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Big Ten & SEC Week Six Preview

Early on in the season, members of the Florida Citrus Sports Team Selection Committee are out on the road to meet with fans of our partner schools to spread the word about our brand-new home field opening for the 2014 bowl season.

This weekend, we’ll be at ten notable games featuring teams from our partner conferences*:

Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) hosts Florida (2-1, 1-1 SEC) for a conference clash as the Gators head back on the road for their second-straight road game in conference play. The Volunteers enter the game 2-2 on the year following back-to-back losses on the road against high-caliber opponents in Oklahoma and Georgia. Last week the Bulldogs were able to edge the Volunteers 35-32 and move to 3-1 on the season and stay in the hunt for the SEC East Division race. Tennessee hasn’t fared well against the Gators in recent times, dropping the past nine meetings allowing Florida to take the lead in the all-time series 24-19. The Gators visit Neyland Stadium fresh off of their bye week. In their last outing the Gators were tied with Alabama 21-21 in the third quarter before the Crimson Tide scored the final three touchdowns to win 42-21 in Tuscaloosa. While the Gators hold the edge in the series due in part to their recent win streak, the teams have split the 22 meetings in Knoxville, 11-11.

Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) travels to Oxford, Mississippi to face Ole Miss (4-0, 1-0 SEC) in a battle of unbeatens. The Crimson Tide took over the top spot in the Coaches poll this week and remains third in the AP Poll following their bye week. Alabama is led by wide receiver sensation Amari Cooper who is second in the nation with 655 receiving yards and tied for eighth in the nation with five touchdown receptions through four games. The Crimson Tide have not lost to the Rebels since 2003 and have dominated the all-time series leading Ole Miss, 47-9-2 but will face a tougher-than-usual Rebels team which has begun the season 4-0 for the first time since 1970. The Rebels enter the contest having allowed only two touchdowns this season to lead the nation. The defense has also averaged just 8.5 points allowed through three games this season. Both teams have been able to get their opponents’ offenses of the field and keep their own drives alive as they are each ranked in the nation’s top 15 for third down conversions on offense and defense.

Texas A&M (5-0, 2-0 SEC) looks to remain unbeaten against Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0 SEC) since joining the SEC in 2012. The Aggies have gotten off to a 5-0 start behind a high-powered offense. Texas A&M leads the nation in total offense (2,973 yards) relying heavily on the arm of first-year starter Kenny Hill who has already thrown for 1,745 yards (third in the nation) and 17 touchdowns (second in the nation) this season. A&M is looking for their first 6-0 start since 1994 when they finished the season undefeated (10-0-1). The Bulldogs have won seven straight dating back to last season and are coming off of a 34-29 win against LSU in Death Valley two weeks ago (their first win at LSU since 1991). Quarterback Dak Prescott has led Mississippi State to their highest ranking in the AP Poll since 1999 while leading the team to their best offensive production in school history, scoring 165 points through the first four games of the season. Texas A&M holds a 4-3 edge against the Bulldogs in the all-time series, including wins in each of the past two meetings.

South Carolina (3-2, 2-2 SEC) hits the road to face Kentucky (3-1, 1-1 SEC) in search of their fourth-straight win against the Wildcats. South Carolina is coming off of a 21-20 defeat at the hands of Missouri, allowing two touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the game. The Gamecocks have only played one non-conference game through five weeks, a 33-23 win versus ECU in week 2. The Wildcats are coming off of a 17-7 victory over Vanderbilt, ending their 17-game conference losing streak that dates back to 2012. The Wildcats’ only setback of the season came on the road against Florida in week 3 when they were outlasted by the Gators in three overtimes, 36-30. South Carolina leads the all-time series 17-7-1 and has won 13 of the last 14 meetings. Kentucky’s last win came at home in 2010 when they knocked off a Gamecocks squad ranked tenth in the nation, 31-28, with Randall Cobb catching the go-ahead touchdown from Mike Hartline with less than two minutes to play.

Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC) hosts Vanderbilt (1-4, 0-3 SEC) for a battle at Sanford Stadium looking for payback after the Commodores upset them in Nashville 31-27 last year. The Bulldogs rely heavily on their run game, led by Heisman candidate Todd Gurley. Gurley ranks eighth in the nation with 610 rushing yards and as a team, the Bulldogs are tenth in the nation with an average of 300 rushing yards per game, almost triple that of Vanderbilt (106 rushing yards per game). Following two losses to start the season that saw them outscored 78-10, the Commodores have totaled 75 points (25 points per game) and have gone 1-2 with both losses coming in-conference in games they entered as heavy underdogs. The Commodores offense has struggled this season, only scoring five touchdowns while their defense and special teams has scored a nation-leading six times. Georgia posts a 53-19-2 edge in the all-time series including a 27-4 mark when hosting the Commodores “Between the Hedges” in Athens.

LSU (4-1, 0-1 SEC) heads to Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on Auburn (4-0, 1-0 SEC) in a matchup of SEC West Division teams in ranked in the top 15. LSU rebounded from their season’s first loss against Mississippi State by dominating New Mexico State last week. Freshman quarterback Brandon Harris lead the Tigers offense to touchdowns on all seven of his drives. The Bayou Bengals’ loss to Mississippi State marked the first time LSU lost their conference opener since the 2006 season when they lost 7-3 on the road against Auburn while both teams were ranked in the nation’s top ten. The Auburn Tigers are off to a fast start this season, knocking off Arkansas in their season opener and topping Kansas State on the road two weeks ago. Auburn has cashed in on mistakes so far this season, outscoring their opponents 37-0 in points off turnovers. Led by dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall, the Tigers have averaged 42 points per game this season and have won 14 consecutive games when their quarterback runs for at least 100 yards. Last season LSU gave Auburn its only regular season defeat, winning 35-21 at home. LSU leads the all-time series 27-20-1 while Auburn holds a 10-7 advantage over LSU when playing in Auburn.

Michigan (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten) and Rutgers (4-1, 0-1 Big Ten) will meet for the first time ever this Saturday when Michigan visits Piscataway, New Jersey. Both teams are in search of their first conference victory. The Wolverines have had a rough start to the season, losing two straight including last week’s game against Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug. It was only Michigan’s second loss to Minnesota in the past 24 meetings dating back to 1987. This will be the second home primetime conference game in a row for the Scarlet Knights, who lost their inaugural Big Ten game against Penn State earlier in the season in a game where they did not trail until 1:13 remaining in the game. Rutgers enters the matchup coming off of a 34-6 victory over Tulane that saw the defense accumulate four sacks to increase their season total to 21 (best in the nation).

Northwestern (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) hosts Wisconsin (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) looking for their second upset in as many weeks and third consecutive win. The Wildcats soundly defeated Penn State on the road last week, 29-6, for the largest Nittany Lions defeat in Beaver Stadium since 2001, when the Miami Hurricanes beat PSU 33-7 to begin their National Championship season. The Northwestern defense has held their opponents to 13 points and only one touchdown in their two wins and has scored a touchdown of its own, coming off of a Christian Hackenberg interception returned 49 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Anthony Walker. The Badgers have won three straight games since blowing a 24-7 lead against LSU in their season opener. In those three victories, Wisconsin has outscored its opponents 132-30 behind a strong running attack that is ranked sixth nationally with 1,373 yards. Running back Melvin Gordon leads the Badgers offense, totaling eight rushing touchdowns (fourth-most in the country). This will be the Badgers’ first true road test this season with their only other game outside of Camp Randall Stadium coming in the opening week when they met LSU at a neutral location. Wisconsin leads Northwestern 57-33-5 all-time and has won the past two meetings.

Michigan State (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) looks to knock off the last unbeaten in the Big Ten when Nebraska (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) comes to town for a primetime clash in Spartan Stadium. The Spartans and Huskers are two of the early favorites to win the conference divisions and haven’t disappointed thus far, with the only loss between them coming when Oregon pulled away in the fourth quarter to knock off Michigan State in Eugene, 46-27. The Spartans have put together a high-powered offense to go along with its notorious defense, average 50.3 points per game (third in the nation). They are led by quarterback Connor Cook, who has thrown for 837 yards and nine touchdowns, six of which have gone to wide receiver Tony Lippett. The Cornhuskers have also impressed on offense early in the season behind the strength of running back Ameer Abdullah, who leads the nation with 833 rushing yards and is tied for fourth in the country with eight trips to the end zone. A win over the Spartans would move the Huskers to 6-0 for the first time since 2001 when they won their first 11 games en route to a BCS National Championship berth. The Spartans earned their first-ever win in the series last season in Lincoln, winning 41-28. The Cornhuskers won all seven previous matchups between the two programs.

Ohio State (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) opens up their Big Ten slate when they visit Maryland (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) for the first meeting between the two schools. The Terrapins earned their first conference win last week in their inaugural Big Ten game on the road against Indiana, 37-15. The Terrapins were able to slow down Hoosiers running back Tevin Coleman who leads the nation averaging 172.8 yards per game, holding him to only 122 yards and 1 touchdown. The Buckeyes offense has come along since their home-opening loss to Virginia Tech in week 2, having outscored their opponents 116-28 in their following two games. Last week in their win against Cincinnati, Ohio State tied an NCAA record with 45 first downs in the game. The Buckeyes enter the contest having won 16 consecutive regular season conference games dating back to the 2012 season.

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