RUTGERS (Sept. 28, Knoxville): The Scarlet Knights (1-2) lost to Villanova 37-19 and Buffalo 34-11 before bouncing Army 44-0 last weekend. Even playing second-rate opposition, Rutgers is allowing 215.7 passing yards per game, 148 rushing yards per game and 363.7 total yards per game. Bottom line: This is a BAD football team ... the perfect opponent to face after an emotional showdown against Florida.
ARKANSAS (Oct. 5, Knoxville): The Razorbacks (2-0) remain a mystery team because they've whipped up on two creampuffs, beating Boise State 41-14 and South Florida 42-3 before enjoying an open date last weekend. Arkansas is averaging 41.5 points per game while outgaining the opposition 446.0 to 254.0 yards per game. Razorback opponents are managing a measley 37.5 rushing yards per game. Considering the level of opposition, however, those numbers are relatively meaningless. Bottom line: We'll know a whole lot more about the Razorbacks after they host Alabama this Saturday.
GEORGIA (Oct. 12, Athens): The Bulldogs (2-0) qualify as South Carolina state champs after beating Clemson 31-28 in an offensive shootout, then beating South Carolina 13-7 in a defensive struggle. Georgia has won without looking good, being outrushed 113.0-107.0 per game and outpassed 189.0-143.0 per game. Tailback Musa Smith has been top-notch, averaging 4.2 yards per carry in gaining 208 yards. The quarterback platoon has seen David Greene complete 23 of 40 passes for 236 yards, D.J. Shockley 3 of 7 for 50 yards. Shockley also has 27 net yards on nine rushes, a 3.0 per-carry average. Bottom line: The Dogs have shown they are resourceful enough to beat mid-level opposition. With Northwestern State and New Mexico State up the next two weekends, however, we won't learn more about UGA until it visits Alabama on Oct. 5.
ALABAMA (Oct. 26, Knoxville): The Tide (2-1) held off Middle Tennessee 39-34, pushed Oklahoma before losing 37-27, then beat North Texas State 33-7. Incredibly, Bama has gained precisely 626 yards rushing and 626 passing. How's that for balance? The Tide is allowing just 70 rushing yards per game and controlling the clock 33:29 to 26:31. That combination of ball-control offense and stingy defense could make the Tide a force to be reckoned with. Bottom line: If Tyler Watts has a decent day throwing the ball, Bama can compete with anyone on its schedule.
SOUTH CAROLINA (Nov. 2, Columbia): The Gamecocks (1-2) beat New Mexico State 34-24, then lost at Virginia 34-21 and at home to Georgia 13-7. Carolina has fumbled 14 times in three games, losing 10. The 'Cocks miss tailback Derek Watson more than they expected. QB Corey Jenkins is the leading rusher, averaging 102.7 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. Big Andrew Pinnock (6-0, 250) is averaging 57.3 yards per game as Watson's successor. Bottom line: Carolina is a dangerous opponent, especially at home, if the Gamecocks can stop leaving the football on the ground.
MIAMI (Nov. 9, Knoxville): The Hurricanes (3-0) have looked awesome in trouncing Florida A&M 63-17, Florida 41-16 and Temple 44-21. Showing no apparent weakness, Miami has averaged 49.3 points and 500.3 yards per game, while limiting its foes to 18.0 points and 243.7 total yards per game. Bottom line: Miami toyed with Florida but are the Gators a force or a farce? We may have the answer to that question following this weekend's visit to Tennessee.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (Nov. 16, Starkville): The Bulldogs (1-1) lost big to Oregon 36-13, regrouped during an open date, then shellacked Jacksonville State 51-13. State seems to have rediscovered its passing game under QB Kevin Fant, averaging 16.1 yards per completion. The Dogs are being outrushed 189-103 yards per game but are outpassing their foes 282-147 yards per game. Bottom line: Catching UT one week after the Vol-Miami game gives MSU an outside chance to spring the upset.
VANDERBILT (Nov. 23, Nashville): The Commodores (1-2) lost to Georgia Tech 45-3, beat Div. 1-AA Furman 49-18, then lost to Auburn 31-6. Although it relies on a ball-control offense, Vandy still allows its opponents nearly 400 yards of total offense per game (397.3 to be precise). In addition, foes are converting 51 percent of their third-down opportunities (20 of 39). Quarterback Jay Cutler is the leading rusher at 54.3 yards per game but he has completed just 32 of 59 pass attempts with five interceptions and a mere two TDs. Bottom line: Unless the Commodores make considerable progress by November, they'll be no match for Tennessee.
KENTUCKY (Nov. 30, Knoxville): The Wildcats (3-0) qualify as the surprise team of the SEC after beating Louisville 22-17, Texas-El Paso 77-17 and Indiana 27-17. UK is winning with fast starts (outscoring foes 38-3 in the first quarter) and strong finishes (outscoring foes 30-7 in the fourth period). Jared Lorenzen is passing for 200 yards per game but the ground attack is producing an impressive 195.3 yards per game. The key is tailback Artose Pinner, who is averaging 114.7 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry. Bottom line: If the Wildcats can stay relatively healthy, they can be a factor in the SEC East race.