Gators must break trend to keep their division title hopes alive

Updated: October 14, 2003, 12:51 PM ET

ATLANTA -- Ron Zook is harboring ideas of steering perennial power Florida back to the Southeastern Conference championship game despite already having two league losses.

He knows history is on his side. Eight teams have gained a spot in the previous 11 title games, including two with three setbacks.

"The door was never shut in our eyes," Zook said after the Gators ended LSU's hopes of a perfect season with a 19-7 upset victory in Baton Rouge on Saturday. With East-leading Georgia and West-leading Auburn still on the schedule, Florida definitely must break its trend to make it to the championship game for the eighth time.

This year's team has a 3-3 overall record, winning every other week. The Gators visit No. 11 Arkansas, smarting from its first loss of the season to Auburn, in a game that will be nationally televised by CBS on Saturday.

The trend of this season says the Gators will lose to the Razorbacks. Series history favors Florida. The teams have met only four times, with Arkansas beating Florida in the 1982 Bluebonnet Bowl game.

But since joining the SEC, Arkansas has been unable to beat Florida in three meetings. In fact, the Hogs have never come close -- losing 34-3 in the 1995 SEC title game, 42-7 at Fayetteville in 1996 and 56-7 at Gainesville in 1997.

Since Houston Nutt took over the Razorbacks in 1998, Arkansas has posted a 31-6 record in games played in Fayetteville and Little Rock. The Hogs are favored by 6{ points.

No one knows which Florida team will show up -- the one that knocked off LSU on the road or the one that lost a week before at home to Mississippi. The guess is Zook's young troops won't pull off a second upset in a row. Arkansas 21-17.

Elsewhere around the SEC this week, with No. 21 Tennessee having an open date:

Alabama (no line) at Mississippi: Third team quarterback Brandon Avalos could start again if the top two Tide quarterbacks, Brodie Croyle and Spencer Pennington, haven't recovered sufficiently from shoulder injuries. Eli Manning has a chance to lead the Rebels to a rare victory over Bama, which leads the series 40-8-2. Ole Miss 28-24.

Mississippi State (plus 21{) at No. 19 Auburn: It looks like Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and the Tigers are starting to look like the powerful team they were thought to be before the season began with losses to Southern Cal and Georgia Tech. State has won two in a row. That streak won't reach three. Auburn 31-7.

No. 4 Georgia (minus 24) at Vanderbilt: The Bulldogs have too many weapons. David Greene & Co. won't have any trouble disposing of the Commodores. Georgia 42-7.

Ohio University (no line) at Kentucky: The Wildcats better be ready for this foe from the Mid American Conference, a league that thrives on stunning teams from more highly touted leagues. Kentucky 24-21.

No. 10 LSU (minus 4) at South Carolina: Matt Mauck and the Tigers get back on track against the Gamecocks. LSU 27-14.

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Last week's totals: 5-3 straight, 5-2 vs. spread; for year: 41-15 straight, 27-23 vs. spread.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index