What a long strange trip it's been for Jackie Sherrill's Mississippi State Bulldogs. A preseason co-favorite to win the SEC West, the Bulldogs have abdicated the responsibility of the lead Dog, leaving the Gator bait's role up to someone else--anyone else who decides they really want it. LSU, Arkansas and Auburn will fight it out for first place now that Alabama, State and the Ole Miss Rebels have excused themselves from the death penalty of facing Florida in Atlanta.
Of the three, Alabama and State achieved ‘most comical' status this season by squandering talented teams, losing 10 conference games between them. Ole Miss, on the other hand, overachieved this season, pushing Auburn and LSU to the wire in the West before bowing out at home to Georgia last week in Oxford. The Rebels are young and feisty behind young gun Eli Manning and should give Joe Lee Dunn's defense a run for its turkey Thursday night in Starkville. OLE MISS 23, MISSISSIPPI STATE 20.
The Razor Pigs finally have something to play for as they travel to Baton Rouge for a Friday showdown with SEC West rival LSU. Arkansas has gotten handsomely off the deck after an 0-3 conference start. In fact, the Pork is on a roll, winning four straight SEC games since losing to Georgia in September. If Arkansas wins this weekend, it can hope that Auburn continues to play dead for one more game the following week when Tuberville's Tigers travel to Baton Rouge for the season finale.
Nick Saban's Bengal Tigers have been schizo in 2001, blowing big home games with Florida and Ole Miss, while pasting Alabama and Mississippi State on the road. Normally this would be the all-important last home game for LSU, but since it's not, you have to give the Razorbacks at least a shot at the West title. LSU 31, ARKANSAS 27.
Awful Vandy will have to suit up one more time in 2001, as will its beleaguered Head Coach Woody Widenhofer, who will be replaced at season's end. The pathetic Commodores threw in the towel a while back this season and will be lucky to make the team introductions in Knoxville this Saturday.
It's really too bad that Vanderbilt has lost interest because Tennessee has no clue about stopping the forward pass as is evidenced by nightmarish secondary performances in back-to-back games with lightweights Memphis and Kentucky.
Last Season, Vandy QB Greg Zolman lit up the Vols in Nashville in a narrow 28-26 defeat. This week, it should be UT doing the torching. TENNESSEE 63, VANDERBILT 20.
In a battle of college football also-rans, Georgia Tech and Georgia square off in Atlanta Saturday night to decide which team earns the right to be called state champions. Tech had National Title aspirations coming into 2001, but soon discovered that the loss of former offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen could not be overcome.
Georgia surprised early on, dunking Tennessee in Knoxville on a last-ditch drive that put the Vols essentially out of business this year. But a pair of hope-killing defeats at the hands of Florida and Auburn left the Dawgs another year away as well, and all that's really left for the Red and Black is Gold and White, which, for Georgia at least, is not insignificant. Fullback-turned-tailback Verron Haynes could be the difference-maker the Georgia running game has been looking for all season. GEORGIA 34, GEORGIA TECH 32.