The No. 22 Gators (3-2, 2-2) were originally scheduled to have a open date this week. But with Hurricane Frances postponing the season opener against Middle Tennessee, the game was pushed back on the calendar to this Saturday. And with Florida coming off a 24-21 loss against LSU at home, coach Ron Zook is glad to see his team back in action without a break.
"We gave our guys Monday off as far as practice. I thought it was important to freshen up," said Zook. "Our kids are excited to be playing. This was originally our season opener, but we're glad to be playing this week."
The Blue Raiders (2-3 overall, 1-2 in the Sun Belt Conference) will be visiting The Swamp for only the second time ever. The only other meeting between the two schools resulted in a 55-0 Florida win back in the 2000 season.
Last week's 19-14 loss against Tennessee snapped a 17-game winning streak at Sanford Stadium for the Bulldogs, the second-longest streak in school history. Prior to last week's loss, Georgia hadn't been beaten on its own field since the 2001 season when Auburn posted a 24-17 win in Athens.
The Bulldogs -- who dropped to 12th in the Associated Press Poll and 8th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll with the loss to the Vols -- will look to bounce back when they host Vanderbilt at 11:30 a.m. CT Saturday on Jefferson Pilot Sports.
"No one is real happy around our place right now," said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "We just need to play another game."
Vanderbilt could be the perfect remedy for the Bulldogs' woes. Georgia has won 16 of the last 18 meetings with the Commodores and has defeated Vandy nine consecutive times overall.
Despite limiting Alabama to 83 yards passing, Kentucky saw a close game turn ugly as the Crimson Tide rolled to a 45-17 win last week in Lexington.
"We're still a young football team and we're still making too many mistakes," said Wildcats coach Rich Brooks. "We turned what was a close 17-14 game in the third quarter last week versus Alabama into a rout. We allowed the long kickoff return and some other mistakes."
Kentucky (1-4, 0-2) hosts South Carolina at 7 p.m. and Brooks expects to see an angry bunch of Gamecocks roll into Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.
"We're obviously going to be playing a very fired-up football team," Brooks said. "Losing on a fourth down play late in the fourth quarter against Ole Miss like they did, they'll be ready to play."
It was easy to tell South Carolina coach Lou Holtz was still having a difficult time dealing with last week's 31-28 loss against Ole Miss when listening to the Gamecocks' coach on Wednesday's conference call.
"I'll be honest guys," Holtz said. "I'm having a hard time shaking that last one."
South Carolina (4-2, 2-2) allowed a season-high 491 yards to the Rebels and gave up a fourth down play late in the game which led to the loss.
The Gamecocks visit Kentucky on Saturday.
"You're going to have to earn everything you get against the University of Kentucky," Holtz said. "Other than a couple of big runs by (Ray) Hudson and Kenneth (Darby), they did a pretty good job last week against Alabama.
"Their defense has done a good job against everybody they've played."
The Volunteers went from one extreme to the other in two short weeks. After suffering a 34-10 loss in Knoxville against Auburn, Tennessee bounced back to upset third-ranked Georgia, 19-14, in Athens last week. The challenge now for the Vols is to come off cloud nine in time to get ready for a tough test which awaits with a trip to Ole Miss this week.
Tennessee and Ole Miss square off at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
"Our team is squarely focused on playing Mississippi," said Vols coach Phillip Fulmer. "I certainly have great respect for Ole Miss and what they bring as a football team. They are playing very well right now. We know we have a real challenge, a very physical game, in front of us. We will be ready for it.
"It's been night and day with our fans the last two weeks after the Auburn and Georgia games. I take full responsibility for the Auburn game, but the Georgia game probably meant more as far as the big picture of the SEC Eastern Division."
Tennessee has won the last 10 meetings against Ole Miss. But this will be the first matchup between the two schools since 1997, when the Vols won, 31-17, in Knoxville.
In last week's 37-34 loss against Rutgers, Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler moved into sole possession of fourth place in school history with 33 career touchdown passes. Cutler passed for 260 yards and rushed for another 56 yards in the loss to the Scarlet Knights.
Vanderbilt (1-4, 1-2) visits Georgia Saturday.
"We will have our hands full with Georgia. They have an extremely fine ball club," said Commodores coach Bobby Johnson. "We are just going to have to concentrate on Vanderbilt and what we do best and try not to think much about Georgia, although that is impossible to do."
With three losses by three points -- against Ole Miss, Navy and Rutgers -- keeping the players positive is the biggest challenge for Johnson these days.
"It's a challenge getting the guys up this week, but they guys have responded well," Johnson said. "They are very attentive and are trying to learn what we are trying to teach them."
With sophomore quarterback Marc Guillon out with a sore back, junior Spencer Pennington made his second career start last week in a 45-17 win at Kentucky. Pennington completed 7-of-11 passes for 83 yards as the Tide relied on a season-high 304 rushing yards and big plays from the special teams to blow past the Wildcats.
Alabama (4-2, 2-2) hosts 24th-ranked Southern Mississippi this week. The Golden Eagles are 4-0, including a season-opening 21-18 win at Nebraska.
"We expect a physical game against a very good Southern Mississippi team," said Crimson Tide coach Mike Shula. "They are well coached. Coach Bower does a good job. They do a real good job of capitalizing on your mistakes.
"Southern Miss is a lot to prepare for. We just have to get off to a good start."
The Razorbacks (3-2, 1-1) have had two weeks to prepare for a trip to Auburn to face the No. 4-ranked team in the country. And coach Houston Nutt knows his team will have to play a great brand of ball to have a chance against the Tigers.
"We've had a good week of practice," Nutt said. "We're playing an excellent football team with excellent running backs and a quarterback who is playing his best ball. And we'll have to play our best to win."
Nutt is 4-2 against Auburn in his time as Arkansas coach. The Razorbacks are 1-3-1 in games played at Jordan Hare Stadium.
Saturday's game will be shown on CBS at 2:30 p.m. CT, marking the third consecutive game the Hogs have being featured on national television.
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville admits Saturday's game against Arkansas has some special meaning beyond the playing field. Tuberville, who grew up in Camden and attended Southern Arkansas University, still has ties to the Natural State and grew up rooting for the Razorbacks.
"I still have a lot of contacts and a lot of family over there (in Arkansas)," Tuberville said. "It still comes back in your mind. My dad was a big Razorbacks fans and they were a big reason for me getting into this game. Growing up watching Frank Broyles and the Razorbacks go against Darrell Royal and Texas, that's where I got my passion for the game.
"It's not just another game. There's a lot of sentiment there of trying to beat the Arkansas Razorbacks. But on Saturday, it's just you teeing it up against another team."
The Tigers (4-2, 2-2) are off this week after rallying for a 24-21 win at Florida last Saturday. LSU's comeback win in The Swamp was the seventh time under coach Nick Saban that the Tigers have rallied to win a game despite trailing in the fourth quarter. Earlier this season, LSU came back from a 15-7 fourth quarter deficit against Oregon State in the season opener.
"I really felt good about having a comeback win like we did against Florida," Saban said. "I thought our team played very well.
"This off-week comes at a good time. Hopefully, we can get a few more guys ready to play during this time off that need to be to help us have more success down the road."
Bulldogs tailback Jerious Norwood rushed for 201 yards in last week's 27-13 loss against Alabama-Birmingham. Norwood became only the fourth player in school history to rush for more than 200 yards in a game.
Mississippi State (1-5, 0-3) has a open date this week.
"We'll spend the week working on fundamentals and getting some people back healthy, hopefully getting (quarterback) Omar Conner healthy," said Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom. "The open week came at the right time for us. Our kids are working well and they made a lot of improvements against UAB."
Norwood's 201 yards moved him up six spots on State's career rushing chart into 18th place with 1,518 career yards.
Sixth-year Rebels coach David Cutcliffe will get his first crack at his former team this week when Ole Miss plays host to No. 13 Tennessee. Cutcliffe was an assistant coach for the Volunteers for 17 seasons before becoming head coach at Ole Miss in 1999.
"I'd be lying to say there's not added significance," Cutcliffe said. "Those are my dear friends and it obviously gets your competitive juices flowing. But the biggest issue is dealing with a fine Tennessee team."
Ole Miss' 31-28 win at South Carolina was the fifth straight against the Gamecocks. It also marked the first time the Rebels have defeated a ranked opponent on the road since upsetting No. 24 Florida in Gainesville last season.
Although Saturday's game will be the 61st meeting between Tennessee and Ole Miss, this will be only the third time the two schools have played in Oxford. The other two games on the Ole Miss campus occurred in 1951 and 1988.
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