SEC Week 7 Preview: Auburn, Arkansas Battle to See Who Can Break the Scoreboard

The Open Thread posts at 11 a.m. ET

SURPLUS INVENTORY SALE! ALL POINTS MUST GO!!!
13 Arkansas at 7 Auburn / 3:30 p.m. ET / CBS

I respect and understand Year2's rule about college football shootouts, and I usually follow it. But when it comes to this game, I just don't know.

The Auburn offense -- aka Cameron Newton, aka The Brinks Truck -- is ridiculously, insanely productive. That's 483 yards a game of offense, leading to 37 points on averaage. And it's opposite a defense that allows almost 335 yards a contest, which isn't bad nationally but also isn't great in the SEC.

On the other side we have the Arkansas offense -- aka Ryan Mallett, aka The Guy RBs are There to Block for -- ringing up just twenty fewer yards a game than Auburna and scoring just seven fewer points. And while the defense is better than Auburn, it has also benefited from a pretty mediocre schedule so far despite games against Alabama and Texas A&M. (Let's just say that when the third-most potent offense you've faced is arguably Georgia, it's difficult to get a precise fix on how good your defense is.)

See, the thing that Arkansas doesn't defend well, at least when compared to the rest of the SEC -- that would be the rush, which really shouldn't concern you at all when you're about to face Cam Newton and Michael Dyer. And Auburn's weak spot would be the pass, which is no sweat when Ryan Mallett and his fellow Razorbacks are about to come for a visit.

All of which would just be a fun diversion if it weren't for the enormous implications of this game for the SEC West. An Auburn win would make them the de facto favorite at the season's midpoint, with wins over a team that did defeat Alabama and another that almost won its game against the Tide. It would also all but ensure that the Iron Bowl would be a must-win for Alabama.

An Arkansas win just means further chaos. It leaves LSU as the only undefeated team in the SEC and a strong favorite in the SEC West, with the caveat that the Bayou Bengals will still not have faced any of the other three division contenders. It also increases the potential for a three- or four-team tie that would not be decided until the seaon's final weeks, which again favors LSU.

But I have underestimated Cam Newton before, and it's a mistake I'm not about to make twice. Alabama has some catching up to do.

Auburn 44, Arkansas 35

OH, YOU PICKED THE WRONG TIME TO SCHEDULE YOUR BYE
Mississippi at 9 Alabama / 9 p.m. ET / ESPN2

Really -- 9 p.m. ET? Did Tuscaloosa change time zones when I wasn't looking? You do realize that having a Bear as your mascot doesn't require you to schedule your games at the same time as California, right? Oh well. I don't think it's going to make a great deal of difference.

It's important to note here that Ole Miss is not quite as bad as we thought they would be after they lost to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt. That's not to say that the Rebels Bears Bearebels are necessarily good, because they're not. But there's a difference between simply being bad and being awful on a molecular level, and the Bears Rebels Rebel Bears Ewoks are clearly the former.

Actually, it might stun you to know that Ole Miss is ranked first in the SEC in scoring offense. (In case you needed further evidence that this is a near-worthless statistic.) They scored 55 against Fresno, 42 against Kentucky and 48 against Jackso-- You know, let's skip that.

But Alabama is angry. They got defeated by two touchdowns in Columbia last weekend. Nick Saban cussed at his press conference, all the while looking like he was ready to club some baby seals -- or bears.

I think the scoring offense rank is probably going to change.

Alabama 42, Mississippi 13

BEWARE THE LETDOWN -- AND KENTUCKY IN GENERAL
10 South Carolina at Kentucky / 6 p.m. ET / ESPN2

Any South Carolina fan with any sense ought to be scared of this game. And not just because of the letdown factor, because how much of that is real is open to which games you want to count and how much you want to control for circumstances and opponent quality and all kinds of other variables. Not that the letdown factor isn't a cause for concern; it's just far from the only thing that should concern Gamecocks about this contest.

No -- the main cause for concern should be that three of the last four and six of the last eight games in this series have been decided by a touchdown or less. And there's only one real blowout in the lot. So saying that Kentucky hasn't won this game since 1999 paints an incomplete picture of what has been a very competitive series over the last several years, up to and including last year's two-point South Carolina win in Columbia.

The game, you might have noticed, is in Lexington this year. Some of the most harrowing wins in the streak have come in Lexington -- 16-12 in 2002, 12-7 in 2004 and a pair of 24-17 wins during the last two games in the Commonwealth. (One was so bad it caused Steve Spurrier to summon the secondary coach to his press briefing for an impromptu interrogation.)

And Kentucky is not a bad team this year. Just like they weren't a bad team in 2009. Or 2008. 2007 ...

I'm just not sure they're good enough. Again.

South Carolina 28, Kentucky 24

HAS THE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BECOME THE HEAD COACH?
Mississippi State at 23 Florida / 7 p.m. ET / ESPNU

I have half a mind to call an upset here. This will be a close game until the end, and Florida will at times look like it is in danger of losing. Add to that the fact that Mississippi State is now a competent enough team to turn those errors into points, and you have a few of the key ingredients for an upset.

But competent enough is not necessarily confident enough, and while I hate to base any pick on intangibles, it's hard to see this edition of the Western Division Bulldogs being ready for prime time in the Swamp. And because I'm already throwing intangibles out there, when was the last time Urban Meyer lost a game that he needed to keep the season from spiraling out of control?

No, Florida will win this game. There will be coronaries among the alumni, and there will be nothing left of Steve Addazio's chair but charred embers, but the scoreboard will still have more for the home team when time runs out.

Florida 23, Mississippi State 22

EVEN GEORGIA CAN BEAT VANDERBILT. CAN'T THEY?
Vanderbilt at Georgia / 12:21 p.m. ET / The SEC Network

You know, when we launched an SEC blog in the middle of the 2008 season, never did it really occur to me that I might look at a game between Vanderbilt and Georgia in Athens, start to select Georgia like you would think any sane person would, and then go, "Hey, wait a minute ..."

And that right there is the story of Georgia in 2010 in a nutshell: Not even Vanderbilt is a sure win any more. Of course, if Georgia were to actually lose this game in front of the home crowd, I would imagine that the willingness to suspend hot-seat talk in Athens would suddenly disappear.

Not that I think there's a reason to worry about that at the moment. There are some losses left in this Georgia team yet, but this is not one of them.

Georgia 24, Vanderbilt 20

ALSO PLAYING

McNeese State at LSU | 7 p.m. ET | FSN We're almost done with these, right? LSU 34, McNeese State 13

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