Florida (5-3, 3-3) at Vanderbilt (2-6, 1-4), 12:21 p.m., ET
TV: SEC Network
A subtly huge game, even though the Gators should roll. Be interesting to see how Florida responds after a very draining experience last week against Georgia, just squeaking past the Bulldogs in overtime. Good thing for Florida the South Carolina game — what figures to be the SEC East title game — isn’t this weekend.
As it is, the Gators get the closest thing there is to a bye week in SEC play, although note that Florida at least has to go on the road. Urban Meyer seemed to find something with the usage of three quarterbacks, also incorporating Jordan Reed, along with John Brantley and Trey Burton. Really, it’s about locating a balance between Brantley, who was still very average, and Burton, who was again dynamic and did complete two passes.
It’s hardly a work of art, but the Florida offense might be sufficient to manage two more wins — and then get clobbered by the West winner in Atlanta.
As for Vanderbilt, things got even worse with the news that running back Warren Norman is out for the season, following wrist surgery. Robbie Caldwell’s got his work cut out for him keeping his team glued together. Then again, it shouldn’t be anything for a man who’s dabbled in turkey insemination. The state title is still out there for the Commodores.
Player to Watch: Jordan Reed, Florida RB/TE. Let’s see how Reed is used this week, or if the tricks remain shelved for the Gamecocks.
Idaho State (1-7, 0-6) at Georgia (4-5, 3-4), 12:30 p.m., ET
TV: PPV/local affiliates
How did Idaho State wind up on the Bulldogs’ schedule, exactly? Wait, we don’t even want to know. Georgia doesn’t, either. It’ll take a victory in any shape and form. As its only FCS opponent, Idaho State will count toward getting the Bulldogs bowl-eligible, which still is no guarantee considering Auburn and Georgia Tech close out the regular season.
Todd Grantham shouldn’t have to break out the choke sign for the — wait a sec, got to look up what Idaho State’s mascot is — Bengals. This is a chance for Georgia to brush itself off, after last week’s crumble at the end, and prepare for two incredibly important November games. Aaron Murray needs to play like the dude in the fourth quarter against Florida — not the first, and overtime.
Player to Watch: Justin Houston, LB. This guy’s going to wind up leading the SEC in sacks, likely aided by this game.
Charleston Southern (2-6) at Kentucky (4-5), 12:30 p.m., ET
Detecting a theme, with the pay-per-view games? There are some clunkers on the conference’s slate this week. Everybody’s prepping for November with a pseudo-open date, it seems. The Buccaneers have already been lambs-to-the-slaughter in Hawaii. But, you know, that was in Hawaii. The Bluegrass gets some frost on it about this time of year. And it’s expected to be quite chilly for a team from temperate North Charleston, S.C. Yes, that’s right. Charleston Southern, directionally confused, is in North Charleston.
Oh, right, the game. Kentucky was a play away from tying the game last week at Mississippi State. Then again, the Wildcats are an incompletion away from winless in the SEC. Just keep motoring, if you’re Joker’s boys, and hope for a bowl in a strange, strange season in which Randall Cobb called out the fanbase — after the season’s biggest win.
Player to Watch: Derrick Locke, Kentucky RB. This is the longest time ever missed for a stinger in human history. The Wildcats will not need him this week, but they will the rest of November if they would like a postseason.
Chattanooga (5-3) at No. 3 Auburn (9-0), 1:00 p.m., ET
This is the only game we recommend forking over the pay-per-view bucks for. Cam Newton is worth the price of visual admission, regardless of the opponent.
Chattanooga isn’t an abysmal team in the Southern Conference, at least not compared to the other FCS schlubs listed above. But the Mocs are clearly not on Auburn’s level. Not even if alum Terrell Owens showed up.
Here’s a chance, though, for Auburn’s defense to tighten up a bit. That’ll be necessarily for those two remaining tests, Georgia and at Alabama, if the Tigers really are interested in winning an SEC (or national) title.
Player to Watch: Cam Newton, Auburn WR. He’s a receiver now, apparently. Let’s see if he dabbles at safety or kicking off this week. Has there been a more valuable player to his team in recent memory? He’s a bigger team MVP than even Tim Tebow.
No. 5 Alabama at No. 12 Louisiana State, 3:30 p.m., ET
Team plays close with Auburn at Auburn, but loses. Has the following week off. Hosts Alabama the next week. That’s the scenario unfolding for LSU, and it should sound familiar. It was the very same formula for South Carolina, leading into the Gamecocks’ upset of the Tide.
Here are some reasons why that will not happen:
• It already happened once. Lightning doesn’t seem to strike twice on Nick Saban’s watch.
• The Tide hasn’t been playing all that well. Even if it did distance itself from Tennessee, it was a close game at the half. Ole Miss was a wash. Really, Bama hasn’t been Bama since going all “Swamp People” on the Gators. Here’s a chance to make a statement.
• LSU’s offense isn’t nearly as good as South Carolina’s. There’s no one nearly as dynamic as Marcus Lattimore or Alshon Jeffery on LSU’s sideline. Weird as it is to say, the Tigers would have a decent chance to win, if only they had Stephen Garcia as their QB.
Some really believe Alabama is still going to play for the SEC title and end up in a BCS bowl. We’ll buy. Look for a determined Tide team coming off its bye.
Player to Watch: Mark Ingram, Alabama RB. Remember him? It’s about time he broke out, even against a staunch D.
Louisiana-Lafayette (2-6) at Ole Miss (3-5), 7 p.m., ET
God bless you, Louisiana-Lafayette. You all are 0–36 all-time against the SEC, but you still keep trying. We’re sure the paychecks aren’t terrible consolation prizes, but they’re still not getting the program to an SEC level, it seems. The Cajuns supplied one of the season’s more surprising results, somehow losing 54–21 — at home — to a Western Kentucky team that had lost 26 straight games, the longest streak in all divisions at that time.
The Rebels already lost one of these games this season, the opener against Jacksonville State (which might be better than Ooh-La-La, even though it’s a class down). So, in short, don’t expect it to happen again. Some pundits were picking the Rebels to dethrone Auburn a week ago. Let’s not get carried away. At the very least, can Houston Nutt bring back those silver unis? Those were sharp.
Player to Watch: Jesse Grandy, Ole Miss WR. Get the ball in his hands. This guy’s got some speed to him.
Arkansas (6-2, 3-2) at South Carolina (6-2, 4-2), 7 p.m., ET
Ah, the other game in the league this week. Odd spot for the Gamecocks, who can win the division, with or without this game. You wouldn’t have figured in August, or even a month ago, that would be the case.
Hindsight’s not 20-20 in the Gamecocks’ case. It just gives them a terrible headache. With one play going differently at Kentucky — the Wildcats’ only SEC win, to date — the Gamecocks would have two shots at the division. Instead, this week is moot in that discussion and it’s only a prelude to the Swamp. But South Carolina has adamantly said this week that Arkansas still means a great deal to the team. In that respect, both teams are playing for the same thing. With identical records, the Gamecocks and Razorbacks are fighting for similar bowl fates. So, head to head will come into play in early December, in that regard.
Ryan Mallett completed 23-of-27 passes, including 12-of-13 in the second half, as the Hogs rattled off 23 straight points to beat the Gamecocks a year ago. This time, South Carolina is giving up a league-worst 259.9 passing yards a game. And it lost a senior corner, Chris Culliver, for the season. Not a good recipe to stem an explosive passing offense.
The Gamecocks’ only hope is to outscore the Hogs, leaning on Lattimore (especially to control the clock) and Jeffery (Arkansas’ defense isn’t anything special, either). That, and Razorbacks top receiver Greg Childs is done for the year. These teams stack up evenly. With that in mind, don’t ignore the fact that South Carolina has won 13 of 14 at home, with the only loss coming to then-No. 1 Florida last November. But the Gamecocks have come unglued in Novembers past.
In short, who freaking knows what’s going to happen in this game?
Player to Watch: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina RB. He might be the Gamecocks’ best defense, keeping Mallett off the field. Lattimore had a season-best 184 yards last week against Tennessee.
Tennessee (2-6) at Memphis (1-7), 7 p.m., CT
TV: CBS College Sports
Memphis is purported to be one of the worst college football teams in America. Backing that up is the fact that the Tigers are 18-point home underdogs to Tennessee — something that even caught Vols first-year coach Derek Dooley off guard earlier in the week.
Tennessee did manage to do some things right, even in the second half, at South Carolina last week. The decision to go with Tyler Bray in the second half might have rankled Matt Simms (he’s since apologized), but it was the right move. Ahem, even after he threw a pick six immediately upon entering the game.
Bray rebounded enough, though, to get the nod this week. Denarius Moore showed last week he could get behind South Carolina’s defensive backs. So that lends evidence that he might be able to sneak past Memphis’ secondary, as well.
Mentioned this about Vanderbilt, but the state title is still out there for the Vols. Small steps, small victories for Dooley’s Vols.
Player to Watch: Denarius Moore, Tennessee WR. A nod for that 228-yard day last week in Columbia. Few more times out like that, and he might net himself a look to play on Sundays.