Florida was scheduled to start its season last week against Middle Tennessee State, but the game was pushed back to Oct. 16 because of Hurricane Frances. On Thursday Florida's athletic department announced that the Eastern Michigan game would be moved up five hours to a noon CDT start because of the aftermath of Frances and a new hurricane headed towards Florida.
An afternoon game in The Swamp is bad news for the Eagles. In last week's 37-34 win against Buffalo, only 44 EMU players saw playing time, and the projected weather forecast for Saturday is hot and humid. After last week's cancellation, the Gators have been practicing for more than a month and are ready to hit somebody else. The Gators are favored by 37 points and may have the firepower to win by that large of a margin or even more if Florida is as good as many are predicting.
Quarterback Chris Leak is back to lead the Florida offense. Quarterback Chris Leak plus tailbacks Ciatrick Fason and DeShawn Wynn will have a chance to put up big numbers before giving way to the backups.
The Gamecocks enter this SEC East battle coming off an impressive 31-6 conference road win against Vanderbilt. Lou Holtz's new veer offense worked wonders as South Carolina rolled up 453 yards offense, including 269 yards on the ground.
Vanderbilt controlled the ball for only seven minutes in the first half as the Gamecocks dominated the line of scrimmage. That could mean trouble for Georgia, which allowed 294 yards rushing and 28 points to opening day opponent Georgia Southern. Many of those yards were against the second team defense, but 294 yards rushing is too much to give up to a Division I-AA school.
Georgia enters the game ranked third in the country in both polls, coming off a 48-28 win. Freshman running back Danny Ware, who spent last fall in prep school and arrived in time for spring training, ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the opener. It will be interesting to see how he responds to playing in front of 80,000 on the road.
The ESPN Gameday Crew will be in Columbia, and the atmosphere at Williams-Brice stadium should be electric, especially if the home team gives their long--suffering fans some hope. The Gamecocks will wear black home jerseys this season, and Holtz is urging fans to wear black as well.
This matchup in Columbia two years ago featured a memorable finish. Trailing 13-7, South Carolina fumbled the game away on Georgia's one-yard line with 12 seconds remaining. This year Georgia has an obvious advantage in talent, but this one could turn into another thriller like the 2002 game if South Carolina is better than predicted and Georgia is not as good.
This game couldn't come at a better time for LSU following last weekend's insane one-point overtime thriller against Oregon State. The defending champs could use a game like this to figure out what went wrong, as well as decide who their quarterback will be before they visit the Plains on Sept. 18.
Arkansas State got whipped by Missouri by 32 points last Saturday, and Troy showed us how good, or bad, Missouri really is. The Indians' starting quarterback, Nick Noce, completed eight passes to his team and seven passes to the opposing team as a reserve last season. Arkansas State is normally a bad football team and should give Nick Saban nothing more than a tune-up before next week's SEC West showdown with Auburn.
In the last two contests between these old Southwest Conference rivals--the 2000 Cotton Bowl and last year's game in Austin--Arkansas dominated the Longhorns in the trenches. The Razorbacks ran for a combined 456 yards while Texas managed only 35 yards on the ground. Texas entered last season's game against unranked Arkansas at No. 5 in the country, and left with a 38-28 loss in a game that wasn't as close as the score would indicate.
According to some preseason predictions in 2003, the Big 12 South was supposed to be the toughest division in football, with Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State all highly ranked. But all three schools were beaten by members of the SEC West--LSU, Arkansas and Ole Miss, respectively. And after what is probably the fourth best team in the state of Alabama beat the fourth highest ranked team in the Big 12 Thursday night, you have to wonder how good the Big 12 really is.
Arkansas lost nearly every starter from last season's 9-4 team, but returns 6-6, 237-pound quarterback Matt Jones, who gave Texas fits last year. Arkansas opened the season with a 63-13 win over New Mexico State, but that doesn't give much of an indication of how good they'll be in 2004. Chances are, they'll be a physical bunch.
Coach Houston Nutt is looking for another upset vs. the Longhorns.
Texas opened the season by mauling North Texas 65-0. The Longhorns stampeded their way to 673 yards offense while allowing only 130. Things won't be as easy in Fayetteville, but Texas is loaded with talent and should be able to avenge last season's loss. However, with Matt Jones under center the visitors better be ready to perform.
The Crimson Tide comes into this game after a 48-17 win against Utah State to open the season while Ole Miss travels to Tuscaloosa after a disappointing 20-13 home loss to Memphis. The Rebels have won only once in 20 trips to Tuscaloosa with their sole win coming in 1988. Although Alabama is heavily favored, this game could go either way.
Ole Miss found out last week that the post-Eli era could be a struggle as the offense had a poor showing at home. New quarterback Michael Spurlock had problems completing a pass, and the running game had problems as well. However, Memphis is a good team, and the Rebels should be battle-tested coming into Saturday night.
Alabama, on the other hand, started the season with a win, but it was against lowly Utah State. The Aggies put up a fight in the first half, but the Tide eventually got things rolling with 31 second-half points.
If the Rebels can establish a running game and take advantage of Alabama's depth problems, they can head back to Oxford with a win under their belt. But if Spurlock has trouble completing passes again, Bama will be able to stack the box and open league play with a victory.
There has been a lot of talk since Mississippi State's 28-7 win over Tulane that this year's version of the Bulldogs is nothing like last year's 2-10 squad. It's a new season with a new coaching staff, but these are mostly the same players who gave up 44.5 points per game over the last six games of 2003.
State's front four, anchored by senior nose tackle Ronald Fields, is solid, but the back seven is suspect. Although the Bulldogs surrendered only 205 yards to Tulane, Sylvester Croom's defense shouldn't be talented enough to stop a running game like Auburn's.
Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges says that Ronnie Brown will get more touches against State than he did against in the opener when he carried only seven times for 55 yards. If Jason Campbell has success in air, it should open up the field for Brown and Carnell Williams to pound away on the ground.
Quarterback Jason Campbell returns to his home state for a showdown vs. the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State hasn't scored more than 18 points on Auburn since Tommy Tuberville arrived at AU and 18 points shouldn't be enough for State to win this contest. For Croom to get a victory in his first SEC game, the Bulldogs will probably need to score early and force the Tigers to pass. But that's something State couldn't do against Tulane as the score was 0-0 at halftime.
Auburn's defense should be prepared for the Bulldogs' mobile quarterback, Omarr Conner, after facing Steven Jyles of Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday. Tailback Jerious Norwood won SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors with his 112-yard rushing effort and one touchdown performance against the Green Wave. He will need another strong showing for the Bulldogs to defeat the Tigers this week.
Auburn has scored in the 40s in the last two contests between these schools, but that is unlikely to happen again even though the Tigers have the big playmakers in this game with Williams and Brown visiting Scott Field for the last time.