SEC teams get a break in tough conference schedule

Even the Southeastern Conference has an occasional slow

weekend.

None of the five SEC teams in the national rankings play each

other on Saturday, though several are hosting Football Championship

Subdivision programs.

It’s safe to say when coaches and players talk about the

treacherous SEC schedule they weren’t talking about hosting Furman,

Georgia Southern, The Citadel or Samford.

Still, there always seems to be some intrigue in the SEC.

Several teams have things they need to work on in advance of next

week’s slate, which is filled with rivalry games and BCS

implications.

No. 3 Alabama still has an outside chance of playing for a

national title. The Crimson Tide host Georgia Southern, but coach

Nick Saban isn’t taking the game lightly.

It’s not like Alabama doesn’t have a few things to tweak,

including a kicking game that’s missed six field goals over the

past two weeks. And Georgia Southern is a pretty good, too, with a

9-1 record this season and six national championships at the

Football Championship Subdivision level.

”Teams like this beat Division I teams all the time,” Saban

said. ”Appalachian State beat Michigan a couple of years ago. We

need to have the proper respect for who we’re playing and how they

do what they do. We also need to understand that it’s not about

them; it’s really about us and what our goals are in what we’re

doing.

”It really doesn’t matter who we’re playing against.”

Saban isn’t the only SEC coach guarded against his team becoming

the next Michigan.

No. 14 South Carolina is still trying to improve its offense

after the mid-season losses of quarterback Stephen Garcia

(dismissed from team) and running back Marcus Lattimore (knee). The

Gamecocks host The Citadel, and Connor Shaw’s performance under

center will certainly be a main focus.

But South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he didn’t have

specific passing numbers in mind.

”You don’t go into a game saying we’re going to experiment

throwing the ball every down,” Spurrier said. ”We’d like to throw

a little better than we have been, certainly. But we’ve got to mix

it up and try to win us the ball game the best way we can. But we

do need to improve our passing game, see if we can do a little bit

better.”

Florida and Auburn are having poor years by their standards and

are simply looking for wins when they host Furman and Samford,

respectively.

The Gators need a victory just to be assured of bowl eligibility

– something they haven’t had to worry about in more than two

decades. Auburn is trying to move on after last week’s 45-7 setback

to Georgia, which was the program’s worst loss since 1996.

”It’s another week to go out there and prepare, go against

another opponent, and just clean up things that we need to clean

up,” Florida quarterback John Brantley said. ”We’ve got to treat

it like any other kind of game, like an SEC game.”

There are a few meaningful SEC games this week.

No. 13 Georgia hosts Kentucky looking to clinch the Eastern

Division title and a spot in the SEC championship game and

Vanderbilt will try to become bowl eligible when it plays at

Tennessee.

No. 6 Arkansas hosts Mississippi State in a matchup featuring

the Razorbacks’ league-leading offense and the Bulldogs’ talented

defense.

No. 1 LSU figures to have an easy game at Mississippi. The

Rebels have lost 12 straight conference games and on Tuesday

suspended starting quarterback Randall Mackey and leading rusher

Jeff Scott.

But like most coaches, those in the SEC are a paranoid bunch –

even when the schedule appears to take an easier turn.

”What has to happen for a team that wins a championship is they

have to handle these opponents in similar fashion, treat them with

their best effort, understand how we play offense, defense and

special teams,” LSU coach Les Miles said. ”It doesn’t look any

different just because of the opponent that we play.”

—–

AP Sports Writers John Zenor, Jeffrey Collins, Mark Long and

Brett Martel contributed to this story.

—–

Follow David Brandt on Twitter:

http://www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP