Time Out for SEC Sports
by Dan Rutledge
As on old sportscaster used to say, Whoa Nellie! The Southeastern Conference football season of 2008 is shaping up to be one of the best ever in the grand ole conference — and that’s saying a lot. But the national sports talking heads are almost unanimous in their opinion — the SEC is the best league in the land.
And the numbers back up that assertion. There have been SEC teams atop the AP poll many weeks in many seasons. And there have been many weeks through the years in which the SEC has had multiple teams listed among the top 10 teams in the land.
But this week is the first time in history that the league has had as many as five — that’s half — teams in the AP top 10 poll. SEC teams accounted for almost 30 (29.6) percent of the total number of points in this week’s poll. Georgia fell on spot to No. 3, Florida follows at No. 4, LSU is No. 6, No. 9 Alabama jumped Auburn, coming in at No. 10.
After three weeks of having one or two real games on the menu and the rest sort of practice games against inferior opposition, the fourth week of the grid season gets down to business with big league matchups all over the place. With Alabama at Arkansas, Florida at Tennessee, and LSU at Auburn, it is hard to say which is the most interesting or the most important.
So we’ll start alphabetically, and look over the Crimson Tide-Razorbacks matchup. (Line: Alabama by 9).
First, the SEC opener for both schools will be big, very big, for both teams. Both teams come in undefeated and, as history tells it, with the rest of their season on the line. No series in recent years has been as pivotal in determining both teams places in the regional standings.
Because of its place on the calendar — late September — it has been a true measuring stick for how each team stands. A victory usually propels the winner to a good season while a defeat sends the loser in the other direction.
Since Arkansas has joined the SEC in 1992, Alabama has racked up an 88-26-1 record in years it has won the Tide-Hogs contest. That track record includes a half dozen 10-win seasons. When the Tide has fallen to the Razorbacks, it has an overall record of 37-45 and four losing seasons.
Terrance Cody at nosetackle has been the big story — pun intended — of the season for the Tide defense. Bama leads the nation in rushing defense, giving up less than 50 yards per game on the ground. Cody is the main reason. So far, it has taken two men to handle him.
The game within the game this week will be the matchup everyone is waiting to see. Cody will face his toughest challenge yet in Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs, who won the Rimington Trophy as the best center in football last year. If Luigs can handle Cody alone, it will change the entire Alabama defense. If the 365-pounder does his usual job on Luigs, it will be a long day for the Hogs.
In Auburn we will have a pair of jinxes going against the favored Tigers from Baton Rouge. First, there is the Curse of Jordan-Hare. Since 2000, LSU has struggled to score points, getting 17, 7, 9 and 3 points while losing four games. On the other hand there is the GameDay Bump. ESPN’s College GameDay show is coming to Auburn for the showdown with LSU (Line: LSU by 3). Auburn is undefeated when GameDay comes to the Plains. In 2006 the Eagles beat Florida after hosting GameDay and in 2004, Georgia was the victim.
The Florida-Tennessee game (Line: Florida by 7) is always a big early win for whoever gets the W as far as the Eastern Division race is concerned. Ole Miss (2-1) is the favorite Line: (Ole Miss by 6 1/2) against Vandy, but the Commodores are undefeated and could pull off the upset.
Georgia plays an interesting intra-conference contest at Arizona State (Line: Georgia by 7). It will be the first meeting for the two teams. Any trip west is difficult and the Bulldogs will have to overcome a bowl-like atmosphere. It will be interesting.
Mississippi State (1-2) will be trying to turn its season around with as trip to Atlanta to take on ACC foe Georgia Tech (1-2) (Line: Tech by 8 1/2). And in the patsy game of the week, South Carolina will host tiny Wofford (No Line). The Gamecocks (1-2) need the break to get back on track after suffering a pair of painful and close defeats.
WEEKEND TV LINEUP
The weekend television lineup includes, as always, a Friday night contest. This week’s game is the third Big 12-Big East matchup in a week on ESPN, pitting Baylor against undefeated Connecticut. Colorado and West Virginia got the weekend TV schedule off to an early start on Thursday.
Saturday’s games are as follows.
Alabama at Arkansas (Lincoln Financial), Ole Miss at Ga. Tech (CW), East Carolina at N.C. St. (ESPN), Iowa at Pitt (ESPN2)
Central Fla. at Boston Colllege (ESPNU), Akron at Army (ESPN Classic)
Miami at Texas A&M (ABC), Florida at Tennessee (CBS), Marshall at Southern Miss (CSS), Notre Dame at Michigan St. (ESPN)
Utah at Air Force (Versus)
South Fla. at Fla. International (ESPNU)
Rice at Texas (FSNS)’ Wake Forest at FSU (ESPN2)
LSU at Auburn (ESPN)
Georgia at Arizona St. (ABC)
Fresno St. at Toledo (ESPNU)
Another take from our sister blog, RosenbushCafe.com.
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