Three teams from the Southeastern Conference’s powerful Western Division are finally going down.
That much is assured on Saturday, when six teams ranked in the top 15 clash in an unprecedented day for any division in major college football.
First, No. 6 Texas A&M visits No. 12 Mississippi State in what will be a sea of maroon and cowbells. Then the action heads 100 miles north to Oxford for an even bigger showdown: No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Mississippi.
Later that night, No. 15 LSU visits No. 5 Auburn. It’s only the fifth time any division has had two games featuring Top 25 matchups on the same day, and the past two times it has featured SEC West teams, according to STATS.
No division has ever had a trifecta of Top 25 matchups.
Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban last week called it “the Golden Age of our division in the West.” SEC West teams have won five of the last seven national titles.
The last time a conference had three ranked matchups was in the Big Ten on Oct. 18, 2003. It hasn’t happened in the SEC since STATS began tracking rankings in 1993.
Alabama safety Landon Collins watched Arkansas flirt with an upset of Texas A&M on Saturday and pretty much summed up what’s ahead for the six legitimate contenders for the SEC West title.
“When I was watching the game, I just said, ‘This is crazy. This is going to be a crazy season,'” Collins said.
The historic day comes in a division that has a combined 28-4 record with three of those defeats coming in head-to-head matchups. Only Arkansas (3-2, 0-2) appears unlikely to contend, but it would be a feat for any SEC West team to emerge from the fray with a clean sweep of its division brethren.
Here’s a rundown of the three big matchups:
— No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss.
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace acknowledges it is tough be a student these days. “You’re sitting in class and you’re trying to pay attention, but you know where your mind is at,” Wallace said. Ole Miss (4-0, 1-0 SEC) is undefeated through four games for the first time since 1970 and now has a chance to end a decade of futility against the Tide. The Rebels have lost 10 straight in the series and were shutout 25-0 last season in Tuscaloosa.
There are a myriad of intriguing matchups, including one that features family ties. Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin — who has injected some style into the Tide’s usually straightforward offense — will be trying to score points on his brother Chris, who is the defensive line coach for the Rebels.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze didn’t know if the relationship would help or hurt his team on Saturday. He just knows Alabama (4-0, 1-0) is really good once again.
“Hopefully our team plays its best game of the year,” Freeze said. “It’s going to take that against a really superb Alabama team.”
— No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs have already had one big victory this season, ending a 14-game losing streak against LSU thanks to a 34-29 win on Sept. 20.
Now Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0) could really make things interesting in the West by beating the Aggies.
To do that, the Bulldogs will have to slow down Texas A&M’s prolific offense that’s led by first-year starting quarterback Kenny Hill. He led the Aggies (4-0, 2-0) to a stunning comeback over Arkansas on Saturday.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said Hill — who is only a sophomore — is playing like a veteran.
“He’s letting the ball go before receivers get in and out of breaks,” Mullen said. “There’s a lot of confidence that goes with that.”
Mississippi State has a pretty good quarterback, too. Junior Dak Prescott has thrown for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns through four games.
— No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn.
LSU (4-1, 0-1) could have no margin for error after its loss to Mississippi State.
“I don’t think there is a person in our building that’s not excited about the opportunity to go down and play very well at Auburn,” LSU coach Les Miles said.
LSU handed Auburn (4-0, 1-0) its only regular-season loss last season on the way to the national championship game.
Auburn did rebound in the second half of that game after falling behind 21-0.
“Last year, that game really turned out heads,” Auburn tailback Corey Grant said. “It made us realize what we were capable of.”
Miles said LSU will start freshman quarterback Brandon Harris for the first time.
AP Sports Writer John Zenor reported from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and David Brandt reported from Oxford, Mississippi.