Holiday swap for Arkansas-LSU, Auburn-Alabama

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas and LSU have been displaced from their traditional spot the day after Thanksgiving.

Second-ranked Alabama will play at Auburn this Friday, meaning the Razorbacks and 17th-ranked Tigers will face off Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La.

"I really liked it on Friday. I thought that was a great deal," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "We played on national TV and all the high school players watched it. Every time we went out recruiting, whether we were in a home or at school, the players or coaches and teachers all watched that game."

The Razorbacks beat LSU 31-30 last year.

Arkansas and LSU haven't played on a Saturday since 1995. Charles Bloom, associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, said CBS decided it wanted Alabama and Auburn on Friday. The Iron Bowl will be on Friday next year as well.

"After that, it's up to whatever CBS wants to do," Bloom said.

The Arkansas-LSU rivalry is by no means the SEC's most storied, but the Friday slot made it unique, and the last two games have been thrillers. The Razorbacks beat the top-ranked Tigers 50-48 in triple overtime in 2007.

Auburn is hoping for an upset like that this week. Alabama is trying for a second consecutive unbeaten regular season.

"I think it's great that the game's on national TV and it's on CBS, and it'll be good for both teams in the exposure that we get," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "Whatever people decide to do relative to what's best for the conference and what's best for the game, we'll certainly do our part to try to get our team ready to play their best football."


SPECIAL RIVALRY: Greg McElroy grew up going to Texas-Oklahoma games in Dallas every year, and understands "it's a special rivalry." No. 2 Alabama's quarterback, who grew up in Texas, said the Alabama-Auburn game trumps it because the Iron Bowl is a statewide obsession.

"This is a state-pride game, a game everyone in the state is paying attention to and the fact there are two flagship universities in this state," McElroy said. "The battle for state bragging rights is what makes this game a little bigger than Texas-OU. I think Texas-OU became so popular because of the success of the teams.

"But if you look at the tradition of this rivalry, it far passes anything at Texas and OU."

Tight end Colin Peek has played for Georgia Tech in another in-state rivalry with Georgia.

"The Iron Bowl and Michigan-Ohio State, those are the two biggest ones in my eyes," he said.


NOT GOING ANYWHERE, FOR NOW: Kentucky's present is going a little too well for coach Rich Brooks to think about the future.

Brooks bristled earlier this week when asked whether he had any plans on stepping down at the end of the season. Brooks has been noncommittal about his return in 2010.

"As far as whether I'm coming back next year, I'm like that old Energizer bunny; I might need some batteries recharged, but we'll talk about that at the appropriate time," Brooks said on Monday.

The Wildcats have already tabbed offensive coordinator Joker Phillips as Brooks' replacement. However, the Wildcats (7-4 overall, 3-4 SEC) are on the cusp of the best regular season in decades heading in Saturday's season finale against Tennessee (6-5, 3-4).


PLAYERS FIRST: Les Miles hopes that LSU fans upset about clock mismanagement and suspect play-calling during the final minute of a 25-23 loss at Ole Miss last weekend won't take it out on the players.

The No. 17 Tigers (8-3, 4-3 SEC) play their regular season finale at home on Saturday night against Arkansas (7-4, 3-4), with third-place in the SEC West on the line.

"The thing that I would encourage is support this football team," Miles said. "They've worked awfully hard. They are a quality group of men, and there are some special things left in the season for us -- the opportunity to win nine in the regular season and the opportunity to win 10 in the bowl season."


GOOD KICKS: Georgia coach Mark Richt has had plenty to worry about in a 6-5 season. At least he has been able to trust his kicking game.

Punter Drew Butler and kicker Blair Walsh each are among three finalists for top national awards -- Butler for the Ray Guy Award given to the nation's top punter and Walsh for the Lou Groza Award given to the nation's top kicker.

Butler leads the nation with his average of 48.8 yards per punt. He is on pace to break the school's single-season top average of 45.4 yards by Chip Andrews in 1984.

Walsh has made 16 of 17 field goals, including each of his four attempts from 50 yards or longer.

"To have two guys in the top three in the country in these awards is phenomenal, and they deserve it," Richt said. "Both of them have a chance of winning it, legitimate shots."


HAPPILY EMBARRASSED: South Carolina defensive tackle Nathan Pepper is willing to be humiliated again if it means he can finally get another win over the Gamecocks' biggest rival.

The senior earned a special place in the rivalry's lore in 2006 when he appeared on his way to a touchdown after picking off a pass. But he started celebrating before making it to the end zone and Tigers running back James Davis knocked the ball away through the end zone.

Pepper can't forget that play. After all, his home is in Greenville, just a short drive from Clemson. But he also can't forget it's the only time he has beaten the Tigers, a 31-28 win after Clemson missed a game-tying field goal at the gun.

"I think about that a lot. I really wish I had that play back. I played tough that game," Pepper said. "We came out with a win, that's most important. I would take that again this year. That's hard to say, but I would take that again for a W."


BRRRRRRR: The projected temperature for kickoff at Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium is in the 30s.

Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin isn't worried about how his players will handle the cold. He is worried about himself, though.

"I think it's supposed to be 5 to 8 miles per hour wind, and it's supposed to be 35 degrees. It's really cold for me," said the coach who's spent most of the last decade in either California or Florida. "I'll be really cold. I get cold when it's 50 degrees here."


AP sports writers John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Will Graves in Lexington, Ky., Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La., Charles Odum in Athens, Ga., Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, S.C., and Beth Rucker in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to this report.