Breaking down the SEC

When it comes to rivalries, all others pale in comparison to Alabama/Auburn. But there are several other SEC games scheduled this weekend, including a crucial tilt between a dominating LSU team and everyone's Cinderella: Ole Miss.

Last week's record: 5-1 (83.3%)


Game within a game: Georgia QB David Greene vs. Kentucky's pass defense

Jared Lorenzen's career is finally winding down.

Kentucky did the impossible last week -- the Wildcats lost to Vanderbilt. That loss ended the Wildcats' bowl hopes and makes this contest with Georgia a lot less important to the Cats and their fans. But Georgia has a lot to play for -- a win keeps them in contention for a trip to Atlanta to represent the SEC Eastern Division, and keeping with the formula SEC athletic directors intend to use, Georgia leads that race at the moment.

Georgia's short, controlled passing game gives anyone fits but Kentucky in particular seems least equipped to handle it. The Georgia game plan is to move safeties out of the box with the pass and then attack the middle with the run. The injury situation for Georgia will probably keep it close, but expect Kentucky to have to score late to make a game of it.

Prediction: Georgia 30, Kentucky 23


Game within a game: Clemson receivers vs. South Carolina defensive backs

"Sweet Lou" enduring bittersweet season.

Earlier this month, Clemson looked to be headed to the outhouse to drop its head coach, Tommy Bowden, down a long hole. But wins over Florida State and Duke have Clemson at 7-4, and Bowden has most likely gotten his reprieve.

Tommy Bowden may find this week's opponent, South Carolina, an inviting target with its 83rd-ranked pass efficiency defense numbers. But the Gamecocks are ranked 25th in overall pass defense, meaning it will be up to the Clemson receivers to create something after the catch. This game usually goes to the more physical team. If that concept holds true, South Carolina should edge out the Tigers.

Prediction: South Carolina 24, Clemson 13


See's extended preview for information on this game.

Prediction: Auburn 24, Alabama 13


Game within a game: Tennessee QB Casey Clausen vs. Vanderbilt secondary

Will momentum do Vandy any good?

Tennessee's bread and butter is its balanced offense, so as the Volunteers face a team with a fairly tough pass defense, it's time to at least pay attention. Vanderbilt has never quit on the 2003 season despite a 2-9 record, and the Commodores would love to knock Tennessee out of contention for a trip to Atlanta.

At least on defense, Vandy is capable of such an offense, but it isn't likely the offense can add much to the mix considering UT's defensive strengths. You never know quite what you're going to get with Clausen and Volunteers as of late. Vanderbilt is hoping it gets its first win over Tennessee in two decades. Bet on a close game, but not a UT loss.

Prediction: Tennessee 30, Vanderbilt 17


Game within a game: LSU QB Matt Mauck vs. Ole Miss safeties

If Manning wants the Heisman, here is where it can be won.

LSU and Ole Miss both defeated Alabama in 2003. But as just about any astute Crimson Tide fan will tell you, the feel of the LSU game was much different. Ole Miss got up quickly and held on, while LSU dominated Alabama for four quarters and would still be dominating the Tide if the game was going on at this minute.

LSU's Matt Mauck has never been thought of as a premier quarterback in the league, but he looked like Joe Montana against Alabama and gets the pleasure of facing an even worse secondary this week against the Rebels. Mauck's effectiveness will be how well he tricks Ole Miss' safeties into biting on play fakes before delivering the ball downfield. If LSU gets its offense rolling, it's bye-bye, Rebels.

Prediction: LSU 35, Ole Miss 21


Game within a game: The game of football vs. MSU's wish to quit playing it

Razorback's once-promising season now lackluster.

No other way to say it -- Mississippi State has utterly quit on the season and aside from whatever dead-cat bounce it can muster against rival Ole Miss next week, is done with for the 2003 season. Jackie Sherrill's farewell tour has so far been a lot of handshakes after a lot of butt-whippings, and this week isn't likely to be any different.

Arkansas comes in matching up very well against MSU. If past weeks are any indication, MSU won't look like it cares. Aside from a miracle of Red Sea proportions, Arkansas will be able to name the score.

Prediction: Arkansas 40, Mississippi St. 20

IDLE: Florida

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