Mark Green Picks The SEC

Following a perfect week of predictions, Mark Green looks to keep his hot streak going.

Mark Green

Editor's Note: Mark Green was perfect on his picks last week as he accurately forecast the Arkansas victory at Texas and all of the other SEC games. For the season his record is 24-5 (.828).


KENTUCKY at Indiana

Ja-Lo laid it ALL on the line last Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, but he forgot run the quarterback sneak at precisely the moment when it should have been on the line. Fatal retraction. The option play was stuffed, and Bama and the Zebras home-cooked the Cats into oblivion the rest of the night.

The really big problem for Kentucky is the lack of a serious running threat. In fact, the Cats don't even have a legitimate running back (other than Lorenzen himself when he decides to take the snap and rumble down field for an occasional in-yo-face-first down). This fatal flaw will work its woe all season long as the Wildcats struggle to attain 500.

Meanwhile, Gerry Dinardo has recruited as many as 45 scholarship players at Indiana, and will certainly try to throw out the Big Red welcome mat this Saturday afternoon in Bloomington. KENTUCKY 28, Indiana 24.


VANDERBILT at TCU

Yep. The same old Vanderbilt. Don't care college just gave its student-athletes another vote of disapproval last week, and the Commodores responded with a 45-7 loss to Auburn in Nashville. Bobby Johnson has to be wondering why he ever left Furman. At least there, football players are regarded as human beings. TCU 31, VANDY 17.


UAB at SOUTH CAROLINA

Lou Holtz got back in the "L" column with last week's 31-7 thrashing at the hands of nail-tough Georgia in Athens. The 'Cocks have the same disease that afflicted them last year--no passing attack. Quarterback Dondrial Pinkins has made a few plays, but still resembles 2002 starter Corey Jenkins when it comes to launching the long yardage throws. And if South Carolina wants to make a run at the SEC East, or even get back to a bowl this season, a change in signal callers may be on the horizon. Check the box score after Saturday's contest with Watson Brown's Blazers. It could provide some season-saving answers. SOUTH CAROLINA 24, UAB 19.


Jackie Sherrill will be trying to help his Bulldogs bounce back from a slow start this season.


MISSISSIPPI STATE at HOUSTON

Neither team knows defense, and both teams are destined for mediocrity in 2003. Trouble for Mississippi State is, the Bulldogs play in the SEC.

Houston could actually win this game, but the ray of hope for fading Head Coach Jackie Sherrill is an ever-improving offense led by QB Kevin Fant and RBs Jerious Norwood and Nick Turner. I would not be at all shocked to see the Bulldogs roll around on the ground again here, even though they do have the firepower to succeed. MISS STATE 34, Houston 31


Northern Illinois at ALABAMA

Life is good for Mike Shula, whose Alabama head coaching record now stands at 2-0-1. Two wins, no real troublesome losses, and one moral victory over #1 Oklahoma. It's what we hired him for, that boy Mike. Happy days are here again. And now come the Northern Illinois Huskies, still strutting from a season-opening 20-13 overtime upset of Maryland. Quarterback Josh Haldi has been a great leader for this MAC heavyweight, and to the extent that he has time to throw Saturday night, he and his teammates might have something else to crow about come Sunday morning.

This really could be another Cinderella story, except for one little problem with the Husky secondary. It has given up too many passing yards after replacing three starters from last year's 8-4 team. In fact this fly in the upset ointment is so egregious, that Bama quarterback Brodie Croyle may get headlines Sunday comparing him to former Tide greats Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler and even Tyler Watts. Really. ALABAMA 34, Northern Illinois 17.


North Texas State at ARKANSAS

Well, did we not predict the Pigs to pull the big upset in Austin last week? Yes we did. And have we not said from the beginning that the "other white meat" from Fayetteville would be a tough shoe to chew this season in the SEC West? Yes we did. But does the Sunbelt Conference's Mean Green from Denton, Texas, really care how good Arkansas thinks they are? No, they don't. ARKANSAS 31, North Texas State 20.


TENNESSEE at FLORIDA

It was a scant two years ago when the Volunteers of the Big Orange Navy were scheduled to venture South to the Gainesville Swamp to try yet again to knock off SEC Monarch Steve Spurrier and his explosive Gators. But history has a way of surprising us all. Two airplanes took down two towers, and UT-Florida hit the back burner until year's end. What happened in that November's rescheduled clash was a shock, not only to the cruel-sauce-smothered Florida sand fleas of the Purple Porpoise, but to SEC and college football fans everywhere.

Tennessean Travis Stephens and The Big Orange crushed Florida right there in The Swamp, leaving the bull Gators belly-up in the bog, floating around in random like victims of an Everglades plane crash. Who could believe it? Not Spurrier, who blew his chance at another SEC and National Title. Not the Florida fans, who had grown accustomed to Florida dominance over the Vols. No one. But least of all Tennessee, who suddenly found themselves looking straight past the dangerous SEC Championship matchup with Nick Saban and LSU, toward a BCS National Title game, their second in three years. Life was not only good, it was extraordinary.

But then came the fall. The costly failure in Atlanta led to a sickening five-loss 2002 season during which UT not only lost to all the good teams on its schedule, but managed a mere 9.2 points per game in the process. Against mediocre Maryland in the Peach Bowl, the Vols embarrassed themselves by failing to score a touchdown, losing 30-3.

So far this season, Fulmer has fretted the continuing absence of a big-play wide receiver, and there is no real replacement for departed tight end Jason Witten. QB Casey Clausen still has never lost an SEC road game, but a youthful and rejuvenated Florida defense under the direction of new coordinator Charley Strong awaits a Tennessee offense still suffering the effects of the post-LSU decline. Can Tennessee really get up off the mat for this great challenge? Or is this the end of a long and very successful decade of dominance on the Hill? We'll know the answer Saturday. FLORIDA 28, TENNESSEE 27.


GEORGIA at LSU

The other huge game in the SEC on Saturday is an afternoon affair in Baton Rouge where Mark Richt takes his unbeaten Bulldogs to battle with Nick Saban's Bengal Tigers. Will the real head coach please stand up?

This game could define some careers. For Richt, whose Bulldogs are the defending SEC Champs, this game is more opportunity than obligation. Win, and UGA is immediately in the National Title hunt. Lose, and nobody blames you. After all, you were on the road against a tough league opponent, a team that could also make a run for the big prize.

For Nick Saban, however, this game is a proving ground for his coaching ability. It's a home game against a Top 10 conference power, guided by a junior quarterback who has never lost a road SEC start. The pressure is definitely on. Can LSU, who, under similar circumstances last year, failed in a showdown with nationally- ranked Alabama, change its stripes in 2003?

The fact is the Bengals have tended toward failure in Baton Rouge more often than not in these games. Can Saturday be any different? Honestly, I don't know. And you should never expect someone to do something they haven't done before, especially if they are favored to do so. Still, something tells me this game could be a kind of shocker. LSU 24, GEORGIA 21.


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