Tennessee (2–3, 0–2) at Georgia (1–4, 0–3)
12:21 p.m., ET
TV: SEC Network
Not that Vegas is all there is to football — and we don’t condone gambling, in any way — but this was (and is) a most confounding line. To make Georgia more than a touchdown favorite at home, after the Bulldogs lost (how?) at Colorado and Tennessee nearly won at LSU, is a head-scratcher. You sense what the sportsbooks are thinking: that Georgia is due for a bounceback.
But weren’t the Dawgs due at Mississippi State? And at Colorado? We know, we know. It’s a law-of-averages game at a certain point. But if A.J. Green can’t help your team ultimately, what can? Everyone knows a defense would be a terrific place to start. But when does that kick in for first-year coordinator Todd Grantham? This is the first time both teams have had losing records in this series since, like, the Civil War. Ick.
Player to Watch: A.J. Green, UGA WR. He’s fun to watch. No one else in this game is, really. Sorry. Truth hurts.
No. 11 Arkansas (3–1) at Texas A&M (3–1)
2:30 p.m., CT
What a cool game. And in Cowboys Stadium, no less. And it presents itself as an actual non-conference challenge for a Razorbacks team that’s already played Louisiana-Monroe and Tennessee Tech. (C’mon, you can do better.) The truth is, Texas A&M isn’t that great. But it at least gives that appearance, for the Hogs.
Aggies quarterback Jerrod Johnson is a walking turnover, with four interceptions in each of his past two games. But Johnson has thrown for a bunch of yards, too, so that could be a problem for Arkansas’ secondary. Even after running into Alabama, it still hasn’t seen a passer who can truly test it.
Coming off its bye week, expect Arkansas to roll. It’s the better team. It might be on the road, sort of, but there are plenty of Hogs to make the trip to Jerry’s World.
Player to Watch: Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB. We missed him during his week off.
No. 1 Alabama (5–0, 2–0) at No. 19 South Carolina (3–1, 1–1)
3:30 p.m., ET
What a surprise. Another week, another marquee game for Bama. Following Arkansas and Florida, many — even some in Alabama — think this could be a week in which the Tide slip up. Nick Saban, though, seems to specialize in preventing slip-ups.
The only way South Carolina can hang in the game is if quarterback Stephen Garcia 1) has the time to throw and 2) doesn’t make critical errors. And both of those things are asking a ton from the Gamecocks and their junior quarterback.
The offensive line has really struggled against Furman and Auburn — yes, Furman — in recent weeks, so there’s no reason to think that Alabama’s defensive scheme won’t present issues. If Garcia does somehow have time, Alshon Jeffery (498 yards in four games) is a menace to cover. And Bama’s young secondary is no different.
South Carolina’s defense, mostly thanks to quarterback Cam Newton (176 yards), was shredded for 334 rushing yards at Auburn two weeks ago. Clearly that won’t work against Mark Ingram, who picked up a career-high 246 yards against the Gamecocks in the 2009 meeting. Despite that, it was a seven-point game in the fourth quarter in Tuscaloosa. Might be headed for another close one in Columbia this year.
Player to Watch: Stephen Garcia, USC QB. Cliché to pick a QB? Maybe. But Garcia’s pick-six early last season made a big difference. If he limits, or eliminates turnovers, the Gamecocks might have a chance. But can he do that?
Eastern Michigan (0–5) at Vanderbilt (1–3)
6 p.m., CT
Look, it’s the weekly I-can’t-believe-this-game’s-on-ESPN game. For real, what a freaking TV contract. Eastern Michigan and Vandy wouldn’t have been buried on the far reaches of a Canadian satellite dish before the most recent contract between the worldwide leader (in cable sports) and the worldwide leader (in college football).
The Commodores played a terrifically miserable second half at Connecticut a week ago, squandering a chance to hang around with the Huskies. Vandy quarterback Larry Smith was pretty good for a time in Storrs — and then he suddenly wasn’t so good. If Smith doesn’t play well against EMU — well, he’d better play well against EMU.
Player to Watch: Warren Norman, Vandy KR. It’s almost impossible to predict a kick return for a score, but all things considered, maybe this is a real chance.
LSU (5–0, 3–0) at Florida (4–1, 2–1)
7:30 p.m., ET
Pinned to a wall, you’d be able to name the SEC’s best team (by record), right? It’s LSU. Of course. Haven’t the Tigers demonstrated that clearly enough for you? Didn’t Les Miles make that obvious for you last week, with quite possibly one of the worst wins in SEC history?
It would only be fitting if a team, with full-on fun house style of winning, kept winning. Think about it: What if the Tigers went to the Swamp and actually played well? Wouldn’t that perk up the SEC world? It’s not as if it’s completely impossible, after Alabama dispatched Florida 31–6 a week ago.
The Gators have major problems, too, even if they weren’t quite so glaringly embarrassing as LSU’s in the final seconds against Tennessee. At least the Tigers aren’t worrying about getting the snap to the quarterback halfway through the season. Granted, LSU is wondering what will happen once the snap arrives in Jordan Jefferson’s or Jarrett Lee’s hands. (Why is Lee playing, again?)
Realists can admit there’s a defined gap between Alabama and the rest of the league, possibly with the exception of Auburn. But this game will determine the chasm, to some extent.
Player to Watch: Les Miles, LSU coach. Not a player. We know. But, dang, he sure fits the fun-to-watch part.
Auburn (5–0, 2–0) at Kentucky (3–2, 0–2)
7:30 p.m., ET
College — big-time college — has to be fun for Cam Newton the second time around. He’s absolutely destroying opposing defenses, from Louisiana-Monroe’s to South Carolina’s. (By the way, stinks that ULM had to play both Auburn and Arkansas. Gluttons for punishment, those guys.) And then Newton looks up and sees a Kentucky defense that gave up 48 points to Florida and then 42 points to Ole Miss.
Gus Malzahn’s misdirection is creating all sorts of fits now that Newton can maneuver for yardage inside the tackle box. He’s a complete nightmare for a defense, and especially one like Kentucky’s. Just expect Auburn to continue trucking through the league. With an eye peeking a week ahead, how about the potential of that Auburn-Arkansas matchup on the Plains? Contrasting styles, and both are trying to track down Alabama in the West. Of course, that would require that the Tide actually loses a game.
Player to Watch: Cam Newton, Auburn QB. Sticking to the rule. Newton is the league’s player to watch until further notice. Why not against a blah Wildcats D?
Mississippi State (3–2) at Houston (3–1)
7 p.m., CT
TV: CBS College Sports
Mississippi State wasn’t thinking about it then, but a lot of the intrigue left this game when Case Keenum was lost for the year. Houston isn’t much without its Heisman-contending QB, much the same as many mid-major would be. Not only that, but the Cougs lost their No. 2 quarterback as well. And their top receiver is suspended this week.
So, suddenly that changes the complexion of this one quite a bit. It’s still a good chance for Dan Mullen’s program to get out of the league and get a decent ‘W.’ Nothing incredible, but Mullen needs victories to get his club one step closer to a bowl. That’s an incredibly realistic goal after the Georgia win. Just imagine if the Bulldogs had caught a few passes and upset Auburn at home.
Player to Watch: Chad Bumphis, Mississippi State WR. Keep an eye on this guy. Yeah, he was around last year, but he presents the Bulldogs with a new element they haven’t had recently: speed.