Which Tiger will prevail down on the plains this Saturday?
Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2) at No. 21 Arkansas (4-2, 1-2)
11:21 p.m., CT, TV: SEC Network
Difficult to believe the teams have the same SEC records. Arkansas almost deserves a mulligan or two, having hung in – but fallen – to Alabama and Auburn. Ryan Mallett bounced back pretty quickly (too quickly?) from his concussion and should be ready to get the Hogs back to .500 in the league.
Ole Miss has played better the past three weeks, but, realistically, it can only hope to hang in the same way it did a week ago at Alabama. You know, honestly, Arkansas hasn’t had a thorough performance all season. Not against anyone of relevance. Seven-point wins against Georgia and Texas A&M are far from impressive, in addition to the losses to Alabama and Auburn. Here’s a chance for a quasi-quality win. Those still count when it comes time for bowl recognition.
Player to Watch: Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB. The quick recovery from the concussion is impressive - we think - but is he really back? Or will he see little Troy Aikmans flying around the field?
No. 6 Louisiana State (7-0, 4-0) at No. 5 Auburn (7-0, 4-0)
2:30 p.m., CT, TV: CBS
Congrats, LSU, for making it this far. One question: How’d you do it? Bad news for the Tigers and Les Miles is they’ve got Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas among their final four conference games. Hint: You can’t beat those teams by putting chips on red or black. Sorry to disappoint.
John Chavis has formed a formidable defense for LSU, but not one prepared for Cam Newton. Truth: What defense is? Newton just seems to show up every week, no matter the opponent. You halfway expect him to run for 187 yards against the AFC All-Pro Team. Heck, maybe he would.
Is there any way the Hat can hang around for another fourth-quarter miracle? Auburn likes playing games that last into the final quarter – but it likes winning them convincingly. Look for a Miles fake field goal call on the first possession.
Player to Watch: Cam Newton, Auburn QB. He’s been the guy to watch. He will be this week. He’ll cement his case for a Heisman against another top-five opponent. He’s already our pick for the award – and we’ve got a vote.
No. 19 South Carolina (4-2, 2-2) at Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-2)
6 p.m., CT, TV: FSN
The road doesn’t work out so hot for the Gamecocks, but games don’t work out so well for the Commodores. Quite the quandary. Someone has to come out ahead. Got to be the Gamecocks, who already spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the scarlet letter of losing to Vanderbilt.
Really, though, the Gamecocks’ offense is too good to bog like the ’07 and ’08 versions, even without Marcus Lattimore, who will sit because of an ankle injury. Stephen Garcia and Alshon Jeffery are due for a big road game. Why not Vanderbilt? Seems like a perfectly acceptable place for that to happen.
This is a crucial game for South Carolina’s passing defense, which is 110th in the country through six games. Despite returning experience and talent, the Gamecocks have really struggled in that area. Fortunately for South Carolina, Vanderbilt’s struggled even more throwing the ball (70 yards for Larry Smith at Vanderbilt). The Gamecocks are second in the country in sacks – and Vanderbilt’s allowed 15 this season.
Player to Watch: Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina CB. Gilmore had a bad day at the office last week, blowing the final coverage and dropping a punt. Time to make up for it for the All-SEC-level performer.
No. 7 Alabama (6-1, 3-1) at Tennessee (2-4, 0-3)
7 p.m., ET, TV: ESPN
This doesn’t seem fair. Can’t Derek Dooley get a head start before his first Third Saturday in October game? The first six games of the season don’t count.
There’s no way Alabama loses again in this regular season. At least until the final week, when Auburn comes to Tuscaloosa. The Tide got that whole business out of its system, even if that loss at South Carolina might’ve knocked it out of the national title equation. Tennessee will pay for such sins. The Volunteers plan on employing two quarterbacks this week, adding Tyler Bray in with Matt Simms. Yeah, that should fix everything.
Player to Watch: Mark Ingram, Alabama RB. About time he appears in a big way. He’ll make a run at this Heisman, yet, even if he doesn’t win it again.
UAB (2-4) at No. 24 Mississippi State (5-2)
6 p.m., CT, TV: ESPNU
The last time Neil Calloway and UAB went into an SEC stadium, things worked out pretty darned well. There were even reports of a moral victory parade by the Vulcan Statue. The Blazers ran up 544 yards and took Tennessee to double overtime before a fluky bowout in Neyland Stadium. (UAB deserved the win. Seriously.)
Mississippi State provides a far better challenge than the challenged Volunteers, but there’s also the letdown factor at play. Gamble that the Bulldogs’ play will sink after a landmark victory at Florida, even if the Gators aren’t the Gators you’re used to seeing. Even with the flat-lining moments, expect Dan Mullen to get just enough out of his guys to outplay UAB. They’ll become bowl-eligible before November, a terrific sign for a program on the rise.
Player to Watch: Josh Zahn, UAB K. Dude was 2 for 7 on field goals at Tennessee. If the Blazers have got any shot at all in this one, they’ll be in field-goal range – and Zahn has to be on.
Georgia (3-4, 2-3) at Kentucky (4-3, 1-3)
7:30 p.m., ET, TV: CSS
The Wildcats keep drawing the tough ones at home. Oh, wait, that’s good. Randall Cobb had us confused. Why not a third consecutive game to go to the final minutes? Of course, Kentucky would prefer not to have to furiously rally the way it has against Auburn and South Carolina. It ran out of fuel before it could pass Auburn, but it did manage to scoot past ailing South Carolina a week ago. Still difficult figuring out how the Gamecocks left Cobb, of all players, wide open on fourth down.
Georgia looks like a different football team, but so would a lot of teams after playing Tennessee and Vanderbilt. This is a tougher test than many might believe. Even without Derrick Locke, and it does appear UK will miss him again this week, Kentucky has enough firepower to stay with the improving Dawgs. Between Cobb and an emerging Mike Hartline, the Wildcats are equipped for a run at the division. What, you say? Although it might seem that UGA is the new contender in the East, bear in mind that UK, if it makes it through this week, still has Vandy and Tennessee down the line – plus that all-important tiebreaker with the Gamecocks.
Player to Watch: Mike Hartline, Kentucky QB. What a step Hartline took a week ago. How about another? Is he really the best pocket passer in the league, as South Carolina’s defensive coordinator asserted?