sp.al.sec-sider3.03

Georgia coach Kirby Smart and his third-ranked Bulldogs will try to keep pace in the race for the CFP playoffs when they host No. 7 Notre Dame on Saturday night in Athens, Ga.

With the exception of the showdown between LSU and Texas two weeks ago, there wasn't a lot of excitement to be had around the SEC in the first three full weekends of the season. That will change Saturday when fans will have an opportunity to enjoy a day-night doubleheader on CBS. The opener, on paper, is the best league game so far this season with No. 8 Auburn visiting 17th-ranked Texas A&M. The Aggies' second game in three weeks against a top-10 foe (they lost at No. 1 Clemson 24-10) will be another test to see if they're ready to take the next step under Jimbo Fisher. The nightcap, which has No. 3 Georgia hosting No. 7 Notre Dame, is a rematch of the Bulldogs' 20-19 win two years ago in South Bend. This one is in Athens, which is big for Georgia because it can't afford to lose ground in the race for the CFP playoffs with games left vs. Florida, Auburn, Missouri and Texas A&M.

1. ALABAMA

RECORD: 3-0, 1-0 West

THIS WEEK: vs. Southern Miss, 11 a.m. Saturday

TV: ESPN2

LINE: Alabama by 39

STORYLINE: The injuries continue to mount for the Crimson Tide, but the one player they can't afford to lose — quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — is still humming along nicely. Alabama has won an FBS-record 85 consecutive games against unranked foes since Nov. 2007.

2. GEORGIA

RECORD: 3-0, 1-0 East

THIS WEEK: vs. Notre Dame, 7 p.m. Saturday

TV: CBS

LINE: Georgia by 13½

STORYLINE: Sanford Stadium will be the site of a top-10 matchup for the first time since 2013 when Georgia, which was ranked ninth, edged then-No. 6 LSU 44-41. Both teams have shown strong offenses and defenses this season, but neither has had a real test — yet.

3. LSU

RECORD: 3-0, 0-0 West

THIS WEEK: at Vanderbilt, 11 a.m., Saturday

TV: SEC Network

LINE: LSU by 24

STORYLINE: LSU has put a whopping 53.5 points a game on the scoreboard in its past six outings, so it is hard to believe that Joe Burrow and the Tigers won't rough up a porous Vanderbilt defense that gave up 300 rushing yards to Georgia and 500 passing yards to Purdue.

4. AUBURN

RECORD: 3-0, 0-0 West

THIS WEEK: at Texas A&M, 2:30 p.m., Saturday

TV: CBS

LINE: Texas A&M by 4

STORYLINE: Even though Auburn is ranked in the top 10, coming in at No. 8 this week, the Tigers are a slight road dog against No. 17 Texas A&M. Auburn, however, has prevailed in all three of its visits to College Station (2013, 2015, 2017) since A&M joined the SEC in 2012.

5. FLORIDA

RECORD: 3-0, 1-0 East

THIS WEEK: vs. Tennessee, 11 a.m., Saturday

TV: ESPN

LINE: Florida by 14

STORYLINE: Quarterback Feleipe Franks was lost for the season last week, but the Gators rallied for a road win against Kentucky. Backup Kyle Trask was up to the task, leading his team to a three-TD, 19-point fourth-quarter explosion. Now, we'll see if he can do it as a starter.

6. TEXAS A&M

RECORD: 2-1, 0-0 West

THIS WEEK: vs. Auburn, 2:30 p.m., Saturday

TV: CBS

LINE: Texas A&M by 4

STORYLINE: Texas A&M easily shook off any lingering effects from its loss to No. 1 Clemson when it crushed outmanned Lamar. The first test in a demanding SEC schedule come when Auburn rolls into College Station looking for a fourth consecutive win in Kyle Field.

7. MISSOURI

RECORD: 2-1, 0-0 East

THIS WEEK: vs. South Carolina, 3 p.m., Saturday

TV: SEC Network (alt.)

LINE: Missouri by 9½

STORYLINE: With a stunning season-opening loss at Wyoming seemingly behind it, Missouri has a chance to get off to a solid start in SEC play when it hosts Carolina. Mizzou's offense has been hot, scoring 31 points or more in eight consecutive outings dating to last season.

8. KENTUCKY

RECORD: 2-1, 0-1 East

THIS WEEK: at Mississippi State, 3 p.m., Saturday

TV: SEC Network

LINE: Mississippi State by 7

STORYLINE: Kentucky is carrying a giant-sized hangover to Starkville after blowing an 11-point fourth-quarter lead against Florida and its backup quarterback a week ago. A chance to get a good start in the SEC is gone, so getting off the mat with no further damage is a key for UK.

9. MISSISSIPPI STATE

RECORD: 2-1, 0-0 West

THIS WEEK: vs. Kentucky, 3 p.m., Saturday

TV: SEC Network

LINE: Mississippi State by 7

STORYLINE: Like its opponent Saturday, Mississippi State let a fourth-quarter lead slip away at home last week against Kansas State. The Bulldogs' Kylin Hill has been a huge hit, leading the SEC and ranking third in the FBS with 143.7 rushing yards per game.

10. SOUTH CAROLINA

RECORD: 1-2, 0-1 East

THIS WEEK: at Missouri, 3 p.m., Saturday

TV: SEC Network (alt.)

LINE: Missouri by 9½

STORYLINE: The Gamecocks tried to hang with No. 2 Alabama in its SEC opener last week, but didn't have the firepower to match the Crimson Tide. Missouri should be a better test for Carolina, which won last year in a wild one that featured four lead changes in the final 11 minutes.

11. OLE MISS

RECORD: 2-1, 1-0 West

THIS WEEK: vs. Cal, 11 a.m., Saturday

TV: ESPNU

LINE: Ole Miss by 1

STORYLINE: The Rebels have rebounded from a tough season-opening loss against Memphis, but undefeated Cal will be their biggest challenge to date after the Bears went into Seattle and upset then-No. 14 Washington 20-19 two weeks ago despite an offense that has struggled.

12. ARKANSAS

RECORD: 2-1, 0-1 West

THIS WEEK: vs. San Jose State, 6:30 p.m., Saturday

TV: SEC Network

LINE: Arkansas by 21

STORYLINE: With Nick Starkel throwing for 305 yards and three TDs, the Razorbacks rolled past Colorado State 55-34 last Saturday. They get a second consecutive game against the Mountain West and a victory would give Arkansas a 3-1 mark for the first time since 2016.

13. VANDERBILT

RECORD: 0-2, 0-1 East

THIS WEEK: vs. LSU, 11 a.m., Saturday

TV: SEC Network

LINE: LSU by 24

STORYLINE: The Commodores' defense, which has been pounded on the ground by Georgia and through the air by Purdue, doesn't get a break this week. After an open date, they get an LSU offense that has been racking up yards and points at a dizzying pace this season.

14. TENNESSEE

RECORD: 1-2, 0-0 East

THIS WEEK: at Florida, 11 a.m., Saturday

TV: ESPN

LINE: Florida by 14

STORYLINE: After back-to-back losses at home to Georgia State and BYU, Jeremy Pruitt got the win his program so desperately needed last week. But a 45-point blowout of FCS foe Chattanooga won't do any good if his Vols go into Gainesville and take one on the chin.

Sheldon Mickles

Email Sheldon Mickles at smickles@theadvocate.com