Open Thread begins Saturday at 11 a.m. ET.
Tennessee at Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
It's finally here -- the game that almost every SEC fan has eagerly anticipated even if they believe it's going to be over by the end of the first quarter. Almost every fan that would normally hate for the Gators to pile up the points is hoping that they do just that this week to give Boy Wonder his comeuppance for an offseason of rude behavior.
And who can blame them? After all, he said all the many noted things about Florida, suggested Nick Saban's role in Alabama's recruiting class was overrated and allegedly equated attending South Carolina to choosing a career in gas-pumping. And those are just the notable shots he took before coaching his first college football game.
The truth is, no one really thinks the Vols will win this game. Strike that; there are always a few very dedicated fans who believe that their team will overcome astronomical odds to stun the nation. But even most of the only slightly reasonable Tennessee fans are looking to keep this game "closer than the experts expect" rather than close, period. A win is pretty much ruled out. This is not supposed to be a contest.
Sure, it's a rivalry game. Sure, we still haven't seen Florida in action against anyone even remotely in their neighborhood in terms of talent. But did the game against UCLA leave anyone thinking that Tennessee is close enough to Florida to pull off the upset? Put another way: If Jonathan Crompton has another game that even resembles last week's effort, on what planet is this game even close enough for the Vols to grab an unlikely victory?
Florida will be challenged this year by an SEC opponent in a game we don't expect, and whether they can fend off the underdog will decide whether they go undefeated. I don't think this will be that game.
Florida 54, Tennessee 13
ANOTHER WEEK OF WAITING FOR ANSWERS
Georgia at Arkansas, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
I've already noted how completely puzzing I find this game to be, and even an extra day of thinking about gives me no clear answers. It might be easier if we had at least a little bit of valuable information about Arkansas, but they defeated an FCS team before taking a week off, so that doesn't exist at this point.
There's one thing we can say with almost as much confidence as we had predicting a low-scoring game in Athens last week: It looks like this one will feature a lot of points. Bobby Petrino's offense is coming around -- which means it's probably about time for him to find another job -- and Georgia looked impressive last week against a defense that we think is better than Arkansas. Of course, that game taught us all to be careful about confusing what we think with what we know.
So it could be something of the nightmare scenario presented by HoginAiken -- a relatively close game (though maybe not less than a field goal) that leaves us without many answers about either team. Of course, that's as it should be in college football. What's the fun in figuring everything a quarter of the way through the season?
Arkansas 41, Georgia 33
HOW MANY MORE OF THESE TEST GAMES DO WE HAVE?
Auburn at West Virginia, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN2
RB Noel Devine got all the preseason headlines for West Virginia, but keep an eye on QB Jarrett Brown, who's had a good season so far against an underwhelming schedule (Liberty and East Carolina). Brown ranks 11th in the country in passing effiency and eighth in total offense. The question is whether he can do it against a quality BCS opponent.
Auburn, meanwhile, has so far surprised many of its detractors. Sure, this is Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State we're talking about, but last year's awfulfense couldn't move the ball even against the Western Division Bulldogs, so we're seeing progress. Still, West Virginia is likely to be the best team Auburn has faced to this point, giving the Tigers yet another hurdle to clear on the road back to respectability.
The thing that should give hope to Auburn fans and concern the Mountaineer faithful is that WVU has given up 20 points in each of its games against offenses that are probably worse than the Tigers'. Brown and Devine keep things rolling on their side of the ball but can't make up for the defense.
Auburn 34, West Virginia 31
Mississippi State at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports South / ESPN360
How do you tell these two teams apart? Both of them dismantled FCS foes in Week 1 by the kind of margin that was a bit stunning even for an SEC team facing a lower-division opponent. Both then promptly folded in their first conference games to suggest that, yes, these are still the same Western Division Bulldogs and the same Commodores.
Both teams are relying on the run this year to take them as far offensively as they're going to go; no surprise there. So whoever can stop the run most effectively is likely to win the game. Numerically, at least, the advantage goes to Vanderbilt, though it's really kind of early to draw too much from those rankings.
Last year, a Vanderbilt team that was perceived to be better than the Bulldogs went down to Starkville and suffered one of its most embarrassing losses of 2008. This year, they get a measure of revenge, though it still won't be clear whether they're bowlbound again or back to being Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt 17, Mississippi State 14
WE USED TO HAVE AN OFFENSE HERE
Louisville at Kentucky, 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU
I hate to use the same statistic twice in the same day, but Louisville has not defeated a BCS team since October. And that was an upset of South Florida. Their only other win against a team from one of the power conferences in 2008 was in a home tilt with Kansas State; the Cards couldn't even defeat Syracuse.
But, really, what has Steve Kragthorpe done to the once-vaunted Louisville offense? QB Justin Burke compiled a 102.36 rating against Indiana State last week. That's almost enough to make you weep for Louisville fans that once watched Bobby Petrino's students throw the ball beautifully. Well, for as long as the Gypsy Coach of the South was there, anyway. It's ugly now in the Ville.
Beyond that, both of these teams are difficult to judge based on their first week opponents. At least the Wildcats more convincingly defeated an FBS team.
Kentucky 23, Louisville 13
NICE JOB. NOW, GO BACK TO PLAYING YOUR PEERS
Louisiana-Lafayette at LSU, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
For a Sun Belt team, the Ragin' Cajuns have done well this year. They won comfortably against a
fellow FCS team (yes, I know the Sun Belt is in the FBS, but in name only) and defeated Kansas State on the road. The way Troy has played so far, it might not even be a stretch to call the Cajuns a possible contender for the conference title.
But they'd be mincemeat if they played a conference schedule like their nonconference slate the next two weeks: at LSU and at Nebraska. Lafayette will keep it close for a quarter or so before the Bengals pull away.
LSU 42, Lousiana-Lafayette 14
IF THIS WERE 2007, IT MIGHT BE A DIFFERENT STORY
North Texas at Alabama, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network / ESPN 360
Isn't playing two Sun Belt teams in a row after Virginia Tech kind of tempting fate for Alabama? But let's give him credit -- Nick Saban has never lost to a Sun Belt team. If you ignore that loss to Lousiana-Monroe a couple years ago.
If Julio Jones and Roy Upchurch are indeed out for this game -- and I think they will be -- it might mean the final score will be a bit less awe-inspiring than you would normally think. But that's just how Alabama rolls against the Sun Belt, right?
Alabama 38, North Texas 0
TIME TO PROVE IT WASN'T A FLUKE
Florida Atlantic at South Carolina, 7 p.m. ET, PPV / ESPN360
Remember when the Owls were coming off a bowl game and Howard Schnellenberger was questioning the toughness of Texas? Yeah, that optimism is a bit more tempered now than a year ago. They did defeat Central Michigan in last year's Motor City Bowl, but Florida Atlantic still hasn't come within two scores of a BCS team since a game against South Florida in 2007.
In any case, South Carolina has more to prove in this game than Florida Atlantic. A second straight annihilation against a BCS team will simply prove that the Sun Belt is still the Sun Belt and it's time for the Owls to focus on the games they can win.
But the Gamecocks and Spurrier have to score early and often on FAU to prove that South Carolina is no longer a team that plays to the level of its competition and the offensive outburst against Georgia was not simply a symptom of that. Otherwise, it's right back to wondering whether 6-6 is the ceiling in Columbia this year.
South Carolina 48, Florida Atlantic 14
ALSO PLAYING | Because if you play an FCS team, you don't deserve more than a sentence
Southeastern Louisiana at Ole Miss, 7:30 p.m. ET, CSS / ESPN360 There's only one question here: How did this game get on CSS and Florida Atlantic-South Carolina end up on pay-per-view? Ole Miss 48, Southeastern Louisiana 3