Mark Green Picks the SEC

Mark Green discusses terriers, bulldogs, wildcats, gorillas and other animals plus an interesting intersectional matchup on this week's SEC schedule.

Editor's Note: Mark Green is 39-15 for the season on his SEC picks after posting a 3-2 mark last week. Mark missed the Auburn loss at Arkansas and the Ole Miss victory at LSU.


Wofford at SOUTH CAROLINA

One of the few remaining schools in the South that stills calls itself a "college" instead of a "university," Wofford takes on in-state SEC power South Carolina in Columbia Saturday afternoon, just for the fun of it. The good ole college try from this Spartanbug-based Southern Conference team will come on the heels of a 13-0 shutout of The Citadel last weekend in Charleston. A Terrier win would make even Wofford's season record at 4-4. But then a 17-game winning streak would make Vanderbilt the 2003 college football National Champion. SOUTH CAROLINA 48, WOFFORD 10.


KENTUCKY at MISSISSIPPI STATE

Since losing a home-field squeaker to South Carolina five weeks ago, Mississippi State has traveled the Whale's Road while gurgitating inside the belly of the fish. Losing everything along the way, Joe Lee and Jackie have looked like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, graduating magna cum pumpkin well before Halloween. Cinderella they ain't. And the hayride's not over yet. These are the same two Jakes who had boasted to the Birmingham News in the preseason that the Bulldogs were ready for a run at the West in 2001.

Kentucky, meanwhile has made a habit of the near- upset in recent weeks, dressing up as candy apple blue-clad pretenders but scaring the wits out of would-be contenders LSU and Georgia. The 'Cats fully intend to make use of their 300-pound gorilla, QB Jared Lorenzen, and shove their way around Starkville this Saturday, just like almost everyone else has done this season. It certainly seems doable.

The Dogs are sick for certain. QB Wayne Madkin has been unable to find a rhythm with receivers Justin Jenkins and Terrell Grindle. RBs Dicenzo Miller and Dontae Walker have been hampered by injury and poor line play. Cornerback Kory Banks hasn't become the next Fred Smoot, and the junior college add-ons in the defensive line haven't stepped up to SEC standards. Nevertheless, this game could be either the turning point or the vanishing point for the Jackie Sherrill regime in Starkville. MISSISSIPPI STATE 31, KENTUCKY 21.


VANDERBILT at FLORIDA

Vanderbilt finally won another game last Saturday in Durham against ACC co-dependent Duke, but it came at a cost. The SEC's second-leading rusher, Lew Thomas, broke bones in his foot in the first quarter and is finished for the season. This does not bode well for the Commodores, who now must travel to The Swamp for a televised shootout with the formerly-number-one Florida Gators.

Florida found the going tough against both Georgia and the SEC officials in Jacksonville last week but managed to get by despite the tribulation, 24-10. Steve Spurrier vowed to investigate the "phantom calls" to see if there really was a conspiracy against the Gators in the SEC.

"Yo, Roy!" He's callin' you out again, just like he did in Birmingham. I guess it's the price the Gators must pay for having slipped up against Kramer nemesis Auburn two weeks before. Make Tommy Tuberville look good like that and there will be ad valorem due to the Commish. You can bank on it.

But is there any fiscal reward in a Vanderbilt victory over the Gators, too? Nah. The only flags on the field in Gainesville this Saturday will be white. FLORIDA 49, VANDY 10.


TENNESSEE at NOTRE DAME


How did this game sneak into Tennessee's schedule in the midst of a Volunteer run toward the SEC East title? Neither the Vols nor the Irish seem all that primed for this cultural Holy War, perhaps figuring after all that the two programs have more in common as American universities than they do in brand-name differences of Christianity. Suddenly Protestants and Catholics sounds more like Sisters and Brothers than, say, Jews and Muslims.

Chauvinism aside, Notre Dame has already sprung Touchdown Jesus on Pittsburgh and Southern Cal this season. Tennessee, meanwhile, has been steeling its forces for a late-season journey to Gainesville in yet another attempt to beat the Gators in The Swamp. The Vols have become match-tough in recent games with Alabama and South Carolina, and expect Bob Davie's defensive-minded Irish to give them more of the same.

But how will the Irish score? Starting QB Carlyle Holiday was injured at Boston College last week and the return of sophomore Matt LoVecchio should make it easy on Tennessee. TENNESSEE 27, NOTRE DAME 17.


LSU at ALABAMA


Nick Saban came into 2001 with soul held high, his LSU Tigers the pick to win the SEC West and maybe do more great things from there. But last week's crushing home defeat at the hands of Ole Miss set the Bengals up for a late-season spiral that will likely continue this Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama, at 3-4, has had a week to adjust to the reality of mediocrity, and Clockwork Fran should be on schedule for another hope-booster now that two-minute warning QB Andrew Zow is in place to take advantage of a porous LSU secondary. All signs point to 4-4, as the Tide washes away the recent memory of a Big Orange invasion. ALABAMA 34, LSU 27.


ARKANSAS at OLE MISS


Eli has arrived. And so have the Rebels, who share the favorite's role with Auburn for the SEC West Championship after knocking off LSU in Baton Rouge last Saturday night in front of a very surprised national television audience. What has been really surprising is the strong defensive performance of the Rebs, who figured to finish near last in the conference standings with a below average defensive line.

But thanks to the schedule-maker and the Ole Miss offense, things have gone better than expected this season for David Cutcliffe's youthful squad. With Manning at quarterback, no game is out of reach, and Mississippi could very easily win out and make it to Atlanta in December.

Arkansas started slowly this season, mainly because of its schedule and a quarterback-less offense. The schedule has improved and Zak Clark and Matt Jones have breathed new life into the Pig O, which is now able to make use of a seasoned and capable offensive line. The big-margin win over Auburn will work brutally against Arkansas in this week's back-to-reality game in Oxford, but the Razorbacks still match-up well enough to pull the upset. ARKANSAS 27, OLE MISS 24.

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