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Original Issue

Getting Down to Business

Three matchups featuring SEC teams will help shape the national title race

STILL HUNGRY after last week's menu of light college football fare? Tired of watching BCS conference schools beat up on Division I-AA lightweights? Don't worry, there's always the SEC, which kicks into high gear this Saturday with meaningful games that promise to be entertaining. Four conference battles, two games against strong outside opponents and ... O.K., one stinker (Wofford at South Carolina).

Here are the best of the bunch.

No. 6 LSU at No. 10 AUBURN

The good news for Auburn (3--0, 1--0) coming out of its 3--2 road conference win over Mississippi State was that its defense dominated, yielding only 116 total yards. The bad news was that the Tigers' ballyhooed new spread attack converted three of 16 third downs, lost three fumbles and was penalized 10 times. Against LSU (2--0, 0--0), which scored 41 points in each of its first two games, the Auburn offense—led by quarterback Chris Todd and tailback Ben Tate—will have to come together in a hurry. But LSU has issues on offense too. The passing game has struggled under new quarterbacks Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee. How significant is this matchup? The victor has represented the SEC West in the conference championship game in six of the past eight seasons.


After Hawaii and Miami didn't put up much resistance, the Gators (2--0, 0--0) are still looking for a challenge. The Volunteers (1--1, 0--0) think they're up to it. After a shocking opening loss at UCLA, Tennessee piled up 548 yards of total offense in a 35--3 win over Alabama-Birmingham last Saturday. How the Vols fare moving the ball against the nation's third-ranked defense will be key, but recent history isn't on their side: Florida, which had an extra week to prepare for Tennessee, has won three of the past four meetings in Knoxville.


The preseason No. 1 Bulldogs (3--0, 1--0) keep winning—and dropping in the AP poll. After gutting out a 14--7 road victory over SEC rival South Carolina last Saturday, they fell from second to third in the Top 25. (Georgia was passed by Oklahoma two weeks after USC took the No. 1 ranking from the Dawgs.) The Sun Devils (2--1), widely viewed as a BCS sleeper behind senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter after a surprise 10--3 finish in '07, coughed up a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against UNLV on Saturday and lost in overtime. For Georgia and quarterback Matthew Stafford, this nonconference matchup is an opportunity to get an offense that gained only 252 yards against South Carolina back on track.



DAWG FIGHT Before they dive back into SEC play, Stafford and Georgia must win on the road again, against Arizona State.