. The Arkansas run game will always be the cornerstone of that offense, but they can’t sit atop the upper portion of SEC West standings without strong quarterback play.