Daniel Shirey, US Presswire
Georgia running back Todd Gurley is making SEC teams notice him.
By Nick Cole, USA TODAY Sports
After just four games at the collegiate level, the performance of Georgia running back Todd Gurley has caused coaches, players and fans all around the Southeastern Conference to take notice.
The freshman leads the SEC in rushing yards (406), yards per carry (9.1), all-purpose yards (657), and scoring (seven touchdowns).
"Todd's a big, physical guy," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Very good game speed and balance, you know, the things that you're looking for in a back. He's got a lot of the tools to be very productive."
The 6-foot-1, 218-pounder ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries in a 48-3 win over Vanderbilt last week.
"Gurley is a guy that really stood out to me," Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. "He's a big, strong, physical runner and he's playing with a lot of confidence right now.
"(He) is as big and as impressive of a freshman running back that I've seen."
This week, Gurley and the Georgia offense become Derek Dooley's concern as the Vols travel to Athens for their first road game of the season.
"This is probably their best team they have had in a while," Dooley said of the Bulldogs, which lead the SEC with 47 points per game. "They're as explosive as they have ever been on offense and they're still playing great defense, so it's just going to take 60 minutes of performing to your best."
Dooley, who is 0-11 against ranked opponents as the Vols head coach, will be looking to get a signature win against the No. 5 Bulldogs.
"That's kind of our next step," Dooley said. "We're going to have to go out there and perform and beat one of these teams if that's where we want to be (ranked)."
New place, familiar face: As Texas A&M settles into its first season in the SEC, the Aggies are experiences many new thingsâ?? New opponents, new coaching staff, new offensive schemes, a new freshman at quarterback, and various other milestones for a university making a conference transition.
Saturday, the Aggies will host an opponent they should be a little more comfortable with in the Arkansas Razorbacks. This will mark the 69th meeting between the two programs, which have a rivalry spawned from the now defunct Southwest Conference.
Arkansas has come out on top in the three most recent meeting, including a 42-38 win last year at Cowboy Stadium.
"We're not talking about the last three years," Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. "We're talking about it being a conference football game, and from the standpoint that it's an SEC division matchup, the game become very important."
Arkansas is currently on a three game losing streak under interim head coach John L. Smith, dropping home games to Louisana-Monroe, Alabama, and Rutgers.
Rest comes early: After just four weeks of play, four SEC schools have a break in the schedule this week.
Among the teams enjoying a bye week are undefeated No. 11 Florida (4-0, 3-0) and No. 21 Mississippi State (4-0, 1-0).
"The bye week comes at a pretty good time for us," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "We have a tough stretch of eight straight games, seven of them being conference games, coming up after the bye week."
The Bulldogs will travel to Kentucky next week.
The Gators, who hosts No. 3 LSU in The Swamp next week in what is expected to be a showdown of unbeatens, will use this opportunity to get some key players back in good health.
Starting linebacker Jelani Jenkins has been out of action since fracturing his thumb against Texas A&M on September 8, but is one of the injured players Florida coach Will Muschamp is optimistic about having back for the game against LSU.
"Right now we feel like he should be able to go," Muschamp said. "He's going to see a specialist on Friday and they're going to remove the pin from his thumb. If he were to play, it would be in a cast."
Nick Cole also writes for The Tennessean.
Copyright 2012 USA TODAY