SEC Preview

This past weekend wasn't the best week for quality match ups in the Southeastern Conference, but this week could be better. The top two games on slate are the Auburn/South Carolina and the Alabama/Florida contests. Let's take a look at the first game on the SEC schedule, the nationally-televised Thursday night ESPN game.

2 Auburn (4-0) @ South Carolina (3-1)

Quick recaps: Auburn smoked the lowly Buffalo Bulls last week 38-7, despite the fact that all-everything tailback Kenny Irons missed the game with a bum ankle & toe. The story of the game was the Tigers rushing attack that accounted for 261 yards and five touchdowns, led by Irons' replacements Brad Lester & Ben Tate. The Auburn defense continues to impress, albeit against an inferior opponent. South Carolina faced a similar tune-up, as they blasted Florida Atlantic 45-6 on five touchdown passes from wide receiver turned quarterback Syvelle Newton to stud sophomore wide receiver Sidney Rice.
The match up: Auburn is the cream of the crop in the SEC, and the reason for their success is quite simple; they play fantastic defense and have an incredible rushing attack, led by Kenny Irons. Irons' health may be the only glimmer of hope for the Gamecocks chances this week, although Irons appears healthy enough to give it a go. The Tigers boast the nations 3rd best scoring defense and look to bully the Gamecock offense all night long. Can the ‘ole ball coach get the quality production from quarterback Syvelle Newton and wide receiver Sidney Rice that he did last week? If the ‘Cocks defense can slow down the Tigers rushing attack, they will be in this ballgame. I just don't think South Carolina has enough firepower to challenge Auburn defensively, so barring any special teams scores or trick plays by Spurrier, South Carolina should fall short. In the end, I think the ‘Cocks defense gets tired and gives way to the better football team and Auburn wins by two touchdowns or more.

Alabama (3-1) @ 7 Florida (4-0)

Quick recaps: Alabama lost 23-24 in a tough double overtime loss to Western division rival Arkansas, as kicker Leigh Tiffin missed the extra point attempt in overtime. The Tide's fate was sealed on the next possession when freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain, last year's USA Today high school offensive player of the year, tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass in double overtime for the go-ahead score. Despite the fact that ‘Bama doubled Arkansas' time of possession and won the turnover battle three to one, they could not overcome the three missed field goals and extra point by Tiffin. The Florida football team won 26-7, its twentieth straight game against the basketball powerhouse Kentucky Wildcats. The Gator defense continues to play strong, championship caliber type defense. The offense was guided by the second straight 100-yard performance by Deshawn Wynn, the oft-maligned & inconsistent tailback and a 267 yard & two touchdown performance by Heisman hopeful quarterback Chris Leak.
The match up: This should be a very tough match up for the Tide, both emotionally and physically, as the Tide are coming off the double overtime heartbreaking loss to Arkansas. For the Gators, this game is all about vindication for last year's 31-3 blowout loss to the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Can Alabama slow down Florida's offense? Alabama has struggled this year and have a lot of young & inexperienced players on both sides of the ball. Alabama looks to run the ball, but UF counters with a stingy defense and a front seven that stifles the run and creates pressure on opposing quarterbacks. There are just too many playmakers on both sides of the football for the Florida Gators. With the revenge factor on their side, the Gators should continue their unbeaten streak and will win in the Swamp by at least 10 points.

Mississippi State (1-3) @ 9 Louisiana State (3-1)

Quick recaps: LSU blew out fellow Louisiana product Tulane at home, 49-7. The Green Wave were no match for the Tigers on offense or defense, as they gave up almost 400 yards of offense and surrendered three turnovers. Jamarcus Russell looked good again passing for 200 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to junior Early Doucet III. However, just like fellow SEC counterparts Auburn & Florida, the strength of this LSU team is their defense, and they held Tulane scoreless until garbage time in the fourth quarter. Mississippi State is coming off their first win of the season, an overtime victory against UAB, 16-10. The Bulldog defense stepped up big, intercepting UAB's Chris Williams' pass on the first possession of overtime. Quarterback Michael Henig then scampered 21-yards for the score on the next possession, earning the first win of the season for MSU and head coach Sylvester Croom.
The match up: Mississippi's no-coast offense continues to show no signs of life. The future doesn't look any brighter either against the LSU defense, which looks to send MSU deeper into the Bermuda Triangle. This contest has blowout written all over it, and I'd be surprised if the Bulldogs can put any points on the board whatsoever. MSU's defense is respectable, but can they keep them in the game? The reality is that the Bulldogs are overmatched in every facet of the game, and that's why the odds makers have the Tigers winning by 30 or more. I concur. LSU wins this game in a blowout.

Memphis (1-2) @ 15 Tennessee (3-1)

Quick recaps: Tennessee beat Marshall 33-7, led by another strong rushing performance of 176 yards and four touchdowns. Lamarcus Coker, a redshirt freshman who's been waiting for his chance, accounted for 146 yards, with 89 of those coming on a long touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter to ensure the win. Erik Ainge continues to play well, as he was 18 of 27 for 258 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Thundering Herd looked more like the blundering herd after a sloppy performance that included two turnovers and a safety. The match up: Will the bye week help Memphis prepare for the Vols? The Conference USA is no match for the SEC, just like Memphis is no match for the Volunteers. Strong defense, a strong running game, and an efficient performance by Erik Ainge means Memphis goes home with a 30 or 40 point loss.

10 Georgia (4-0) @ Mississippi (1-3)

Quick recaps: Ole Miss lost to Wake Forest 27-3. I swear there must be something in the Mississippi River that keeps Mississippi offenses from scoring any points. Ole Miss continues to struggle on offense, as Brent Schaeffer still can't figure out how to lead this team. The former stud-turned-transfer from Tennessee is struggling mightily, and it showed as he threw for just 13-for-28 for 127 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. The Wake defense surrendered only 26 yards rushing, and Ed Orgeron's team was sent packing after another miserable loss. Georgia is coming off a 14-13 win against the winless Colorado Buffaloes. Anybody who watched this game realizes that the ‘Dawgs were extremely lucky to escape with a win, as they were held scoreless until the ninth minute of the fourth quarter. However, replacement quarterback & savior Joe Cox came in late for Matt Stafford to throw for two touchdowns to help prevent what would've been one of the worst upsets of all time at Sanford stadium.

The match up: Did the Bulldogs just have a bad game, or was last week a glimpse into the future? Georgia's struggles on offense can be attributed to young quarterbacks Joe Cox and Matt Stafford's inconsistent play. Mark Richt is known for developing quarterbacks and high-powered offenses, and he'll need this tune-up game to work out some of the kinks. Fortunately for Georgia, Ole Miss comes to town broken and without an offense to cause them any problems. Georgia plays strong defense, and scores enough points to get the win.

Temple (0-4) @ Vanderbilt (1-3)

Quick recap: Vanderbilt won 38-9 against Tennessee State.

The match up: Is anybody even paying attention to this game? Vanderbilt looks to win their second game of the season as they overpower the lowly Temple Owls. This game would be better served on the hardwood, where at least somebody in the country would be paying attention.

Central Michigan (2-2) @ Kentucky (2-2)

Quick recap: Kentucky is coming off their twentieth straight loss to the Florida Gators. Despite losing 26-7, the Wildcats actually showed some promise by holding UF to just 12 points in the first half. They have now played Louisville & Florida tough, so they are not a poor team.
The match up: Central Michigan is 2-0 in the MAC, and that's actually a pretty good accomplishment as it is an up-and-coming conference. This game should boil down to whether or not Kentucky, who's surrendering over 400 total yards a game, can slow down the Chippewa offense and their unstable quarterback position. I agree with the experts, this game should be close. I think Kentucky manages to win the game, although this game could be decided by a touchdown or less.

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