No. 3 Ole Miss, No. 24 LSU clash in Death Valley; Alabama's Kiffin makes return to Neyland

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Here are some things to watch in Week 9 of the Southeastern Conference season:

GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 3 Mississippi at No. 24 LSU. Ole Miss is off to its best start in more than 50 years, but now must face what appears to be an improved LSU team at night in Death Valley. The Rebels are leaning on a fantastic defense that's giving up just 10.6 points per game. The Tigers will counter with a rejuvenated running game that rushed for more than 300 yards in last week's 41-3 win over Kentucky. "They are who they are," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "It's very difficult to stop. There's not a lot of mystery to it."

MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin vs. Tennessee fans: No. 4 Alabama's a 17-point favorite to beat Tennessee for an eighth consecutive time Saturday, but Kiffin's return to Neyland Stadium still makes this game worth watching. Kiffin coached Tennessee in 2009 and left after only one year to take over Southern California's program. Four years after that unexpected exit, "Kiffin" remains a four-letter word in Knoxville.

NUMBERS GAME: Alabama's 59-0 victory last week over Texas A&M — ranked 21st at the time — represented Alabama's most one-sided victory ever against a ranked opponent. Alabama had beaten No. 14 Syracuse 61-6 in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1953. It also marked Alabama's largest margin of victory overall since a 66-3 blowout of Vanderbilt on Sept. 29, 1979. Alabama scored 35 points in the second quarter of the Texas A&M, which represented the most points the Tide had scored in a single quarter since at least 1945, the earliest year Alabama has records on that particular topic.

LONG SHOT: No. 1 Mississippi State at Kentucky. The Wildcats looked like an up-and-coming team in the SEC before falling flat in a 41-3 loss to LSU last Saturday. But Kentucky, which is a 13½-point underdog to the Bulldogs, has another chance at a marquee win, hosting the nation's top team in a rare CBS game at Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles has had a solid season, and he'll challenge a Mississippi State pass defense that ranks last in the SEC.

IMPACT PERFORMER: Missouri tailback Marcus Murphy scored on a 96-yard kickoff return, an 82-yard punt return and a 5-yard run from scrimmage last week in a 42-13 victory over Florida. He became the first Missouri player since 1976 to score three different ways in a single game. Murphy leads the SEC with 149.1 all-purpose yards per game. Murphy is one of only two Football Bowl Subdivision players to score on both a kickoff return and punt return this season.


AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Starkville, Mississippi, compiled this story.

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