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September 13, 2007
Tide ready to be tested
» MORE WEEK 3 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10
MEGARGEE'S SEC PICKS
Best matchup: Louisville passing game vs. Kentucky pass defense: One of the most interesting stories of the first two weeks has been the emergence of Kentucky's pass defense. After ranking 118th of 119 Division I-A teams in pass defense last season, the Wildcats are sixth this season. Is it the product of an easy schedule or the sign of legitimate progress? Kentucky faces a huge challenge Saturday against Heisman contender Brian Brohm, who has thrown nine touchdown passes without an interception this season. Louisville tight end Gary Barnidge has caught four touchdown passes, and Harry Douglas and Mario Urrutia form one of the nation's top receiving duos. Brohm went 19-of-34 for 254 yards and a touchdown pass against Kentucky last season while leading the Cardinals to a 59-28 victory.
Pressure is on: Auburn QB Brandon Cox: The senior quarterback has thrown eight interceptions and five touchdown passes in his past five games. He has completed barely half his passes, with four interceptions and two touchdowns, through two games of this season. Although Cox remains the Tigers' starter, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville has indicated that true freshman backup Kodi Burns might see some playing time. If Cox struggles Saturday against Mississippi State, Burns' appearances could become much more than cameo roles.
Who's hot: Alabama redshirt freshman TB Terry Grant has rushed for 307 yards and five touchdowns in his first two games. … Florida QB Tim Tebow has thrown six touchdown passes without an interception and also has rushed for three scores while averaging 6 yards per carry. Tebow is ranked second in the nation in passing efficiency. … Tennessee QB Erik Ainge and Kentucky QB Andre' Woodson have thrown five touchdown passes without an interception. … Tennessee WR Lucas Taylor has compiled at least 103 receiving yards in each of his first two games this season. … Kentucky WR Keenan Burton has caught at least five passes in nine consecutive games. He has 11 touchdown catches during that stretch. … LSU RB Keiland Williams is averaging 10.3 yards per carry. … LSU SS Craig Steltz leads the nation with four interceptions.
Who's not: Kentucky TE Jacob Tamme caught 11 passes in his final two games of the 2006 season, but he has just three receptions this season. … Auburn QB Brandon Cox has thrown four interceptions and two touchdown passes. … Alabama QB John Parker Wilson hasn't thrown a touchdown pass this season.
Keep your eye on: Florida WR Riley Cooper had four receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening victory over Western Kentucky, but he didn't have a catch against Troy last week. With a knee injury sidelining Andre Caldwell for the next two weeks, look for Cooper to have an expanded role in the passing game. … Tennessee SS Jarod Parrish has returned to the starting lineup because of a season-ending injury to CB Antonio Gaines. True freshman Eric Berry moved over from safety to fill Gaines' spot in the starting lineup. … Tennessee FS Jonathan Hefney entered the season as an All-America candidate, but he received plenty of criticism after missing numerous tackles in a season-opening loss to California. A big performance against the defending national champions could help Hefney earn redemption. … Vanderbilt QB Mackenzi Adams could get more playing time Saturday because starter Chris Nickson has a hamstring injury that leaves him questionable for the Ole Miss game.
Numbers game: The road team has won the first three conference games of the season. Road teams own a .469 winning percentage in SEC games since 1992. … Kentucky has gained more than 200 rushing yards and 200 passing yards in each of its first two games. … LSU has outscored teams 157-7 in the first quarter of its 15 home games during Les Miles' three seasons as coach. The Tigers have outscored teams 113-7 over their last 10 quarters overall.
Freshmen to watch: The obvious answers are to go with Alabama TB Terry Grant and Tennessee DB Eric Berry, who moves from safety to cornerback this week and must try to contain Florida's high-flying offense. But we've already mentioned both those players in this category earlier in the season, so we'll try to point out someone else. Auburn WR Chris Slaughter has been working out with the first team occasionally in practice this week and could see an expanded role as the Tigers attempt to rejuvenate their passing attack. … Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno rushed for 104 yards in a losing cause last week and could have another big game Saturday against outmanned Western Carolina. … Florida CB Joe Haden is one of three new starters in the Gators' secondary, which faces an experienced quarterback in Erik Ainge this week. And Gators G Maurkice Pouncey will get his sternest test thus far against the Vols' defensive line.
They said it: "I think this game is a huge statement for both programs, but I think it's a bigger game for us. We feel like we can compete with them now. In the past, we did feel like they were above us. But we've been trying to turn this program around for a while, and we definitely feel that we now have the weapons, the athletes, the coaches."
"It appears to me that it would be unfair to talk about another school. I'm at a great school with a great team. I'm at a place that I love. I'm not going to talk about another school. It would be a waste of productive time for my team. I'm worried about Middle Tennessee. I know you guys want me to get into it, but I'm not."
"It wasn't like they were some big, powerful team. They've actually lost five in a row to Eastern Division opponents. Kentucky and Vandy beat them last year."
Etc.: Georgia CB Ramarcus Brown returns this week after serving a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules. … Arkansas DE Marcus Harrison is expected to play this week after serving a one-game suspension in the season opener. … Alabama senior WR D.J. Hall needs just 33 receiving yards to pass Ozzie Newsome as the school's career leader. … Kentucky TB Rafael Little is the fourth player in SEC history to compile 2,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in his career. He joins Florida's Errict Rhett, LSU's Dalton Hilliard and LSU's Garry James.