Mark Green Picks The SEC: Week Five

Mark Green analyzes this week's Southeastern Conference football matchups.

Mark Green

Editor's Note: After a 5-3 week, Mark Green's record for the season is 29-8 (.784).

Georgia Tech at VANDERBILT

The conference call girl paid a visit to Ft. Worth, Tex., last Saturday, revisiting an old beau from eras gone by. The TCU Horned Toads made much use of the old girl's generosity too, piling on to the tune of 30-14 in a game which the Commodores actually led 14-7 in the first half.

Now that the Black Knights of the Cumberland have retrenched into the self-deprecating confines of the newly-downsized Vanderbilt Stadium, Head Coach Bobby Johnson must try to find a way to put up a fight against a pretty good Georgia Tech team this Saturday. The Jackets themselves were embarrassed at home last week against Clemson, 39-3. We'll see who can engineer the win, the "private school" from Atlanta, or the self-proclaimed "academic institution" on West End in Nashville. I'd say this is a no-brainer. Georgia Tech 31, VANDERBILT 21.


FLORIDA at KENTUCKY

The Crocs bellied up in The Swamp against Tennessee again last week when coaching sensation Ron Zook continued to make significant strides in distancing himself from former Gator Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. It's abundantly clear that the Zook era will likely go down as one of the most talent-wasteful in conference history.

If Kentucky had a running back, they'd win for sure Saturday. And even though they don't, this isn't Zook's kind of game, considering the coaching mismatch with Cat man Rich Brooks. Zook prefers to play teams like Florida A&M or San Jose State. Thank goodness for Defensive Coordinator Charley Strong. FLORIDA 26, KENTUCKY 24.


SOUTH CAROLINA at TENNESSEE

Speaking of shockers. What if Lou Holtz brought his still-young South Carolina Gamecocks into Neyland Stadium Saturday night and beat the Big Orange and its fearless head pumpkin right there on the banks of the Tennessee River? It'd be something, wouldn't it? Well, it won't happen--I guess--though Tennessee still lacks the big-playmaker at receiver (wait, does prayer-answerer James Banks count?) that could make them a major contender for the National Title.

South Carolina, meanwhile, found a running back last week in the person of true freshman Demetris Summers, whose debut netted 161 yards and three touchdowns in the Gamecocks' 42-10 pasting of UAB. The former Parade All-American could be the juice that fuels the Carolina offense this week if his long distance TD runs are any indication. His 54-yarder in the first quarter was the longest touchdown run for a South Carolina back since Derek Watson took one 58 yards against Kentucky in 2000.

The real key for the Cocks, however, will still be QB Dondrial Pinkins, who is showing signs of improvement. He'll have to put all it together in Knoxville Saturday night if SC and Holtz are to make a much longed-for championship statement on ESPN. I know it sounds silly, but Carolina may be ready to do just that. Could be interesting. TENNESSEE 27, SOUTH CAROLINA 24.


Texas Tech at OLE MISS

This game could be one of the wildest played all year. Neither team can run a lick, But both teams can score in bunches. Just like the WAC games of old, QBs Eli Manning of Ole Miss and the Raiders' B.J. Symons promise to put on quite a show in Oxford Saturday. Last week against N.C. State, Symons set a school passing record with 568 yards on 39-63 attempts. Whew. And the Rebels cannot defend the pass. Texas Tech 42, OLE MISS 38.

LSU at MISSISSIPPI STATE


The most diseased team in the SEC this year is not Vanderbilt. Nor Kentucky. Nor even Auburn (sorry). The sickest team title goes, without argument, to Jackie Sherrill's Mississippi State Bulldogs.

In axing assistant coaches left and right last year, Sherrill mistakenly clipped the roots off the rosebush by whacking all-world defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn. What's left is Ron Cooper, a recruiting specialist who knows nothing about what to do with them once they get on campus. And while the Dog offense is actually scoring more than 32 points per game this season, the defense is giving up more than 38!

LSU comes off a real brain-buster against the Georgia Bulldogs and could be a little tired from all the fun last Saturday in Redstick. But you gotta figure Matt Mauck, Michael Clayton, Devery Henderson, Skyler Green, Joseph Addai and Shyrone Carey will find a way to get it done in Starkville, even though the Dogs should be as ready as they know how to be. LSU 31, STATE 17.


ARKANSAS at ALABAMA

The Power of the Pig will be on display this Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, as Houston Nutt's high-flying porking machine buzzes the Bryant-Denny boneyard in search of victory number four.

Mike Shula's suddenly-vulnerable Crimson Tide took it in the face at home last week in ghostly fashion when MAC rep Northern Illinois squeezed the Tide dry in a 19-16 knockdown. The question for this week: Is Bama down for the count? Considering the appetite for vengeance (last year Alabama embarrassed the Hogs in Fayetteville) that runs cold in a Pig's eye, I would say, yes, they are. ARKANSAS 31, ALABAMA 17.


Western Kentucky at AUBURN

The defending National Champs of the 1-AA minor leagues invade Jordan-Hare to find out just how ill the Auburn offense is following a miserable, touchdown-less two- game start to the season, and an expected 45-point showing against out-manned Vanderbilt. Western is small on the defensive front, but they are quick. and any fooling around with the play-calling and the execution could result in all-universe caliber embarrassment for the Tigers.

Offensively, freshman QB Justin Haddix has played well in the Hilltoppers' three blowout wins, completing nearly 50 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and only one interception. But the real trouble with the Topper offense comes from the ground game where 230-pound tailback Chris Miller has chewed up opponents for 320 yards while averaging 7.1 yards per tote. His backfield buddy, Lerron Moore, has done similar damage, gaining 279 yards in three games. Option specialist QB Blake Ladson has also contributed on the ground, gaining 90 yards in two games.

This should not be a game in which Auburn struggles too much. But then again, Georgia Tech should not have kept Auburn out of the end zone in Atlanta either. I guess we'll just have to see how well-heeded the advice of former NFL consultant Zeke Bratkowski has been. Or at least how well-understood. AUBURN 37, WKU 16.


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