The SEC kicks off the month of October (is it really already October?) with another set of compelling matchups this weekend. We don’t quite have the depth of quality that last weekend did, but we have games with national title implications and conference title implications, sprinkled in with a couple must wins for teams trying to stay on the fringe of the SEC race or make bowls.
We’re under 24 hours from kickoff, so let’s get down to business.
Game of the Week – #7 Florida (4-0) @ #1 Alabama (4-0) – Saturday 8 PM, CBS
This game is missing the star power that Tim Tebow brought to it the last two seasons, but the high rankings, title dreams, and abundance of athletes are still there. Both teams are coming off of games that some had circled as potential upsets, with Alabama making a late comeback to nip then-#10 Arkansas, while Florida walloped Kentucky at home.
The Gators have improved each week this season, particularly on offense, but this will be an entirely different test for them. Luckily, it’s a test that they will likely face with running back Jeff Demps in the backfield. He has been contending with an injury this week, but is listed as probable.
Florida will have revenge on its mind traveling to Tuscaloosa after the Tide ended their dreams of a second straight title. Urban Meyer, almost immediately after dispatching UK, declared the week leading up to the game “Bama Week”, so this is a big deal (duh).
The Tide will have plenty to think about when playing defense having seen do it all freshman Trey Burton absolutely tear up Kentucky, but the Tide defense is NOT the Wildcat defense.
When Alabama has the ball, Florida will need to slow down the Alabama running game headlined by Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, which is a fairly tall task. Florida will also need to capitalize on any and all mistakes, something they have done all year. QB Greg McElroy made some mistakes on the road last week and Florida’s ball hawking defense (NCAA leading 12 picks) will likely capitalize.
This game will be so intense that it will stay close, but Alabama will be busting long runs by the fourth quarter and will be a little too much.
Can’t Miss Games
Tennessee (2-2) @ #12 LSU (4-0) – Saturday 3:30 PM, CBS
Tennessee is not a very good team and they are playing a top 15 squad, so why does this game belong here? Because LSU will probably figure out a way to let the Vols stay in it, and if they do, the Death Valley crowd, which booed at times last week, is going to get very antsy. When a game is close and tense deep in the fourth quarter, Les Miles is capable of almost anything, be it an incredibly bold gamble that pays off or a last second blunder that costs his team a chance to win, which would be fun for everyone, except the Tigers.
The one thing that could keep this game from being close is the Tennessee offense. They have a really hard time moving the ball and the thought of Matt Simms playing against Patrick Peterson and an athletic defense has to be frightening for anybody wearing orange. Thankfully for the Vols, LSU is also anemic on offense.
Kentucky (3-1) @ Ole Miss (2-2) – Saturday 12:20 PM, SEC Network (WAVE 3 in Louisville)
Check out our full preview later today.
Games to Keep an Eye on
Vanderbilt (1-2) @ UConn (2-2) – Saturday 12 PM, Big East Network
This is an out of conference game that Vandy has to have to keep alive its flickering bowl hopes. A win on the road, though, could signal that Vandy will be a pretty tough win for anybody in the SEC this year. So far, the ‘Dores two losses are to #12 LSU and currently unbeaten Northwestern (a very close one), so 1-2 isn’t an embarrassing record.
Georgia (1-3) @ Colorado (2-1) – Saturday 7 PM
This one is going to be tough to keep an eye on, because UGA’s sputtering start has made it so that not even ESPN3.com will broadcast. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a game the Bulldogs desperately need. It will also be very interesting because, at long last, they will be getting star receiver AJ Green back from injury. Their offense has been missing something this season and it very well could be Green. Colorado’s D has been suspect all year against the pass (240+ yards per game), which bodes well for Mark Richt and company.
Only if You Have Family Involved
Louisiana-Monroe (1-2) @ #10 Auburn (4-0) – Saturday 12 PM, ESPNU
ULM is absolutely brutal on the ground. They average three yards a carry. Cam Newton has outrushed them by more than 130 yards all by his lonesome. He might do this same in this single game.
Alcorn State (3-0) @ Mississippi State (2-2) – Saturday 12 PM, ESPN3.com
The Fighting Steve McNair’s are unbeaten so far this season in three games against fellow FCS squads. They are rushing for nearly 200 yards per outing and allowing under 90 on defense. Recent history also suggests that FCS teams are dangerous, but I’m just not buying it here. Bulldogs win big.