Tony's Top 10: Bama-Tennessee isn't much of a rivalry, nor is FSU-Miami

  •  

Steve Spurrier is a Florida Gator through and through. He won the 1966 Heisman Trophy at Florida. He met his wife, Jerri, there and they have been married for 46 years. He won six SEC championships and a national title as the Gators' coach. His children went to school at the University of Florida. The only thing he loves more than UF is beating its football team.

On Saturday Spurrier returns to the place he labeled "The Swamp" -- because only Gators get out alive -- for the fourth time since becoming the head coach at South Carolina. His first meeting with the Gators was in Columbia but it set the tone. Spurrier beat them, and their new head coach Urban Meyer, 30-22.

On Spurrier's first trip back to Gainesville in 2006, Florida had to block a field goal on the last play of the game to win 17-16. After the game Spurrier said: "Looks like it might be the year of the Gator." That Florida team went on to win the national championship.

More on Week 8
Analysis

Related links
College Football 360
More college football coverage

In 2008 the Gators dominated South Carolina 56-6. That Florida team also won the national championship.

In 2010, South Carolina controlled the Gators from start to finish, winning 36-14 and putting the Gamecocks into their first-ever SEC championship game. Spurrier ranks it as one of his most satisfying victories.

Now he has the chance to go back to Gainesville where the stakes could not be higher. Spurrier has a chance to knock off the No. 2 team in the BCS and to put his Gamecocks in prime position to win the SEC East. South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC) has already beaten Georgia and would have only two SEC games left with Tennessee and Arkansas, both in Columbia.

How badly does Spurrier want to win this game? Listen to the most competitive 67-year-old man on Earth.

"Florida will always be my school. When my coaching days are over, I'll be more of a Gator then," said Spurrier. "But I'm a Gamecock now and this is our team."

Top 25 Preview: South Carolina at Florida

Here is the rest of our Top 10 for the weekend:

Is Bama-Tennessee still a rivalry?

This used to be one of the South's greatest rivalries dating back to Robert Neyland and Wallace Wade in the 1920s. To the old guard at both schools, "The Third Saturday in October" is a special place on the calendar. But since Nick Saban arrived at Alabama it has been tough sledding for the Vols, who have lost five straight to the Crimson Tide. The last two Alabama wins have been by a combined score of 78-16. It is impossible to overstate how badly Tennessee's Derek Dooley needs a signature win. After last week's 41-31 loss to Mississippi State, Dooley is 0-13 against ranked teams at Tennessee. He is 1-10 in his last 11 SEC games. And he will be coaching from the press box for the second consecutive week as he recovers from hip surgery.

A dangerous game for LSU

After losing to Florida on Oct. 6, the LSU Tigers had their backs to the wall but responded by squeaking out a 23-21 win over South Carolina in Death Valley. At No. 6, they are the highest ranked team with a loss in the BCS. They can get back to Atlanta and the SEC championship game by running the table. But before LSU gets a week off to get ready for Alabama on Nov. 3, the Tigers have to go to College Station and face one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M leads the SEC in rushing (112.67 ypg) and last week set an SEC record with 567 yards of total offense in a 59-57 win over Louisiana Tech. He has also thrown 14 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. LSU pressured South Carolina's Connor Shaw into uncharacteristic mistakes last week. Let's see if the Tigers can do the same with the man who has become known as "Johnny Football." The game starts at 11 a.m. local time. Top 25 Preview: LSU at Texas A&M

Can K-State do it again on the road?

One thing is for sure. The Kansas State coaching staff looked long and hard at West Virginia's game tape with Texas Tech. Whatever Art Kaufman and the Red Raiders' defensive staff did to hold West Virginia to 14 points will certainly be repeated when the No. 4 Wildcats (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) go to Morgantown. West Virginia (5-1, 2-1), which was being discussed as a national championship contender just a week ago, has to have this one just to stay alive in the Big 12 race. It has not been an easy week of practice at West Virginia. "We didn't execute very well, we didn't coach very well, and we didn't play with much effort," coach Dana Holgorsen said of the loss. He also called Kansas State "the most disciplined team I've seen in a long time on all three sides of the ball." Kansas State has already beaten both Oklahoma and Iowa State on the road this season. Top 25 Preview: Kansas State at West Virginia

Didn't Florida State-Miami used to be a rivalry?

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher caught a lot of flak for conservative play-calling after his team blew a 16-0 lead and lost at North Carolina State on Oct. 6. He had to take it out on somebody, so that burden fell on the head of Boston College, which was hammered 51-7 in Tallahassee last Saturday. Florida State (6-1, 3-1 ACC) is out of the national championship picture, but the Seminoles can win the ACC Atlantic if they run the table and N.C. State (4-2, 1-1) loses again in the league. With no margin for error, Florida State has to win at Miami (Fla.) (4-3, 3-1), which may be without starting quarterback Stephen Morris (ankle). Key stat: Miami is ranked No. 118 nationally in rushing defense. Enough said. Top 25 Preview: Florida State at Miami

Will Notre Dame be looking ahead to the Sooners?

No. 5 Notre Dame (6-0) needed a controversial goal-line stand last week to beat Stanford (20-13). The Irish may play ugly, but if you love defense, what they are doing is a thing of beauty. Notre Dame has gone four straight games without giving up a defensive touchdown (Stanford's only touchdown last week was a fumble recovery in the end zone). In six games Notre Dame has allowed only three touchdowns total and zero rushing touchdowns. Saturday's opponent, Brigham Young, certainly knows defense. The Cougars are No. 5 nationally in total defense despite getting shredded for 450 yards last week against Oregon State. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly insists that his team will not be looking ahead to next week's big trip to No. 9 Oklahoma.

"I think it's a trap game each week if you think you can take a breather," Kelly said.

FYI: Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was cleared to play on Wednesday after suffering a concussion against Stanford. Top 25 Preview: BYU at Notre Dame

Can Michigan State make it five straight?

Michigan coach Brady Hoke knows that things are different when the Wolverines play Michigan State. You play Purdue, Northwestern or even Ohio State -- those guys try to spread you out. Not the Spartans, Hoke said. With them the style is "I'm going to bloody your nose." Michigan State has won four straight against the Wolverines, the best stretch against the state rival since 1956-63 when the Spartans went 6-0-2 in eight games. And with Michigan State (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) struggling, Coach Mark Dantonio could really use another win over the Wolverines. Dantonio has made it clear that there are few things he enjoys more than beating Michigan. In fact, there is a quote from Dantonio in the Michigan weight room: "I'm from Ohio and that's why beating Michigan is such a kick for me. We will continue to do that. I promise you that."

Dantonio does not back away from his approach to this game. "It (the rivalry) is important because we've made it important," he told The Detroit News.

Letdown looming for Red Raiders?

After knocking off West Virginia last Saturday in Lubbock, No. 17 Texas Tech (5-1, 2-1) is bound to have some kind of letdown when it goes to No. 23 TCU (5-1, 2-1). So it doesn't help that the Red Raiders are starting to get thin at receiver. Tight end Jace Amaro is out after spending a couple of nights in the hospital after the West Virginia game. Wide receiver Javon Bell fractured his foot before the West Virginia game and is gone for the season. Bradley Marquez suffered a knee injury in the WVU game. Here is a lingering memory. Last season Texas Tech shocked the world when the Red Raiders went on the road and beat Oklahoma (41-38), ending the Sooners' 39-game home winning streak. But then injuries kicked in and Texas Tech lost its last five games.

"We're a better team than we were last year, but we're also a target," said coach Tommy Tuberville.

Upset alert for Bearcats

Cincinnati (5-0, 1-0 Big East) has already beaten Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech this season. The Bearcats, ranked No. 21 in the first BCS Standings, have a monster Big East game coming up with No. 16 Louisville next Friday, Oct. 26. But if Cincinnati wants to get to that game undefeated, it better be ready for Saturday's trip to Toledo (6-1, 4-0 MAC). Toledo lost its opener at Arizona (24-17) and has since reeled off six straight victories and sits atop the West Division of the MAC. Toledo is coached by Matt Campbell, 32, the youngest head coach in the FBS. The Rockets are averaging 36.2 points per game and have scored 177 points in their last four games. When UC Coach Butch Jones was asked if Toledo has the best offense his team has faced, he said "By far." Top 25 Preview: Cincinnati at Toledo

Mack Brown can't lose to Baylor again

It has not been a fun week to be Mack Brown. With voices around the country speculating that the sun is beginning to set on his era at Texas (17-14 since losing the 2009 national championship game at Alabama), Brown has fought back this week. Despite a second straight blowout loss to Oklahoma, 63-21 (and it wasn't that close), Brown said "I know I've time to fix it and I know I can." But the fact remains that Baylor (3-2), which comes to Austin on Saturday, has won its last two games against Brown's Longhorns. A third straight loss to the Bears would not help Brown's case to stay.

Watch the Tony Barnhart Show on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on The CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
  •  
 
 

Biggest Stories

CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 

Latest

Most Popular