UT Linebacker Always Has Something To Say

Phillip Marshall talks about the constant chatter coming from the mouth of Kevin Burnett, the SEC Championship game and more.

Linebacker Kevin Burnett sounded like a whiney loser when he said, back on Oct. 2, that the best team on the field at Neyland Stadium that day was Tennessee. The "best" team lost 34-10 at home.

Burnett also vowed that day that the Vols would see Auburn again in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. Nothing wrong with that statement, and it proved prophetic. The Tigers and the Vols will play for the championship Saturday. But Burnett couldn't leave things well enough alone.

Earlier in the week, acknowledging that his earlier comments had been duly noted by Auburn players, he said "Tell them shut me up."

Maybe Burnett is so good he can back his words with action, but it'll be awfully embarrassing, or at least it should be, if he doesn't. Either way, it's not likely he'll shut up.

Burnett has yapped ad naseum about six Tennessee turnovers, four of which came after the game was already out of hand. Maybe he should look closer at himself and his defense. Auburn scored on drives of 55, 59, 62, 80, 66 and 14 yards. And anyone who watched knows the Tigers started running out the clock in the third quarter. They could have easily scored 50.

At least Burnett apparently wasn't out with a group of teammates in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Some 20 Tennessee players were at a Knoxville nightclub at 2 a.m. Several were involved in a fight.

Kevin Burnett always seems to be good for a quote.

Vols' coach Phillip Fulmer effectively shrugged it off, saying that, since no charges had been filed, there would be no suspensions.

Yet another reason Auburn folks should be proud of Tommy Tuberville, the program he has built and the class and character of the players on Auburn's football team.

I wrote here Monday that it would be a mistake to think Tennessee is not capable of pulling an upset Saturday. The Vols will be highly motivated to make amends for their dismal performance in Knoxville. Fulmer is 4-0 in games in which he is a double-digit underdog. The Vols have found a way to win nine games this season. They won the East Division championship fair and square.

But to use Burnett's words, the best team on the field Saturday will not be Tennessee. If the Vols are to win, they'll have to have some help from Auburn, the kind of help Auburn's hasn't given anybody all season.

From all indications, Auburn players aren't nearly as caught up in the BCS controversy as are the fans. Linebackers coach Joe Whitt said Sunday's practice was as good as any he's been around in 24 seasons at Auburn.

If the Vols were at full strength, this might be a donnybrook. But they're not. They're down to No. 3 quarterback Rick Clausen, and he is likely to realize early that dealing with Auburn's defense is quite different than dealing with Vanderbilt's or Kentucky's defense.

Tennessee certainly could still win, but Auburn certainly should win.

Auburn 31, Tennessee 13.

Moving on …

* BCS officials are hoping and praying for one of the top three to lose Saturday. Should all three win, there is a very good possibility that Auburn will pass Oklahoma in one or both polls and still not play for the national championship.

That's exactly what the new system installed this season was supposed to keep from happening. Hey, I have an idea. If you want the top two teams in the polls to play, throw out the computers. Pretty simple, isn't it? The computers, programmed by people who certainly don't qualify as college football experts, are the biggest joke in the game.

What I really yearn for is the old way. Before the money-grubbing BCS came along, here would have been the likely lineup:

Rose Bowl: USC vs. Michigan

Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Texas

Orange Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Miami or Virginia Tech.

All three unbeaten teams would have gone into their bowls believing they could win the national championship. All three would have been in games they could very easily lose. That would be much more exciting than putting all the drama in one game.

Since this is the system we're stuck with, they need to add a game between the top two after the bowls. That's the only fair way to do it.

* Ole Miss is in a mess, again.

David Cutcliffe is out as head coach after refusing to make changes on his staff in the wake of a 4-7 season. All kinds of names are being thrown around, most of which aren't remotely realistic.

There's a lot of talk among Ole Miss officials about their upgraded facilities, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But here's the truth: Ole Miss' "tradition" is based on a long gone era. The Rebels haven't won an SEC championship since 1963. Every time I hear their band march down the field playing "Dixie," I wonder why someone doesn't have the sense or the guts to put a stop to it.

Mississippi doesn't have enough players to support three schools. None of those schools – Ole Miss, Mississippi State or Southern Miss – is a recruiting power outside of the state. Many of the better players end up leaving the state.

The Ole Miss coaching job just isn't a good one. Coaches in the profession know that. Athletic director Pete Boone may well end up wishing he'd made peace with Cutcliffe.

* Forget the talk about Tuberville leaving for another job. Assuming that Auburn treats him right when the season is over – and I believe that is a safe assumption – there's no chance he'll leave for another job.

Going undefeated is rare for any team, but Auburn is no one-year wonder.

Until next time …


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