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Around the SEC West - Week 4

The goings on of the rest of the SEC are somewhat difficult to truly follow. Because of the number of times that I have seen uninformed fans make sweeping judgments of opposing teams based solely on their quarterback and halfback, I decided to start a segment where, though we will talk about halfbacks and quarterbacks, we'll also talk about the other players on teams that are succeeding or failing.

After seeing Brian Walker's Elbow come through in a strong way for me last week, I'm excited about this week's Around the SEC segments, and I'm sure he'll bring a good opinion to his segment. That should come sometime later today or tomorrow.

The news that Dont'a Hightower is out for the season is tough to stomach for the Tide, and rightfully so. Hightower was beginning to have the season that many fans expected. I'm sure that Alabama has another good linebacker waiting, but Hightower's presence will at least allow opposing offenses an opportunity to run away from Ronaldo McClain only to run directly into a linebacker as capable as Hightower. Something being overlooked this season is just how well Javier Arenas is playing at cornerback. The knock on the dynamic kick returner last season was that he was worthless in pass coverage, but Arenas is quickly proving that to be a false statement. Along with adept pass coverage, Arenas has three sacks and doesn't shy away from contact. Alabama plays at Kentucky at 11:20 Saturday. Coverage is on ESPN360 and Gameplan.

The Arkansas offensive line has got to do a better job keeping the defense away from Ryan Mallet. While they have only given up five sacks, they have already allowed 12 quarterback hurries through three games. Eight of those came against Alabama, so it could have just been one bad game, but Alabama's defense, while maybe the best in the conference, is a better indicator of what they'll see for the rest of the season than Missouri State or even Georgia are. On the flip side, Arkansas has only six hurries on defense, and three of those came against Missouri State. They'll have to get that number up to compete in the SEC. Arkansas "hosts" Texas A&M at 6:30 Saturday in Jerry Jones' new baby. Coverage is available on ESPN2 and ESPN360.

Freshman phenom Onterio McCalebb, while excellent, has stopped his feverish early-season pace as of late. Against West Virginia two weeks ago, he rushed for a poor 2.5 yards per carry on eight carries. The next week, against Ball State, McCalebb had 83 yards on eight carries, but one of those went 62 yards, so his adjusted yards per carry (which I could calculate if I was as smart as Chris Brown), is much lower. He's a talented runner, but he needs to get back to running the way he was early in the year. Auburn travels to Knoxville at 6:45 on Saturday. Coverage for that game comes from ESPN and ESPN360.

A bright spot on the LSU offense, highly touted QB/WR Russell Sheppard is getting the ball in some unconventional ways and has 74 yards (at 6.7 yards per carry) to show for it. The Tigers need to get Sheppard the ball more, since he can move the pylons with his feet. The freshman will, I'm sure attempt at least one pass this season, but they should use his strength (running the ball) often. LSU does not have offensive talent that can afford to be conservative this season. In Saturday's marquee matchup, LSU travels to Athens to take on the #18 Georgia Bulldogs at 2:30 on CBS.

Anthony Dixon is finally having the season as a senior that many SEC fans expected him to have as a sophomore. Dixon is averaging over 100 yards a game and has only failed to hit the century mark once, against Auburn, a game in which he rushed for a respectable 4.6 yards per carry and 92 yards. Dan Mullen's use of Anthony Dixon should quiet critics who speculated that the "Florida offense" was incapable of producing legitimate halfbacks. MSU hosts the Ramblin' Wreck this Saturday at 6:30. You'll need ESPN360 or Gameplan to catch this one.