Bryce Young, Matt Corral take center stage in huge SEC battle

Between them, Matt Corral and Bryce Young have produced 29 touchdowns and just one interception this season.

Corral is completing 68.6 percent of his passes, and Young is even better, at 72.1 percent. They are both top-10 in passing efficiency and their respective teams, Corral’s 12th-ranked Mississippi and Young’s No. 1 Alabama, are first and second in the SEC in scoring.

It seems very possible the Heisman Trophy winner will be on the field in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday afternoon for this SEC West showdown of undefeated teams. At the least, the two quarterbacks are the clear leaders after one month. The winner would only enhance his case.

There is a lot of mystery entering the anticipated game, which features Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban against former assistant Lane Kiffin, the Rebels’ coach. Combined, the teams have played just one formidable opponent so far. Alabama was pushed by No. 10 Florida two weeks ago in a 31-29 victory that displayed its vulnerability up front. The Gators outrushed the Tide, 245-91, and dominated the second half. Now, here comes Ole Miss and Corral, who put up 647 yards of offense in a 63-48 shootout defeat a year ago, Alabama’s closest victory during the 2020 regular season.

Bryce Young ad Matt Corrall
Bryce Young ad Matt Corrall
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“He is about as talented a guy as anybody we’ve seen, run and pass, for a long time,” Saban said of Corral, who is tied for the SEC lead in rushing touchdowns with five and is coming off a seven-touchdown performance in a blowout win over Tulane.

The two quarterbacks are the overriding storyline of the game.

Young, a sophomore who saw only mop-up duty a year ago, has handled his hefty preseason hype adeptly. He led a long drive in the fourth quarter of the win over Florida that stunted the Gators’ comeback. In the season-opening 44-13 win over Miami, Young also set an Alabama record for passing yards (344) and passing touchdowns (four) in a debut as a starter. Corral has built off a sensational sophomore year with a terrific start to this season.

The quarterbacks are familiar with each other — they both hail from Southern California and attended rival high schools — but this will be their first matchup against one another.

“I’ve always known of him,” Young said. “Being in the SEC and being able to compete against the best week-by-week was really big as far as what attracted me to [Alabama].”

Below are the other two marquee games on this monster Saturday:

No. 8 Arkansas at No. 2 Georgia, 12 p.m.

Arkansas’ Sam Pittman is the (too early) leader in the clubhouse for Coach of The Year honors. Nobody could’ve imagined the Razorbacks cracking the top-10 for the first time since 2003 — not even Pittman, his players or the team’s biggest fans. The Razorbacks, who were 11-35 the last four seasons, were picked to finish sixth in the SEC West.

But after impressive wins over Texas and Texas A&M, and led by a rushing attack that is eighth in the nation (261 yards per game) and a stingy defense that held the Longhorns to 256 yards of offense, Pittman’s team finds itself in the national spotlight.

The Razorbacks haven’t seen anything like Georgia, however. The Bulldogs are legitimate title contenders, having allowed just one touchdown (in garbage time against South Carolina) and outscoring their four opponents, 168-23. One thing potentially working In Arkansas’ favor: Georgia starting quarterback JT Daniels, who has won all seven of his starts dating back to last year, is dealing with a lat muscle injury that could limit him.

No. 7 Cincinnati at No. 9 Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m.

This is Cincinnati’s shot, its chance to make a statement to the College Football Playoff committee that it belongs. Aside from Notre Dame, a team from outside a Power Five conference has never reached the playoff in its seven-year history.

The Bearcats, who are coming off an impressive, come-from-behind win at Big Ten foe Indiana on Sept. 18, have a legitimate shot to be the first. But first, they must get by undefeated Notre Dame, which just trounced Big Ten contender Wisconsin on the road and takes a 19-game regular season winning streak into this meeting.

Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder added some spice to the game this week, when he recalled a conversation with offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock. Denbrock warned him it would be loud at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, and Ridder, a dual-threat weapon, told him: “It shouldn’t be loud for too long.”

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