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SEC Football Weekend Preview: Week 3 - Heavyweight Matches Highlight SEC Slate

You should know your opponent as well as you know yourself. We’ll be previewing and reviewing the SEC weekend each week during the season so Gamecock fans can know what’s going on in the college football world around them.

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 Georgia (2-0) vs. South Carolina (1-1)

*Upset Alert*
Watch: 6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Georgia (-16.5)

South Carolina heads to Athens after a home loss to Kentucky that reminded Gamecock fans of last season's disappointment. USC allowed over 200 yards rushing to the Wildcats and are allowing 207.5 rushing yards per outing through two games, the second-worst mark in the SEC. Georgia has averaged 262 yards on the ground thus far and star running back Nick Chubb has already amassed 309 yards this season. His 8.8 yards per carry is tied for the best mark in the FBS among players with at least 30 attempts. Short version: not a good combination for South Carolina. The former walk-on Perry Orth makes his first ever trip to Athens and he'll be the starting quarterback Saturday evening. He finished an encouraging 13-of-20 for 179 yards and a touchdown after replacing an injured Connor Mitch last week against Kentucky. He threw costly interception with 4:32 to go but showed promise with his ability to anticipate throws. According to his peers, he'll be the most prepared person on the field. You make a habit of being that guy and it usually equals success. Georgia's Greyson Lambert had a shaky outing against Vanderbilt last weekend after a strong opener. The Bulldogs have weapons outside of Chubb, the versatile Sony Michel, the explosive Isaiah McKenzie and old foe Keith Marshall. Quarterback play could easily render them non-factors and is the only reason the Bulldogs will play a close one. After a head-scratching loss, a win down in Athens would be very Steve Spurrier. They'll keep it close but can't get it done. Prediction: Georgia 31, South Carolina 21

No. 22 Missouri (2-0) vs. Connecticut (2-0)

Watch: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Missouri (-21.5)

Maty Mauk and Missouri survived Arkansas State's upset bid last weekend. Mauk bailed the Tigers out in the fourth quarter with a pair of clutch rushing gains, setting up the clinching field goal. They'll have to lean on Mauk's arm as well as his legs once again as star running back Russell Hansbrough will not play on Saturday. Hansbrough suffered an ankle injury in the opener and was very limited last weekend. He'll be held out before Missouri starts its SEC slate next week. UCONN has lost 15 of 18 road games since October of 2011 and hasn't had a winning season since 2010. ASU gave more of a fight than the Huskies will bring to Columbia. Prediction: Missouri 28, Connecticut 10

No. 17 Texas A&M (2-1) vs. Nevada

Watch: 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Line: Texas A&M (-34)

Kevin Sumlin welcomes an old friend to College Station this weekend. Nevada head coach Brian Polian coached Texas A&M's special teams and tight ends during Sumlin's first season in 2012. Polian took the Nevada job after that year and is now in hot water after committing two unsportsmanlike penalties and earning a $10,000 fine in last weekend's 44-28 home loss to a ranked Arizona team. The Aggies first 22 put on quite the show last Saturday against Ball State. The offense scored 49 points in the first half and John Chavis' new bunch allowed the Cardinals to gain just seven yards on their first four drives. Christian Kirk should make another special play and more reps won't hurt young quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray. Don't take your eyes off the screen, Nevada and Texas A&M will both play as fast as they can. Prediction: Texas A&M 56, Nevada 21

No. 13 LSU (2-0) vs. No. 18 Auburn (2-0)

Watch: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Line: LSU (-7)

LSU and Mississippi State produced a solid finish but in this week's CBS game, we get the first SEC heavyweight match-up. Auburn has not looked particularly good in their first two games, especially after heavily flirting with a loss to an FCS program last weekend (a close call that dropped them 12 spots in the AP poll). We still don't know much about LSU, their first game was canceled and their performance against MSU didn't give me any answers. The Tigers' secondary may have the most talent in the country, but they gave up 335 yards to Dak Prescott (on 52 attempts however). Leonard Fournette is the real deal, we know that. He ran for a career highs of 159 yards and three touchdowns last weekend. We don't know much else. We know they have talent but can they execute enough to beat another similarly talented team? Auburn whipped the Tigers 49-7 last season but the Tigers from the Plains have lost seven in a row at LSU and had quarterback Nick Marshall. He did heavy damage with his legs during his AU career and Jeremy Johnson has been a complete nonfactor running the ball thus far. Johnson has to play better and take care of the ball as Auburn's defense must get off the field on third downs - offenses are converting those crucial downs at a 50 percent clip right now. Prediction: Auburn 17, LSU 14

Mississippi State (1-1) vs. Northwestern State (0-2)

Watch: 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Line: N/A

Dak Prescott has put himself in position to add to the record books this weekend. In Mississippi State's home opener against Southern Miss, Prescott became the school's all-time passing touchdown leader. Last week against LSU, Prescott passed Wayne Madkin for the school-record in completions in a career. The senior needs to just 182 yards passing against Northwestern State to break Madkin's all-time school record for passing yards in a career. We're watching the best player in the history of a significant program and I hope Prescott is appreciated. The Bulldogs outplayed LSU in the second half and Dak almost lead an all-time comeback. Fun note - Northwestern State quarterback J.D. Almond backed up Prescott at Haughton High School in Louisiana. Prediction: Mississippi State 56, Northwestern State 3

Vanderbilt (0-2) vs. Austin Peay (0-2)

Watch: 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Line: N/A

After a disappointing home loss to Western Kentucky to start the year, Vanderbilt hung with a top-10 Georgia team for a little more than a half. The Bulldogs completely dominated the third quarter but Vandy had an opportunity to make it uncomfortable at the end. Johnny McCrary was picked off as the ‘Dores were in the red zone and that's kind of been the season so far. Vanderbilt has moved the ball better than I thought they would be able to but turnovers and red zone issues have done them in. After facing two explosive offenses to start the year, Derek Mason's defense looks like they can hang with just about anyone. McCrary and running back Ralph Webb should trounce an Austin Peay program that is 1-25 since the start of the 2013 season. Prediction: Vanderbilt 38, Austin Peay 0

Arkansas (1-1) vs. Texas Tech (2-0)

Watch: 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Line: Arkansas (-12)

After welcoming a MAC school into Arkansas to beat them, the Razorbacks will roll the ball out with a Texas Tech team that has stuffed the stat sheet through their first two games. Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes was the Big 12 Player of the Week in their opener and then backed it up with a 361-yard, six-touchdown performance last weekend. Last season, Arkansas put on the rushing performance of a lifetime against the Red Raiders - 68 attempts, 438 yards, seven touchdowns. Last season's 49-28 loss was a complete embarrassment for Texas Tech and the contrasting styles will face off again this weekend. TT lost the time of possession by 30 minutes last week but that doesn't bother head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Just like how Brett Bielema doesn't mind grinding it out, evidenced by Brandon Allen's 61 passing yards last year against the Red Raiders. Texas Tech heads out for its first road game of the season and Arkansas hopes to remind the country why they were feared entering the season. Prediction: Arkansas 35, Texas Tech 24

Tennessee (1-1) vs. Western Carolina (1-1)

Watch: 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Line: N/A

Joshua Dobbs had some mighty struggles once Oklahoma loaded the box in last Saturday's heartbreak. Dobbs only contributed 137 yards of offense in the loss. When facing Jalen Hurd, opponents will load the box and its Dobbs' job to make them pay for it. He couldn't against the Sooners. Western Carolina will be an after-thought following last week's debacle but the Vols should take advantage of Saturday's affair. More reps for the starters and more experience for the youngsters can only help. Tennessee has a hell of stretch after this weekend - at Florida, Arkansas and Georgia at home then at Alabama. Prediction: Tennessee 48, Western Carolina 10

Kentucky (2-0) vs. Florida (2-0)

Watch: 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Line: Florida (-3.5)

Florida has won the last 28 meetings against Kentucky, the longest winning streak by one SEC team over another in conference history. Most of those beatings were by the very man the Wildcats disposed of last weekend. The atmosphere in Lexington should be pretty electric - night game, blue out and coming off a signature road win. Florida will start freshman quarterback Will Grier for the second consecutive game. Grier had a solid outing against East Carolina last week but it should be noted that Treon Harris played the fourth quarter and led the Gators to the touchdown that ended up being the difference. Florida head coach Jim McElwain has been embroiled in controversy all week for his oral beheading of running back Kelvin Taylor after Taylor received a penalty for a post-touchdown throat-cut gesture. It'll be one of the better games of the weekend and if UK can beat Florida for the first time since 1986, you can bet the BBN hype begins. Prediction: Kentucky 21, Florida 20

No. 2 Alabama (2-0) vs. No. 15 Ole Miss (2-0)

*Game of the Week*
Watch: 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Alabama (-7)

We get an SEC heavyweight match in the afternoon and at night. Ole Miss has set their scoreboard on fire to start the year. The Rebels are the only SEC team to ever score at least 73 points in back-to-back games. Their opponent is the Alabama Crimson Tide, a program that has lost just four regular season games in the last four years. Ole Miss was the only team to beat the Tide in the regular season last year. The Rebs had lost 10 straight in the series before last year's 23-17 win. One streak still remains - they've lost their last 12 games in Tuscaloosa. Two inexperienced quarterbacks will play huge factors in this one. JUCO transfer Chad Kelly leads the nation in passing efficiency and has been very good in his first two starts for the Rebels. If Ole Miss can pull the upset, his Heisman candidacy will begin. Jake Coker has been a fine manager thus far and Lane Kiffin will do all he can to keep him safe from that Landshark defense. Ole Miss LT Laremy Tunsil will be out once again due to a pending NCAA eligibility issue. We can say we're not surprised but I must mention that it is completely ridiculous in this day-and-age that the NCAA cannot move quickly enough to make a ruling on this. Keeping Kelly upright is crucial and Ole Miss will have a tough time doing that while missing a starter and facing the country's best defensive front. Prediction: Alabama 24, Ole Miss 17