SEC: what to watch week 4
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Who has the best defense in the SEC: Auburn or LSU? Can the pride in the Tennessee program rise to the forefront? How close to 100 percent is Florida's Percy Harvin? Is Vanderbilt poised to go to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the league? Can Bobby Petrino's passing game give Alabama some trouble?
It's time to find out a lot more about this league with four intriguing conference games, highlighted by LSU's trip to Auburn on Saturday night in a battle of Top 10 teams at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It's the kind of Saturday you'd love to be at home for with the remote safely in hand and lounging on the couch. Enjoy. The SEC action starts at noon and goes to midnight. Here's a look at some of the things to watch for this week:
1. Five quarterbacks: Everybody's going to be watching the quarterbacks in the Auburn-LSU game. How many will play? The over/under is five, which includes LSU true freshman Jordan Jefferson. The Tigers have a package in place that would take advantage of his running skills. Chris Todd will again start for Auburn, but it sounds like Tommy Tuberville also wants to get Kodi Burns into this game. Andrew Hatch will start for LSU and redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee will also play. There might be more quarterbacks to play in this game than the teams score combined touchdowns.
2. Tennessee's running game: For all the stats you want to throw out in the Florida-Tennessee game, no stat has defined this rivalry more than being able to run the football. The team with the highest rushing total has won 16 of the last 18 meetings. The Vols have lost three in a row in the series and have averaged just 31.3 yards on the ground in those three losses. If they don't at least flirt with the 100-yard mark in this one, they're looking down the barrel of a fourth straight loss.
3. Harvin at tailback: Is he a receiver, or is he a running back? Percy Harvin says both. The most important thing for Florida is that he finally appears to be healthy. So much so that Urban Meyer has told several people this week that Harvin will be very involved in the Gators' running game on Saturday. He sure looks the part of a running back, weighing 205 pounds and now benching well over 400 pounds.
4. Auburn with a slight edge?: If defensive football is your thing, then you better find your way into Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night. Auburn has only given up an amazing 3-of-46 third-down conversions this season, and LSU has outscored its opponents 58-3 in the first half this season. LSU middle linebacker Darry Beckwith being out with a knee injury might give the slight edge to Auburn's defense
5. Hardy back in action: The SEC's best pass-rusher will be back on the field Saturday. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said after practice Thursday that junior defensive end Greg Hardy would play against Vanderbilt after missing the first three games with a stress fracture in his right foot that was surgically repaired. Nutt said Hardy, who led the SEC with 10 sacks last season, looks great. His explosiveness off the edge should be a big boost for an already strong Ole Miss front four.
6. The unveiling of Green: It's that time for Georgia's offense, time to quit feeding the offense in bits and pieces to A.J, Green and time to get him the ball. The 6-4, 200-pound freshman is the most talented receiver on the team and the guy no cornerback wants to see running at him. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo both acknowledged this week that the ball needs to go to Green more. He's a big play waiting to happen.
7. Centers of attention: Two of the best centers in America will be on the field in the Alabama-Arkansas game, and they're a couple of seniors who epitomize leadership. Arkansas' Jonathan Luigs was the Remington Award winner last season as the most outstanding center in college football. Antoine Caldwell, versatile enough to play anywhere up front, is back at center and anchoring one of the strongest offensive lines in the SEC.
8. Going after Carpenter: One of the defensive disappointments for Georgia in the South Carolina game was that the Bulldogs didn't do a better job of pressuring the quarterback. They'll get their chance to make up for it Saturday against Arizona State's Rudy Carpenter, who's tough as nails and not easily rattled. Still, the Sun Devils gave up 55 sacks last season. Carpenter gets hit a bunch, and the Bulldogs will no doubt go after him.
9. More of Moore: The most underrated player in the league to this point has been Vanderbilt's D.J. Moore. He can play anywhere and is the kind of difference-maker the Commodores simply haven't had. He's a shutdown cornerback, plays some on offense and is a dangerous return man. He's the difference in winning four or five games and winning six or seven games. The Rebels will have their hands full with No. 17 on Saturday.
10. The Garcia Chronicles: South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia made his long-awaited debut against Georgia, albeit for just a few plays. The Wofford game Saturday gives South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier a chance to get Garcia some more snaps in a game and see if he's ready. Spurrier hasn't given up on Chris Smelley, who played better in the second half against Georgia. But if Garcia shows some promise, he's going to play as this season progresses.