SEC Weekend Preview
John Brantley leads Florida into Tuscaloosa to battle the Tide.
By: Rob Doster | 9/30/10, 12:52 PM EDT
Alabama's Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram
Florida (4–0, 2–0) at Alabama (4–0, 1–0)
7 p.m., CT
You get chills just typing that. These are the premier teams in the league, and everyone knows it. Even Steve Spurrier, with his team off this week, says he is looking forward to the game. (Granted, the Gamecocks play the Tide next week and the Gators in November.)
Florida is a relatively big underdog — more than a touchdown, according to Vegas. That hasn’t happened a whole bunch in Urban Meyer’s tenure — really, not since Meyer’s first season. Still, the Gators spent most of September looking for an offensive spark. It just might have found one in receiver-who-plays-quarterback Trey Burton, who rushed for five touchdowns a week ago.
But will the Wild Gator, with an undersized receiver, work against a fast, physical Alabama defense the way it worked against Kentucky? If it does, you have to figure it won’t work well consistently. The Gators have to throw to stay in this game. John Brantley must grow up, and on the road. Andre Debose seemed to make a move forward last week. He needs another, against a Bama secondary that can be had.
How have we entered the fourth paragraph without mentioning Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson? As long as Bama has one, or both, it’s in good shape. You saw that last week at Arkansas. In trouble, the Tide just kept running — and it worked out. It’s a pretty good philosophy to have, when you haven’t lost a regular-season game since 2007. Florida’s going to need a defensive score to win, and that might not be enough. Not in Tuscaloosa.
Player to Watch: Mark Ingram, Alabama RB: Sometimes you overcomplicate who you should watch. Ingram’s the best player on the field. Watch him work, wearing Florida down for the fourth quarter.
Louisiana-Monroe (1–2) at Auburn (4–0)
Alcorn State (3-0) at Mississippi State (2-2)
11 a.m., CT
TV: ESPNU; FSN
New rule: If you start your non-conference game before noon local time, you get a half-preview. And, so, Auburn and Mississippi State both get a half each. (Yet both are televised. That ESPN deal is sweet magic for the league.)
The goal for each team is to sustain momentum. Both had big, big wins for their respective programs last week (Mississippi State beat Georgia, while Auburn rallied past South Carolina). Do what you’re supposed to do and dispatch these teams. Keep everyone healthy for the grind ahead.
Player to Watch: Cam Newton, Auburn QB. He’ll be the Tigers’ player to watch until further notice. The guy is sensational, does everything. He leads the SEC in rushing and passing efficiency through four games. That’s just stunning.
Vanderbilt (1–2) at Connecticut (2–2)
TV: Big East Network
You remember the last time UConn met up with an SEC team, don’t you? All right, maybe not, unless you’re in South Carolina. The Huskies beat up on the Gamecocks in the bowl formerly sponsored by Papa John’s. The lopsided contest, evidently, was enough to evict “Papa” from the house.
UConn was to have competed for the Big East title this season, and in theory it still can, but the Huskies haven’t looked good, particularly in losses to Michigan and Temple. All this is said to float the notion that Vanderbilt can be very competitive in this game, even if it is in New England. Vandy’s been in every game so far, and it’s had a week to prep for UConn. Slow Jordan Todman, get Warren Norman going on the ground, and the Commodores could get back to .500.
Player to Watch: Warren Norman, Vanderbilt RB: Look for Norman’s impact in the return game, in particular.
Kentucky (3–1, 0–1) at Ole Miss (2–2, 0–1)
11:21 p.m., CT
TV: SEC Network
A week ago, you would’ve predicted a Kentucky romp — and the fact the game’s in Oxford would’ve only helped. But Ole Miss got things going last week, scoring 55 points to beat an all right Fresno team.
Kentucky, meanwhile, was obliterated on the road at Florida. (What’s new?) The Wildcats’ D, which you thought might be suspect, was in fact suspect. If Kentucky can stop big back Brandon Bolden, the Rebels will be forced to throw to win. And that hasn’t worked out all that well so far this season.
Kentucky’s a slight underdog on the road, but you’ve got to like the Wildcats’ chances with Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke presenting challenges for Ole Miss’ defense.
Player to Watch: Randall Cobb, Kentucky: No position to note here, since Cobb does it all. And Kentucky will need that to continue to be the case.
Tennessee (2–2, 0–1) at LSU (4–0, 2–0)
2:30 p.m., CT
Style points haven’t been part of either team’s repertoire this season. Wouldn’t expect that to change when facing one another.
Tennessee is an absolute mess, evidenced this past week with the overtime win against UAB. The fact that the Volunteers allowed almost 550 yards to the Blazers is still a fact that baffles. LSU doesn’t have a lot of firepower on offense, relying on back Stevan Ridley, but surely the Tigers have more in the cupboard than UAB.
The book is out on Tigers return man and corner Patrick Peterson. Hint to Matt Simms: Don’t throw Peterson’s way. Hint to Derek Dooley: Don’t kick to Peterson, either. Don’t create another Heisman moment for Peterson. Please. That pose last week, premature and all, needs to be retired. Now.
It’s difficult to believe this game would be close in Knoxville, and it’s not in Knoxville. Come to think of it, it’s Tennessee’s first road game of the year. Yikes.
Player to Watch: Russell Shepard, LSU WR: Surely there will be opportunities for Shepard against this suffering Volunteers defense.
Georgia (1–3) at Colorado (2–1)
5 p.m., MT
Reeling, on an unheard of three-game September losing streak, Georgia now has to travel two-thirds of the way across the country. Maybe that’s a good thing for the Bulldogs and coach Mark Richt. They can’t hear the critics nearly as well with about a dozen states sandwiched in between.
The Bulldogs struggled in Boulder in 2006, when the team was, you know, good. No reason to believe this one won’t again be a struggle, even if Colorado is pretty horrendous. Georgia does get A.J. Green back. That’s a boost. UGA’s season, though, is already in salvage mode. That’s for sure.
Some teams would prefer Georgia turn it on now: South Carolina’s signature win, back on Sept. 11, has gotten sourer and sourer by the week.
Player to Watch: A.J. Green, Georgia WR: No question about it. Let’s see what Green has pent up after a month on the pine, watching his teammates fall repeatedly.
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