Quite simply, Florida and Georgia are the best two teams in the SEC East and at least the second- and third-best teams in the conference, though good luck finding a consensus about which is which. This is as close as it comes to a battle between two evenly-matched teams.
Total offense? Georgia is 25th nationally, first in the SEC. Florida is 31st nationally, third in the conference. Total defense? Florida is 13th nationally, third in the SEC. Georgia is 21st nationally, sixth in conference. The team with the slightly better offense is going up against the team with the slightly better defense.
There is one notable gap: Georgia is second in the SEC in scoring offense and eighth in scoring defense; this is why you've seen the close scores in games that the Dawgs have dominated in the box score. Florida is first in both categories. Narrow games are won with narrow edges.
Florida 36, Georgia 30
THAT PINE BOX MIGHT BE COMING
Auburn at Mississippi, 12:30 p.m. ET
Yeah, another pine box reference. You might recall Tommy Tuberville saying that would be the only mode of transportation that would ever carry him away from Ole Miss -- apparently before he realized that you can get from Oxford to Auburn via car.
Now, Tuberville is looking to avoid a pine box for his career, as the WarTigerEagles have slouched to a 4-4 overall record and a 2-3 conference record. The pitchforks are being sharpened in the Greater Opelika metropolitan area, in part because of an offense ranked 109th nationally that literally does nothing well. Actually, that's not entirely true -- they do great on kick returns, if you consider that offense.
Meanwhile, Houston Nutt appears to be ahead of schedule in turning the Rebels into a team that wins with a crazy head coach as opposed to a team that loses with a crazy head coach. Ole Miss can move the ball; they're fourth in the SEC in total offense. It's stopping the other guys that gives the Rebels heartburn; they're 11th in the conference in total defense. Of course, when your opponent is constitutionally incapable of scoring, that doesn't tend to be much of a problem.
Ole Miss 20, Auburn 14
HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN, GIGGITY -- OH, WAIT A MINUTE ...
No. 15 Tulsa at Arkansas, 2 p.m. ET
We in the sports world never pass up an opportunity to talk up a good revenge game. They fired this guy or poached that coach or were this coach's alma mater but didn't hire him -- the list goes on and on.
So, yeah, Gus Malzahn, offensive coordinator for explosive Tulsa, is going to get some attention this week as he returns to the site of his first college coordinating job, an ill-fated stint at Arkansas that saw his ideas run over by Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and the conservative style of Houston Nutt.
But you'll forgive Gus if he doesn't recognize the place. McFadden, Jones and Nutt are gone. In their place? Bobby Petrino, who actually appears intent on coaching a full season at Arkansas and has instituted something called the forward pass. The running game has regressed, aside from great RB Michael Smith; the rest of the team actually averages about -2.5 yards a game.
Tulsa does everything well. The Hurricanes are seventh in rushing offense, fifth in passing offense and first in total offense. The defense has struggled, particularly against the pass, but a lot of their weak slate has simply been trying to keep up.
Tulsa 48, Arkansas 44
IS IT A CROOMING IF NOBODY CARES?
Kentucky at Mississippi State, 2:30 p.m. ET
Rich Brooks has to know what Sylvester Croom is going through; after all, it was no secret that the Kentucky head coach was on a pretty warm seat when he finally turned the Wildcats around. The problem is, Brooks did turn UK around and kept it relatively competitive after that; a decent season for Croom has been followed by yet another disappointing year.
That said, the Bulldogs are coming off a win, admittedly a 31-22 victory over Middle Tennessee State, while Kentucky just suffered the low point of its season in 63-5 waxing at the hands of Florida. Both teams are dreadful on offense and mediocre on defense, but the Cats will be looking for revenge after Mississippi State helped blow up UK's chance at a dream season last year.
Kentucky 17, Mississippi State 6
TOGETHER AGAIN; FOR THE LAST TIME?
Tennessee at South Carolina, 7 p.m. ET
Spurrier vs. Fulmer, and the stakes couldn't be ... any lower, it seems, in terms of the race for the SEC East. But the game could hardly mean more for Phil Fulmer.
What Spurrier and Gamecocks are trying to do in this game is nothing short of realigning the middle of the division, pushing the Vols down to fourth (or lower) and staking their claim as the challenger Georgia and Florida need to worry about most over the next three or four years. Helping end Fulmer's career in Knoxville and potentially throwing Tennessee's storied program into chaos is a big part of that.
Frustrating both fan bases is the presence on each roster of some talented players, but not quite enough of them to win the division. Both teams hope a young quarterback will take them to the promised land -- in the future. Both have seen promising running backs unable to move the ball. Both have watched defenses play valiantly, only to be undermined at times by offensive struggles.
But South Carolina appears to be the better team this year. They fell short last year in one of those bizarre games that only happened to Tennessee in 2007, and the game then was at Rocky Top. This game is always close, and this year won't be any different. The outcome, though, will be.
South Carolina 24, Tennessee 21
Arkansas State at No. 2 Alabama: This is shameful for Alabama to pick on teams from the Sun Belt, who are obviously outmatched ... What's that you say? Oh, that's right -- ULM hahahahahahahahaha. Nick Saban feasts on your mockery, and his team will do the same to Arkie State. Alabama 52, Arkansas State 21
Tulane at LSU: Tulane used to be in the SEC alongside LSU. Doubt me? Look it up. The problem for the Green Wave is that they aren't in the SEC anymore, and aren't good enough to compete there even if they joined. LSU 48, Tulane 7