While the Game of the Millennium last Saturday night most likely determined how the (SEC) West was won, this Saturday will determine how the East was won. Georgia hosts Auburn in the only SEC matchup of top 25 teams, while South Carolina receives a visit from Florida.
Georgia controls their destiny and needs only to defeat the Tigers between the hedges to almost definitely secure a spot in the SEC championship. South Carolina has to beat Florida and needs Auburn to best the Bulldogs to make the SEC championship for the second straight year. Okay, technically Georgia could lose to Kentucky on November 19th, and that would be enough to keep the Dawgs out of the SEC championship; but Georgia should blow the Wildcats out of the water.
In what could be embarrassing for the SEC, Louisiana Tech is favored by two points over Ole Miss. It certainly isn’t a marquee matchup, but it could be a fun one to keep an eye on – unless, of course, you’re an Ole Miss fan.
1) Florida at #13 South Carolina: South Carolina would have been the clear favorite just a few weeks ago. Florida was still reeling, and the Gamecocks still had star running back Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore was lost for the season with a knee injury during their game against Mississippi State almost a month ago.
Freshman Brandon Wilds has emerged as the replacement for Lattimore after rushing for 137 yards against Tennessee, though Arkansas held him to a paltry 21.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw started off strong after replacing Stephen Garcia, who was kicked off the team after multiple violations of team rules. However, Shaw struggled in the next three games, passing for only 370 yards and two touchdowns while throwing four picks.
With Lattimore out, Shaw has to get it going and hit wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey early and often, if the Gamecocks want to stay alive in the SEC title hunt.
South Carolina can lean on its defense which has only given up more than 13 points once in the last six games – and that was to Arkansas’ high-powered offense. The Gators’ offense is nowhere near the level of the Razorbacks’.
Florida faces a tough test. The return of senior quarterback John Brantley has breathed some life into the Gators offense – he has passed for 418 yards in those two games but only for one touchdown.
The Gators also get back Chris Rainey, who injured his ankle against Georgia. Rainey and Jeff Demps were a dangerous two-headed monster early in the season, and Florida wants to see that monster rear its head again. Demps, who had been battling an injury as well, finally turned in another good performance, rushing for 158 yards and two touchdowns against Vanderbilt.
Florida’s defense is an underappreciated unit. They rank 20th in the nation and 4th in the SEC in scoring defense. They were blown out by Alabama and LSU, but most schools have been. The Gators D isn’t as fearsome as some in the SEC, but it is a solid unit.
2) #20 Auburn at #15 Georgia: Back in September, not many people thought Georgia would be sitting at number 15 in the BCS rankings and so close to clinching a trip to Atlanta on December 3rd at this point.
Georgia dropped its first two games – against #5 Boise State and #13 South Carolina – but has won seven straight, including five over SEC foes. However, four of those five are the four worst teams in the SEC. The fifth is Florida, who ranks 6th in the SEC. The other two wins are against Coastal Carolina – an FCS team – and New Mexico State – who’s only won 3 games. Not exactly the toughest schedule.
Georgia’s offense is led by sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray. Murray has passed for 2,060 yards and 23 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions. He is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference, and Georgia needs a great game from him to beat Auburn. Freshman running back Isaiah Crowell has produced a solid first season so far, but he might only be the third best running back in the stadium.
The Dawgs defense has come together this season, only allowing more than 21 points twice. Linebacker Jarvis Jones, a transfer from USC, has come on strong for Georgia, helping lead the Bulldogs defense.
The Tigers have the potential to rack up lots of yards and points, though. They’ve scored at least 30 points in four of their nine games. Auburn may have lost three games, but all three losses have come from top 10 tens – Clemson, LSU, and Arkansas.
Auburn’s offense has struggled at times, especially their passing attack. The Tigers limped along with Barrett Trotter as the starter before switching to sophomore Clint Moseley. Since taking over the reins, Moseley has completed 70% of his passes, throwing for 305 yards and five touchdowns with only one interception.
The Tigers real strength is in their rushing game, with running backs Michael Dyer and Ontario McCalebb. Dyer is the real workhorse, racking up 989 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. McCalebb has only rushed for 448 yards on 84 carries, but he also has 244 receiving yards. A big game from either or both of these two will be necessary if the Tigers want to be Georgia.
Auburn’s defense hasn’t been dominant – they’ve given up at least 34 points in five games – but they have turned in a couple solid performances, especially against SEC East teams. South Carolina and Florida combined for 19 points and 483 points against the Tigers. Perhaps Auburn’s defense will have another good showing against the East.