October 20, 2011

Week 8 preview in the SEC

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This isn't the most compelling weekend of games in the SEC, to the point where suspensions have become the biggest news of the week.

Jacksonville State at Kentucky, noon
Arkansas at Ole Miss, 12:20 p.m.
Auburn at LSU, 3:30 p.m.
Army at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.
Tennessee at Alabama, 7:15 p.m.
The SEC office announced Wednesday that commissioner Mike Slive had suspended three starting players - Vanderbilt center Logan Stewart, Georgia nose tackle Kwame Geathers and Georgia SS Shawn Williams - for their actions in last week's Bulldogs victory. Each has been suspended for the first half of his next game - Stewart on Saturday against Army and the two Bulldogs next Saturday against Florida.

Geathers was suspended for fighting, while Williams and Stewart were suspended for flagrant personal fouls.

Vandy coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had a postgame confrontation, but neither was mentioned in the SEC release on the suspensions. The SEC office said any discipline for the coaches would be handled internally between the schools and the league.

Reports have Franklin and Georgia coach Mark Richt talking about the postgame situation on Monday; Williams also was a part of that brouhaha.

Meanwhile, various media outlets - including tigerbait.com , which covers LSU athletics as part of the Rivals.com network - reported that three Tigers players have been suspended for a violation of team rules. The reports say two starters, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and tailback Spencer Ware, and backup cornerback Tharold Simon will miss at least Saturday's home game against Auburn; the potential exists, tigerbait.com reported, that the suspensions could be for longer than one game.

Top-ranked LSU is off next Saturday, then plays Alabama on Nov. 5. Mathieu might be the nation's best cornerback, and his absence would be huge against the Tide.

LSU coach Les Miles told reporters Wednesday night that he would neither confirm nor deny the reports.

"I certainly understand the interest surrounding what seems to be news," Miles said. "The problem with that news is it's internal discipline and an internal function of the team. I'm not inclined to be forthcoming with information."

He further said that, "Information that I can share, I will. I'm doing this for the best of our football team and squad. That being said, there's no real information about any specific player that I'll address at this point."

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Tom Dienhart's headline watch]

BEST MATCHUP: Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn vs. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis. Auburn's offense is a shell of its former self, but Malzahn still knows what he is doing. Thus, it will be intriguing to see which matchups he tries to get against LSU's defense. On the flipside, how will Chavis attack an Auburn offense that will have a new starting quarterback? Will Chavis be aggressive from the start or wait a few series to see how things unfold? If Chavis is aggressive early, will Malzahn have enough confidence in new starting QB Clint Moseley to be able to possible take advantage? This is a matchup of two of the best coordinators in the game.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT: LSU CB Ron Brooks. Matthieu's suspension means Brooks goes from nickelback to starter. The good news is that Auburn's passing attack has been pitiful the past few weeks, but that could change with the new quarterback and a return to health for WR Emory Blake. Regardless, Brooks is the weak link at corner for the Tigers ("weak link" is a relative term) and must play steady football.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Vanderbilt's linebackers. Coaches talked ad nauseum about playing "assignment football" when you play against the triple option. That puts the onus on Vandy's linebackers to do what they're supposed to do Saturday against Army. Army leads the nation in rushing, but Vandy has been solid against the run this season, allowing opponents just 109.7 rushing yards per game. In addition, Vandy has allowed just three rushing TDs, second-fewest in the league to Alabama's two. Vandy's top two tacklers are LBs Chris Marve and Chase Garnham, and they likely will make double-digit tackles Saturday against the Black Knights. When these teams met in 2009, Army won in OT.

NUMBERS GAME: LSU has won eight consecutive games by double-digits, tying the school-record streak set in 1936. Alabama also has won its past eight games by double-digits, equaling the longest such mark in the modern era of Tide football (since 1950). Alabama has won each game in its streak by at least 16 points; LSU has won each of its games by at least 13 points.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Rivals.com's David Fox]


"It's [Nick Saban's] best team, probably as physically a dominating defense as I've seen in the modern era of football, and I know that is strong statement. But I believe it. You catch yourself watching them, not studying them." - Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, on Alabama

"We always anticipate the changes that the opponent makes are for the best. We will see their best effort and best play. Whatever they have organized and developed, that will be the style of offense that they run. We are very fortunate that we have two veteran quarterbacks. We have guys that have played and been starters who understand how to play when the game is tight. It is an SEC contest with significance. We enjoy our quarterback situation at this point comparatively." - LSU coach Les Miles, whose team will be playing a third consecutive opponent who will have a new starting quarterback

"I don't think anybody was thinking about it. I don't think anybody cares about it. I don't think Trent [Richardson] cares about it. I think if you ask our players, and I don't think about it either, it's about, 'What do we have to do to help the team be successful? What do I need to do? What can I do?' Our thoughts are completely different than your thoughts. Completely. So I don't even know how to answer the question, to be honest with you." - Alabama coach Nick Saban, when asked about the impact of a Heisman winner on a program

"The way I look at that is all our players know that, all our coaches know it. It needs to be a motivating factor to come to practice each day and get better. It's something that didn't just happen. Our players put a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication into it." - Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, on his team being No. 9 in the BCS standings

"It's hard when you've got a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old at home and you've got to go home and explain to them what you said. So, that's not good." - Florida coach Will Muschamp, saying he will clean up his language on the sideline during games

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Olin Buchanan's mailbag]

POLL WATCH: LSU was first and Alabama second in the first BCS standings. Arkansas (at ninth), South Carolina (14th) and Auburn (20th) were the other SEC teams in the standings.

ETC.: Saturday's game will be the 93rd meeting between Alabama and Tennessee, but just the seventh ever at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama's "home" games against the Vols were played in Birmingham through 1997. But with expansion coming to the league, the future of the game on an annual basis is up in the air. ... Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina are off this week. ... Auburn has changed starting quarterbacks, going to sophomore Clint Moseley and benching Barrett Trotter. Moseley has attempted nine passes and has 12 rushing yards in his career. His first start comes against LSU. ... Auburn's last win over a No. 1 team came a bit more than 10 years ago, on Oct. 13, 2001, with a 23-20 victory over Florida. ... LSU is aiming for its first 8-0 start since 1973. It would be the Tigers' fourth 8-0 start in history (also in 1908 and 1958). ... Vandy leads the nation with 15 interceptions. For the first time in modern history, the Commodores have returned interceptions for TDs in three consecutive games. ... As if things weren't bad enough for Ole Miss, two defensive starters were lost for the season with injuries suffered last week against Alabama. CB Marcus Temple broke his right ankle and DE Wayne Dorsey broke his right arm. ... Alabama G Anthony Steen suffered a concussion against Ole Miss and could miss this week's game. ... Auburn WR Emory Blake, the Tigers' best receiver, played one series last week against Florida, and coach Gene Chizik said Blake is questionable for this week's game at LSU. ... Alabama has outscored its seven opponents 64-0 in the second quarter and 59-8 in the fourth quarter. ... Kentucky leading rusher Josh Clemons will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. ... The game ball for Saturday's Army at Vanderbilt game will arrive via Army paratroopers from Fort Campbell, Ky., which serves as home to the 101st Airborne Division. ... LSU hasn't trailed since the second quarter of the season-opener against Oregon. ... Arkansas (5-1) is off to its best start under coach Bobby Petrino and is 5-1 for just the third time since joining the SEC in 1992. ... Vandy is 3-3 this season, and the Commodores and their opponents have scored the exact same number of points (130). ... Kentucky WR La'Rod King has 935 career receiving yards and needs 65 more to become the 22nd player in school history to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a career. ... Alabama has not allowed an opponent to score more than 14 points in eight consecutive games. The Tide have a long way to go to tie the school record in that category: 31 games, from 1960-63. ... Arkansas is 20-5 over its past 25 games, the Hogs' best run since going 20-5 from Sept. 17, 1988, through Sept. 29, 1990. ... Auburn's defense has forced eight turnovers in the past three games after forcing just five in the first four games of the season. ... A Tennessee victory over Alabama would give the Vols their first win over a team ranked in the top two since a 34-32 win over No. 2 Florida on Dec. 1, 2001; that was Steve Spurrier's last home game as Gators coach. A win would also be the first for the Vols over a top-five team since 2005 and the first over a top-10 team since 2006. The Vols haven't beaten a ranked Alabama team since 1999. ... Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt will be facing Arkansas, his previous employer, for the fourth time; he is 2-1 against the Razorbacks, including a 1-0 record in Oxford. ... This is the 15th anniversary of "The Night The Barn Burned." As the old Auburn Sports Arena burned just outside Jordan-Hare Stadium, LSU defeated Auburn 19-15. ... Arkansas has four of its six interceptions this season in the past two games. ... LSU has allowed 31 points in its first four SEC games, the fewest since 1985, when the Tigers allowed only 27 points in first four league games. ... Steve Spurrier won his 50th game at South Carolina last week. Only Rex Enright (64) has won more games at South Carolina. Last week's victory over Mississippi State also was South Carolina's school-record fifth in a row on the road. The only other time the Gamecocks had posted four consecutive road wins was 1914-15.

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Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.


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