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October 18, 2007

LSU hopes to rebound against Auburn

MORE WEEK 8 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10

Week 6 games

Overview: This is a big weekend in the SEC, with division-shaping games in each half of the league. In the East, Kentucky coming off an epic triple-overtime victory over top-ranked LSU plays host to Florida, which has beaten the Wildcats 20 times in a row. In the West, LSU plays host to Auburn in a game that should determine the division champ. Auburn has won eight consecutive league road games and 14 of its past 15. In addition, Auburn has won nine of its past 10 games against teams ranked in the top 10. On the flipside, LSU has won 17 in a row at home and 27 of its past 28 at Tiger Stadium. Overshadowed has been the Alabama-Tennessee matchup. This will be Nick Saban's first go-round in the rivalry. There are two other league matchups: South Carolina tries to stay tied atop the East standings when its plays Vanderbilt, and West Division also-rans Arkansas and Ole Miss a combined 0-7 in the league meet in Oxford. Mississippi State travels to West Virginia in the lone non-conference game.

Best matchup: Auburn offensive line vs. LSU defensive line. LSU's defensive line universally is acclaimed as one of the best in the nation, but Kentucky's unheralded offensive line more than held its own against the group last week. This week, LSU's veteran unit goes against an Auburn line that starts three true freshmen. Keep an eye on the middle of Auburn's offensive line, where there actually are two juniors in C Jason Bosley and G Tyronne Green. Those two and freshman G Chaz Ramsey need to make sure LSU DT Glenn Dorsey doesn't control the line of scrimmage. Auburn isn't going to score that many points. But it may not score at all if it can't run, and that puts the onus on the young guys up front to open up some running room.

The pressure is on: Florida QB Tim Tebow. Kentucky is going to score some points on Florida's defense; the Wildcats will especially look to take advantage of the Gators' young secondary. That means Tebow is going to have to guide his offense to the 28-point mark to give Florida a legit shot at the victory. The Wildcats' defense has been opportunistic, but it still is one of the weakest in the league. UK is especially poor against the run.

Who's hot: Despite last week's loss, LSU is in the top 10 in the nation in rush defense (seventh), pass defense (fourth), scoring defense (sixth) and total defense (second). Kentucky's Andre' Woodson has thrown at last two TD passes in eight consecutive games. Tennessee's offensive line has allowed just two sacks, the fewest in Division I-A. Erik Ainge has attempted 218 consecutive passes without being sacked. In his past two games, Alabama DE Wallace Gilberry has 16 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and three quarterback hurries. Florida has not allowed any punt-return yardage this season.

Who's not: The passing attacks for Auburn and Mississippi State haven't exactly been prolific. Each team has thrown just five TD passes. Georgia has forced just six turnovers in seven games. Ole Miss has allowed a league-high 182 first downs, 35 more than the next-worst team and an average of 26 per game. Arkansas has had trouble mounting a pass rush, with only seven sacks in six games.

Keep your eye on: Alabama's running game. Throw out the game against Vandy, and the Tide is averaging 133.3 rushing yards per game in SEC play. As shaky as Tennessee's secondary has been, the Tide must effectively run the ball to beat the Vols. Expect TBs Glen Coffee and Terry Grant to share time, with Tide coaches not hesitant to go with the hot hand.

Numbers game: The average margin of victory in a conference game has been 13.0 points. That's the second-lowest among the six BCS conferences, with only the ACC (10.4) lower. LSU has a plus-13 turnover margin. Florida (51.5 percent) and Kentucky (50.5 percent) are the only league teams converting at least half of their third-down opportunities. Alabama WR D.J. Hall has a reception in 26 consecutive games. Auburn has outscored foes 45-0 in the first half of its past three games. LSU's streak of nine consecutive successful fourth-down conversions was snapped on the last play of last week's triple-overtime loss at Kentucky. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is 14-0 against Vanderbilt. The past three Auburn-LSU games have been decided by a total of eight points.

Freshmen to watch: We've already talked about Auburn's freshman offensive linemen. Also keep an eye on two Auburn redshirt freshmen: LB Craig Stevens and SS Zac Etheridge. Both were selected to Rivals.com Midseason Freshman All-American team, and both need to hold up against a physical LSU rushing attack. Mississippi State true freshman QB Wesley Carroll has to be mistake-free if the Bulldogs are to pull off the upset at West Virginia. The Mountaineers hammered the Bulldogs last season, and the Bulldogs' hopes rest on winning a low-scoring, defense-minded game. That means avoiding turnovers for Carroll. WVU has forced 15 turnovers, including nine interceptions. Finally, Florida true freshman CB Joe Haden has had to deal with the death of his girlfriend in a motorcycle accident last week that also claimed the life of Gators walk-on QB Michael Guilford. Saturday, Haden and the rest of an inexperienced UF secondary will be going against the SEC's best quarterback, Andre' Woodson, and a solid group of receivers headed by Keenan Burton.

South Carolina3-16-1
Mississippi State1-34-3
Injury update: Alabama G Justin Britt (personal matter) may miss Saturday's game against Tennessee. Auburn FS Aairon Savage (knee) is questionable for the LSU game, and DE Quentin Groves (toes) isn't likely to play. Florida CB Markihe Anderson (knee) is questionable for the game against Kentucky. Kentucky CB Paul Warford (collarbone) and TB Rafael Little (thigh) will miss the Florida game. LSU WR Early Doucet (groin) is expected to play against Auburn, but G Will Arnold (viral infection) is questionable. Ole Miss SS Jamarca Sanford (neck) won't play against Arkansas. South Carolina CB Carlos Thomas (neck) and LB Dustin Lindsey (knee) are questionable against Vanderbilt.

They said it:

"I think sometimes when you live through these things, you really get the real sense of what it's like. I could stand here and say I know, right? But until you kind of live it, then you really find out what it's like."
Alabama coach Nick Saban, on the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry

"That people are starting to notice, but we're still not getting the respect. I think it will open more people's eyes if we can get a victory on Saturday."
Kentucky DE Jeremy Jarmon on what the Wildcats' top-10 ranking means

"We need to change our mentality a little bit offensively. We know we're going to have to score more points down the stretch. We're going to have to make more plays. We've got to play a four-quarter game on offense. We haven't done that all year long."
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville on his offense

"There were just a couple of things that I thought needed some comments on. One of them had to do with Nick Saban's comment about the class of Ole Miss fans, and to a certain extent, maybe Nick was kind of like a parent that seems to see the faults in children that live next door but maybe not your own."
Ole Miss AD Pete Boone, on Saban criticizing Ole Miss fans for throwing debris on the field last week

"It's a terrible tragedy. Really, our team is in shock right now. It really ain't hit us yet. We've got to lean on each other and lean on our teammates to get us through this tragedy."
Florida WR Percy Harvin to the St. Petersburg Times on the motorcycle death of UF walk-on QB Michael Guilford

Etc.: Vanderbilt junior WR Earl Bennett is three receptions away from tying the league mark for career catches of 208 held by Kentucky's Craig Yeast (1995-98). Alabama rallied in the fourth quarter to win at Ole Miss last week. The victory was the Tide's first on the road in the SEC when trailing entering the fourth quarter since 1999, against Auburn. Florida and Kentucky will be meeting for the 58th time Saturday; it marks just the third time in series history that both teams are ranked entering the game. This is the first time since 1991 that the teams aren't meeting in September. That season, Florida clinched its first-ever SEC title with a victory over the Wildcats. South Carolina's No. 6 ranking in The Associated Press poll is its highest since the Gamecocks were No. 2 in November 1984. Former LSU defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is in his second season as defensive coordinator at Auburn. Nine seniors on LSU's defense played for Muschamp.

MORE WEEK 8 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10

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

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