The Herald Bulletin

October 18, 2013

Mike Lopresti: It's all about the SEC

The Herald Bulletin

---- — Let's hear it for the SEC. Sure, the league is threatening to turn the Associated Press poll into an SEC fraternity house, hogging eight of the top 25 spots this week. But look at this way, isn't it nice that the conference allows 17 spots for the rest of the universe?

On that note, this week's Tense 10 — 10 Saturday games where something must be proven — has a distinct SEC flavor.

1. Florida at Missouri: Wait a second. A Missouri-Alabama SEC championship game? Doesn't that sound rather odd? The Tigers are serious, having proven they are fully credentialed in their second year in the league, blasting Georgia last Saturday. But the next step is proving they can do it every week, since wins cannot be savored long in the SEC. This time, Missouri's eighth-rated scoring offense and 45.7 average goes against a Florida defense that is fourth in the nation, allowing 13 points a game.

2. Florida State at Clemson: This is only the fourth match of top-five teams in ACC history — hey, it's not basketball season — and the winner will be near the front of the BCS line, hoping the sky falls on Alabama and Oregon. Florida State freshman flash Jameis Winston is No. 2 in the nation in passing efficiency, and Clemson's Tajh Boyd is No. 8. Together, they have completed 69 percent of their 308 passes, with 32 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

3. USC at Notre Dame: The lights are dimmer than usual for this game. It is only the 11th time in 86 meetings that neither team is ranked. Still, between USC wanting to save its season under interim coach Ed Orgeron and Notre Dame trying to push back into the rankings, this will brighten the landscape for someone. The Trojans haven't lost in South Bend since 2001.

4. South Carolina at Tennessee: Never mind proving they can win. The Volunteers must prove they can survive, as they slog through a schedule only a masochist would love. The next four weeks they face South Carolina, Alabama, Missouri and Auburn. Combined record: 22-2. Assuming all four stay ranked, Tennessee will have played seven ranked opponents in its first 10 games, including No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon.

5. Indiana at Michigan: What's up with the Wolverines? They faded at the end to lose to Penn State. They barely got past Akron and Connecticut. How are they supposed to bring down the Ohio State empire next month, playing like that? The surge needs to start soon. Saturday, for instance. The Hoosiers haven't beaten Michigan in 26 years, losing their last 17 meetings.

6. Georgia at Vanderbilt: A high casualty rate on offense gives Georgia a legitimate explanation for the home defeat by Missouri, though its fans are not big on excuses. But there will be no place to hide if the Bulldogs lose at Vanderbilt. It shouldn't happen, but this has the feel of a trap game.

7. Iowa at Ohio State: There is no reason to believe the Buckeyes' 18-game winning streak is in imminent danger, but the issue is style points. Ohio State is now in a beauty contest, trying to find a way to get past Oregon in the BCS. Nothing ugly will do anymore.

8. UCLA at Stanford: Win this, and UCLA's Jim Mora will have as good an argument as anyone for national coach of the year, with the unbeaten Bruins. Lose this, after being upset at Utah, and Stanford's once-shining season will start to look smudged.

9. Texas Tech at West Virginia: The host Mountaineers — No. 1 on the teeter-totter poll — are 3-3 by alternating wins and losses each week. One moment they're losing 37-0 at Maryland, the next upsetting Oklahoma State, the next giving up 73 points to Baylor. They can be tough in Morgantown, though, and that is where 6-0 Texas Tech will be for the first time in history.

10. BYU at Houston: The Cougars are 5-0, have scored in all 20 quarters this season and are the proud owners of a glowing 18-4 turnover differential, to lead the nation. But Rice is the only FBS team they've played with a winning record. They go up a weight class against BYU.