No. 7 Louisville at Kentucky
When: Saturday, noon, EST on ESPN
Line: Louisville -14.5
Reasons to watch: Ironically, this one started out as a 7.5-point spread before Vegas seemingly got beaten into submitting to a more realistic line. Kentucky fans will probably be reminded early and repeatedly that there isn’t much reason for them to watch this in-state rivalry game. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater is quite possibly the best quarterback in the nation. The Wildcats (1-1) meanwhile boast a problematic secondary that will rely on a merely competent pass rush to have a real shot to slow Bridgewater and the Cardinals. Louisville (2-0) doesn’t have many profile games on its schedule, which means this classifies as one. Look for the Cardinals to pour it on Kentucky.
Southern Miss at Arkansas
When: Saturday, 12:21 p.m., EST on SEC Network
Line: Arkansas -23.5
Reasons to watch: The Razorbacks (2-0) have a great chance to stay undefeated when they host a Southern Miss (0-2) team that has gone 0-14 since Larry Fedora left for North Carolina. Arkansas wasn’t overly impressive in a win over Samford last week, but has shown the traits found in Bret Bielema’s Wisconsin programs – strong run game and hard-nosed defense. Look for RBs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins to run wild again.
Tennessee at No. 2 Oregon
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., EST on ABC
Line: Oregon -28
Reasons to watch: This marks another game featuring an SEC underdog in which it got too much credit to start the week. The Ducks opened as 20-point favorites before the action pushed the line much higher. Tennessee (2-0) got off to a fast start, but Austin Peay and Western Kentucky could combine to put together all-century teams and wouldn’t match the collection of talent at Oregon. Allowing inferior opponents to hang around isn’t customary for the Ducks (2-0), so don’t expect any mercy from them. The Volunteers’ best hope seems to be controlling as much clock as possible. Then again, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, RB DeAnthony Thomas and company need just seconds to score from any spot on the field.
No. 1 Alabama at No. 6 Texas A&M
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., EST on CBS
Line: Alabama -7.5
Reasons to watch: The nation’s spotlight lands on College Station this weekend when the top-ranked Crimson Tide rolls into Kyle Field looking to avenge last year’s only defeat. Texas A&M has a chance to prove the 2012 season was no fluke and that the Aggies are prepared to compete among the SEC elite. A&M QB Johnny Manziel has looked unstoppable through the first two games this season – and through much of 2012. He also has a very good offensive line and some of the most talented skill-position players in the conference. There will be no challenge this season quite like Alabama’s top-notch defense. The Aggies’ porous defense, however, has hardly impressed in allowing 59 combined points to Rice and Sam Houston State. QB AJ McCarron and the Tide offense disappointed in their only game in 2013 – a 35-10 victory over Virginia Tech. RB T.J. Yeldon could give the Aggies’ front seven fits. Even with Alabama’s vaunted defense, this game has the potential to be a thrilling shootout. College football fans won’t want to miss a snap of this one because it has Game of the Year potential written all over it.
Mississippi State at Auburn
When: Saturday, 7 p.m., EST on ESPN2
Line: Auburn -6
Reasons to watch: Two teams with plenty to prove face off Saturday night on the Plains. Mississippi State (1-1) wants to show the Week 1 egg it laid against Oklahoma State was a fluke. QB1 Tyler Russell – who missed last week while recovering from a concussion – must be a difference-maker after he struggled mightily in the opener. RB LaDarius Perkins also missed last week with a minor injury. He is expected back at full force and could be too much of a load for an unproved Auburn defensive line to handle. The Tigers (2-0) haven’t exactly won beauty points in wins over Washington State and Arkansas State. However, the run game has the patented explosive ability found in Gus Malzahn offenses and the defense has been tough inside the red-zone. The loser of this game will struggle for a bowl berth while the winner puts itself on track for at least a low-level bowl.
Vanderbilt at No. 13 South Carolina
When: Saturday, 7 p.m., EST on ESPN
Line: South Carolina -14
Reasons to watch: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has had all week to make his recommendations to defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward in hopes of seeing any ability from the unit. The Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1) had better be prepared for all-SEC WR Jordan Matthews, who has been a stud through the first two games. Georgia lit up South Carolina’s defense last week. South Carolina RB Mike Davis looks like a potential star for Spurrier with game-breaking ability. How Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1) defends him could determine which team falls to 0-2 in league play. Neither team eyeing the next step can afford a loss this early.
Kent State at No. 8 LSU
When: Saturday, 7 p.m., EST on ESPNU
Line: LSU -36.5
Reasons to watch: This marks the biggest spread in games involving SEC teams this weekend. It’s easy to see why. Kent State (1-1) fell one win short of a BCS bowl bid last season. That might as well have been a decade ago, though. The Golden Flash took a home 41-22 loss to Bowling Green last week leading into its game at Tiger Stadium. Heck, Kent State barely survived the Liberty game. Conversely, LSU (2-0) has been impressive in wins over TCU and an overmatched UAB team. The Tigers take a break from playing teams with abbreviated names but should continue rolling behind QB Zach Mettenberger, who has thrown for 6 TDs and 0 INTs so far this year.
No. 25 Ole Miss at Texas
When: Saturday, 7 p.m., EST on Longhorn Network
Line: Texas -3
Reasons to watch: All the drama lies on the Texas sideline. The immediate aftermath of a BYU beatdown of the Longhorns (1-1) left them with a new defensive coordinator and quarterback for this week. Coach Mack Brown fired DC Manny Diaz the day after his defense surrendered 550 rushing yards. Former Texas DC (and former Syracuse head coach and Michigan DC) Greg Robinson makes his season debut as Diaz’ replacement. QB David Ash will miss the contest with a concussion, leaving QB2 Case McCoy to start. Still, Texas is favored to beat Ole Miss (2-0). The Rebels have had great success this year with the read-option, which gave the Longhorns fits last week. Texas will want to establish a power run game. Can a young-but-talented Ole Miss defense man up to allow the Rebels to remain unbeaten when they leave Austin?