Five burning questions as we head into the weekend:
1. Will the open date be magical again for Urban Meyer? Florida has won 17 of its last 20 meetings with Georgia but on paper, Georgia should win Saturday’s game in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs are finally playing with some confidence after three straight wins. Florida seems to be struggling on so many different fronts. But the Gators had last week off. The importance of that can’t be overstated. It is also a fact that over his career, Florida coach Urban Meyer has been pretty good when he’s had extra time to prepare his team. These stats come from Brady Ackerman, my CSS broadcast partner. As a head coach Urban Meyer is:
**–5-0 after an open date at Florida.
**–15-1 at Florida when he’s had more than one week to prepare his team.
**–31-3 overall at Florida, Utah, and Bowling Green when he’s had more than one week to prepare his team.
When I look at the Florida roster I really don’t see a whole lot of ways he can tweak this offense to make it significantly better. It’s hard to stretch the field and open up running lanes because the receivers are pretty average. Getting Chris Rainey back might help but it won’t fix the problem. But a week off during the meatgrinder that is the SEC schedule is a very precious thing.
2. Will Auburn avoid the No. 1 curse? On Oct. 9 No. 1 Alabama, which had won 29 straight regular season games, lost at South Carolina by a couple of touchdowns. The next week No. 1 Ohio State lost at Wisconsin 31-18. Then Oklahoma, ranked No. 1 in the first BCS Standings, fell at Missouri on Oct. 23. Now the No. 1 crown rests on the head of Auburn, which goes on the road to Ole Miss this Saturday. The last time Auburn played on the road the Tigers had to kick a field goal at the buzzer to beat Kentucky. Auburn is going to win the game but the most important thing it has to do in Oxford is to make sure that quarterback Cameron Newton stays healthy. That’s because if Georgia can beat Florida, the Georgia-Auburn game at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 13 will start to look very interesting.
3. Can Florida State go on the road and win at N.C. State tonight? It’s a monster game for both teams and the winner will have the inside track to the Atlantic Division title. It will come down to the play of two very good quarterbacks, Russell Wilson of N.C. State and Christian Ponder of Florida State. Both will make plays. But how many mistakes will each quarterback make? That will decide the game. Florida State is 4-0 in the ACC while N.C. State is 2-1 (a loss to Virginia Tech).
4. Is Marcus Lattimore really 100 percent? If he is, South Carolina will have a very successful day at home against Tennessee. The Volunteers are struggling to stop the run, giving up over 161 yards per game (ninth in the SEC). Lattimore, who has 10 touchdowns and averages 4.4 yards per carry, sat out last week’s game against Vanderbilt after getting hurt and missing the second half of the game with Kentucky on Oct. 16. Steve Spurrier calls a completely different game when Lattimore is in the lineup, as witnessed by the 35-21 win over No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 9. If Lattimore can stay healthy for the next three weeks (Tennessee, Arkansas, at Florida), the Gamecocks have a good chance to make it to their first SEC championship game in Atlanta.
6. Does Michigan State’s magical run end Saturday at Iowa? The Spartans, 8-0 and ranked No. 5 in the BCS, have a great shot to go undefeated and get into the national championship mix if they can win Saturday at Iowa. But No. 18 Iowa (5-2) is in a must-win situation after last Saturday’s 31-30 loss to Wisconsin. For if Iowa loses to Sparty the Hawkeyes will essentially be eliminated from the Big Ten race. Michigan State has not won at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium since 1989.
Should we ask the same question about Missouri? Mizzou (7-0) won a big emotional game last Saturday at home against then-No. 1 Oklahoma. But Saturday’s trip to Nebraska (6-1) is even bigger. If the Tigers, ranked No. 6 in the BCS, can win at Nebraska they would be all but a lock to win the Big 12 North. For Nebraska, who lost to Texas from the South Division two weeks ago, it is an elimination game. But if Nebraska can prevail, it could lock up the North by winning its final four games with Iowa State, Kansas, Texas A&M and Colorado. The bottom line? The winner of the Missouri-Nebraska game can probably punch its ticket to the Big 12 championship game.
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The Southern Football Kickoff Show: Today we have former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, Brian Jones of the CBS College Sports Network, and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. Please join us at 10m a.m. at www.790thezone.com