SEC - Week 9


Tennessee (2–5, 0–4) at No. 17 South Carolina (5–2, 3–2), 12:21 p.m. CT
TV: SEC Network

Holy role reversal. Typically, it’s Tennessee hanging around in the SEC race and South Carolina treading water (OK, maybe not this badly). But it’s at least rare — in fact it hasn’t happened — that the Volunteers are the easiest conference opponent for the division-leading Gamecocks.

Tennessee has managed to hang around for some first halves this season against good teams, like last week against Alabama and Oregon earlier in the year, but you’ve got to figure they’ll eventually run out of steam for even that. Maybe now? Injuries and suspensions have really stripped down this team to Derek Dooley’s Comedy Tour. You almost want the presumed blowout to be worse, just to see what Dooley says next.

The Vols couldn’t cover Julio Jones (221 yards) last week. They will not be able to cover Alshon Jeffery (121.1 yards a game), either. That’s not even taking into account South Carolina’s emerging run game, with Marcus Lattimore (89.7 ypg) back from a gimpy ankle.

Player to Watch: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina RB. Almost like a midseason breather last week for Lattimore. Expect him to come back strong.

Florida (4–3, 2–3) vs. Georgia (4–4, 3–3), 3:30 p.m. ET

Any other season, and neither of these teams would be in the East mix at this point. But, then again, they’re the teams who have won all but two of the division titles this decade. So, we’re just not accustomed to this mediocrity from the division, as a whole.

But, in reality, this is an East Division elimination game. Georgia has won three in a row; Florida has lost three straight. The Gators, as you know, have dominated this series in recent years. What gives in this one?

Seven games it, it seems apparent that Florida’s offense will simply not click this season. We’ve given up on it. Given the personnel and stubborn coaching philosophy, it will never get going. And, as most expected, Georgia’s defense has settled in pretty nicely with that 3-4. Linebacker Justin Houston is putting together an all-SEC season without much fanfare.

Aaron Murray, A.J. Green and Washaun Ealey? Georgia just has more weaponry than Florida. Been a long time since you could say that. Like, since the 1980s?

Player to Watch: Chris Rainey, Florida RB/WR. Is he really going to play? If he does, will he make a difference?

No. 3 Auburn (8–0, 5–0) at Ole Miss (3–4, 1–3), 5 p.m. CT

The key there is the word “at.” See how Auburn is to the left of that word? That means it’s playing a rare away game. The Tigers — now the new No. 1 in the BCS — play only four games away from Jordan-Hare. This week’s game at Ole Miss is the third (Alabama is the fourth). The first two? Three-point wins at Mississippi State and Kentucky.

As you see, it hasn’t been easy. Then again, many of Auburn’s games, even the home ones, haven’t been easy. Ole Miss could test the Tigers, but the Rebels don’t have enough ammo for four quarters. And, true to every week’s outlook, Ole Miss has no one to stop Cameron Newton. He’ll do to the Rebs what he’s done to everyone, taking over the game late.

Player to Watch: Cam Newton, Auburn QB. Why not?

Kentucky (4–4, 1–4) at No. 23 Mississippi State (6–2, 2–2), 6 p.m. CT

Remember when people thought Kentucky was a legitimate division contender? Oh, right, that was last week. At 1–4, Joker Phillips has acknowledged the Wildcats are now interested in the best available bowl. That’ll first require two more victories. Charleston Southern is one. Vanderbilt is a definite possibility for two. How much would Kentucky like to beat Spurrier and Tennessee in one season?

A bowl game is on Mississippi State’s mind, as well. The Bulldogs would love to go to one in Dan Mullen’s second year after narrowly missing one a season ago. And they will after getting past a Kentucky team that has no defense and is still missing Derrick Locke.

Player to Watch: Derrick Locke, Kentucky RB. Point blank: Locke (shoulder) has to play for the Wildcats to have a chance. But that doesn’t seem likely.

Vanderbilt (2–5, 1–3) at No. 19 Arkansas (5–2, 2–2), 6 p.m. CT

Sort of like South Carolina with Lattimore a week ago, Arkansas will likely be careful this week with a couple of its most important offensive players, receivers Greg Childs and Joe Adams. Both have ankle injuries, like Lattimore. The Razorbacks can get by without their top two receivers against Vandy.

The Hogs would love for Ryan Mallett, who’s nursing a bruised shoulder himself, to get a chance to watch some in the second half. This has been a physically taxing season already for Mallett, who needs to be healthy for the tests ahead, against South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU.

Player to Watch: Knile Davis, Arkansas RB. Davis and the run game got going a week ago against Ole Miss (176 yards, three TDs). Could be a similar story this week.

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