Other SEC Teams Have Big Games

A case can be made that for different reasons there are key games in the Southeastern Conference this week. And there are subplots to both Mississippi State at Auburn and South Carolina at Georgia.

Under ordinary circumstances, Alabama at Penn State would far overshadow almost any SEC contest not involving Alabama or some natural rivalry. And the Crimson Tide of Coach Nick Saban vs. the Nittany Lions of Coach Joe Paterno does rank higher in national interest because Alabama and Penn State are national teams.

The Tide heads to University Park, Pa., and the 106,572 who will cram Beaver Stadium for a game that will be nationally televised by ABC. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 p.m. central time)

Bama holds a 9-5 lead in the series, including last year's 24-3 win in Tuscaloosa.

In addition to Alabama going to Penn State, Auburn hosting Mississippi State, and South Carolina playing at Georgia, SEC games Saturday have Central Michigan at Kentucky, Cincinnati at Tennessee, Southern Illinois at Ole Miss, New Mexico at Arkansas, Northwestern State at LSU, and Connecticut at Vanderbilt.

Alabama (48-7 over Kent State) and Penn State (41-7 over Indiana State) both had easy wins in their openers.

In the two SEC contests this week there are intriguing sidebars.

Is Georgia Coach Mark Richt playing for his job after the Bulldogs were embarrassed by Boise State, 35-21?

Does a suspension of quarterback Steve Garcia by South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier last only as long as the Gamecocks aren't in trouble?

Of course, the main point of the outcome is that the winner is expected to have the early advantage for the SEC Eastern Division title.

In the other SEC game, the outcome is expected to have quite a different result. The loser of Auburn (which just missed being upset by lowly Utah State in its opener) and Mississippi State (which romped over Memphis last Thursday and has a few days extra) is probably doomed to the bottom half of SEC West standings.

The big subplot, of course, is whether both schools are under NCAA investigation for the purchase of Cam Newton last year, or is it just Auburn under investigation, as numerous NCAA officials including the NCAA president have pointed out.

Here are some other SEC notes:

SEC teams went 10-2 in games against non-conference competition in Week 1. Since 1992, SEC teams are 695-219-2 (.760) against non-conference foes. Since 2000, every SEC team has a winning mark against non-conference competition.

SEC stadiums hosted seven games in week one with an average of 74,824 fans per game. There were a total of 523,765 fans with a 95.2 capacity percentage. Alabama and Florida played in front of capacity crowds.

SEC teams scored 63 touchdowns this weekend with 31 coming on the ground. There were 22 passing touchdowns, five scored on defense, four on punt returns and one kickoff return. Defensively, SEC teams gave up 28 touchdowns with 14 through the air, 13 on the ground and one on defense.

Alabama held Kent State to -9 rushing yards and 90 total offensive yards on Saturday. The 90 yard total is the second lowest in the Nick Saban era (84 vs. Chattanooga, 2009). Alabama leads the nation after Week 1 in rushing defense.

Arkansas' Joe Adams scored two touchdowns on punt returns against Missouri State (69 and 61 yards) giving him three in his career. Adams ties an SEC single-game mark held by six others (latest: Kentucky's Derek Abney vs. Miss. State, 2002).

Auburn's come-from-behind win 42-38 against Utah State is the Tigers' fifth in the Gene Chizik era when trailing by double digit points. Auburn trailed 21-7 in the second quarter and 38-28 with 3:38 left in the game.

Florida's Chris Rainey scored touchdowns via the pass (14 yard reception from John Brantley), the run (14 yards) and a blocked punt return (22 yards) against Florida Atlantic. He is the first player in Florida history to score these three ways in a single-game.

Florida's Jeff Demps, with 105 rushing yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns against Florida Atlantic, joined the 2,000-yard career rushing club on Saturday. Demps now has 2,006 yards in 39 games and joins Ole Miss' Brandon Bolden (2,160 rushing yards) as the league's only active career 2,000 yard rushers.

Kentucky forced four turnovers, all interceptions, in its 14-3 win against Western Kentucky. The four interceptions were the most since the Wildcats got four against Idaho on Sept. 10, 2005.

LSU rover Tyrann Mathieu led the Tigers with 10 total stops in the 40-27 win against Oregon. Mathieu also had a half-tackle for loss (-1), a forced fumble, fumble recovery and two pass deflections.

Mississippi State's Vick Ballard and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore have been producing plenty of touchdowns in their short SEC careers. Ballard, with three rushing TDs against Memphis, now has 23 career scores in 13 games played while Lattimore, with three rushing TDs against East Carolina, now has 22 career scores in 14 games played.

Tennessee played 12 true freshmen in its 42-16 win against Montana with three starting on defense. SLB Curt Maggitt and WLB A.J. Johnson became the first true freshmen to start at linebacker since freshman eligibility was reinstated in 1972. LCB Justin Coleman became the first true freshman to start in the secondary since 2007 (Eric Berry vs. Cal).

Vanderbilt's Chris Marve continues to be the SEC's leading active tackler with 318 stops. The linebacker led the Commodores with 12 stops, including two for losses (-3 yards) against Elon.

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