Three & Out: SEC Week 9 Preview

CFN SEC columnist Barrett Sallee shares three thoughts, comments or observations on what's going on this fall in the SEC.

Reach me via e-mail at barrettsallee@gmail.com or on Twitter @BarrettSallee



Three & Out appears every Sunday and Wednesday in 2010 to give you three SEC thoughts, news and notes. In today's edition, we take a look at the showdown in Jacksonville, the "Curse of No. 1," and a Lattimore's return to the Gamecocks.

WE NEED TO PARTAY!
So, I open up the Internet on Sunday afternoon looking to see what Vegas thinks of this week's games, and what do ya know, they've installed Georgia as a two-point favorite over Florida. Raise your hand if you expected to see that line a month ago (put your hand down…no you didn't).

Considering Florida's offensive struggles and Georgia's recent resurgence, The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (yes Dr. Adams, we are still calling it by its proper name) all of the sudden is very interesting. Amazingly, a win for Florida will allow them to continue to control their own destiny in the SEC East. For the Bulldogs, they need to win and get a little bit of help to make it to Atlanta.

We've seen the Gators in a similar position coming into this game before. In 2005 – Urban Meyer's first year in Gainesville – his team came into the Cocktail Party after a bye week and chock-full of offensive question marks. Meyer used the bye week to incorporate a more traditional pro set, using a fullback and a tight end in traditional manners. The result was a 14-10 win over the previously unbeaten Bulldogs, who would eventually go on to win the SEC Championship.

What will Meyer come up with this week? It better be something good, because the Florida offense has been a complete train wreck so far in 2010. One thing is certain – it's not the talent. There are SEC-caliber players littered up and down the Gators' roster. If they found an identity during the bye week, it could spell big trouble for Georgia.

IT'S A TRAP
Ole Miss made some waves in the SEC this offseason with the highly-publicized contest to replace long-time mascot Colonel Reb. While the administration settled on the Rebel Black Bear, another option – Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars – received the most hype, including an ESPN commercial. Admiral Ackbar's signature quote is "it's a trap," which is exactly what the Rebels hope to set when the No. 1 Auburn Tigers come rolling into town Saturday night.

There's no doubt about it, this is the classic trap game for Auburn. Ranked No. 1 in the BCS for the first time in school history, this is a position that the Tigers have never been in before, and we don't know how they will react. With so much attention being paid to the final two games of Auburn's regular season – vs. Georgia and at Alabama – the Tigers can't lose focus on the task at hand.

Good news for Auburn: with five wins decided by seven points or less, the Tigers are already battle-tested and they have the best player in the nation taking the snaps. Even better for the is the fact that, if the defense is struggling or the offense just isn't clicking, they can dumb the offense down to the most simplistic level, still be effective, control the clock and keep their defense off the field. We saw them do this in the game-winning 19-play drive vs. Kentucky, when Cam Newton accounted for 74 of the 87 yards and set up Wes Byrum for the game-winning field goal as time expired.

Can Ole Miss give Auburn a scare? Absolutely. The Rebels are playing much better than they were the first few weeks of the season. But for Auburn, all that matters is the win. After all, road wins in the SEC are precious, and are often hard to come by.

WELCOME BACK
Just like Florida, South Carolina still controls its own destiny in the SEC East. Although that perch has become a more precarious in recent weeks thanks to a loss on the road at Kentucky and a lethargic performance in a win over Vanderbilt.

Not surprisingly, the mid-season swoon has coincided with the absence of true freshman running back Marcus Lattimore, who has missed the last six quarters with an ankle injury suffered early in the second half vs. Kentucky.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday that Lattimore will return to the lineup this week, when the Gamecocks return home to host the Tennessee Volunteers Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium. His return comes just in the nick of time for the Gamecocks, who are looking to win the SEC East for the first time in school history.

It's amazing to think that a true freshman could make this much of an impact on an SEC roster that boasts studs like Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore and Cliff Matthews; but Lattimore's absence has. Yeah, the offense put up some impressive numbers last week, including 484 total yards and a career-high 146 rushing yards from backup tailback Brian Maddox, but all that production didn't translate to points on the scoreboard. That should change with Lattimore back in the mix.

Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at barrettsallee@gmail.com, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee


Don't forget to check out "Y'all Play Nice" from CFN's Russ Mitchell and Brian Harbach every Thursday during the season.

2010 Three & Out Archive
Three & Out – October 27, 2010
Three & Out – October 24, 2010
Three & Out – October 20, 2010
Three & Out – October 17, 2010
Three & Out – October 13, 2010
Three & Out – October 10, 2010
Three & Out – October 6, 2010
Three & Out – October 3, 2010
Three & Out – September 29, 2010
Three & Out – September 26, 2010
Three & Out – September 22, 2010
Three & Out – September 19, 2010
Three & Out – September 15, 2010
Three & Out – September 12, 2010
Three & Out – September 8, 2010
Three & Out – September 5, 2010
Three & Out – September 1, 2010
Three & Out – August 25, 2010
Three & Out – August 18, 2010
Three & Out – August 11, 2010
Three & Out – August 4, 2010
Three & Out – July 28, 2010
Three & Out – July 21, 2010
Three & Out – July 14, 2010
Three & Out – July 7, 2010
Three & Out – June 30, 2010
Three & Out – April 21, 2010
Three & Out – April 14, 2010
Three & Out – April 11, 2010
Three & Out – April 8, 2010
Three & Out – April 5, 2010
Three & Out – March 31, 2010
Three & Out – March 28, 2010
Three & Out – March 24, 2010
Three & Out – March 21, 2010
Three & Out – March 18, 2010
Three & Out – March 15, 2010
Three & Out – March 11, 2010
Three & Out – March 5, 2010
Three & Out – March 2, 2010

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