SEC Insider


Ron Zook's firing as head coach of the Gators was clearly the hot topic during Wednesday's SEC Conference Call. But for Zook, who will coach Florida for the remainder of the this season, he at least tried to keep the attention on the Gators' next big challenge -- the Georgia Bulldogs.

"Obviously we've had a lot of distractions this week,"Zook said. "But I've been very pleased with the way we've been focused. This is a very big game that goes back a lot of years with tradition and such. Georgia is a very well-coached football team and it will be a big test."

Zook said not coaching the rest of the season was never an option once given the opportunity.

"I'm a ball coach, and I think you do what your responsibilities are and finish them," Zook said. "I think you owe it to your players."

Bulldogs quarterback David Greene threw for a career-high 382 yards in Georgia's 20-14 win at Arkansas last week. Greene completed 22-of-29 passes and had two touchdowns against the Razorbacks.

A week after having two 100-yard rushers, Georgia had two 100-yard receivers in the win at Fayetteville. Reggie Brown caught seven passes for 107 yards and Fred Gibson had six receptions for 169 yards.

The No. 10 Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1) play unranked Florida (4-3, 2-3) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Jacksonville on CBS. The Gators have won 13 of the past 14 meetings in the series.

"Anytime I have been in this game, both teams have been at an emotional pitch," said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "I think it will be the same, and maybe more. And hopefully we can match that intensity.

"It's going to be emotionally charged, and I don't know how it is going to go."

Suddenly this week's road trip looks a whole lot tougher for the Wildcats.

Kentucky (1-6, 0-4) visits Mississippi State on Saturday, a week after the Bulldogs stunned the college football nation by shocking Florida, 38-31, in Starksville.

"We are coming off of a tough loss against Auburn, and we lost some key players," said Wildcats coach Rich Brooks. "Now we walk into Starksville to face a team that has one the biggest upsets of the year last week. What a big win for Sylvester Croom and his bunch.

"They look like a team that finally got it right for 60 minutes."

Kentucky is expected to be without all-conference defensive end Sweet Pea Burns on Saturday after Burns injured his ankle in the Wildcats' 42-10 loss at Auburn.

The Gamecocks have had two weeks to prepare for Saturday's showdown with No.11 Tennessee. Kickoff from Columbia is 11:30 a.m. on Jefferson-Pilot Sports and if history is any indicator, the Vols are clearly the ones to best.

Tennessee has won 11 straight against South Carolina and is 11-1 overall against the Gamecocks since USC joined the SEC back in 1992. The Vols only loss to South Carolina in SEC play was in '92 and Tennessee boasts an 18-2-2 record overall against the Gamecocks heading into Saturday's game.

Tennessee (6-1, 4-1) heads to South Carolina on Saturday for game Vols coach Phillip Fulmer knows will be no pushover.

"Well our preparation to this point has gone well," Fulmer said. "Playing on the road in the conference is always tough, and we feel like we will need to play our best game of the year.

"Our kids have pushed through and I like our attitude and we expect a tough, physical football game Saturday."

The Vols carry a five-game winning streak at Williams-Bryce Stadium into Saturday's game. And Fulmer will put an 11-0 record against the Gamecocks on the line when the two square off. South Carolina's last win against Tennessee came against the Johnny Majors-coached Vols in 1992.

Junior quarterback Jay Cutler was responsible for 229 yards total (156 passing, 73 rushing) and Vanderbilt played a mistake-free game with no turnovers and no penalties in a 19-7 win against Eastern Kentucky in the Commodores' final nonconference matchup of the season.

The 'Dores (2-5, 1-3) return to SEC play Saturday with a 7 p.m. trip to Baton Rouge to face No. 19 LSU.

"We've had a very good week of practice," said Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson. "We are looking forward to going to Baton Rouge. We are looking forward to it."

This marks the first meeting between the two teams since 1997. That year, LSU squeezed out a 7-6 win in Nashville.

Overall, the Tigers lead the series, 18-7-1.


The Crimson Tide have a bye week following its 17-13 loss at Tennessee. In the loss, Alabama held the Vols to just 195 total yards of offense and has now held five opponents under 200 yards this season.

"We want to rest some of our older players in the secondary and guys that are beat up," said Alabama coach Mike Shula. "We want to get some work in for our backups that don't play.

"We have an early start on Mississippi State."

The Tide will host the Bulldogs on Nov. 6

With so many players banged up -- including starting quarterback Matt Jones -- a bye week couldn't have come at a better time for Houston Nutt and his Razorbacks.

"We really need this open date to get people healed," said Nutt. "This comes a good time."

Arkansas returns to action on Jefferson Pilot Sports next week when it visits South Carolina at 11:30 a.m.

"We are taking them one at a time," Nutt said. "Anytime you go on the road in the SEC, it's tough. It's a tough task. You see every team getting better.

"It's still a very tough and difficult schedule, so you have to take them one at a time."

In last week's 20-14 loss against Georgia, Jones became the SEC's career rushing leader for a quarterback. With 21 yards rushing against the Bulldogs, Jones now has 2,301 yards for his career, moving him past Mississippi State's John Bond, who rushed for 2,280.

Jones was tied with Bond before Saturday's game.

Although the Tigers still have three game left to play, they need just one more win to lock up a berth in the SEC Championship Game. Fourth-ranked Auburn (8-0, 5-0) visits Ole Miss at 6:45 p.m. Saturday in a game being televised by ESPN.

"We are off to good start, but we have our hands full," said Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville. "Ole Miss has had a week off and they will be well rested and well prepared."

Auburn is 8-0 overall and 5-0 in conference for the first time since 1994. That year, the Tigers finished 11-0 but were on probation and received no bowl bid. Auburn is also on a 10-game winning streak -- the fifth-longest in school history -- heading into Saturday's contest.

The Tigers (5-2, 2-2) edged Troy 24-20 last Saturday and will host Vanderbilt this week.

"I think the biggest problem with our team is we're not playing consistent," said LSU coach Nick Saban. "We just want the guys to play more consistent football."

Marcus Randall passed for a career-high 328 yards against the Trojans last week. But LSU's running game continues to be a concern.

"We've been inconsistent basically," Saban said. "I thought we turned the corner against Florida, and then last week we made mistakes.

"It's been disappointing for us."

Sylvester Croom has to be the toast of the town after Saturday's shocker in Starksville.

Croom and his Bulldogs stunned Florida, 38-31, breaking MSU's eight-game SEC losing streak. The win also led to Ron Zook's firing

"It's a great challenge this week and the first chance in a number of years to win two SEC games in a row," said Croom. "We expect it to be a great game and a terrific challenge and terrific opportunity as well."

Croom said he feels for Zook and knows all too well about being shown the door.

"I've got a lot of practice there. Like an old coach told me, 'You ain't a real ball coach until you been fired a couple of times,'" said Croom. "Coaches can deal with it a lot easier than your family can deal with it. You feel for the coaches' wives, they take the brunt of it. She's got to handle everything. The coach knows he is going to get another job somewhere.

"No coach enjoys seeing another coach getting fired."

The Bulldogs host Kentucky this week.

The Rebels (3-4, 2-2) had an open date last week and will play host to No. 4 Auburn on Saturday.

"We have our biggest challenge of the year," said Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe. "A team that is very talented, and this is the biggest challenge, by far, we have had at this point."

Ole Miss has played three quarterbacks in each of the last two games and is uncertain who will get the nod against the Tigers. Ethan Flatt, Robert Lane and Michael Spurlock could all once again see time under center against Auburn according to Cutcliffe.

"We don't have a clear cut starter at this stage. All three have their strengths and all there have there weaknesses," said Cutcliffe. "Our QB situation changes from week to week, based on an evaluation of practice."

Auburn leads the all-time series against the Rebels, 20-8, and have won 10 of the past 11 meetings. Ole Miss did win last year's game, though, 24-20 in Auburn.

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