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Bystander SEC gears up for nonconference weekend

As the conference remains on the outside looking in on the Bowl Championship Series race, seven football teams will play against subdivision schools Saturday.

November 16, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Nick Saban and Alabama take on Western Carolina (1-9) this Saturday.
Nick Saban and Alabama take on Western Carolina (1-9) this Saturday. (Dave Martin / Associated…)

The Southeastern Conference is, for now, a helpless Bowl Championship Series bystander as it monitors three undefeated outliers competing for this season's title.

Winners of six straight BCS crowns, the SEC needs any two among these three teams — Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame — to take a loss in order to get a team back in the BCS race.

The conference could even advance two schools to the end game if all three undefeated teams lose once. The SEC title winner seems a sure bet, but what if No. 6 Florida also finishes 11-1 with a last win over Florida State?

Before that, seven SEC teams must navigate November's annual take-a-subdivision-school-to-work weekend. Charity proceeds will go to purchase new X-ray machines for the losing teams' training rooms.

• Western Carolina (1-9) at Alabama (9-1): This is just what Dr. Nick Saban ordered after the Crimson Tide's first loss, to Texas A&M last week. Western Carolina doesn't have a "Johnny Football" on its roster, but the Catamounts did defeat Mars Hill, 42-14, in the opener before losing nine straight.

Memory lane: Saban began his Alabama career in 2007 with a 52-6 win over Western Carolina at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Upset alert level: 62 to zero.

• Georgia Southern (8-2) at Georgia (9-1): Georgia has clinched the SEC East but wants to maintain good blocking and tackling form against the Eagles' vaunted triple-option attack. Georgia Southern has thrown only 65 passes all year but rushed for 529 yards in last week's 69-26 win over Howard.

Georgia Southern rushed for 302 yards against Alabama last year but lost, 45-21.

Alert level: Not on Uga's life.

• Jacksonville State (6-4) at Florida (9-1): Florida still has BCS title aspirations but can't take any teams for granted. The team has already alligator-armed its way to messy wins against Bowling Green, Missouri and Louisiana Lafayette by a total margin of 68-41. Florida will also be without starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, out with an ankle injury.

Jacksonville State resides in the Ohio Valley Conference and is coming off a big win over Austin Peay.

Alert level: Could be as close as the Ohio election.

• Wofford (8-2) at South Carolina (8-2): Don't be fooled by these identical records, because most people believe the SEC is significantly better than the Southern Conference. The Terriers just clinched a share of the league title with a 16-13 win over Chattanooga. Beware that Wofford is ranked No. 3 in the Football Championship Subdivision (1-AA) coaches' poll and played Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks tight in 2006 and '08.

Alert level: Three (out of five) visors.

• Sam Houston State (8-2) at Texas A&M (8-2): Is Texas A&M ripe for a letdown following last Saturday's win over Alabama? Sam Houston State prepped for this big game with an opening win against a school named Incarnate Word. The Bearkats have won seven straight and outscored their last five opponents, 264-34.

Alert level: Sam Houston couldn't spell "kat" if you spotted him the "k" and the "t."

• Samford (7-3) at Kentucky (1-9): Kentucky deserves a breather after playing the nation's toughest schedule with nothing positive to show except a nonconference win over Kent State. Samford is a better-than-decent team from the Southern Conference riding the momentum of last week's win over Elon.

Alert level: Four out of five Jokers.

• Alabama A&M (7-3) at Auburn (2-8): The Bulldogs, from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, opened the season strong with a 7-6 win over Tuskegee but have lost three of their last four games. Alabama A&M is playing an SEC opponent for the first time and couldn't have picked a better time to pull off an epic upset. Auburn is winless in SEC play with only nonconference wins against Louisiana Monroe and New Mexico State.

"I told the guys they're just like us," Alabama A&M quarterback Deaunte Mason told the Huntsville Times this week. "Once we get on the field Saturday they'll realize they're just regular guys like us."

The biggest difference between Alabama A&M and Auburn is A&M has five more victories.

Alert level: Even Cam Newton is worried.

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