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Hot Reads: Land mines await for several teams

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The SEC teams playing FCS opponents this weekend had better come off the bus ready to play their best games. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University Athletics) The SEC teams playing FCS opponents this weekend had better come off the bus ready to play their best games. (Source: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University Athletics)
Jordan Rodgers has been the rudder in the Commodores' steady ship, but they're headed for troubled waters come Saturday. (Source: Vanderbilt University Athletics) Jordan Rodgers has been the rudder in the Commodores' steady ship, but they're headed for troubled waters come Saturday. (Source: Vanderbilt University Athletics)
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(RNN) – This is tuneup week for several NFL Lite teams, and that's a mixed bag of nuts for fans.

You see, in a normal college football season the dominant teams in this league would have used the game this Saturday to play bench riders, tweak schemes and pack a few more aces up their sleeves. That's how the world has worked up until now, and everything was just fine. 

Except this is a different world. It's a world where we have to acknowledge that conferences without automatic BCS berths actually have talented teams. It's a world where your tradition and your multi-million-dollar coach mean exactly nada.

In this world, people with zero talent can goof around on YouTube one day and become world-famous entertainers the next, so anything else is possible.

By anything else, we mean your beloved team nestled in the cradle of a power conference losing to a school you couldn't locate on a map if your life depended on it.

Four SEC teams (Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Kentucky) are playing opponents from the FCS's powerhouse Southern Conference, which features two tried and true dynasties and another team coached by a former Heisman winner.

Always content to play the party poopers, Hot Reads will tell you exactly how all the FCS underdogs can take down the FBS big boys on Saturday. We'll even tell you where the "little schools that could" are located.

Alabama A&M (7-3) at Auburn (2-8)

Huntsville, AL (214 miles away from Auburn)

The teams are meeting for the first time ever, and the Bulldogs are fielding a couple of players that could have (and probably should have) played on Saturdays for the Tigers. But that's neither here nor there… or is it?

The default rule when playing small schools is to play zone defense. Make the quarterback wait for holes to open up and hope your pass rush gets to him or have your secondary guys bait the passer into bad throws by shifting at the last second.

Just one problem – Auburn's lone interception this season ranks the team dead last in the country, and it is also near the bottom of the pile in sacks.

Auburn has a rushing defense not worthy of statistical notation, and A&M's Kaderius Lacey – who made an official recruiting visit to Auburn – leads the SWAC in rushing.

Both Auburn and Alabama notoriously refuse to play smaller intrastate schools, so if the Bulldogs pull this one off, then Troy, UAB, Alabama State and company can kiss their shot at the big boys goodbye.

Jacksonville State (6-4) at Florida (9-1)

Jacksonville, AL (424 miles away from Gainesville)

Florida's near-death experience against UL-Lafayette last week was all the indication you need to understand the Gators are hiding in a sand castle.

There's nothing from an overall or individual matchup standpoint that would lead anyone to believe Jacksonville State can win this game.

However, Florida is now playing for what? The Chick-fil-A Bowl? And this comes after what had looked like a potential championship season until three weeks ago.

Florida's offense is a shade above terrible, and Jeff Driskel's gimpy ankle definitely won't improve that.

You could turn to this game at some point Saturday and think Florida is playing the Gamecocks from South Carolina instead of the ones from Alabama.

Samford (7-3) at Kentucky (1-9)

Homewood, AL (410 miles away from Lexington)

Wow, um, where do we start? Do we even want to say that the Wildcats are favorites in this game?

To begin with, the Bulldogs have hung tough in a conference that includes Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, the FCS versions of the Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide. Surely, Michigan remembers the Mountaineers very well.

Besides that, Samford is a good defensive team. The Kentucky offense? Not so much.

And just in case it matters, Samford's coach is Pat Sullivan, a Heisman winner at Auburn.

Sam Houston State (8-2) at Texas A&M (8-2)

Huntsville, TX (53 miles from College Station)

Sam Houston State has the highest scoring offense in the FCS. Texas A&M's defense is fast, but to call that unit "good" is a bit of a stretch.

Only five teams on SHSU's level have given up fewer points, and Johnny Manziel is, well, Johnny Manziel.

Time your bathroom breaks carefully because this one could get interesting.

Wofford (8-2) at South Carolina (8-2)

Spartanburg, SC (94 miles away from Columbia)

If you're a team like USC, you pressure a team like Wofford and wait for them to beat themselves with mistakes.

There are a few problems with that strategy – you'll wait practically forever for a team that averages 357 rushing yards per game and has given the ball away just eight times.

Fullback Eric Breitenstein is quite beastly, and the Terriers' only losses were to Samford (double OT) and Georgia Southern (more on them later).

There is, of course, that bionics experiment of a defensive line that the University of South Carolina pays scholarships for. Don't laugh when we tell you this could be one of their biggest tests of the season.

Western Carolina (1-9) at Alabama (9-1)

Cullowhee, NC (354 miles from Tuscaloosa)

There's no point getting cute and trying to mine for some edge the Catamounts have. These aren't the days of Mike Shula's poor math and decision-making skills.

The Catamounts have only one win for a reason, and the Crimson Tide has two BCS titles in three years for a reason.

An angry Alabama team is going to make fertilizer out of a WCU bunch that succeeds in only making the guys on the other sideline look good.

Georgia Southern (8-2) at Georgia (9-1)

Statesboro, GA (172 miles away from Athens)

Wouldn't it be funny if...

We will let you finish that statement at your own discretion.

Obviously, this game doesn't count for anything meaningful but the running game is going to be an exciting battle.

We'll see if Jerick McKinnon and Dominique Swope, who each average more than 100 yards per game, can keep pace with track stars Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

SEC vs. SEC

Although Ole Miss and LSU is getting midday billing on CBS, for the second week in a row Hot Reads is choosing a contest that features Vanderbilt.

Vandy-Tennessee is a classic contest between a team that wants to run you to death and a team that wants to turn every possession into a battle of wills, and that's always fun to watch.

Tyler Bray and Tennessee's ridiculous attack of the skies will go up against the third-ranked passing defense in the SEC.

Common sense tells you that a gritty Vanderbilt team on a four-game winning streak and playing at home should beat a Vols team that hasn't beat an SEC opponent since last year and has frequently been its own worst enemy.

But put common sense in a helmet and shoulder pads, and see how far it gets you.

Vandy coach James Franklin hinted last week that their problems with turnovers (minus-6 margin this season) will cost them at some point. That point has arrived.

The Commodores have a workmanlike (translation: barely average) offense, and they're not good at scoring or stopping people in the red zone. Not to mention, no one is really going to get rattled in a stadium that only holds 40,000 people. With all that working against them, they cannot afford to give possessions away.

As troubling as it is to watch Tennessee try and play tackle football, they have an offense explosive enough to bail them out and get them past Vandy.

By the way, the last NFL Lite team Tennessee beat was Vanderbilt. At this rate, they may try to go to an actual NFL schedule and play the Commodores twice during the regular season.

This Week's Unique Stat

6: Georgia Southern has won six FCS national championships, more than any other team in history. They shared a conference title this year with Wofford and Appalachian State, a school that has won three national championships.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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