Florida-Tennessee winner becomes favorite for East crown

ATLANTA (AP) - It's a conference-opening showdown for both teams, one that will thrust the winner into the favorite's role in the Southeastern Conference East Division.

There's no reason why it shouldn't.

Florida has won 8 of 15 East Division crowns and Tennessee has won four. Twice during those 12 seasons the winner of the head-to-head match failed to win the division - 1992 and 1997. In those years the regular season winner - UT in 1992 and UF in 1997 - could only watch the championship game on television.

The fifth-ranked Gators, the defending national champion, and No. 22 Vols may get into a shootout because both teams have the ability - and the quarterbacks - to put a lot of points on the board.

Florida, an 8-point favorite, is led by Tim Tebow, who has the second-best pass rating in the nation at 228.2. Danny Ainge is the experienced signal-caller for the Vols, having posted a 9-2 record on the road in his career. One of those road setbacks came two weeks ago at California.

Urban Meyer is going for his third victory against the Vols since taking over at Florida. No coach has ever started his Gator career with a 3-0 mark against Tennessee - until now. Florida 35-24.

Elsewhere around the SEC this week:

No. 16 Arkansas (plus 3) at Alabama: It would be hard to find a trio of running backs better than the three who'll cavort on Bryant-Denny Stadium's turf Saturday - Arkansas' duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones and Alabama redshirt freshman Terry Grant. Grant leads the SEC in rushing, McFadden is third, Jones fourth. Arkansas 28-24.

Mississippi State (plus 13) at Auburn: This could be a breakout game for Brandon Cox, the Tiger quarterback who has struggled so far this season. In his career against the Bulldogs, Cox had passed for 494 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Auburn 28-17.

Western Carolina (no line) at No. 23 Georgia: South Carolina did Western no favor when it knocked off the Dogs last week. The Catamounts have lost 11 games in a row. This will make it an even dozen. Georgia 42-7.

No. 9 Louisville (minus 6½) at Kentucky: The Cardinals can square the series with their fifth straight victory over the Wildcats. This one matches two of the better quarterbacks around - Brian Brohm for Louisville and Andre Woodson for Kentucky. Wildcat injuries in the defensive line will help Brohm prevail. Louisville 42-28.

Middle Tennessee (plus 40½) at No. 2 LSU: The Blue Raiders got Les Miles' attention when they gained 555 yards in a 58-42 loss at Big East power Louisville. What will happen when MTSU faces a defense? It will lose. LSU 42-7.

Mississippi (plus 5) at Vanderbilt: The Rebels have won 12 of the last 14 meeting with the Commodores, including five of the last six in Nashville. BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 226 yards last week in loss to Missouri. Vandy hopes its outstanding passing combo of Chris Nickson to Earl Bennett gets back on track after last week's paltry effort against Alabama. Go with Nickson and Bennett to give the 'Dores the victory. Vanderbilt 28-24.

South Carolina State (no line) at No. 17 South Carolina: The Gamecocks insist they aren't looking past the Bulldogs to next week's game at LSU. South Carolina State is favored to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference crown behind senior quarterback Cleveland McCoy, but it is no match for Steve Spurrier's team. South Carolina 35-7.
Last week's totals: 7-2 straight, 8-1 vs. spread. For year: 18-2 straight, 11-5 vs. spread.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)