SEC football will feature several big games this weekend that provide teams to step forward in their bid to earn a trip to Atlanta for the conference title game.
Leading the way this weekend is the matchup between Arkansas as they travel to Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs.
Arkansas will rely on the strong arm of Heisman Trophy candidate Ryan Mallett as he looks to connect with one of the strongest receiving corps in the nation. This will also be the week for the Razorback defense to show that last year was a fluke and they are ready to step up and help the team win.
Georgia will let freshman quarterback Aaron Murray test the Hog secondary and will hope all-world receiver A.J. Green’s appeal to the NCAA for reduced penalties will be a success. On defense, Georgia will look to bring pressure to disrupt the Razorback passing game with their new 3-4 defense.
In Knoxville, Florida and Tennessee will renew one of the SEC’s great rivalries, but this year it lacks the intensity of past games.
Florida has been struggling on offense this year and Tennessee is showing the effects of the last few years' coaching transitions.
Look for Florida to ride the legs of speedster Jeff Demps from the running back position, while John Brantley will continue to figure out who his go to receiver will be. The defense for Florida has been the key to the early wins for the Gators and the secondary will set the tone again this week.
Derek Dooley will be coaching in his SEC opener with a team that needs to improve at almost every slot. He has managed to get his team to play hard and their effort was keeping them in the game with Oregon last week until storms caused a delay where his young team lost their edge.
LSU will host Mississippi State Saturday evening in Baton Rouge, and the Bulldogs will be looking for more than getting close in this year’s contest.
LSU fans will want to see quarterback Jordan Jefferson step out and be the player that coach Les Miles believes he is. On defense, the Tigers seem to be better this year and are finding greater success making plays in opposing backfields.
Mississippi State has made progress under coach Dan Mullen, but the Bulldogs head man is looking for real wins and not moral victories. State will feature two quarterbacks, with Chris Relf playing the role of scrambling playmaker and Tyler Russell the traditional pocket passer.
Auburn and Clemson will host ESPN’s Gameday show from the “Loveliest Village on the Plains" this Saturday, and is one of the best out-of-conference games in the nation this weekend.
Auburn will continue to ride the arms and legs of JuCo quarterback Cam Newton, and will need more point production than they generated last week against Mississippi State. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will look to bring more to the table with the running game, and look for freshman Michael Dyer to earn more carries each week.
Clemson was glad quarterback Kyle Parker turned down the opportunity to head to pro baseball this fall. Parker is the heart and soul of the Clemson team. This year he has tossed four touchdowns and only one pick. Four running backs have generated most of the yards for Clemson, but look for fewer backs to play against Auburn.
No. 1 Alabama also has a game with an ACC opponent this weekend, as they take on the Duke Blue Devils.
The big story from Tuscaloosa this weekend is the return of Heisman Trophy-winner Mark Ingram at running back. Ingram had knee surgery just before the season started, and he will be looking to find his game legs this weekend. While Ingram has been out, the Bama running game has been solid with Trent Richards running for over 140 yards against Penn State last weekend.
Duke will spread the field on offense to test the young secondary of the Tide. Last weekend, Alabama allowed the Nittany Lions to convert several third-down efforts through the air, and be sure that Duke coach David Cutcliffe took note of this.