It's showdown time in SEC

This may be the biggest Saturday of the year in SEC football. Auburn (2-0) and Arkansas (1-0) collide in Fayetteville at 12:30 est, with the winner emerging as the lead dog in the Western Division race. Seven hours later, Tennessee (2-1) and Georgia (2-1) engage at Knoxville, with the winner virtually locking up the Eastern Division title.

It's a great time to be a football fan. This is what we live for.

Auburn looked awfully impressive in handing Tennessee its first loss last Saturday but Tommy Tuberville is 2-6 vs. Arkansas in his tenure as head man at Ole Miss and Auburn. Throw in the fact the Razorbacks rarely lose in Fayetteville AND the fact they're coming off an open date, and the odds seem to favor Houston Nutt's boys.

If Arkansas wins, it could be 11-0 heading to the regular-season finale at LSU. The Hogs face struggling Florida (Oct. 18 in Fayetteville), Ole Miss (Oct. 25 in Oxford), Kentucky (Nov. 1 in Lexington), South Carolina (Nov. 8 in Little Rock), New Mexico State (Nov. 15 in Fayetteville) and Mississippi State (Nov. 22 in Fayetteville). So, a win over Auburn would be a huge boost to Arkansas's divisional title hopes.

The winner of the Tennessee-Georgia game will be in even better shape. If Georgia prevails, Tennessee's only chance to capture the division title would be to win out and hope Georgia stumbles against both Florida (Nov. 1 in Jacksonville) and Auburn (Nov. 15 in Athens). That's assuming, of course, that the Dawgs are too good to lose to Vanderbilt (Oct. 18 in Nashville) or Kentucky (Nov. 22 in Athens).

If Tennessee prevails Saturday night, Georgia's only hopes of claiming the division crown would hinge on winning out and hoping the Vols lose to both Alabama (Oct. 22 in Tuscaloosa) and Kentucky (Nov. 29 in Lexington). That's assuming UT is too strong to lose on its home field to either Mississippi State (Nov. 15) or Vandy (Nov. 22).

Kentucky and South Carolina get the jump on their SEC brethren this week. The Cats and Cocks vie tonight (7:30 kickoff in Columbia) in a game that will be televised by ESPN.

What follows are this week's SEC ratings, based on the usual 1-10 scale:

SEC EAST

Georgia 4-1, 2-1 ... 8.5: If Dawgs can win in Knoxville, they may be the SEC's premier team

Tennessee 4-1, 2-1 ... 8.0: It's put-up-or-shut-up time for Phillip Fulmer's Volunteers

S. Carolina 3-2, 0-2 ... 6.5: Cocks lack great talent but Holtz has them playing well together

Florida 3-3, 1-2 ... 5.5: Losing at home to Ole Miss raises serious questions about Zook's team

Kentucky 2-3, 0-2 ... 5.0: Wildcats could give Carolina a tough test tonight if Lorenzen's hot Vanderbilt 1-5, 0-3 ... 4.0: Will the Commodores ever win another SEC game?

SEC WEST

Arkansas 4-0, 1-0 ... 9.0: At least until the Razorbacks face Auburn Saturday afternoon

LSU 5-0, 2-0 ... 8.5: Tigers have beaten just one quality team (Georgia) all season

Auburn 3-2, 2-0 ... 8.0: Tuberville finally appears to have his talented team clicking

Alabama 2-4, 1-2 ... 6.0: Three losses in a row; should get well at home vs. Southern Miss

Ole Miss 3-2, 2-0 ... 6.0: Upset of Florida quiets Cutcliffe's critics ... at least momentarily

Miss. State 1-4, 1-1 ... 4.5: What else can you say? Thank God for Vanderbilt!


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