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Post Around the SEC this weekend

Wednesday November 1, 2006

There’s only one game of national significance in the SEC this weekend, but there aren’t many dogs either.

Mississippi State @ Alabama: Lincoln (12:30)

Alabama has struggled a bit recently. Aside from their decent showing at Tennessee, they have let Ole Miss, Duke, and FIU hang around far too long. The Alabama offense isn’t putting anyone away. The Bulldogs on the other hand have shown a bit of life on offense. Back-to-back 24+ point performances against Georgia and Kentucky have put MSU in two nail-biters. They’re still seeking the breakthrough win though. The Croom-Bama relationship always plays a part in this game. While I think Bama holds serve at home, they might be in trouble or at least in for another cardiac test if MSU can get over 21 points for the third straight week.

Florida @ Vanderbilt: Lincoln (12:30)

Last year’s narrow escape in the Swamp is the storyline for this game. The Florida squad will no doubt remember the embarrassment of nearly losing to Vandy (trust us, actually losing is no fun either). With the BCS standings giving Florida new life in the national title picture, this is a big "leave no doubt" opportunity for the Gators. Florida’s defense should keep the Vanderbilt offense more or less under control, but the real question is the Gator offense. Scoring under 23 points per game in SEC play (and that includes defensive scores), I’m among those starting to wonder if Florida has a big number in them. Style points will count if the SEC has any hopes for its fleet of one-loss teams.

Arkansas @ South Carolina: ESPN (7:45)

The Hogs take their perfect SEC mark nearly 1,000 miles east. They’ve treaded water with some easy wins since their decisive win over Auburn. South Carolina got a dose of reality last weekend in their loss to Tennessee. The Gamecocks have started to find some answers on offense. Arkansas should expect to run well with the league’s top rushing attack against a run defense rated in the bottom third of the SEC. The Columbia crowd is always a factor, but Arkansas has already been road-tested at Auburn. This is the kind of game that Arkansas has to win if they have a chance of winning the West – Tennessee and LSU are right around the corner.

Georgia @ Kentucky (no TV)

The passing games of both teams will be in the spotlight here. Kentucky has the SEC’s third-most productive passing offense, and Georgia’s defense has taken its licks through the air. Wildcat quarterback Andre Woodson is big and mobile and a much improved player from the shell-shocked kid we saw a year ago. Georgia turned up the heat last week against Florida with decent results. They’ll need a strong performance from the defensive line against a banged-up UK offensive front. On the other side, Georgia’s Matthew Stafford continues to develop under center, and he’ll go up against the conference’s most generous pass defense. The one gotcha for Stafford is turnovers. Kentucky is right near the top of the league in turnover margin, recovering an SEC-best 11 fumbles. They have only turned the ball over ten times. Georgia has turned it over ten times in just the past two games. Georgia’s 16 takeaways are middle of the pack, but their 22 giveaways result in the SEC’s worst turnover margin. Worse, many of Georgia’s turnovers have set opponents up deep inside of Bulldog territory.

LSU @ Tennessee: CBS (3:30)

This is the big SEC game of the week. Tennessee is coming off of two very emotional games. They won in a comeback over arch rival Alabama, and then they put the Fulmer vs. Spurrier game behind them last week. They’ll have to gear up for a third straight week against an LSU team that’s been flying under the radar a bit and no doubt stewing about this game since their loss at Florida. There’s also the emotional baggage from last year’s game. LSU roared out to a big lead in their first post-Katrina home game, but Tennessee fought back for their only win of consequence in 2005. LSU’s defense surely remembers how Erik Ainge folded spectacularly against their pressure in that game. The difference between home and away has been night and day for LSU. In their five home games this year, LSU hasn’t scored fewer than 45 points. In their two road games, they haven’t scored more than 10 points. That those two road games were at Auburn and Florida has a lot to do with the disparity, but Tennessee is also a tough place to play. LSU has a big job to prove that they are more than paper tigers away from home.

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