Mark Green Picks The SEC

Mark Green discusses the Ragin' Rostafferian, the Franning stage, a potential upset victim, surprising South Carolina and the South's oldest collegiate rivalry--Auburn vs. Georgia.

Editor's Note: Mark Green is 44-16 for the season on his SEC picks after posting a 5-1 mark last week. Mr. Green has a 14-6 mark vs. the spread the past four weeks.


Middle Tennessee State at LSU


Still smoking from a 35-21 flaming of Alabama last week, the Ragin' Rostaferrian and his crack receivers turn their torches in the direction of another terrible secondary this week when they return to the Bayou to face Sunbelt champion MTSU. The Blue Raiders have already beaten Vanderbilt out of conference this year and will try to lean on LSU's mediocre defense to notch a second SEC win in three tries.

The matchup's not a bad one for Coach Andy McCollum's 7-2 squad as the nation's fourth-ranked Raider offense is averaging 495 yards per game behind the expert duo of RB Dwone Hicks and QB Wes Counts. The Bengal Tiger defense, meanwhile, is giving up an embarrassing 310 yards passing per game, good enough for last place in the SEC.

When the smoke clears on the Bayou, LSU should still be standing, but if MTSU could play any defense at all, this thing might have been cause for real concern. LSU 48, MTSU 34.


Memphis at TENNESSEE

The Big O got past God's team in South Bend last week, but hardly looked the part of a National Championship contender in doing so. Still, the Vols have climbed all the way to fourth in the BCS poll. How could this be? Obviously, those in charge of the rankings lack judgment, either in computer programming or simple common sense. Remember, these guys also had UCLA close to the top a couple of losses ago. So, what do THEY know? What does anybody know for that matter?

What we do know is that UT is back in the winning business after an early-season loss to Georgia, having now compiled a 6-1 record on the season. QB Casey Clausen has settled into his role as team leader and TB Travis Stevens continues to chug along as the SEC's leading rusher at 133 yards per game. Not bad for a guy who spent four years waiting his turn behind a couple of All-American tailbacks. We also know that the Vols lead the conference in total defense, giving up slightly less than 272 yards a game.

That should make things sufficiently difficult for former Tennessee tight end Tommy West, whose Memphis Tigers (4-4) usually play the Vols to the wall, and once went so far as to upset their cross-state rivals, after which UT boss Phil Fulmer said, "Never again." TENNESSEE 41, Memphis 17.


Central Florida at ARKANSAS

Hamlet posed the question, "Who would fardels bear to grunt and sweat under a weary life, but that the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country, from whose borne no traveler returns, puzzles the will; and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of?"

Almost five hours after it started, Arkansas emerged victorious from the previously undiscovered country of seven overtimes in Oxford, Miss., last Saturday night. The Razorbacks and the Rebels bore their ills as well as their wills against one another for what seemed like eternity. It was so much more than the fourth quarter. Who could have guessed they both hated losing this much?

Ole Miss will now get a week off to recover from its almost risible two-point defeat.

For the Arkansas football farrow, however, tomorrow is indeed another day at the office as the Central Florida Golden Knights come to town this Saturday to try out the new power Pigs of freshman QB Matt Jones.

This game could go in either of two directions. Zork could ride a wave of momentum from what some may one day call the greatest college game ever played in the South. Or the Hogs could remain wallowing in the Mississippi mud, having left everything on the Vaught-Hemingway turf. Central Florida 24, ARKANSAS 21.


KENTUCKY at VANDERBILT

Injuries during the past three weeks have destroyed what was left of Vanderbilt's 2001 football team. Not only did the Commodores lose their top running back in the SEC's second-leading rusher, Lew Thomas, two weeks ago, but their best two defensive backs, CB Rushen Jones and safety Justin Giboney, have also been lost for the season.

Kentucky hasn't lost as many players as Vandy, but the 'Cats have lost more games, compiling a dismal 1-7 record to VU's 2-6. UK squeaked by Ball State, and Vanderbilt got past pathetic Duke and little-league Richmond.

Interestingly, some pretty good quarterbacks will face off in this game. VU senior Greg Zolman is the current conference career completions leader, while UK's big sophomore Jared Lorenzen has been on a three-game tear since returning to the starting lineup against LSU on October 13. Neither team can play much defense so this one could be wild and wooly. And probably the last home game for Woody. VANDERBILT 28, KENTUCKY 27.


FLORIDA at SOUTH CAROLINA

Now it's down to this for the last great college football underdog, and rainmaker head coach Lou Holtz. What this little giant of a man has done at South Carolina cannot be understood in the context of time. As reality, we have to accept it, and to that extent believe it. But like a tornado, earthquake or some other Act of God, we have to save the amazing fullness of it for some future quiet moment of recollection and reflection.

But as incredible as Holtz's Carolina run has been, there is still one last chapter to be written this Saturday. Are we dreaming, or just hoping? Do I wake or sleep? Of all God's miracles, large and small, a win over Florida Saturday in Columbia would be the biggest of all. SOUTH CAROLINA 24, FLORIDA 23.


MISSISSIPPI STATE at ALABAMA

For weeks, now Alabama football has been in the Franning stage, eking out a win over Vanderbilt and compiling fourth-quarter collapses against UCLA, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee and LSU. Who am I missing?

The question is, what is Alabama missing? For that matter, just think what their fans are missing. Beautiful fall days in the woods. Hunting. Fishing. Backpacking. Bike riding. They've given these hearty autumn activities up for a few quiet moments on the couch with Coach Fran to share his fellowship and philosophy. They listen attentively even as the losses mount and the hopes fade. They listen for signs of a better tomorrow. Of a successful recruiting season after the games are finished. They listen for talk of the future. Anything but what they've been hearing.

Transfixed, like Homer among the Sirens, the Alabama faithful are mired in the Franning stage. No one knows how long they will be there. No one knows if they will ever awaken from their hypnosis. Look at them there, peaceful, yet disturbed. Content, yet starving. But obedient nevertheless.

But why are they still listening? Why are they just lying there, themselves now prostrate on the couch like the patient, etherized and numb? Why don't they get up and go outside for some fresh air? Why? I'll tell you why. Because THIS is Alabama football. ALABAMA 27, MISSISSIPPI STATE 17.


AUBURN at GEORGIA


Time and time again, Auburn has beaten back the Bulldogs in Athens. Quarterback Stan White lost there as a sophomore, but only after then-Dawg Coach Ray Goff held a constitutional convention to make an Auburn victory in the state of Georgia illegal. And even that one wasn't easy. One break in the streak, though, and the Tigers were back at the trough, feeding lustily between the hedges on pounds of red-coated Dawg meat for another decade.

This year, new Coach Mark Richt has brought his spread offense to Sanford Stadium and beyond, using it in early October to spring a 26-24 surprise on Tennessee in Knoxville. Redshirt Freshman QB David Greene bombed Arkansas's talented secondary for almost three hundred yards as the Dog offense began to blossom in September. Against Florida two weeks ago, Georgia drove it well between the twenties, but had trouble scoring in the red zone in a 24-10 defeat.

The real terrorists for the Bulldogs this year may be the receiving corps that sports major talents in WRs Terrence Edwards and Fred Gibson. Damien Gary is reliable and can also make the big play as he did in Knoxville on a 72-yard second quarter punt return. Gibson is just a freshman, and his performance so far this season will likely send him to a higher league well before his allotted time in college football.

Junior tight end Randy McMichael has been killing teams across the middle with big plays and big yards. He's one of the country's best. Running backs Musa Smith and Jasper Sanks have teamed up to fill a Georgia need this season, and have performed admirably. Fullback Verron Haynes has exceeded all preseason expectations.

The Dog Dee is star-studded, especially at linebacker and in the secondary. The trouble is, they have been scorched to the tune of 283 yards per game this season, partially because an injury-riddled defensive line hasn't been able to pressure the passer. David Jacobs and Jon Sullivan have been solid at tackle, but there is little depth behind them.

For Auburn, this game marks the start of Amen Corner, with Alabama and LSU to follow. If it's going to happen for AU in 2001, it has to begin Saturday. Put the Caddy in gear and start that motha up. AUBURN 31, GEORGIA 30.

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