The Good, The Bad And The Ugly In SEC Football

Phillip Marshall takes a look at this week's SEC matchups along with who's hot, who's not and who is not behaving.

Does Tommy Gallion have no shame?

In the past year or so, Gallion, a Montgomery lawyer, has certainly succeeded in making himself a recognizable figure in the state of Alabama. With the help of radio talk show host Paul Finebaum, he has convinced thousands that the University of Alabama was brought down because of an evil conspiracy involving the NCAA, the University of Tennessee and football coach Phillip Fulmer, the Southeastern Conference and former commissioner Roy Kramer and even the federal government.

Finebaum has happily shared his microphone with Gallion, and who can blame him? He's in the entertainment business, and Gallion has certainly been good for ratings.

Gallion was retained to represent former Alabama coaches Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams, who claim their careers were destroyed by the NCAA. Though there were no sanctions against either of them, they may well have a case. Auburn basketball assistant Shannon Weaver went through a similar experience and might also have an even better case if he ever decides to go to court.

That's not the issue here.

Gallion long ago went beyond simply representing his clients. He has spewed hateful words toward Fulmer, former recruiting analyst Tom Culpepper and anyone else he believes was in any way involved in the NCAA hitting Alabama hard with sanctions. All along, he has conveniently ignored the fact that Alabama admitted guilt to most NCAA charges.

But what he's done this week is unconscionable. It's one thing to sling mud at Fulmer, Kramer, NCAA officials and others who are able to defend themselves. Now he's gone after a college football player whose only sin is that he left Huntsville to play for the University of Tennessee.

In addition to calling wide receiver Jayson Swain, a former Grissom High School star, a "nitwit," Gallion spent several minutes relating that an unnamed former guidance counselor questioned whether Swain could have made a qualifying score on the ACT. Gallion admitted the counselor - who he called a compliance officer - had no proof, but that didn't keep him from publicly calling Swain's character into question.

It all started because, earlier this week, Swain was asked his feelings about Alabama.

"I really don't like them," he was quoted as saying. "I've got to go out there and show class and good sportsmanship, but I really don't like the Crimson Tide."

Asked about Gallion and his questions about the validity of his ACT, Swain said, "If we could get those lawyers out there and strap them up to play, then I'm pretty sure we could do that."

Instead of acting like an adult and laughing it off, Gallion fired away.

"Tell Jayson Swain I'm too old to strap it up," he said. "The guy must be a nitwit. But I'd like to meet him to take his deposition." Later, he questioned whether Swain had taken the ACT as he claimed and whether he could have a qualifying score. <> That a lawyer in his 60s would do that to a college kid who happens to be a football player is sad, very sad.

The Alabama-Tennessee series was once much like Auburn's series with Georgia - fiercely competitive but notable for the respect each side had for the other. Maybe that's still true on the field, but ill winds are blowing among the fans, and Gallion seems to like it that way.

Caught in the crossfire is the University of Alabama athletic administration. Alabama officials want no part of Gallion's crusade, but there is nothing they can do about it.

Regardless of Alabama's position, regardless of what Fulmer, Kramer or the rest did or didn't do, Jayson Swain was not part of any of it. The right thing for Gallion to do is apologize to Swain and to his family.

He won't do it, but he should.

Moving on to more pleasant matters …

Much has been said and written about Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell, and rightfully so. But the unselfishness of running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown is perhaps the most remarkable facet of Auburn's sprint to a 7-0 record.

Williams and Brown both could be living the good life as NFL players today. They could be driving fancy cars and have pockets full of money. Instead, the came back to give one more season to the school they say has meant so much to them.

Before the season, Williams was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate and a sure-fire All-American. Because he has shared carries with Brown, he might not even make All-Southeastern Conference.

And he doesn't care.

That kind of attitude permeates this Auburn football team. Players have happily put individualism aside for the good of their team. And that, more than any other single reason, is why Auburn remains a serious contender for the national championship.

Just how special this season will be will be determined in the next four weeks. The Tigers will beat Kentucky on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. They should beat Ole Miss in Oxford, though that one could get a bit sticky. Will they beat Georgia on Nov. 13? There is no good way to even guess. Will they keep their record perfect at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Nov. 20? They should, but the intensity and raw emotion of that game makes almost anything possible.

Whatever happens, Williams and Brown will leave as two of the most beloved players in Auburn's football history, not just for what they have done on the field, but for the kind of people they are.

And now to this week's SEC games …

Your fearless picker was perfect last week, going 6-0. For the season, the record is 38-13.

KENTUCKY AT AUBURN: The Wildcats are bad, really bad. The Tigers are good, really good.

This Auburn team has shown no sign of overlooking any opponent and it certainly won't overlook an SEC team, even one with a 1-5 record. Kentucky might hang close for a while, like maybe five minutes or so.

Auburn 42, Kentucky 3.

ALABAMA AT TENNESSEE: The Crimson Tide is 5-2 and has won two straight games, but there should be a disclaimer on that record. Alabama is the only SEC team that hasn't played a team currently ranked in the top 25. Tennessee, on the other hand, is 5-1 and has played three teams currently ranked in the top 25.

Since quarterback Brodie Croyle was lost for the season in the third game, Alabama has had virtually no passing attack. It didn't matter against Kentucky and Southern Mississippi, but it will matter against Tennessee. Unless freshman quarterback Erik Ainge blows up, the Vols simply have too much firepower.

Tennessee 28, Alabama 13.

GEORGIA AT ARKANSAS: If quarterback Matt Jones is able to come back from a pulled groin and play, the Razorbacks have a chance. Razorback Stadium is not an easy place for opponents to play.

Georgia 31, Arkansas 24.

TROY AT LSU: The Trojans have brought down one giant this season, beating Missouri at home. They played South Carolina tough in Columbia. They'll play tough against LSU, too, but it won't be nearly enough.

LSU 38, Troy 10.

FLORIDA AT MISSISSIPPI STATE: Call me crazy, but I believe this might be a decent game. The Bulldogs are coming off an open date and quarterback Omarr Conner is back in the lineup.

Could Mississippi State actually win the game? I'm not that crazy.

Florida 34, Mississippi State 20.

EASTERN KENTUCKY AT VANDERBILT: It's the same old song for the Commodores. The only question now is whether they'll win one, two or three games this season. They have one win over Mississippi State. They play Eastern Kentucky on Saturday and Kentucky three weeks later. Those are their only remaining opportunities to win. Other games are against LSU, Florida and Tennessee.

So, if you are Vanderbilt, even a game against a Division I-AA team is a big one.

Vanderbilt 35, Eastern Kentucky 17.


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