SEC Insider


The Gators' originally scheduled season opener against Middle Tennessee State was postponed until Oct. 16 because of Hurricane Frances. So instead, Florida will open the 2004 campaign this week when it plays host to Eastern Michigan.

"We are looking forward to playing our first game," said Florida coach Ron Zook. "We just got right back into the swing of things on Monday (after the off week)."

With the open week on Oct. 16 used to make up the Middle Tennessee State game, Florida will now be forced to play 11 consecutive games in a row this season without a break.

"I think you have to be smart like they do in the NFL," Zook said. "That's why it was important that we gave them last week off. It is what it is, and I told them that this is the hand we were dealt and that's how we will play it."

Eastern Michigan was a 37-34 winner against Buffalo last week. The Eagles and Gators will be meeting for the first time when the two teams square off at noon Saturday at Florida Field.

With Georgia's 48-28 win against Division I-AA Georgia Southern last week, Bulldogs senior quarterback David Greene is now just four wins away from breaking the school record for wins. Greene is 33-8 as a starter. The record is held by John Rauch, who was 36-8-1 as a starter from 1945-48.

The Bulldogs enter SEC play this week when they visit South Carolina for a 4:30 p.m. game being televised nationally by ESPN.

"We had to practice yesterday in Atlanta in the dome, the weather has been bad here," said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "I think we will just stay here and weather the rain. We are in pretty good shape with our injuries, everybody's working and we have a great challenge against South Carolina."

The Wildcats have an open week after dropping a 28-0 decision at in-state rival Louisville to open the season last week.

The loss marked the first time since 1962 that Kentucky was shut out in a season opener.

"First of all, we were very disappointed in our performance in the opener against Louisville," said Wildcats coach Rich Brooks. "We were shut out and that's unacceptable.

"We have a lot of work to do fundamentally. We are just trying to get back and go to the fundaments this week. We will start our preparation for Indiana on Monday."

Kentucky will play host to Indiana on Sept. 18.

Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz had nothing but positive things to say about his team's performance in last week's 31-6 win at Vanderbilt. But Holtz had perhaps even more positive things to say when the topic was this week's opponent, the Georgia Bulldogs.

"When you talk about Georgia, you have to talk about their defense. (David) Pollack can dominate the game, he is so quick. We didn't have much success trying to move the ball against him.

"They are very good fundamentally."

Despite little success against the Bulldogs a year ago (Georgia won 31-7 in Athens), Holtz is optimistic his team will put forth a better effort this time around.

I worry about our football team. I could sing the praises of Georgia, but I worry more about our team," said Holtz. "But I like our demeanor. Usually when a team is most productive is when they have respect but they are anxious to play the game. I didn't feel that last year, and I see that this year.

"I think this football team is going to play well on Saturday."

Tennessee opened the season with a 42-17 win in Neyland Stadium last Saturday and has an open date this week. Considering the Volunteers were using two true freshman quarterbacks in the opener, UT fans have to be happy with the outcome.

We are pleased with our start that we had," said Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer. "Obviously coming out of the first game there is work to do, and we are using this week to practice on our fundamentals.

"I like the attitude of our football team."

Fulmer was pleased with the play of freshman signal-callers Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer, for the most part, in their first college games, respectively.

"They did well I thought, for where they are," Fulmer said. "I thought we did a good job with the plan. Both are unusually poised young men for their age, they came from systems that allowed them to understand the passing game.

"They are still very young and haven't played a game like Florida, but I think they will keep getting better."

The Vols return to action Sept. 18 when they host Florida.

The Commodores are off this week after opening the season with a 31-6 loss at home against South Carolina last Saturday.

Despite the setback, Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson did see a few positives.

"We got down early and then we came back," Johnson said. "South Carolina only had one score in the second half and we had a chance to get it within 10 and we fumbled on the one yard line. I don't think our guys ever quit.

"We don't plan on quitting on the season and we will come back ready for Mississippi."

Vanderbilt next plays on Sept. 18 at Ole Miss.


The Crimson Tide stay at home for a second week in a row as they begin conference play by facing Ole Miss. Alabama opened the season with a 48-17 win against Utah State last week.

"We had a decent practice yesterday, and I thought we had a good day of preparation," said Alabama coach Mike Shula. "They (Ole Miss) are very well-coached and defensively they are athletic and aggressive. They do a great job of running the football. They are going to be very motivated for this game for a lot of reasons and they will be trying to get back on track."

Ole Miss has won two of the last three meetings in this series, but the Crimson Tide owns the overall edge in the series 40-9-2. Alabama hasn't lost to the Rebels in Tuscaloosa since 1988, the only time Ole Miss pulled out a win at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"I think both teams are a lot different than they were five years ago," Shula said. "I know we are a lot different team than we were last year. Ole Miss has some experience. We talk about getting our focus in and finding a way to find an edge against the other guy."

Arkansas couldn't have hoped for a better start to the 2004 season, easily posting a 63-13 win against New Mexico State last Saturday. But with former Southwest Conference rival Texas visiting Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium this Saturday for a ESPN nationally televised 7:45 p.m. showdown, coach Houston Nutt knows last week means little.

"Here's what's hard. You've got only one returning starter (on offense) in Matt Jones," Nutt said. "He's the only one who knows what he's about to see. He's the only one who knows about that speed."

Texas visits Fayetteville for the first time since 1989 this weekend. The Longhorns have won 16 of 19 games on the U of A campus and haven't lost a game to the Hogs in Fayetteville since 1981, when Arkansas upset then-No. 1 Texas, 42-11.

"There's a lot of history and tradition going to back to coach (Frank) Broyles and coach (Darrell) Royal," Nutt said. "That's why this game is so big in our state."

Nutt compared this Texas team to last year's national champion LSU team and the 2002 Georgia team which won the SEC.

"The talent level, there's no question, is right there," Nutt said. "Derrick Johnson, I have not seen a better linebacker than Derrick Johnson. Then you thrown in Cedric Benson at running back and that offensive line and they're just as good."

Auburn had no problem handling its season-opening opponent, Louisiana-Monroe, as the Tigers won 31-0 last Saturday. But coach Tommy Tuberville knows this week's opponent -- Mississippi State -- is worlds ahead of Louisiana-Monroe.

"This week I think we'll find out more about our football team," Tuberville said. "It's the first road game of the year, the first conference game and we're playing a better opponent.

" (Mississippi State is) very quick. They have a very mobile quarterback that can throw in the pocket. I think the speed and quickness of their backs, a mobile quarterback and the size of their offensive line is what we are looking at. They have always been known for that."

Tigers senior running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams rushed for 105 yards last week, marking the 12th time in his career he has gone over the century mark in rushing yards in a game.

The Tigers needed a late rally and some help from Oregon State place-kicker Alexis Sema -- who missed three extra-point attempts -- to pull out a 22-21 overtime win against the Beavers last week in Baton Rouge. Now LSU looks for a stronger showing when it hosts Arkansas State at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

"We need our team to improve with executing and with consistency," LSU coach Nick Saban said. "We had a tough situation with the storm before the game and we didn't adapt like we'd like to.

"We have a lot of work to do and we are looking forward to making some progress this week."

One big concern for the Tigers is the quarterback position. Both Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell were ineffective at times in the win last week and Saban is still undecided on who will play against the Indians.

"There is some improving we need to do. We need to get better execution there," Saban said. "We are going to try to build and we will probably play both guys in this game."

The Sylvester Croom era at Mississippi State got off to a nice start as the Bulldogs defeated Tulane 28-7 last week in Starksville. And while the win was big, Croom is happy to see the media circus surrounding his first game finally over.

"You are exactly right about that," said Croom. "There are no cameras following me and I'm not miked up. I'm getting back into a regular coaching routine. There is no way I can describe what last week was like."

The Bulldogs host Auburn this week to open up SEC play in an 11:30 a.m. game being broadcast by Jefferson Pilot Sports.

"We are still continuing our preparation for Auburn. Auburn is an outstanding football team," Croom said. "We are looking forward to playing Auburn, and that's a great challenge for us. Hopefully playing at home will help us to some degree."

The Rebels must put last week's 20-13 loss against Memphis behind them in a hurry with a trip to Alabama up next this Saturday.

"I know we are anxious to play again after not playing as well as we could have," Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe said. "We have a big challenge and big opportunity in front us."

Taking the place of Eli Manning, Rebels quarterback Michael Spurlock was not all that sharp in his first start, completing just 11-of-31 passes for 182 yards and no touchdowns. But Cutcliffe expects his signal-caller to bounce back in a hurry.

"I sat down and talked with him," Cutcliffe said. "We reviewed the tape and dissected it. I think the big thing is not to be in such a hurry and so hyper. In that first game he was out of control at times."

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