After losing to Florida Atlantic in front of fewer than 10,000 fans in Murfreesboro last week, MTSU ventures into Sanford Stadium in Athens to take on proud Georgia, a team coming off a season opening 30-0 road shutout of Clemson last Saturday.
The Blue Raiders are in a state of semi-despair but may bring their A-game to the Dawgs anyway. Andy McCollum can coach, but can MTSU play? More Shockley still. GEORGIA 31, MTSU 17.
South Carolina's Lou Holtz is looking for more offensive punch from his Gamecocks.
Cavalier quarterback Matt Schaub will not make the trip to Columbia, and that could matter considering Lou Holtz's ability to game plan. The big problem for the Gamecocks, however, is an impotent offense. Carolina's offensive line is young and green, and it showed in last Saturday's woeful 14-point production against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns.
Still, quarterback Dondrial Pinkins may grow into his leadership role this weekend if wide receivers Mikel Goodman and Troy Williamson hurry up and turn around. New defenders DT Darrel Shropshire and LB Marcus Lawrence look like they have already adjusted to playing SEC defense, and that side of the ball could give the 'Cocks a fighting chance. SOUTH CAROLINA 21, Virginia 20
This game could be the most fun of all for job-hopping Memphis Defensive Coordinator Joe Lee Dunn. Barefoot Joe Lee returns to Memphis for yet another stint as chief defensive strategist, and his second assignment will be to shut down a team he once head coached. If you think Joe Lee ain't burnin' the midnight oil in Memphis this week, you wrong.
Last Saturday, Eli Manning and the Rebels looked stressed and strained in their comeback win in Nashville against youthful Vanderbilt and were lucky to win. Therefore don't expect Ole Miss to overlook Memphis this week. But do expect the Tigers to give 'em all they can handle. Might even be an upset. OLE MISS 27, Memphis 20.
The Big Orange flotilla drifted lazily through their opening home game with little fanfare (comparatively speaking), as UT played before a few thousand folks short of a sellout last Saturday at Neyland Stadium against Fresno State. Fortunately for the Vols, Fresno starting quarterback Paul Pinegar didn't see any action because of a chest injury.
This week, La'Orange entertains another Hillbilly sect, this one the Marshall Thundering Herd from the mountains of West Virginia. Unlike Fresno, Marshall is healthy, and could provide a MAC attack along the lines of the one Northern Illinois gave Maryland two weeks ago. But if you're buying futures on this one, don't invest against UT's extremely stout defense in the friendly confines of Shields-Watkins Field on ole Rocky Top, Tennessee. VOLS 34, Marshall 20
From the looks of things, Vandy Coach Bobby Johnson knows what he's doing. Last week he somehow coaxed his desperately young and undermanned defense into a nail-biting competition with a veteran Ole Miss team whose quarterback has been mentioned with the Heisman Trophy. Kiddie corners Cheron Thompson and Dominique Morris played quite well, thank you, and anybody who doesn't believe in Bobby Johnson doesn't realize just how bereft of major college experienced talent the Commodores are.
It's never been a Vandy strong point to win the one they are supposed to win, but somehow, it seems the Commodores have a sense of urgency this timeout. With some trepidation, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt against the slightly undermanned Mocs. VANDERBILT 30, UTC 27.
Can Joe Pannunzio and the Racers pull off a huge win in Lexington? I don't know, but I don't think so. J-Lo is still one heck of a football player. KENTUCKY 34, Murray State 22.
Don't kid yourself, Arkansas is loaded and experienced. And Tulsa is pathetic, or at least has been before the recent coaching change. Don't expect any Davidian miracles here, but also don't look for the Pleasure Pigs to wallow way down derry in the warm winds of the Golden Hurricanes either. Why show off in a summer shower when you have hated rival lurking Texas on the western horizon? ARKANSAS 35, Tulsa 18.
This is a silly thing for LSU to have scheduled. So far John Mackovic looks like an old man and former broadcaster acting out his fondest football fantasy by coaching a few final seasons in the Arizona desert, a pretty good place to retire if you think about it. Don't tell him, but I think he's incompetent and nearly senile. (Come on Saban, don't let me down on this one. This ain't Virginia Tech). LSU 34, Arizona 13.
Go ahead and laugh. I am. After Saturday night's debacle in Auburn, there is only more humility to spare. Ron Zook is a lunatic all right. Who else would let his team score 65 points the week before playing Miami? Will Brock Berlin exact sweet revenge on his former teammates? Ahh. Most everyone believes he will. But could this one be a legitimate "not so fast, my friend" game? Devil's advocate says Miami is a notch off, Frank Gore and all. And Gator DC Charley Strong is a defensive genius, capable of surprising the stuffing out of the proud Hurricanes on national television right there in their Coral Gables Hideout, where they never, ever lose. Yeah, I'm stupid. I like Florida. But I just can't pick em. No guts. Miami 28, FLORIDA 24.
Go ahead and laugh, part 2. If South Florida hadn't been shafted by the officials and Shaud Williams hadn't returned a punt for a touchdown, and Charley Peprah wasn't such a opportunistic cornerback, Alabama might have been singing the 0-13 blues, verse one. But since the Tide did get the help they needed--from everywhere--we have to conclude that last Saturday's 40-17 win over South Florida will not be Bama's last in 2003.
Top-ranked Oklahoma strolls into Tuscaloosa, with the still-fresh memory of last season's last ditch escape from the clutches of the Crimson Tide in Norman. For Alabama, now without three excellent defensive linemen from a year ago, a win Saturday would be HUGE. For new Coach Mike Shula, his coaches and his team, beating the Sooners would lift the pall so long draped over Bama football by Mike Price, Dennis Franchione, Mike DuBose and the NCAA. Go ahead and laugh. ALABAMA 27, Oklahoma 24.
Still laughing? Well what's not funny is the fact that Auburn's crack defense is still waiting for the Tiger offense to make up its mind as to what kind of person it wants to be. Do we yell at the young receivers and the semi-timid quarterback and tell them that they are responsible for clearing the way for the veteran running game? Or do the Tigers first establish the run with an iron-willed, fullback-led power I, dotted with any one of three of the nation's top running backs? Or, another possibility, do the Tigers, upon somber reflection, just make up their minds to...take what the defense gives us? As Pat Dye used to preach, offense is about personality. What's it gonna be boy?
Last week Auburn slept on it. Maybe we'll get an answer in the morning--in Atlanta. But with Tech's weakness in the secondary, I suspect the Tigers can put off that decision for another few weeks and still come out on top. If not, we could find ourselves praying for the end of time. AUBURN 37, Georgia Tech 13.