Best matchup: Tennessee wide receivers vs. California secondary. Tennessee trounced California 35-18 last season mainly because Robert Meachem embarrassed the Golden Bears' secondary in a two-touchdown performance that set the tone for his All-America season. The Volunteers don't have Meachem this year. They also don't have Jayson Swain or Bret Smith, who combined to catch 88 passes last season. Then again, California's defense must learn how to cope without All-America cornerback Daymeion Hughes, who has joined Meachem in the NFL. California's star-studded receiving corps is getting the majority of the attention heading into Saturday's showdown, but this game could depend on how well Tennessee's wideouts perform in their first big test.
The pressure is on: Georgia OT Trinton Sturdivant. This true freshman will open his career protecting Matthew Stafford's blind side as the Bulldogs' starting left tackle. His assignment could prove particularly difficult because Georgia isn't opening its season with a non-BCS program. Sturdivant instead will be lining up against an Oklahoma State team that ranked 12th in the nation in sacks per game last season.
Newcomer who could have an impact: Tennessee CB Eric Berry. Although he wasn't listed as a starter on the depth chart that Tennessee released earlier this week, this true freshman and former five-star prospect undoubtedly will play a major role Saturday at California. The Volunteers will need Berry as they try to contain a California passing attack that returns its starting quarterback (Nate Longshore) and three top receivers (All-American DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan) from last season.
Key stat: Defending national champion Florida enters this season as the youngest team in the SEC. Florida's roster includes 21 scholarship junior and seniors. The SEC average is 34 scholarship juniors and seniors.
They said it:"When you're up 35-0 and the starters get taken out, and then next year you're a six-point underdog that's obviously frustrating. If anything, it's added a little something to our practices and our work ethic and the way we've gone about things."
--Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge to VolQuest.com on the early point spreads for Saturday's Tennessee-California game. Tennessee beat California 35-18 last year and scored the first 35 points of the game.
Injury update: Alabama NG Brian Motley will probably miss six to eight weeks after fracturing his ankle in practice Tuesday. Lorenzo Washington will probably start in his place. Arkansas WR Marcus Monk (knee) and TE Ben Cleveland (pinched nerve in neck) will miss Saturday's game. Florida CB Markihe Anderson has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee and probably won't play this weekend. Wondy Pierre-Louis would replace Anderson in the starting lineup. Georgia S Antavious Coates' career is over after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last weekend. Coates, who has torn his ACL four times (twice on each knee), will remain with the team as a student-coach. Kentucky CB David Jones underwent an appendectomy Tuesday and will probably be out two to three weeks. ... South Carolina S Emanuel Cook underwent an appendectomy last weekend and will probably miss two to four weeks. Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge has a broken pinky finger on his throwing hand, but he still expects to play against Tennessee. ... Tennessee punter Britton Colquitt has a pulled quadriceps muscle, but the Vols believe he will play Saturday. Vanderbilt LB Patrick Benoist will miss the Richmond game with an ankle sprain. Benoist was competing with Brandon Bryant for a starting job during the preseason.
Worth noting: Arkansas DT Marcus Harrison has been suspended indefinitely after being arrested last weekend on a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance. Chris Wade will replace Harrison in the starting lineup. South Carolina redshirt freshman Chris Smelley will start at quarterback this weekend while Blake Mitchell serves a suspension. Smelley played in the Gamecocks' first two games last year before missing the rest of the season with an injured left heel. Tennessee RB LaMarcus Coker has rejoined the team after being suspended indefinitely during the preseason, but he still must sit out the California game as part of his punishment. Alabama coach Nick Saban has suspended WR Keith Brown and LB Prince Hall for the Western Carolina game. True freshman Rolando McClain will replace Hall as the Tide's middle linebacker. Kentucky DT Myron Pryor is serving a one-game uspension for an unspecified violation of team rules. Redshirt freshman Ricky Lumpkin will replace Pryor in the starting lineup. Georgia TE Tripp Chandler has been suspended for the season opener. Bruce Figgins andNaDerris Ward will serve as the Bulldogs' main tight ends against Oklahoma State. Ole Miss DT Jerrell Powe has been ruled ineligible for the 2007 season by the NCAA. The ruling stated that the former five-star prospect could attend
classes and receive financial aid this year and could play football in 2008 if he meets academic requirements. Ole Miss plans to file an appeal. Alabama WR DJ Hall needs 153 more receiving yards to pass Ozzie Newsome as the Tide's all-time leading receiver. South Carolina's three-game winning streak to end the 2006 season marked the first time the Gamecocks had closed a year with three consecutive wins since 1973.