Week 6 Preview: Alabama, South Carolina Square Off in a Rarity for Columbia

The Open Thread posts at 11 am. ET

WE'RE NOT USED TO THIS
1 Alabama at 19 South Carolina / 3:30 p.m. ET / CBS

It's not often that Columbia plays host to a game between two Top 20 teams. In fact, it's happened twice in the last 21 years: When No. 4 Florida traveled to Williams Brice to face off with No. 14 South Carolina on Nov. 10, 2001, and when No. 8 Kentucky visited No. 11 South Carolina in 2007. (In case you needed a reminder of how bizarre that year was.)

This looks to be closer to the first -- a showdown between a great team and a potential nine-win team -- than the second -- a game between two teams that in retrospect seemed destined to drop out of the rankings, given time. Alabama erased any questions about its national championship contending bona fides with its rout-ish win against Florida, while the Gamecocks have been good enough to think they're headed for a New Year's Day bowl and just shy enough of great to know that BCS hopes are still a long shot.

There's only one thing that might worry me if I were an Alabama fan: The Tide ranks 50th against the pass in terms of yardage (though some of that is to be expected given that they've been ahead most of the year) and rank 107th in both sacks and tackles for loss. One of South Carolina's problems, of course, continues to be allowing sacks and tackles for loss; if Alabama can't turn things around on both of those numbers, that would be a huge relief to Stephen Garcia and the rest of the backfield.

What could be more fun, though, is watching the showdown between two great receivers. Alshon Jeffery is the only SEC wideout averaging more than 100 yards a game -- and he's averaging 124.5. And you might have heard of this Julio Jones fellow, who's on course for more than 750 receiving yards this season despite having a Heisman Trophy-winning running back and another high caliber ball-carrier in the backfield.

I pegged this game as the most likely upset for Alabama, and I still believe that's the case. This is, after all, a South Carolina team that has only improved since a deceptively close 20-6 loss against Alabama in Tuscaloosa last year. But the Tide is still great, and the Gamecocks haven't improved quite enough.

Alabama 24, South Carolina 16

CAN SOMEONE GET 300 YARDS OF TOTAL OFFENSE? PLEASE?
11 LSU at 17 Florida / 7:30 p.m. ET / ESPN

I always try to watch at least a decent portion of every SEC game that's available in my area, being an SEC blogger and all that. Every week, there's a game that tests that goal, and this could be the one.

There's another, arguably more compelling conference game opposite it on ESPN2. And Year2 has already given you all the reason you could need to doubt that there will be many points scored in this one. Not that points are everything, but they sure help to move the game along.

Of course, I'll be sure to get to ESPN around 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m., when the late-game LSU magic could very well be in play. But until then, expect a defensive slog between two teams that are almost as good at stopping themselves from moving as they are at stopping the other team. I'll try to keep up with them, at least for a while.

Florida 20, LSU 13

OF COURSE, REVENGE GAMES AREN'T ALWAYS ALL THEY'RE CRACKED UP TO BE
8 Auburn at Kentucky / 7:30 p.m. ET / ESPN2

As for that more compelling game -- am I really talking about Auburn taking on a team that couldn't defeat Ole Miss? Yes, though not probably for very sound football reasons; this is a revenge game.

Remember, Auburn lost this game 21-14 last year after a shellacking against Arkansas, the first sign that Gene Chizik's first year in Opelika might not be as much of a surprise as it appeared to be at first. After going 5-0 to start the 2009 campaign, the Tigers won just two of their remaining regular season games. But this year is different, Auburn having won its first five games and not yet faced Arkansas.

At least the last part is new. Not that I expect the same outcome this year, in part because Auburn is easily the better team this year.

Auburn 35, Kentucky 13

WELL, WE'RE NOT USED TO THIS, EITHER
Tennessee at Georgia / 12:21 p.m. ET / SEC Network

The last time Tennessee and Georgia played without at least one of them being ranked was ... well, last year. But before that, the last time Tennessee and Georgia played without at least one of them being ranked was 1937. In fairness, there were a lot of years when they didn't play, but that's still a pretty remarkable streak of significance that's being broken.

But here we are. Neither of these teams has defeated another SEC team -- heck, they still don't have a win against another BCS team between them. That presumably will change here, because the rules of the game of football would seemingly require one team to win -- I think.

As to which team will actually win -- tell me whether the game will be decided in the last minute or not. Barring that, I have to go with the team that's been less bad across the board statistically, and that appears to be Georgia. I don't see how anybody can be sure about this game, but that's the best I can do.

Georgia 13, Tennessee 10

WELCOME TO THE SEC -- FOR ONE GAME
12 Arkansas vs Texas A&M (Dallas) / 3:30 p.m. ET / ABC

Until we actually do welcome the Aggies to our conference, the series with Arkansas will have to do. Which is probably just as well with Texas A&M for now.

I can't shake the notion that the Aggies are something of a paper tiger right now. Sure, A&M is generating almost 510 yards of offense a game; they also defeated FIU by just seven points before one of the worst examples of self-destruction I've ever seen in their game against Oklahoma State. At least it gave them a long week to prepare.

For my money, Arkansas has done away with most of the comparisons to 2009 Ole Miss by doing something last year's Rebels didn't: Playing Alabama close. Fortunately, they had a bye week to get over an incredibly difficult loss. Now, they get a game against a team that doesn't appear to be anywhere near as difficult as the last one they faced.

Arkansas 45, Texas A&M 27

ALSO PLAYING

Mississippi State at Houston | 8 p.m. ET | CBS College Sports This game was arguably not a cupcake game until Case Keenum and his backup were both injured and knocked out for the year against UCLA. The Houston offense doesn't appear to have been the same since, which means State should be able to do enough defensively for the win. Mississippi State 31, Houston 23

Eastern Michigan at Vanderbilt | 7 p.m. ET | ESPNU This is Vanderbilt's only cupcake. I'll repeat that: IT'S VANDERBILT, AND THEY ONLY SCHEDULED ONE CUPCAKE. So the call is an easy one to make, while the scheduling decision is hard to explain. Vanderbilt 24, Eastern Michigan 3

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