The build up to the LSU/Alabama game next week has become almost unbearable. A classic SEC rivalry with a national spotlight and BCS implications is the exact thing the SEC is known for. As the ranks of the top 25 have changed and morphed over the past 9 weeks, one thing has remained true. This game is THE game to watch on November 5th. But, until then, THESE are the games worth paying attention to this week.
#10 Arkansas (6-1, 2-1 SEC) @ Vanderbilt (4-3, 1-3 SEC)
12:21pm ET, SEC Network, ESPN3
#10 Arkansas dodged a pretty big bullet last week against Ole Miss in Oxford, in which the Rebels owned the Razorbacks early until a 17-point comeback to take the win. From their record, Arkansas looks to be untouchable in this part of the season, with their only loss to Alabama. But, peel back the onion a little bit and it will reveal an offense that’s been inconsistent, a defense that is “spotty” at best and a coaching staff that is probably tired of having to come from behind to win each week. Most would consider this match up a slam dunk, but Vanderbilt, coming off it’s first win in a month, has demonstrated both determination and heart on the field, which has caused problems for their opponents, even with the win. Commodore quarterback Jordan Rodgers passed for 186 yards against Army last week, which was the most of any Vandy QB this season. Running back Zac Stacy has racked up 579 yards this season and 5 touchdowns. Their offensive has improved, but the question is really whether it will be enough against Arkansas. Vandy is only 1-3 in the SEC, but the losses come at the hands of Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia. If the Hogs don’t tighten up their defense, this could be the upset game of the week.
#22 Georgia (5-2, 4-1 SEC) vs Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC)
3:30pm ET, CBS
This annual match-up on neutral soil should be the most evenly matched game of the season. Both teams have a number of things in common this season. Both are coming off a bye week, both are putting up similar stats this season on offense and both have not beaten a ranked opponent this season. Georgia is riding a 5 game win streak, but the toughest team they’ve beaten thus far has been Mississippi State. Florida, on the other hand, has dropped three in a row, all against top ranked teams (Alabama, LSU and Auburn), in which starting quarterback John Brantley’s absence was felt throughout Gator Nation. But, Brantley is scheduled to make his return, which may breath new life into this sputtering Florida offense. Georgia has enjoyed some consistency with QB Aaron Murray throwing his best game of the season last week against Vandy. Both should combine for heavy yards in the air and give fans a game worth watching. If Florida can ride the momentum of having their offense whole again, this could be their turn around game.
Ole Miss (2-5, 0-4 SEC) @ #23 Auburn (5-3, 3-2 SEC)
7:00pm ET, ESPNU
Last week’s loss to Arkansas has to be a huge disappointment to Ole Miss fans. The Rebels went into halftime with their first SEC win of the season. Two quarters later they were right back where they started. But, one thing is for sure, the Rebels developed momentum not seen all season. The question is can they maintain it as they travel to Auburn this weekend to play the #23 Tigers. Auburn’s offensive weakness was exposed and exploited last week in Baton Rouge, as a talents LSU defense held Auburn to 87 total rushing yards, with most of those coming after the game was out of reach. Auburn has not lost a game this season at home, providing them a huge advantage over a battered Ole Miss team. But, should Ole Miss showcase some of their offense talent displayed in the first two quarters last week, this could provide an entertainment, yet predictable, outcome.
Mississippi State (3-4, 0-4 SEC) @ Kentucky (3-4, 0-3 SEC)
7:00pm ET, ESPN3
What started out as a promising season for the Bulldogs, has turned into a story of survival as Mississippi State continues its campaign to remain bowl eligible. With five games left on the season (including Alabama and Arkansas), State needs to hold the line in the bluegrass state. Mississippi State has had nothing going in the air, currently ranked 95th in passing yards. Currently tied for last in the SEC West, the Bulldogs could salvage their season by putting up some big numbers against Kentucky. But, Kentucky will try just as hard to keep that from happening. The Wildcats are hoping the home field advantage will help them make it two in a row, after last week’s defeat of Jacksonville State. The Wildcat offense has had just as much trouble as State, but found new life last week. If Kentucky can ride some of that momentum into this Saturday, they could take State by surprise and pull off the win.
#13 South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC) @ Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC)
7:15pm ET, ESPN2, ESPN3
There is nothing more nerve-racking than starting a freshman quarterback in the middle of the season. With Tennessee losing starting QB Tyler Bray to a thumb injury and Matt Simms having an inconsistent season at best, coach Dooley made the change that could really introduce one of the strongest QBs to come out of the high school ranks. The question will be whether Justin Worley will be ready or not against the #13 team in the land. Worley saw some time this season against #2 Alabama, but wasn’t given the chance to showcase what he can do. The Gamecocks are hoping that they can keep that showcase from happening, as South Carolina brings in a defense that is allowing the fewest passing yards by an opponent in the FBS. The Gamecock defense should bring pressure early against the struggling Volunteer offensive line, which may prove too much for Worley to handle. But with the troubles on offense this season for coach Spurrier, this visit to Knoxville could expose an inconsistent offense that relies on it’s defense to bring home the W.