SEC Preview and predictions: Week Four

Jess Nicholas previews the Tide versus the Razorbacks as well as the rest of the league games for the week.

Week three: 6-3 (66.7%)

Season: 20-5 (80.0%)

ALABAMA at ARKANSAS

Game within a game: Alabama's quarterbacks vs. Arkansas secondary

If Alabama ever needed a soft spot to send Marc Guillon out for his first college start, Fayetteville ain't it. But Arkansas, which to this point hasn't exactly played Div-IA's top passing teams, is ranked 61st in the country in pass defense and 77th in pass efficiency defense. The Hogs also have trouble on special teams (87th in net punting, 86th in punt returns and 65th in kick returns) and lack experience on both sides of the ball, but there is danger in the Arkansas offensive attack (20th in rushing, 15th in passing, 7th overall in Div-IA). Alabama's chores will be simple – stop Arkansas QB Matt Jones, and keep the Arkansas defense from harassing Guillon and Spencer Pennington into making too many errors. Despite having played an SEC West foe (Ole Miss), it is fair to say that Alabama hasn't been tested by a physical team yet. Arkansas will provide that test. Arkansas 31, Alabama 17

THE CITADEL at AUBURN

Game within a game: Auburn RB Cadillac Williams vs. Citadel run defense

The Citadel isn't likely to win many games this year – particularly not this one – but The Citadel is ranked 7th in Div-IAA in rush defense. On the other hand, the Bulldogs have no offense to speak of, and can't defend the pass. Auburn will eat this team up and play the whole roster, waiting on a meeting with Tennessee the following week. Auburn 45, The Citadel 7

KENTUCKY at FLORIDA

Game within a game: Florida's better talent vs. the Gators' emotions following loss to UT

Kentucky found its running game against Indiana, as true freshman Tony Dixon finally gives Kentucky a breakaway threat in the backfield. But the Wildcats figure to come to a screeching halt this week, as they travel to face a Florida team that got hosed by SEC officials in a game at Tennessee – a scenario that certainly has never happened to any team in the past, of course. In a breakdown of performance, Kentucky has to worry most about Florida QB Chris Leak, as the Wildcats have surprisingly struggled on defense so far in 2004 and particularly against the pass. But this game isn't about Xs and Os so much as it is about the Gators' psyche, which always seems to be in question under head coach Ron Zook. Florida is clearly the better team, and this game is at home, but Florida in recent years has gotten caught up in the previous week's games too often. Florida 33, Kentucky 24

MISSISSIPPI STATE at LSU Game within a game: LSU anger vs. MSU psyche

Let's not dance around this at all – the Bulldogs should be put down for losing to Maine last week by a score of 9-7. Throw out the impending NCAA sanctions or the supposed wasteland that Jackie Sherrill left the Bulldog program in, MSU had no business losing the game, and yet did. Now, the Bulldogs get an LSU squad fresh off a 10-9 upset loss at Auburn and looking for someone to punish. That someone is Mississippi State. The Bulldogs' only hope for victory is to completely confound the quarterback duo of JaMarcus Russell and Marcus Randall, and against a similar opponent earlier in the year (Auburn), MSU appeared neutered. LSU 48, Mississippi State 7

OLE MISS at WYOMING

Game within a game: Wyoming rushing offense vs. Ole Miss rushing defense

So far, Wyoming's season has consisted of beating a mediocre Div-IAA team (Appalachian State) and getting beaten by a mediocre Div-IA team (Texas A&M). Another mediocre Div-IA team, Ole Miss, makes the trip to Laramie this week and the results shouldn't be too different from last week's outing against Texas A&M. Ole Miss has shown a weakness this season for stopping the run, but Wyoming hasn't shown the ability yet to take advantage of the situation. Offensively, Ole Miss quarterbacks will likely find the Cowboy secondary easy pickings. This is a chance for Ole Miss to build up some much-needed confidence. Ole Miss 42, Wyoming 14

TROY STATE at SOUTH CAROLINA

Game within a game: South Carolina RBs vs. Troy rush defense

Troy opened with wins over Marshall and Missouri, then inexplicably got beaten by a conference foe, woeful New Mexico State. What that proves is that even Div-IA newbies can be caught looking ahead. And speaking of that, South Carolina's biggest challenge may be to avoid looking ahead to Alabama and concentrate on the Trojans, who have proven very capable of taking out a big Div-IA school. South Carolina's rushing attack will fall on the shoulders of Cory Body and Demetris Summers, but Summers missed the game against South Florida. So did quarterback Dondrial Pinkins, who was replaced by Syvelle Newton. Both players should be back for this game. South Carolina 27, Troy 14

LOUISIANA TECH at TENNESSEE

Game within a game: La Tech RB Ryan Moats vs. Tennessee front seven

Ever heard of Ryan Moats? You might not have, but the NCAA stat book has. Moats is the leading rusher in the country, and will get his chance to run against a very mediocre Tennessee rushing defense. Efforts to create hype for this game, however, have been short-circuited by the fact that Louisiana Tech lost 48-0 to Miami last week. The Volunteers might have some trouble from Moats, but the rest of the Bulldogs' squad isn't likely to contain the Vols. Tennessee 35, Louisiana Tech 20

VANDERBILT at NAVY

Game within a game: Midshipmen momentum vs. Vanderbilt depression

Navy is 3-0 and Vanderbilt has now lost two straight games that the Commodores were counting in the preseason as victories needed to get bowl-eligible. Worse yet for Vandy, Navy brings the sixth-ranked rushing attack in the country into this game, while the Commodores have one of football's worst rushing defenses. Defensing option football is never easy for those not used to the experience, and Navy has Big Mo on its side. If Vandy loses this game, the wheels could come completely off and head coach Bobby Johnson might need to visit a Kinko's for resume preparation. Navy 30, Vanderbilt 20

IDLE: Georgia


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