Auburn, Tennessee look to take big step forward in SEC

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2004

The rematch of last season's Southeastern Conference title game might not even be the biggest SEC game on Saturday.

First, defending SEC champ LSU takes on Georgia between the hedges at Sanford Stadium. Then Auburn and Tennessee get going in front of more than 104,000 at Neyland Stadium.

No. 8 Auburn and No. 10 Tennessee are the survivors from the SEC's marquee matchups Sept. 18.

Auburn beat LSU 10-9 at home to take an early, but important lead in the SEC West race.

That night, the Volunteers got a 50-yard field goal with seconds to play and a little help from officials who slipped up on clock management to beat Florida 30-28.

In a disappointing 2003, Auburn's 28-21 win over Tennessee was one of the highlights. The Tigers manhandled the Vols, outrushing them 264-4.

''Our whole team is looking at it as a challenge on both sides of the ball. Last year, we got whipped,'' Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.

LSU beat Georgia twice on its way to becoming co-national champions last season, but the Bulldogs entered this season as the favorites in the SEC.

''They are good in every area -- offense, defense and special teams -- and have a lot of players who are playing well right now,'' Tigers coach Nick Saban said.

For much of the Top 25, this is the week before the big game.

No. 2 Oklahoma hosts Texas Tech and No. 5 Texas plays Baylor before the Sooners and Longhorns meet in the Red River Shootout.

No. 10 California plays at Oregon State on Saturday, but No. 1 USC looms Oct. 9.

In the Big Ten, No. 7 Ohio State, No. 18 Minnesota, No. 19 Michigan and No. 20 Wisconsin all face lesser conference foes Saturday. Next week, those four pair off -- Wisconsin is at Ohio State and Minnesota at Michigan.

But first things first -- this week's picks:

Friday

No. 14 Utah (minus 10) at New Mexico

Lobos are last team to beat Utes; eight games ago ... UTAH 24-17.

Saturday

Texas Tech (plus 27 1/2) at No. 2 Oklahoma

Sooners have won four straight meetings, and scored 116 points in last two ... OKLAHOMA 52-20. No. 13 LSU (plus 3) at No. 3 Georgia

Tigers last won at Georgia in 1987 ... GEORGIA 17-16.

No. 4 Miami (minus 14) at Georgia Tech

'Canes QB Brock Berlin could face hook if struggles continue ... MIAMI 34-17.

Baylor (plus 37 1/2) at No. 5 Texas

Bears shut out in last two against Longhorns ... TEXAS 48-7.

No. 6 West Virginia (plus 2) at Virginia Tech

Hokies left Big East with two-game losing streak to Mountaineers ... WEST VIRGINIA 21-17.

No. 7 Ohio State (minus 11) at Northwestern

Buckeyes have won 24 straight against Wildcats ... OHIO STATE 26-12.

No. 8 Auburn (plus 2 1/2) at No. 10 Tennessee

Tigers senior QB over Vols two freshmen ... AUBURN 23-20.

North Carolina (plus 28 1/2) at No. 9 Florida State

QB Wyatt Sexton gets start for Seminoles ... FLORIDA STATE 36-6.

No. 10 California (minus 7) at Oregon State

No looking ahead for Bears, who have lost five straight to Beavers ... CALIFORNIA 33-21.

No. 15 Purdue (minus 3) at Notre Dame

Boilermakers have lost 13 straight in South Bend ... NOTRE DAME 27-26.

Arkansas (plus 7 1/2) at No. 16 Florida

No hurricane concerns for Gators this week ... FLORIDA 30-16.

No. 17 Fresno State (minus 14) at Louisiana Tech

Tech could be pesky at home ... FRESNO STATE 34-24.

Penn State (no line) at No. 18 Minnesota

Who's playing QB for banged up Lions? Does it matter? ... MINNESOTA 34-16.

No. 19 Michigan (minus 18 1/2) at Indiana

Wolverines have won 12 straight over Hoosiers ... MICHIGAN 42-18.

Illinois (plus 14 1/2) at No. 20 Wisconsin

Badgers get RB Anthony Davis back ... WISCONSIN 22-13.

No. 21 Arizona State (plus 2 1/2) at Oregon

Ducks are dangerous, even at 1-2 ... OREGON 27-24.

East Carolina (plus 29 1/2) at No. 22 Louisville

Cardinals gearing up for Miami on Oct. 14 ... LOUISVILLE 41-10.

SMU (plus 37) at No. 23 Boise State

Fortunate Broncos go for 16 straight wins ... BOISE STATE 52-12.

Iowa State (plus 17 1/2) at No. 25 Oklahoma State

Cowboys have thrown just 31 passes ... OKLAHOMA STATE 30-10.

Last week: 18-1 (straight); 5-11-1 (vs. points)

Season: 70-9 (straight); 35-36-2 (vs. points)



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