Alabama hosts Western Kentucky: Coach Nick Saban has tried to keep his team’s feet on the ground after the dominating performance against Michigan in Dallas. The goal for this week is to get off to a big lead, play the reserves and most of all stay healthy. Western Kentucky will be without is running back Keshawn Simpson, who is struggling with a knee injury.
Arkansas hosts Louisiana Monroe in Little Rock: Hog coaches are bringing running back Knile Davis along slowly. Arkansas senior receiver Cobi Hamilton is back from injury. In six games in Little Rock, Hamilton has 22 catches for 644 yards and seven touchdowns. Starting fullback Kiero Small is out indefinitely after a foot injury.
Auburn at Mississippi State: This is a revenge game for State after the Tigers stopped quarterback Chris Relf on the 1-yard line last year to end the game. Bulldog players and coaches said the loss defined their season. Bulldog quarterback Tyler Russell played well in last week’s win over Jackson State.
The Bulldogs haven’t won their SEC opener since 1999, when they beat South Carolina 17-0. Under coach Dan Mullen, they’ve lost their past three SEC openers to Auburn, including the past two by a combined 10 points. Auburn players welcome back center Reese Dismukes after he was suspended for the Clemson game. The Tigers have to improve their tackling after allowing over 300 yards rushing in the Clemson loss.
Florida travels to Texas A&M: The Gators must reduce their consistent double-digit penalties and open up their passing game. Florida has an advantage by playing a game last week when Texas A & M was idle. Both teams have the potential for solid running games. Florida’s Mike Gillislee gained nearly 150 yards last week against Bowling Green while Aggie tailback Christine Michael makes his season debut. The Aggies have an untested quarterback making his first start in Johnny Manziel. The key to this game is Florida weathering the initial emotion of A & M’s first SEC game and winning the line of scrimmage by the fourth quarter.
Georgia travels to Missouri: Georgia must also keep its composure during the first five minutes in the SEC opener against the Tigers. A key for Georgia is being able to run the football with freshman Todd Gurley effectively into the fourth quarter. The Bulldog defense will have to limit dual-threat quarterback James Franklin. A quandary for Georgia is controlling the game with its front seven on defense until its suspended secondary players can return.
Kentucky hosts Kent State: The Wildcats better hope the most improvement of the season comes Saturday. Quarterback Maxwell Smith had to throw 50 passes last week so he needs help from the running game.
LSU hosts Washington: The Tigers are just too tough despite the loss of injured All-SEC left tackle Chris Faulk for perhaps the remainder of the season. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger played well last week. He was backed up by a running game by committee that gained over 300 yards. Husky quarterback Keith Price can cause some anxious moments, but Washington is no match for the Tiger line of scrimmage.
Ole Miss hosts UTEP: The Rebels do return perhaps their best tailback in Jeff Scott. Quarterback Bo Wallace had a big day in the opening win over Central Arkansas. UTEP gave Oklahoma fits last week before the Sooners pulled away in the fourth quarter.
South Carolina hosts East Carolina: The big question here is how much will quarterback Connor Shaw be able to play with an extremely sore shoulder? The Gamecocks should be able to win this game running Marcus Lattimore and playing tough defense as they did against Vandy.
Tennessee host Georgia State: Coach Bill Curry, making his farewell tour this season, will not be warmly received in Knoxville. The Vols were one of the most impressive teams in the league last week. Not only was Tyler Bray (333 yards) efficient connecting with promising receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, but the pleasant surprises came from the running game (nearly 200 yards) and the defense (four picks).
Vanderbilt travels to Northwestern: Vandy rebounded from a 10-0 deficit to tie South Carolina, but they could not score with a little over five minutes remaining to win the game. Vanderbilt is equal with Northwestern athletically. Northwestern allowed nearly 600 yards in its win over Syracuse. This is a game Vandy needs to win to make a bowl.
Florida State hosts Savannah State: West Virginia, the original foe for this date, pulled out of this game. Florida State plays its first game without defensive end Brandon Jenkins, who is out for the season with a knee injury. His replacement will be Tank Carradine.
Miami travels to Kansas State: The Kansas State defense has solid athletes in linebacker Arthur Brown, who started at Miami, and cornerback Nigel Malone. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is a very effective dual-threat. The Hurricane defense allowed 441 passing yards by Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig, but they were able to pull out a road win. Miami running back Duke Johnson ran for 135 yards and two scores.
North Carolina at Wake Forest: The Tar Heels have one of the ACC’s better backfields with quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard. Wake quarterback Tanner Price should be better this week than he was against Liberty.
Brent Beaird writes for collegesportsnotebook.com and Gator Bait magazine. He can be heard on 1010XL sports radio in Jacksonville, Florida. Brent can be contacted at email@example.com and on twitter @brentbeaird