Cook: Things about to heat up in conference play - The Randolph Leader: Sports

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Cook: Things about to heat up in conference play

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 1:00 am

The SEC race heats up this weekend... finally.

After a month of dining mostly on college football's cupcakes, the schedule takes a decidedly meat-and-potatoes turn with several interesting match-ups on Saturday. The four teams that currently look to be a cut above in the East are in action in games that will shape up that race.

The Georgia-South Carolina game will give the winner an edge in the standings, while Florida is hoping to keep pace in that race by beating SEC West heavyweight LSU. Those two games are considered tossups and should make for interesting viewing this weekend.

If Florida does knock off LSU-and the Gators could pull it off-that will narrow the East race down to, realistically, Florida and the winner of the Georgia-South Carolina game.

Around the rest of the league there are some games that might not influence championship races, but that doesn't mean they are without drama of their own. And frankly, those are the games that have more appeal to me.

The Arkansas traveling train wreck will be in Jordan-Hare Stadium, and you would be hard pressed to find a team that needs a win more than the Razorbacks.

After giving up 52 points to Alabama and 58 to Texas A&M and losing four of their first five games, the Razorbacks players have to be in shock. Even more than that, they have to be embarrassed. Remember this was a team that was ranked No. 8 in the country at the start of the season and expected to challenge Alabama and LSU for the West championship.

They had to endure the embarrassment of the Bob Petrino situation and all the ensuing fallout from that debacle. They were probably looking forward to the season just to get their minds on football again, but then the season has blown up in their faces. Injured quarterback Tyler Wilson called out his teammates for quitting in the Alabama game. Apparently some of the players didn't take too kindly to Wilson, who is supposed to be a senior leader, doing that while he was injured and standing on the sidelines the whole game.

Now Arkansas is just looking to beat someone--anyone. They get that chance Saturday when they go against another team that needs a win in the Auburn Tigers. Auburn's only win was an overtime victory over Louisiana-Monroe. They are 0-2 in the SEC with losses to Mississippi State and LSU, although the LSU loss should have been a confidence builder for the Auburn defense that effectively harnessed the vaunted LSU ground game.

The Tigers need to get a win almost as badly as Arkansas. Gene Chizik and his staff have taken some heat for the Tigers' start and for their insistence on sticking with quarterback Kiehl Frazier when the sophomore struggled early on. But stick with him they did, and Frazier appears to be getting more comfortable with every game. When he lets his talent take over his game, Frazier can be a force with his arm and with his feet.

Another game between two teams that need a win will be in Columbia, Missouri, where the Vanderbilt Commodores will visit the Missouri Tigers.

Vanderbilt was expected to be better this season, but so far it has been too much of the same old Vanderbilt, although that loss to Northwestern looks a little better now than it did since the Wildcats are 5-0. Still, James Franklin's team needs to get a win over somebody other than an FCS school.

Missouri needs the victory because the Tigers need to get that first SEC win under their belt. With Texas A&M's win over Arkansas last week, Missouri is now the only member of the conference without an SEC victory in its history. Okay, that history is only two games long, but the Tigers still want to get that monkey off their back.

It should be a fun weekend, so make sure you have batteries for the remote.

By the way, did defensive coordinators take last week off? SEC teams are putting up offensive numbers like NBA teams. Who would have thought Georgia and Tennessee would ever combine for 95 points and 1,038 yards of total offense in a single game? Not Tennessee coordinator Sal Sunseri or Georgia coordinator Todd Grantham.

The Crystal Ball had a second consecutive perfect week last week, going 6-0 for a 16-0 record over the last two weeks. The season record is now to 40-9 for an .816 winning percentage. For this week look for Mississippi State to beat Kentucky; Texas A&M to edge Ole Miss; Missouri to get its first conference win by slipping past Vanderbilt; Auburn to beat Arkansas; LSU to bounce back from a lackluster performance the last two weeks with a win over Florida; and in the battle for bragging rights in the SEC East, look for Georgia to slip past South Carolina.

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