The talk of the town in Gainesville this week isn't about last Saturday's last-minute loss to LSU or this Saturday's matchup with the Blue Raiders. The talk is about the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and strange behavior by Coach Ron Zook. It's one thing to stand up for your football team. It's another to show up at a fraternity house with your posse of players and threaten the kids. And the fact that Zook considered cancelling practice one day and take the whole team to the house--unbelievable.
The Zooker has more to worry about than just FratGate. Twice this season his team has blown a lead to a rival with a less than a minute remaining. How is Steve Spurrier's golf game these days anyway? Zook needs to spend less time worrying about fraternity boys and more time on getting his team to finish ball games. He has more than enough talented players to win, but things just haven't gone the Gators' way in Zook's two-plus seasons at Florida. If you own a company in Gainesville, it might be smart to place all of your advertisements at www.FireRonZook.com.
The Gators still have a football game to play this week against Middle Tennessee--a makeup game from Hurricane Frances. Coach Andy McCollum usually fields a competitive team, but this year's squad has already lost to Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette and North Texas. Unless several more Florida starters get beat up by frat boys before Saturday, the Blue Raiders won't have much of a chance.
11:30 a.m. CDT, JP Sports / ESPN GamePlan
Georgia's season isn't lost after last week's home loss to Tennessee, but the SEC East race sure doesn't shape up well for the Dawgs at this point. Tennessee has the inside track to Atlanta and nothing but mediocre to bad teams remaining on the SEC schedule. There's a lot of football still to be played, and strange things have happened in recent years with the BCS. Both LSU and USC won the national title last season with a mid-season loss, and Nebraska reached the BCS title game in 2001 without playing for its conference championship. Georgia showed two weeks ago against LSU what the Bulldogs are capable of, but we'll just have to wait and see which Georgia squad shows up the rest of the season.
UGA quarterback David Greene
After playing Vanderbilt this Saturday, the Bulldogs don't return back to Sanford Stadium until the season finale against Georgia Tech. Coach Mark Richt could use the game against the 'Dores to find some offensive consistency. Georgia scored 48 and 45 against Georgia Southern and LSU, but only 20, 13 and 14 against South Carolina, Marshall and Tennessee. Senior quarterback David Greene looked plain awful against Tennessee, but a rotating system with D.J. Shockley might not be the answer.
And what can be said about the Commodores this year, other than that they are playing like a typical Vanderbilt football team. They've blown double-digit fourth quarter leads against Ole Miss and Rutgers. Georgia has won the last nine games in the series, and extending the streak to 10 games is all but certain.
2:30 p.m., Pay Per View / ESPN GamePlan
The Crimson Tide is off to a 4-2 start after a gift-wrapped win in Lexington a week ago. The Wildcats self-destructed in the second half, but the bad news for Bama is that leading rusher Ray Hudson's knee destructed as well. Hudson will miss the remainder of the season with cartilage damage and a fractured bone.
After being placed on a two-year bowl ban in 2002 and 2003 for several major infractions, Alabama is looking to get back to a bowl for the first time since the Independence in 2001. A win against Southern Mississippi could help the Tide surpass its win total for all of 2003, but it is also crucial if the team wants to go bowling in 2004.
Alabama has dominated this series of late, winning 11 of the last 12, but Southern Miss is off to a 4-0 start. The Golden Eagles are one of four ranked teams remaining on the Crimson Tide schedule, but will be without the services of starting quarterback Dustin Almond. Almond missed the game against Bama last season and his team scored only three points in his absence. For Bama, Spencer Pennington is scheduled to start under center for the second straight week, so the game plan for Coach Mike Shula will likely be to pound away on the ground with Kenneth Darby and Tim Castille.
Southern Miss, which has already won at Nebraska this year, is looking to get another win against a program that is better off living in the past. If it beats Bama Saturday, Coach Jeff Bower's squad has a decent chance of being 10-0 before finishing the season against California. Alabama just needs to win to keep its bowl hopes alive, but it won't be easy.
6 p.m. CDT, Pay Per View / ESPN GamePlan
These teams are probably a little worse than people thought before last weekend. South Carolina had been playing well this year, but any team that loses to Ole Miss at home can't be that good. And Kentucky got beat by 28 points at home to Alabama.
Chances are, Lou Holtz is telling his Gamecocks this week that Kentucky is a good football team and his team will need to play its A-game to pull out a win. But the fact is, the Wildcats are a bad, mistake-prone football team. The Gamecocks should be able to tame the Wildcats Saturday night in Lexington.
8 p.m., ESPN2
What ever happened to the days of playing one quarterback? If you tune in to this battle of old rivals, there's a solid chance of seeing five QBs. In Ole Miss' win at South Carolina last Saturday, Coach David Cutcliffe often used THREE on one set of downs--Ethan Flatt, Michael Spurlock and Robert Lane. There is also a possibility of seeing one QB, Tennessee's Brent Schaeffer, returning punts. Let's just hope that the ESPN2 camera crews will show more of the game than shots in the crowd of Archie, Petyon and Eli.
Ole Miss quarterback Ethan Flatt
Both of these teams are coming off big SEC wins, and believe it or not, both control their own destiny as far as the road to Atlanta. The path for the Rebels looks a bit tougher than that of the Volunteers. Ole Miss is playing this game at home, but Tennessee has the better football team--and linebacker Kevin Burnett probably wouldn't mind telling you so himself.
2:30 p.m., CBS Sports
Looking at the big picture for "The University of Auburn," as Houston Nutt would say, Arkansas is probably the fourth toughest opponent on the 2004 schedule. Playing an 11-plus game schedule, every team has a letdown game or two, and Saturday would not be a good time for Auburn to play a bad game. While Arkansas isn't a great team, any Nutt squad is capable of showing up and handing out a physical whipping. The play of Matt Jones is always an unknown as well, but he typically plays his best against the Tigers.
DeCori Birmingham leads the Razorbacks in rushing with 283 yards on 52 carries.
While almost all the talk in Auburn this week has been about Jones, he can't beat Auburn by himself. There are about 60 other guys in cardinal and white that will need to play well for Arkansas to win. The Razorback defense hasn't played very well this year, which is bad news facing an Auburn offense that has scored more than 30 points in five of six games this season. Jason Campbell has played almost perfect football in 2004, and could very well be first team All-SEC when all is said and done.
The Arkansas offense versus the Auburn defense should be an intriguing matchup, both tops in the league statistically. The Tigers have allowed only 19 points in the first three quarters all season. Last season in Fayetteville, the Piggies had scored only three points on Auburn, but they had their chances.
With the level of efficiency the Auburn offense has played at, Arkansas will need to work with a short field to keep up in the scoring column. For the Razorbacks to win, they will need to play a near perfect, mistake-free game on special teams, offense and defense, and hope that Auburn is the one making the mistakes. But with good senior leadership at key positions for the Tigers, that's not something that is likely to happen.