Previewing Week Nine Of SEC Football

Georgia will try to find a way to beat the Florida Gators, Kentucky and Mississippi State battle to stay out of the basement and Auburn will try to clinch the SEC West Championship in Rebel territory.

The following is a look at the matchups in week nine of Southeastern Conference play.

Tennessee (6-1, 4-1) at South Carolina (5-2, 3-2)

11:30 a.m. CDT, JP Sports/ESPN GamePlan

Since being steamrolled by Auburn in early October, Tennessee has squeaked out three consecutive SEC victories by five points or less. The Volunteers continue to control their destiny in the East and a win at South Carolina would be a big step forward with only Vanderbilt and Kentucky remaining on the SEC slate.

South Carolina has started 5-2 and 5-3 the last two seasons, but failed to earn a sixth win to become bowl eligible. At 5-2 again, the Gamecocks looked good at times early this year, but their last two games--a home loss to Ole Miss and a last-minute win at Kentucky--have been less than impressive. Their lack of success in late-season games with Tennessee, Florida and Clemson has been the biggest reason for the Gamecocks' end of the year collapses. Dating back to the Brad Scott era, South Carolina has lost all three games to its annual orange rivals in six of the last seven seasons. With Arkansas remaining on the schedule as well, neither winning nor losing the last four seems very far-fetched.

Tennessee has won the last 11 meetings, but the stats actually favor the Gamecocks this year. The offensive numbers are identical--206.7 passing, 172.1 rushing per game for Tennessee, 205.6 passing and 172.3 rushing per game for USC--but the South Carolina defense is surrendering only 278 yards and 11 points per game. However, those numbers are probably a bit skewed after facing mostly poor offenses thus far. Vegas says the game is a tossup, but with South Carolina's recent struggles, the Volunteers have to like their chances.

Kentucky (1-6, 0-4) at Mississippi State (2-5, 1-3)

1:30 p.m., No television

Before the Bulldogs' win over Florida, this time was shaping up to be undoubtedly one of the worst SEC matchups since the invention of the face mask. Neither team has played with much consistency this year, especially on offense.

State's 38 points against the Gators were the most since scoring 14 on Auburn five games ago. And aside from the 51 points Kentucky put on Indiana, the Wildcats haven't scored more than 17 points in a game all year. This battle of Cats and Dogs will probably go to which ever team screws up the least.

Florida (4-3, 2-3) at Georgia (6-1, 4-1)

2:30 p.m. CDT, CBS Sports

After Ron Zook's firing this week, the biggest unknown heading into the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is the level of inspiration of the Gators. Zook is known for being close to his players. Will they come out and try to win one for the coach, or have they given up on the season like the Florida administration already has?

Coach Ron Zook

It's no secret that Florida has dominated Georgia lately, winning 13 of 14. In the last six contests, the Bulldogs have entered the game ranked in the Top15 and left Jacksonville with a loss.

That streak has to break eventually. All things combined--Zook's firing, the Gators loss to Mississippi State, Georgia's talent advantage--this should be the Year of the Dawg. If it isn't, the frustration factor in Athens will be on the rise.

Vanderbilt (2-5, 1-3) at LSU (5-2, 2-2)

7 p.m., Pay per view/ESPN GamePlan

LSU should consider itself extremely fortunate with several close wins this season, including last week's come from behind win over Troy. While losses at Auburn and Georgia aren't the end of the world, a loss to Troy would have been downright embarrassing. At 5-2, the Tigers have a solid chance to win out and finish 9-2, but they're also three plays away from being 2-5.

Vanderbilt struggled to beat Eastern Kentucky last week so it'd be easy to assume the Commodores have no chance on the road against the defending national champs. However, if Mississippi State can beat Florida, ANYTHING is possible in this league.

Auburn (8-0, 5-0) at Ole Miss (3-4, 2-2)

6:45 p.m. ESPN

The Tigers have won their last five games in Oxford and are heavy favorites to make it six. With arguably the best quarterback and running backs in the league, the Auburn offense should be able to move the football against a defense allowing nearly 400 yards per game. The Rebels have given up 21 points or more in every game this year. They run a 4-2-5 defense, much like the 4-4-3 Arkansas defense that Auburn had little trouble with two weeks ago.

On offense, Ole Miss likes to use a rare three-quarterback system, each with a different style. It has caused problems for some of the Rebels' opponents, but Auburn's defense has seen a lot of quarterback styles and hasn't had much trouble with any of them.

Auburn looks to have a big advantage overall, but Ole Miss has improved and came close to knocking off Tennessee two weeks ago in Oxford. With an off week, the Rebels have had a little extra time to make improvements before playing Auburn.

Ole Miss is fighting just to keep its bowl hopes alive, while Auburn is looking to wrap up the SEC West title before November and stay in the hunt for a berth in the national championship game. The Rebels have come a long way over the course of the season, but they don't quite have the talent to keep up with a team like Auburn without a bit of help.

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