Mark Green Picks The SEC (Weekend Games)

Columnist Mark Green analyzes this weekend's Southeastern Conference football games.

Editor's Note: Mark Green goes into the weekend's games with a 2-0 mark from Thursday night's contests. His column will be a regular feature throughout the football season.


North Texas at LSU

Not today. Not now.

"The events of yesterday and this morning have made it clear that this is not the time to play a football game," LSU athletics director Skip Bertman said earlier this week.

Let us instead take a moment of silence and pray.


Missouri State at ARKANSAS

Now where is that notebook? Let's see--Missouri, Mississippi, Mississippi State. Hmmm. Not here. Maybe. Nah. Oh, wait, here it is. Missouri State. There really is a Missouri State Bears? Anything like the Maine Black Bears? And for some reason they are playing Arkansas Saturday. Wow. Should help the old SEC strength of schedule formula, eh?

Watch De'Arrius Howard, Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis run crazy. Robert Johnson debuts as Matt Jones' successor at QB, and he should look mahvalus. We'll have to wait a couple of weeks until the Razorbacks play the No. 1 Trojans to see just what's been going on up in Fayetteville this off season. I have my suspicions that it ain't all bad. ARKANSAS 52, State of Missouri 10


UAB at TENNESSEE


A meeting of the hill country mindless goes down Saturday in Knoxville as Watson Brown and Phil Fulmer renew an old coaching rivalry. There must be a gentlebilly agreement not to outsmart one another on the gridiron as neither Brown nor the Great Pumpkin has ever intellectually distinguished himself in public while coaching their football teams.

But as we all have seen, talent alone is enough when combined with good fortune and willing referees. Enough even to win a national title and beat Bobby Bowden in the big one. Blind Hogs on the Hill.

This game Saturday looks like a no brainer lean to the Blazers. After all, super-savvy QB Darrell Hackney returns behind a veteran offensive line and he should find some weakness in a yet-to-be- completed Volunteer safety corps. The one safety UT did have, Jason Allen, divorced his position coach after a meeting of the minds with Auburn running back Ronnie Brown last September and has since insisted on playing the less physical cornerback spot, switching positions with former UT CB Jonathan Hefney. He can run but he cannot hide. Oh-oh, damage done.

And while this runaway safety with the vertical tire tracks contemplates an NFL career, the amorphous Volunteer secondary continues to search for his replacement like Ichabod Crane for his missing pumpkin head. The answer could be true freshman Demetrice Morley when all is said and done.

This all bodes exceedingly well for the UAB offense which sports a prize RB of its own in Auburn relative Dan Burks, whose father Kenny played for Shug in the early '70s. Burks bulled for 880 yards a year ago.

Despite his strong finish last year, Rick Clausen is the odd man out in the QB battle at UT. Erik Ainge will start for the Vols.

What one doesn't like about UAB's chances up in Jim Beam city is a defense that could not stop the pass a year ago. And, though four starters return to the defensive line, somebody doesn't know what he's doing on the Blazer sideline. You know who you are.

Hate to go against Hackney in this one, but, in the end, whoever made Tennessee a 23-point favorite in this game must have known what he was doing. Look out for Eric Ainge. And Rick Clausen, too. Oh, yes, and Gerald Riggs. TENNESSEE 45, UAB 20.


Wyoming at FLORIDA

Urban stepped off the Ute rock onto the lilly pad of The Swamp with alarming grace, didn't he? You'd think it was the ordination of Pope Benedict. God-ordained, nature made and another opening chapter in the next Harry Potter novel. Everyone knows he'll do well. Most believe he'll compete for, if not win, the SEC East and beat somebody like Auburn from the West in Atlanta on his way to a well-deserved spot in the BCS National Championship game. Back to normal in the SEC.

Hold on here. Cut. Do Joe Glenn's fighting Cowboys of the Mountain West have no shot this Saturday night in Gainesville against the almighty Gators? Keep in mind this is a Poke team who was last seen rustling Pac 10 POWER UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl last year. And to top it off, the 'Boys have 17 returning starters from their 7-5 2004 squad, including amazing WR Jovon Bouknight. (Keep an eye on this guy).

I'm sorry Chris and Urban, but I guess I'm just a doubting Thomas. Show me something tangible. Anything. Hands and feet will do for a start. FLORIDA 31, Wyoming 27.


Louisville at KENTUCKY

This Sunday afternoon affair could very easily be a repeat of the 28-0 blasting Louisville delivered to the Cats a year ago in Louisville. Bobby Petrino and his second-year QB Brian Brohm will break out the offense in buckets and Mike Archer's supposedly improved defense will be severely tested. Another slaughter seems inevitable, yet there is one reason for UK fans to hope.

Sophomore QB Andre Woodson has a tremendous passing arm, and he just might make things interesting for a relatively new Louisville defense. It's been a popular pre-season pastime to laugh at Brooks' woes in Lexington. And indeed it's not likely he'll be there much longer. But don't give up on the Big Blue quite yet. Louisville 34, KENTUCKY 31 (OT).


Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron is in his first season with the Rebels.

Mississippi at MEMPHIS

With Big Coach O and his staff manning the Blue Law booth at the Oxford County fair this fall, this Labor Day game in the big river city will be impossible to predict. If Orge wins, all systems are at least temporarily go, but if he loses, he is almost doomed before he began, considering the already-disturbing character issues we've seen so far out of his program. Interesting situation.

The Rebs return a good back seven and a few good linemen on defense. Offensively, they will probably find a keeper at QB this year, and it may be opening game starter Michael Spurlock, who has shown much improvement over the past 12 months.

The Memphis Tigers have lost one of their best-ever quarterbacks to graduation in Danny Wimprine, but still retain the services of All-American candidate DeAngelo Williams at running back. Williams is a great back, and he may make enough difference to beat the Rebels. But in truth, this game points to Ole Miss on sheer revenge in nothing else. (The Tigers having won 20-13 in Oxford last year). Tommy West had his "year" in 2004. Things are about to slide off into the river. Now if Memphis had a defense….Ole Miss 27, MEMPHIS 17.


Murray State at MISSISSIPPI STATE

The Racers and the Bulldogs tie up Saturday night in Starkville and the fans are certainly expecting more this season than they got last fall when the Dogs fell to the Maine Black Bears right there on Scott Field. Murray is good, better than Maine, but please, Sylvester, can we get it together a little better this time? MISS STATE 34, Murray State 13.


Boise State at GEORGIA

So much has been made of Boise State's chances in this game already, it's going to be really hard to pick them to win. But in many ways, Georgia is a sitting duck. New QB D.J. Shockley, finally with a chance to be the guy, has so far only shown the tendency to fail under fire of a UN peacekeeper. Tiny CB Tim Jennings, though quick and experienced, is all of five feet, seven inches tall, and simply too short for some matchups he faces. Can't say the Dawgs won't miss safety Thomas Davis either, even with big hitter Greg Blue waiting in the wings. And, of course, mister motor, hisself, Mr. David Pollack, done gone and graduated to the NFL.

What Georgia does have, however, is lots of talent, including a bevy of big-time running backs backs and a solid, veteran offensive line.

Jared Zabransky should test the Bulldogs.

Bronco QB Jared Zabransky should put the heat on defenses again this season. And Boise's defense returns eight starters who can stop the run.

Can Georgia pass? We will see. GEORGIA, 30 Boise State 23.


Middle Tennessee State University at ALABAMA


The world title awaits as the rammer jammer yellow sledgehammer comes dancing into the ring for still another encore. This is the new stuff. Shed its skin. 13-0, baby. We will be admired by all who lay eyes upon us. We did nothing wrong. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

These are the dreams and the rantings of madmen, incontinent and insecure dottering old men in baggy trousers, men with a bulging wad of cash forgotten about and dropped on the barroom floor in the mire and stench of wet cigarettes and day-old alcohol. The toilette door is left open and you can smell it from where you sit. You can hear their words from there too: "Are you still here? Call a cab. Get him out of here. Send him to jail. Send him to bed. Whatever. Just get rid of him."

My goodness, is that all?

That's all. Crosstown traffic, nothing more. ALABAMA 33, Middle Tennessee State 20. (If Brodie stays healthy).


Georgia Tech at AUBURN

A spring and summer removed from one of the greatest Auburn football seasons ever played, the 2005 Tigers will try to rekindle the magic of success and gently keep it going in a win column that now has compiled 15 in a row. In some ways this season is like Terry Bowden's mid-streak year in 1994. It also rings of 1998: New quarterback, and a key loss or two on defense from the year before. But in many other ways, this season is very, very different from any other.

Brandon Cox will make his first college start for the Tigers on Saturday night.

For once, Auburn has the ability to simply reload. At no position does Auburn not have quality backup help if needed. Al Borges is a professional whose knowledge of the game is spurred on by a desire to be the best in his field. He's very close to that now.

Auburn is also about to unleash a multi-headed monster at defensive end, something so far only talked about. And nearly passed over of late. Their combined speed is unmatched in college football at present. The three linebackers are almost certainly the fastest trio to ever start a game for Auburn. And the secondary has wings, if not knowledge.

What we are about to see is a collision between competing wills. Calvin Johnson may be the best player on the field Saturday night, but there are as many as 16 all-SEC caliber Tigers hotly pursuing similar praise from the pros.

What we are about to see is a train wreck of competing traditions. Yes, it could be a nightmare for the homefolks. But don't believe it. Auburn has long since greased the tracks. AUBURN 31, Georgia Tech 17.


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