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SEC Football Weekend Preview: Week 4 - Streak buster Saturday

Several teams will try to break or extend streaks this Saturday, the most prominent being Tennessee's 10-game losing streak to the Florida Gators.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina (1-2) vs. Central Florida (0-3)

Watch: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Line: South Carolina (-15)

South Carolina hopes to get a win after a dismal performance in Athens last weekend. Outside of The Citadel, an FCS program, UCF is likely the weakest remaining opponent on USC's schedule. A win on Saturday is welcomed and expected. The Golden Knights are 0-3 with losses to FIU and Furman, an FCS school located in Greenville, SC. UCF's offense ranks last nationally in yards per play and as bad as the Gamecock defense has been, they will be the best defense George O'Leary's bunch has played all season. True freshman Lorenzo Nunez will get the start at quarterback for South Carolina. He's been featured in dedicated run packages against Kentucky and Georgia, impressing in those situations. He doesn't have the throwing ability of Connor Mitch or Perry Orth but Nunez is a dynamic player. It'll be up to Steve Spurrier to protect Nunez and put him in a position to succeed. After this game, It'll be a major fight for USC the rest of the season but a win Saturday will help the HBC avoid his first losing season as a college coach since 1987 - his first year at Duke. Prediction: South Carolina 21, Central Florida 10

No. 7 Georgia (3-0) vs. Southern (2-1)

Watch: 12:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Line: N/A

Despite Mike Bobo's departure to Colorado State, the Georgia offense has hummed along just fine. Bobo's squad last year posted an SEC best 41.7 points per game and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has that mark at 44.7 points per game through three weeks. Nick Chubb has continued to feast. He has 11 consecutive games with at least 100 rushing yards. The offense's balance was borderline perfect last weekend against South Carolina - 330 passing yards, 246 rushing yards. Georgia's per game average of 257 rushing yards is ranked 12th nationally. Southern represents another tune-up for this Georgia team before Alabama arrives in Athens. Prediction: Georgia 60, Southern 7

Syracuse (3-0) vs. No. 8 LSU (2-0)

Watch: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: LSU (-24.5)

The strangest game of the weekend has No. 8 LSU going on the road to play Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. LSU takes its rushing attack north after their consistent pounding of Auburn in Death Valley last weekend. Leonard Fournette is averaging an FBS-best 193.5 rushing yards per game. LSU quarterback Brandon Harris and the three other backs LSU rolls out produce 136.5 yards on the ground per game as well. Syracuse has played Wake Forest, Central Michigan and Rhode Island but they've escaped those games with the third best rushing defense in the FBS, allowing just 46.7 yards per game to their opponents. Against LSU on Saturday, the Orange will likely be starting their third string quarterback. Senior starter Terrel Hunt went down with an Achilles injury in their opener and Eric Dungey suffered a head injury in last week's win over Central Michigan. Austin Wilson or walk-on Zack Mahoney will get the start on Saturday. The two programs have played twice, the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl, a Syracuse win, and the 1965 Sugar Bowl, won by the Tigers. Prediction: LSU 30, Syracuse 13

Florida (3-0) vs. Tennessee (2-1)

*Game of the Week*

Watch: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Line: Tennessee (-1)

The last time Tennessee beat Florida, only SEC coaches Mark Richt and Gary Pinkel were in their current jobs, with the latter still coaching in the Big 12. The Vols will have the superior talent on Saturday afternoon but talent isn't everything. Talent needs to be coached up and there are growing whispers about whether Butch Jones is capable of taking his talented team to the level we expect them to approach. A win in Gainesville will hush the doubters for a long while. Florida will be without two of their more prominent players due to suspension. QB Treon Harris and CB Jalen Tabor are suspended for failing drug tests. Harris seems to have lost the QB battle to Will Grier but he did signify a dynamic player for Jim McElwain under center. Tabor was a significant player in one of the better back-fours in the country. The Gators terrorized Kentucky and Patrick Towles last week, forcing him to go 8-of-24 for 5.2 yards per attempt and two interceptions. UF's run defense isn't bad either, their yards-per-carry allowed mark is seventh in the FBS and they "allowed" -13 yards to East Carolina earlier this year. The Vols ground attack pounded Bowling Green in the opener but then couldn't get going against Oklahoma. The talented Tennessee receiving corps against the Gators secondary is the match-up to watch. On the other end, Tennessee easily handled an Oklahoma offense that's better than this Florida group for three quarters earlier this year. Tennessee's return teams are explosive and they'll need a boost from them on the road. Prediction: Tennessee 17, Florida 13

No. 12 Alabama (2-1) vs. Louisiana-Monroe (1-1)

Watch: 4:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Line: Alabama (-38)

The last time Alabama and Louisiana-Monroe played, the Warhawks left Tuscaloosa with a 21-14 victory - and weirdly enough, I was there. It was Saban's first season with the Tide and they would end the season 7-6. They've surely made up for it since then with multiple SEC and National championships. Ole Miss upset (if you want to call it that) Alabama last weekend in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels gave Bama their only regular season loss last season as well. After the Tide lost in Oxford last year, they caught fire and won out, winning the SEC title and advancing to the inaugural College Football Playoff. Jake Coker is expected to get the start this weekend against ULM. The Warhawks are 1-27 all-time against ranked teams but be aware, the one win came just three years ago when they knocked off then-No.8 Arkansas. Prediction: Alabama 40, Louisiana-Monroe 10

No. 14 Texas A&M (3-0) vs. Arkansas (1-2)

Arlington, TX - AT&T Stadium

Watch: 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Texas A&M (-7.5)

I can't decide which game I'm looking forward to the most this weekend, Tennessee-Florida or this game. After Kliff Kingsbury said it was likely Arkansas was going to get their a**es kicked by Texas A&M too, it immediately made me want to watch this game. Arkansas allowed 486 yards of total offense and didn't force a punt last week against Texas Tech's offense. Texas Tech and Texas A&M are similarly schemed offenses because Kingsbury was once Kevin Sumlin's offensive coordinator and the two come from the same school of thought. The only difference is, A&M has better talent than Tech. Arkansas got up 28-14 on the Aggies last year before Kenny Hill scored 21 unanswered points to allow A&M to win in overtime, 35-28. Texas A&M averages 46 points and nearly 500 yards of total offense through three games. They've also averaged 46 points in their three SEC meetings against Arkansas since 2012. The only way Texas A&M will be toppled is turnovers and their run defense. They allowed 240 yards on the ground to Ball State earlier this year, but their starters didn't play the second half. The Razorbacks ran for 285 yards on them last season. The Aggies already have six turnovers on the year, the only real criticism Sumlin can conjure up for his team. This neutral-site game may be a good one. Prediction: Texas A&M 40, Arkansas 21

No. 3 Ole Miss (3-0) vs. Vanderbilt (1-2)

Watch: 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Line: Ole Miss (-24.5)

The Landshark defense versus Vanderbilt's offense. Oh, the horror. Ole Miss has already forced 10 turnovers this season, seven of them being interceptions and three of those coming from safety Trae Elston. Last season, Ole Miss forced 32 turnovers, a mark that was good enough for a top-10 ranking in all of the FBS. They are on pace to pass it and produce 40 takeaways on the year. It's time for Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack to get some love. While the defense is again lighting the world on fire, here comes the Ole Miss offense to torch the fields again. They are averaging an FBS-best 64 points per game and their 567.3 yardage mark per outing is ninth-best in the country. Quarterback Chad Kelly has the second best passer rating among FBS QBs, throwing for 898 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception. Ole Miss has dominated opponents from the opening whistle, outscoring foes 58-0 in the first quarter this season. That's basically the complete opposite of Vanderbilt, who has managed nine total points in the first half this year. Vandy QB Johnny McCrary is coming off his best game as a college player, breaking the school record for completion percentage last week against Austin Peay. Vandy's red zone troubles will reappear this Saturday, if they can even get there. Vanderbilt's defense looks very much improved and the Commodores were the last unranked team to beat Ole Miss in Oxford (2012). However this season, the talent and the momentum completely favor the Rebels. Prediction: Ole Miss 34, Vanderbilt 7

Auburn (2-1) vs. Mississippi State (2-1)

Watch: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Line: Auburn (-2.5)

The SEC slate doesn't offer much in terms of ranked on ranked teams this week but if you love college football and the Southeastern conference, there are several intriguing match-ups. Especially this one down in Auburn. Sean White takes the reins from Jeremy Johnson at quarterback after Johnson's inability to get the job done to start the year. White is a 6-0, 200-pound redshirt freshman, who is billed as a quarterback with good accuracy and rushing ability superior to that of Johnson. White is asked to guide the nation's No. 113 offense back to prominence. Converting third downs will be key for White as that's an area where Auburn has failed so far this year. On the other end, the Tiger defense must do a better job of getting off the field on third downs. Facing Dak Prescott will be a big challenge for them, as he as looked like the Dak of last season. The Bulldogs were on the brink of a major comeback at home against LSU just two weeks ago before missing a game-winning field goal as time expired. Carl Lawson will be out for Auburn and that's a huge loss of their defense, he is their biggest difference-maker. Mississippi State has won the last two meetings between the two schools. On the road, they must get out to a fast start, something they've been unable to do against Southern Miss and LSU. Prediction: Auburn 24, Mississippi State 21

Kentucky (2-1) vs. No. 25 Missouri (3-0)

Watch: 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Line: Kentucky (-2.5)

Missouri is undefeated but they sure won those games ugly. Their performance against Southeast Missouri State to open the year was average, I expected more. They followed that up with very narrow wins over Arkansas State and Connecticut. Kentucky got a signature road win against South Carolina two weeks but followed it up by falling to Florida in a highly anticipated matchup at home. Maty Mauk and the Mizzou offense has struggled, just 3.2 yards per rush and 5.9 yards per pass. They've also been without their best player, running back Russell Hansbrough. Hansbrough suffered an ankle injury in the opener, was limited against ASU and didn't even play against UCONN. He'll be in the starting lineup against the Wildcats. Both schools have produced solid, run-stuffing defense this season, the offenses have just been hit and mostly miss. Missouri has won all three SEC meetings between the programs, including last season's 20-10 win in Columbia. The margin in the three meetings is 101-37. Kentucky has lost 23 of 26 conference games since 2012 while Missouri has won 11 consecutive road games, the third-longest active streak in the country behind Ohio State and Florida State. Prediction: Missouri 14, Kentucky 13