Looking At Week Five In the SEC

Previews of what looks to be an exciting weekend of SEC football games is featured.

The Southeastern Conference has two of the featured matchups in college football this week as unbeaten Auburn travels to unbeaten Tennessee while defending national champ LSU faces unbeaten Georgia in another West vs. East contest.

In addition to those nationally televised contests, there are other conference games of interest.

Arkansas (3-1, 1-0) at Florida (2-1, 1-1)

11 a.m. CDT, CBS Sports

It's tough to predict any game that features Matt Jones at quarterback. At any time, the Arkansas quarterback could throw an errant interception into triple coverage, or outrun the opposing team's defensive backs for an 80-yard score.

Jones has accounted for an average of 270 yards per game in 2004, but has four interceptions and a lost fumble that cost the Razorbacks a chance to beat Texas. With Jones' ability to tuck it and run, he puts a lot of pressure on opposing linebackers, and Florida starts two sophomores and has freshmen in the rotation as well.

So far in this young season, the Razorbacks have surrendered 188 yards on the ground to Texas' Cedric Benson and 170 yards to Alabama's Ray Hudson. And Florida tailback Ciatrick Fason is certainly in the same class as Hudson. Fason rushed for 210 yards last week against Kentucky and leads the SEC in rushing at 132 yards per contest. The Florida passing game isn't bad either with Chris Leak chunking the ball to guys like O.J. Small, Andre Caldwell and Dallas Baker.

Ciatrick Fason is off to a strong start for the Gators.

In last season's battle between these schools in Fayetteville, Florida was able to hold on to a 33-7 fourth quarter lead to win it 33-28. Expect to see a lot of points in a game that either team could win. The advantage has to go to the Gators playing at home in The Swamp.

Arkansas State (1-3, 1-0 Sun Belt) at Ole Miss (1-3, 1-1)

1 p.m., No Television (thankfully)

Just how low can Ole Miss go? Coming off a 37-32 loss at Wyoming, the Rebels are 1-3 with their lone win coming in overtime against Vanderbilt.

Saturday's game against the mighty Arkansas State Indians will likely be the last time the Rebels have a legitimate chance to win a football game until the Egg Bowl in late November unless they play much better than they have in the first four games. Against Wyoming, the offense finally had success moving the football, but it turned it over fives times and the defense surrendered 37 points to a Mountain West Conference opponent.

Arkansas State's offense features the Sun Belt's leading passer and second leading rusher, but its defense is surrendering 483 yards per game. If Ole Miss can avoid another five-turnover outing, it should be able to beat the Indians handily.

LSU (3-1, 1-1) at Georgia (3-0, 1-0)

2:30 p.m. CDT, CBS Sports

While the first game of CBS's doubleheader will likely feature a high-scoring affair, don't look for many points in this rematch of last year's SEC Championship Game. In two games last season, the LSU defense picked off five David Greene passes and sacked the Georgia quarterback 10 times. And the LSU defense looks to be just about as good this year, ranking fifth in the country in yards allowed (236.8) and points (8.5) per game.

The good news for Georgia is that freshman tailback Danny Ware is back and will start after suffering a bruised lung against South Carolina. In his absence no Georgia running back averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry, a number that must improve for the Bulldogs to have success on offense. LSU defensive coordinator Will Muschamp likes to bring the house on third down so Georgia would be well-advised to keep it to third and short if the Bulldogs want to consistently move the football on this athletic defense.

David Greene is looking for more success this year vs. the tough LSU defense.

Georgia's defense is fast and talented as well, allowing only 260.3 yards per game in 2004. LSU quarterbacks Marcus Randall and Jamarcus Russell struggled against the good defenses they've faced this year, Oregon State and Auburn. And Georgia's defense may be the best one LSU will face this year.

Georgia is ranked third in the country in both polls, but it hasn't played like a Top 5 team so far. The Bulldogs gave up 28 points to Georgia Southern, fell behind 16-0 to South Carolina and only scored 13 points against Marshall.

This will likely be a well-played, close game like the Auburn-LSU game two Saturdays ago, but look for LSU's defense to pull it out in Athens unless the Bulldogs play better than they have in previous games.

South Carolina (3-1, 1-1) at Alabama (3-1, 1-1)

5 p.m., ESPN2

This could be a turning-point game for both teams. For South Carolina, we'll find out if Coach Lou Holtz has his team back on track after back-to-back 5-7 seasons. As for Alabama, we'll find out if there is life after Brodie for the Tide offense.

Croyle's replacement, Mark Guillon, completed only six of 18 passes for 57 yards last week, but that was in his first career start on the road against what appears to be a good Arkansas team. If Bama can't come up with a win against the Gamecocks, things could head south in a hurry under second-year coach Mike Shula.

With senior quarterback Dondrial Pinkins back to full strength after suffering a shoulder injury against Georgia, and sophomore Syvelle Newton playing well in his absence, South Carolina quarterbacks coach Skip Holtz says that he plans on playing musical chairs at the position against Alabama. Tailback Demetris Summers is still suffering from a sprained ankle, but should be ready to play Saturday.

The Gamecocks play excellent run defense, allowing 92.2 yards per game, good for second in the conference. Bama has run the ball well so far this year, but it will need Guillon to perform better than last week to keep the Gamecock defense honest. If Guillon can't get on the same page as his young receivers, it could be a long evening for the Crimson Tide offense.

Mississippi State (1-3, 0-2) at Vanderbilt (0-3, 0-2)

6 p.m., No Television

It's hard to believe that the Vanderbilt Commodores are a 12-point favorite in an SEC game. When was the last time the Commodores have been a double-digit favorite in the league?

The fact that Mississippi State is such a big underdog says a lot about the Bulldogs with Vanderbilt off to an 0-3 start. The Bulldogs' offense has gotten worse as the season has progressed, but maybe this week will be different. Quarterback Omarr Conner went down with an MCL sprain at LSU last Saturday. Kyle York will have the opportunity to lead the troops to a couple of scores and break out of a scoring slump.

Although Vanderbilt hasn't lost to a Division I-AA opponent this year like Mississippi State did against Maine, the Commodores aren't exactly playing well either. The 'Dores have lost to Ole Miss and Navy the last two weeks and need to take advantage of a rare opportunity for a conference win.

Ohio (2-2, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) at Kentucky (1-2, 0-1)

6 p.m. CDT, No Television

To generate some sort of hype around this battle between Wildcats and Bobcats, Kentucky has decided to dub this one as the "Throwback Game." Kentucky will wear old-school uniforms and auction off the jerseys afterward with proceeds going to a scholarship fund. On to the game.

There isn't a lot of talent on either team so this could be a good matchup. Ohio enters the contest at 2-2 and has already beaten VMI and Buffalo while Kentucky's lone win came against Indiana. So far this season, Rich Brooks' UK offense has scored 0, 51 and 3 points in its first three contests. Quarterback Shane Boyd played well against Indiana, but really struggled against Louisville and Florida. Saturday's game against Ohio will give the Wildcats a chance to find some consistency on offense.

Auburn (4-0, 2-0) at Tennessee (3-0, 1-0)

6:45 p.m. CDT, ESPN

The battle between the Tigers and Volunteers up on ole Rocky Top Saturday night has exciting implications for the winner. The loser of the contest still controls its own destiny as far as winning the division, but the winner will be vaulted into the national spotlight and have a huge foot in the door in its efforts to get to Atlanta.

Also, whoever comes out on top will have Georgia as the only currently ranked team standing in its way of an undefeated regular season.

Quarterback Erik Ainge has sparked the Vols to a 3-0 start.

Erik Ainge, who has come off the bench in the first three games, is ranked fourth in the country in passing efficiency. Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer is expected to give him the start ahead of fellow freshman quarterback Brent Schaeffer.

Schaeffer has given teams fits so far this year with his running ability and his quickness should test the speed of Auburn's linebackers if he sees significant playing time. Auburn's secondary hasn't been faced with a quarterback who puts on a lot of pressure with the deep ball, but that is expected to change on Saturday night because the Vols like to throw the bomb.

If Vols are able to hit the long ball, they should be the first team to score many points vs. the Auburn defense, which is allowing only 6.5 points per game this season. But for Tennessee's passing game to work, offensive coordinator Randy Sanders can't abandon the run so early like he did in last season's 28-21 Auburn win. In that contest, the Volunteers rushed 16 times for four yards. Tailbacks Cedric Houston and Gerald Riggs Jr., who have had a lot of success in 2004, will be running behind a stronger front five than the Vols played last year.

Auburn tailbacks Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown combined for 48 carries and 250 yards on the ground last year against Tennessee. If Tennessee wants to win Saturday, it can't let the duo run wild again. Auburn's first-year offensive coordinator Al Borges has done a good job with offensive balance and it'll be interesting to see how much of the playbook he's saved for this Top 10 battle. Tennessee's defense hasn't played all that well in 2004 and must step it up a notch to slow down Auburn. If Auburn's offense can score more than a couple of touchdowns, Tennessee could be in trouble. Auburn's first team defense has allowed only nine points in the first four games.

Playing freshmen quarterbacks against a defense as good as Auburn's, Tennessee will likely need to force a couple of turnovers to win. Auburn's senior quarterback, Jason Campbell, has only thrown one interception in 76 attempts this season. Tennessee will also need to establish its running game, or else Ainge and Schaeffer will have a rocky flop Saturday night.

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