The Weekend Open Thread will start at 11 a.m. ET.
THE GAME OF THE WEEK?
No. 21 South Carolina at No. 1 Alabama, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
I have to say I was a little perplexed when South Carolina and Alabama both won and CBS chose to air ... the Arkansas-Florida game? One of these games features two teams in the Top 25, both of which currently sit at either first or second in their division. The other doesn't. Arkansas' win against Auburn was an encouraging sign for the season, sure. But the Razorbacks are still sub-.500 in the SEC and aren't incredibly likely to change that Saturday.
Not that South Carolina has a lot of reasons to be optimistic about its trip to Tuscaloosa. The last time the Gamecocks visited in Tuscaloosa, they won, but that was in the 2004 season that saw both teams end up barely bowl eligible (South Carolina didn't go because of the brawl against Clemson later that year). This time, they face a team that is a near-lock for the SEC West title just six weeks into the season and a national title contender as well.
There are some reasons for the potential upset buzz you will hear from some corners -- and, no, I'm not counting Lou Holtz. The Gamecocks are almost hidden in Alabama's schedule between the trip to Ole Miss last week and the home date with Tennessee next week. Then a bye week and the showdown with LSU. If there's game on its schedule that Alabama could overlook against a team good enough to capitalize on that, it's South Carolina.
South Carolina's only hope would be to allow its defense to keep the game relatively close and either take an early, tenuous lead or to make a big play late in the game to come away with the upset. If the Alabama offense is allowed to get a quick and sizable lead, it's hard to see the Gamecocks being able to catch up against the Tide's solid defense.
Even that plan, though, seems to be an uphill battle. Alabama is simply better than South Carolina on offense and defense. And while this is something of a trap game for the Tide, that only means the final score would be closer than it should be.
Alabama 21, South Carolina 20
THE 'TELEVISION SAYS' GAME OF THE WEEK
Arkansas at No. 2 Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
I don't want to totally blow off the game in Gainesville. It has some intriguing plotlines of its own, including whether the Arkansas defense's star turn against Auburn last week was the signs of some return to competence and whether the Gators really can flip the switch on offense and score enough points to win a shootout if they have to. It's the "if they have to" part that it somewhat in doubt.
Aside from the Alabama game, the Razorbacks have yet to face a team ranked higher than 49th in pass defense and 67th in total defense. And we all saw what happened against Alabama, which has something far closer to Florida's best in the nation pass and total defense than any other opponent Arkansas has faced. That gives us something to compare.
What I'm interested to see in this game is Florida. I'm still not entirely sold on the Gators from a resume standpoint, and most of the impressiveness is still a mixture of what they've done and what I think about them given the state of the program. They have, by my count, played five quarters of great football: The first quarter against Kentucky and then the LSU game. Everything else has been filler and not very impressive filler at that. I would like to see them just one annihilate a team that's halfway decent, like Arkansas, just to prove to me that they can.
Florida 38, Arkansas 7
Kentucky at No. 24 Auburn, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Both of these teams had heartbreaking defeats last week in different senses of the word. For the Wildcats, it was the loss against South Carolina after failing to make a two-point conversion that would have tied the game and forced overtime. For the Tigers, it was a loss to Arkansas that ended their so-far undefeated season.
Auburn is a team that you've probably read quite a bit about: A great offense paired with a defense that still brings almost as many questions to each game as it does players. But 5-1 at the halfway point is still 5-1 and is already light-years ahead of what we would have expected from this team at the end of last year's denouement for the Tuberville Era. And it will probably take a better team than Kentucky to capitalize on a weak defense.
That's because UK just isn't very good on offense. Sure, facing defenses like Florida, Alabama and South Carolina will hurt anyone's numbers, but you have to gain more than 334.8 ypg to win games even in the defense-heavy SEC. Especially if you're allowing the other team to gain 354.8.
Auburn 32, Kentucky 14
'LET'S HOPE IT'S NOT 2006 JUST YET'
Georgia at Vanderbilt, 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Georgia fans aren't universally thrilled (or in agreement) with your humble correspondent's take on the comparisons between this year and 2006, but I think they can all agree that they don't want Georgia to have the same success against Vanderbilt that the Dawgs had three years ago. Because they lost.
There is absolutely no reason for that to happen this year. I'm sorry, Vanderbilt fans, but that's a pretty awful football team you have there. I don't mean that in a snide or hurtful way; it looks like one of those situations where it's not necessarily anybody's fault or a case of awful coaches or awful players. It just seems that when you put all the elements together, things turn a touch disappointing.
I mean, 87th nationally in total offense? (Georgia is 97th. I see.) And sure, the defense is good at 22nd in the country, but this Georgia we're talking about here. (They're 75th in total defense. Ah.) Georgia fans are going to hate me for this, but I have to pick an upset somewhere.
Vanderbilt 13, Georgia 10
THERE'S ONLY ONE REASON TO WATCH THIS GAME
Mississippi State at Middle Tennessee State, 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
How anyone convinced ESPNU to air this game instead of pawning it off on FSN or pay-per-view is beyond me, but the one network that airs SEC games that I don't get can have it. The only possible reason to even look at this game -- which is scheduled against Georgia at Vanderbilt and the Red River Shootout (no, I'm not calling it the Red River Rivalry anymore than I'm going to stop calling it the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party) -- is to see if Anthony Dixon breaks the State record for career rushing yards.
If you're interested in history like that and you have ESPNU, watch away. But then do yourself a favor and turn on one of the real games.
Mississippi State 34, Middle Tennessee State 12
AT LEAST THAT'S ONE MORE REASON THAN FOR THIS GAME ...
UAB at Ole Miss, 7 p.m. ET, FSN
I can think of literally nothing to recommend this game. I'm sorry; it's a mediocre SEC team against one of the historically bad programs of the last decade. It might be nice to see if Jevan Snead can finally recover, but we've been waiting for that for a long time.
Ole Miss 35, UAB 3