Louisiana State should find out in a hurry whether its defense can hold the fort until the revamped offense comes of age.
The No. 17 Tigers, with a virtually intact defense but new offensive backfield, open at home Saturday night with a big test -- No. 7 Texas A&M.
'A&M has both an experienced offense and an experienced defense,' LSU Coach Bill Arnsparger said of the team that went 9-2 last season before trouncing Auburn 36-16 in the Cotton Bowl. 'It will be a real challenge.'
LSU returns 10 defensive starters from a group that last year allowed an average of only 10 points a game. The Tigers finished with a 9-1-1 record.
'We need to be better because the offenses we will play against this year will be better,' Arnsparger said,
In other Southeast home games Saturday, it's No. 2 Miami vs. Texas Tech, No. 4 Alabama vs. Southern Mississippi in Birmingham, No. 8 Tennessee vs. Mississippi State, No. 14 Georgia vs. Duke, Kentucky vs. Rutgers. Also, Tulane vs. Texas Christian and Memphis State vs. Arkansas State.
In road games, it's Ole Miss at No. 15 Arkansas, Vanderbilt at No. 18 Maryland and Louisville at Indiana.
No. 11 Auburn, Florida and Florida State are idle.
Miami moved up five notches in the rankings by beating South Carolina 34-14 and Florida 23-15. The Hurricanes are off next week, then host No. 1 Oklahoma in what could decide this year's national championship.
'We can't afford to think about that right now,' Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde said. 'We've got to get past Texas Tech before we can worry about Oklahoma.'
Testaverde, who threw for 3,238 yards and 21 TDs during last year's 10-1 season, has gotten off to a relatively slow start. He hit 29 of 55 passes for 392 yards in the first two games and threw three interceptions against Florida.
Alabama, 2-0, has won only two of its last four meetings with Southern Mississippi. The Crimson Tide must avoid looking ahead to the following Saturday when they visit Florida in what may be a key to this year's Southeastern Conference championship.
Tennessee, which beat New Mexico 35-21 last week, opens defense of its SEC crown against Mississippi State, which didn't win an SEC game last year.
'Mississippi State is coming off a very impressive victory (24-17) over Syracuse,' Tennessee Coach Johnny Majors said. 'Their quarterback Don Smith (last year's SEC total offense champ) is extremely quick, a dynamic performer.'
Georgia opensfollowing an offseason in which university instructor Jan Kemp won $1 million after accusing the school of firing her for protesting preferential academic treatment for athletes.
'I feel more ill at ease about going into this game than any opener in my 23 years (as Georgia head coach),' Vince Dooley said. 'It's no one's fault. We are not in as good condition as other football teams because of our cool weather and we have a number of injuries. We're already critical in our defensive line.'
Ole Miss lost 24-19 to Arkansas last year and opened this season with a 28-6 decision over Memphis State.
'Arkansas is a really physical football team,' Rebels cornerback Jonathan Shelley said. 'They'll run the ball right at you. We're going to have to play the run and make them pass because we can't have them do both.'
In Watson Brown's debut as Vanderbilt coach last week, the Commodores lost 42-10 at Alabama.
'We go from the pot to the frying pan this week,' he said. 'Maryland is big and strong and has a very diversified offense.'