FOOTBALL: Around the SEC, Week Two

We go around the SEC this week on Game Day Saturday and give you a round-up of who's playing where and what to expect in football this weekend. It pays to keep up with the mightiest football conference in the nation!

Western Carolina at Alabama & LSU at Auburn

Quite possible Hurricane Ivan gets the best of these matchups. There will be an official announcement for both games today, Thursday the 16th.

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss- Dog of the Week

Not exactly the clash of East meets West titans as Vandy (0-1) saunters into Oxford to face off against Ole Miss (0-2). Vandy had the week off last week, and despite being picked by many as sleepers in the SEC, got rocked at home by South Carolina 31-6. Ole Miss has won 8 out of the last 9, a streak worthy of being called ‘Florida Georgia-esque'.

Despite the streak, the Rebels have been hard at work this week to turn their season into something respectable.

"From start to finish, we had good work and that's what we need," Coach David Cutcliffe said. "That's the only way to improve and to correct the things we've been doing poorly in games. Now, we have to put it together with a productive practice tomorrow and we'll be ready to test the water again Saturday against Vanderbilt."

One thing that might work in favor of the Commodores is the injury bug that the Rebs have been bitten by.

"We don't like that we don't have Bobby (Harris) in the starting offensive line, but the spirit and the attitude of the number one OL has been exceptional, as much as you could ask for," he said. "We certainly are not excited about the number of injuries we have, but most are getting better every day and we are doing our best with the players who are healthy."

The two teams will square off Saturday at 12:30 with Mississippi a 7 point favorite.

Key Matchup

Vandy's DE Jovan Haye (6-3, 280, Jr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Registered 8.5 sacks in 2003, which led the SEC in 12 regular season games and was the highest for a Commodore since 1994 ... Led team in sacks, TFLs (12.5), forced fumbles (3) and QB hurries (10) ... Has started 24 of 25 collegiate games ... 45 solo stops in2003 most by a Vandy DE since 1980 ... Voted team co-captain for second consecutive season.

Ole Miss's OT Doug Buckles (6-5, 305, Sr., Madison, Miss.)
2004 will mark his fourth season as a starter ... Selected as one of team's five permanent captains in 2004 ... First-team All-SEC by Memphis Commercial Appeal ... Helped Ole Miss rank first in SEC in scoring, passing and total offense in 2003.

Marshall at Georgia (3)

The Thundering Herd stampede into Sanford Stadium at noon on Saturday. Marshall, who has posted 20 straight winning seasons, is a far cry from the days of Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington, but isn't a team to be take lightly. It took a 55-yard field goal with time expiring at Ohio State for the buckeyes to beat them. While they may not be on the Gamecock level, everyone saw the ‘deer in the headlights' look Richt had as he jogged in at halftime.

The Bulldogs (2-0) have shown great depth this year with two starting LB's and one reserve out the past couple weeks. The injury du-jour this was freshman RB Danny Ware who suffered a bruise lung.

Key Matchup

Marshall's WR Josh Davis (6-1, 190, Sr., Hickory Grove, S.C.)
In four-year career, has caught 231 passes for 3,088 yards ... Caught 66 passes for 823 yards and six TDs in 2003 ... Had three 100+ receiving yardage games in 2003 ... Had six catches for 79 yards in 2004 season opener against Troy.

Georgia's FS Thomas Davis (6-1, 220, Jr., Shellman, Ga.)
Led Georgia with 138 tackles in 2003 ... Named second-team All-America last season by The Sporting News ... Received first-team All-SEC honors by the AP and Atlanta Journal-Constitution and second-team honors from the league's coaches ... Had 11 tackles against Georgia Southern ... 20 stops this season is second in SEC.

Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas

For a team that lost a majority of its 2003 starters, the Razorbacks have really been turning plenty of heads. Their near upset of No. 8 Texas is a good wake up call for the orange and blue faithful to watch out come October 2nd.

However, the Backs should have no problem handling an Indian team that they dismantled last year 52-6.

Key Matchup

Louisiana's RB Kevin Payne (6-1, 208, So., Junction City, Ark.)
2003 Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year ... Named 2003 second-team All-Sun Belt ... Ranked fifth in the nation among freshmen running backs with an average of 81.3 yards per game ... Set ULM freshman rushing record with 169 yards against Arkansas State ... Had 58 yards rushing against Auburn.

Arkansas' DT Arrion Dixon (6-4, 295, Sr., Wynne, Texas)
Started 12 games last season, recording 64 total tackles (27 solos), including six TFLs (-22 yards) ... Named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week in 2004 opener with five tackles, three for losses against New Mexico State ... Also named SEC Defensive Player of the Week against Kentucky last season.

South Florida at South Carolina

Lou Holtz and the Gamecocks should have beaten the Bulldogs. Plain and simple. At home, up 16-0 at half with all the momentum , South Carolina had then win and I believe did convert on that fourth down play in the fourth quarter. But maybe that's the Gator in me talking. While it's too early to point at this game as one that we really really really could have used, ala Crimson Tide v. Tennessee 2003, USC gave them all they could handle.

Holtz's hens should have no problems this week handling South Florida, but was wary after practice on Wednesday.

"We didn't handle Georgia's slants and stunts along the line very well last week and we'll probably see a lot more of the same from South Florida this week," Holtz said. "Demetris (Summers) has a high ankle sprain and those (injuries) are difficult to come back from in a quick fashion. We want to get him well; that's the important thing. We need to get him healthy. We'll play Syvelle (Newton) at quarterback every third series this week. When we get into the third quarter, then we'll go with the hot hand. We want to give Syvelle a shot to see what he can do."

Key Matchups

South Florida's SLB Stephen Nicholas (6-3, 225, So., Jacksonville, Fla.)
On Butkus Award pre-season watch list ... Earned Freshman All-America honors last season by The Sporting News ... Also named to C-USA's All-Freshman Team ... Second among all freshman in the nation with 5.5 sacks ... Had 46 tackles with 11 for losses last season.

South Carolina's RB Demetris Summers (6-1, 200, So., Lexington, S.C.)
Named to the SEC Coaches All-Freshman squad in 2003 ... Appeared in 11 games last season, with eight starts at tailback and was team's second leading rusher with 638 yards on 124 carries and 3 TDs ... Ran for 158 yards against Tennessee and 161 against UAB ... Became the first USC freshman to rush for 100 or more yards in consecutive games ... Rushed for 87 yards on 11 carries in opener against Vanderbilt.

Indiana at Kentucky

The Hoosiers aren't all about the round ball in 2004, and they set that precedent this year when they lucked out at Oregon 30-24. The Wildcats (0-1) enter the game looking to erase the memory of a 28-0 drubbing at the hands of Louisville that isn't exactly a tell tale sign of what is to come. Rich Brooks and company are a good bet this week at a 1.5 favorite.

The Wildcats did not play all that bad in season opening 28-0 loss at Louisville. They only trailed 7-0 in the 3rd quarter before an interception runback put them in too big of a hole. In Kentucky's defense, Louisville is a very good team and it was the season opener so some sloppy offensive play was to be expected. They have since had two weeks off to prepare for this home opener and I believe they will give a good showing. Kentucky covered six straight games last year after losing to Louisville. During that stretch they beat Indiana 34-17 in Bloomington. The Hoosiers do return 19 starters and are improved, but Kentucky returns 15 of their own and this time the game is in Lexington.

Key Matchup

Indiana's RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (5-11, 220, So., New Orleans, La.)
Has rushed for 188 yards and 2 TDs on 57 carries in Indiana's first two games in 2004 ... Last season, rushed for 938 yards and seven TDs and caught 15 passes for 168 yards and a TD ... Rushed for career-high 203 yards against Penn State in 2003 ... Earned Big Ten All-Freshman honors last season.

Kentucky's DE Sweet Pea Burns (6-2, 264, Sr., Lake Park, Ga.)
First-team All-SEC in 2003 by Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Mobile Register ... Second-team All-SEC in 2002 ... Led SEC in TFLs in 2003 with 18.0 (-62 yards) ... Named team's outstanding defensive player by UK coaching staff in 2003 ... Recorded 72 tackles last season, most by a UK defensive lineman since 1991.

Maine at Mississippi State

Mississippi State is 3-0 all-time against members of the Atlantic 10 and will look to continue that streak under the helm of Coach Sly Croom. The Bulldogs (1-1) spent this week focusing on the trenches after losing last week.

"We worked hard and made some improvement (with the line)," Croom said. "We're sort of banged up there and we worked some younger guys and backups in. It's a concern because we don't have everybody together right now. Any injury in the offensive line compounds a tough situation. But we have to work with what we've got and see if we can get guys better. And they are getting better, but how much better we can get before Saturday is real important."

Key Matchups

Maine's RB Marcus Williams (5-10, 230, Sr., Amherst, Mass.)
Named to the 2004 Payton Watch List, an award given to Division I-AA's most outstanding player ... Third in career rushing at Maine with 3,053 yards ... In season opener against Montana, rushed for 105 yards and a TD ... Has 14 career 100+ rushing yardage games ... Ran for 1,284 yards last season, 15th in the nation.

Mississippi State's LB Marvin Byrdsong (6-2, 247, Jr., Longview, Texas)
Has played in all 26 games of his MSU career, earning 10 starts, playing both inside and outside linebacker ... Has registered 101 career stops (51 solos), with five behind the line (-25) ... Last season, logged 76 tackles with two behind the line ... Last week vs. Auburn, had six stops, including one TFL (-2).

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