published Saturday, October 29th, 2011

SEC football matchups for Oct. 29

There are five SEC games today with several for huge stakes.

The front-runner in the SEC East likely will be decided today. Or the puzzle may be more confusing.

Vanderbilt may be ready for first-year coach James Franklin's hallmark win.

Mississippi State and Kentucky are playing on the last Saturday of October with an eye on December.

So it goes late in the fall in the South.

But the biggest noise today is created by the teams that are not playing. The silence is overpowering with LSU and Alabama -- the best teams in their division, conference and country -- both off and looking toward each other next Saturday night. The Showdown or The Carnival on the Capstone or the Title Fight, or whatever other catchy phrase you may need to describe the LSU-Alabama matchup, could be the biggest regular-season football game in SEC history.

"We play against LSU in this open week more than we'll play against Alabama," Tigers coach Les Miles said this week. "The preparation is sincere, and we're moving slowly in the game plan but we're working fast."

The dichotomies are fair and appropriate. It's a waiting game for the game we're all waiting for. It's preparation before pizzazz,wondering how they'll match up before watching the wonderful matchup.

So rest up and enjoy the prelims today. There will be no such respite next Saturday. There will be no rest. And no silence.

Last week's SEC guesses: 5-0 overall, 3-2 against the spread

Season's SEC guesses: 49-9 overall, 35-20-3 against the spread

Arkansas at Vanderbilt

12:21 p.m., Vanderbilt Stadium

TV/Radio: WDSI/1370 AM

Breakdown: After an impressive showing in his first start with the Commodores, Jordan Rodgers will get his second start at quarterback against the Razorbacks. "As a QB, experience counts," Vandy coach James Franklin said. "The more games he gets under his belt, that will help him." Will it be enough against the nation's No. 8-ranked team? Doubtfully, but every game he plays, the better Vandy will be.

The line: Arkansas minus-11

The pick: Arkansas, 40-21

Georgia vs. Florida

3:30 p.m., EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla.

TV/Radio: CBS/102.3 FM

Breakdown: In this game last year, Florida native Aaron Murray, Georgia's quarterback, had more picks than a church league basketball game. It was bad. While a lot of the discussion has correctly been on the health and the effectiveness of Florida senior quarterback John Brantley, how Murray plays figures to be the central question and likely the determining factor today.

The line: Georgia minus-3

The pick: Georgia, 28-23

Mississippi State at Kentucky

7 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium

TV: Fox Sports South

Breakdown: Kentucky is looking to continue a program-best record of five consecutive bowl trips, and a win today is paramount in that pursuit. Mississippi State is facing a similar conundrum. Two hidden stats here make the visiting Bulldogs seem to be in better shape in what is basically a playoff game for each: Kentucky is converting just 28 percent of its third-down attempts, and the Wildcats are minus-6 in turnover margin, while MSU is plus-5.

The line: Mississippi State minus-10

The pick: Mississippi State, 24-10

Ole Miss at Auburn

7 p.m., Jordan-Hare Stadium

TV: ESPNU

Breakdown: Ole Miss scared the stuffing out of No. 8-ranked Arkansas last week. Auburn got its stuffing beat out by top-ranked LSU. Correlation? None really other than wondering whether Ole Miss, which is riding a program-worst 10-game SEC losing streak that dates back to last October, can mount another inspired effort.

The line: Auburn minus-9 1/2

The pick: Auburn, 31-16

South Carolina at Tennessee

7:15 p.m., Neyland Stadium

TV/Radio: ESPN2/106.5 FM

Breakdown: Who would have thought a key SEC East showdown would be decided by two relatively unknown freshmen who were three-star prospects and were preparing for the South Carolina high school state playoffs this time last year? Meet UT quarterback Justin Worley and South Carolina running back Brandon Wilds, and know each freshman will make his first start tonight in an effort to salvage his team's goals.

The line: South Carolina minus-4

The pick: South Carolina, 23-12

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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