No. 12 LSU, No. 7 Auburn in pivotal SEC West showdown
Here are some things to watch during the third week of the Southeastern Conference football season:
GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 12 LSU at No. 7 Auburn: LSU’s the lower-ranked team, but has won eight of the last 11 meetings in this series. The Tigers stunned a lot of doubters during the season’s opening weekend when they beat then-No. 8 Miami 33-17 . Now LSU gets a chance to establish itself as an SEC title contender against Auburn, which also has a quality non-conference win this season over Washington .
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: The Ole Miss offense vs. Alabama’s defense. Ole Miss has been rolling through two games, averaging nearly 600 total yards in wins against Texas Tech and Southern Illinois. The Rebels’ are particularly talented at receiver, where A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, DaMarkus Lodge and Braylon Sanders are all legitimate big-play threats. Alabama will counter with a defense that — as usual — is among the most talented in the country and has already stifled both Louisville and Arkansas State. The Crimson Tide beat the Rebels 66-3 last season .
NUMBERS GAME: Only seven FBS teams haven’t lost over the last five seasons to a team that finished the year with a losing record. Four are in the SEC: Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU. The others are Michigan, Navy and Ohio State. ... Vanderbilt has won eight straight regular-season nonconference games heading into this week’s trip to No. 8 Notre Dame. ... Alabama has lost just once to a team outside the top 15 in the Associated Press poll since 2008 (35-21 to No. 19 South Carolina in 2010). All other FBS programs have lost at least 10 games to teams outside the top 15 since 2008. ... Kentucky has won its SEC road opener in back-to-back seasons. The last time that happened was in 1983-84. ... Only three FBS teams have played two games already without committing a turnover. Those three teams are SEC members LSU and Tennessee as well as Clemson. ... Arkansas has forced seven turnovers and is tied for second nationally in that category. Last year, Arkansas had just 17 takeaways all season.
UPSET WATCH: Missouri is favored by seven at Purdue after losing 35-3 at home to the Boilermakers last season. The unbeaten Tigers undoubtedly have played better than the winless Boilermakers to this point, but Purdue is going to be desperate for a victory after dropping its first two games.
IMPACT PERFORMERS: Vanderbilt’s linebackers have played a big role in the Commodores’ 2-0 start, as the attention paid to preseason second-team all-SEC selection Charles White has enabled Kenny Hebert and Josh Smith to make plays. Hebert has three sacks, putting him in a nine-way tie for second place among all FBS players. Smith had three tackles for loss against Nevada last week. Their playmaking ability could prove critical against Notre Dame, which allowed 17 tackles for loss already this season.
AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.