Mark Green Picks the SEC Week Three

Mark Green analyzes and predicts this week's SEC winners and losers.

Louisiana Monroe at GEORGIA

Ole Louisiana Monroe. Will this guy never graduate?

Most times a senior quarterback improves with age, but not so with this one. One of the SEC's standard whipping boys, Monroe wades into the land between the hedges this Saturday for a paid beating not unlike that bought by a Suzie-John in a South San Francisco massage parlor. Why put yourself through this staged sado-masochism? Money, honey. Sign zie papers. GEORGIA 45, ULM 13.


Kentucky at INDIANA

Ahh. Now we have a born-again (1-1) Kentucky football team hanging its hopes on a supposedly slightly improved defense and a young, emerging quarterback by the name of Andre Woodson who may make Cats fans forget Tim Couch...How 'bout Ja-lo, maybe? Well, at least Shane Boyd. Seriously, Woodson has the arm of a champion. All he needs now is experience. And Bloomington will be road stop No. 1 along the path to maturity.

Andre Woodson

It's hard to say exactly what Terry Hoeppner will be able to bring to the table in this, his first year at IU. But with nine defensive starters returning from Gerry DiNardo's 3-8 2004 team, things can only get better, right? One can only hope that the 408 rushing yards accumulated by Nicholls State last week was an aberration. As with Kentucky's win over Idaho State, turnovers favored the home team in Indiana's 35-31 win, and likely saved them.

Indeed this is the battle of the pitifuls, and UK has won the last three in what should have stayed a basketball-only rivalry. Yet the bitterness remains. Mistakes will abound in this one, so your guess is as good as mine. Paper covers rock. Kentucky 26, INDIANA 24.


Tennessee at FLORIDA

Wow. Here's another crazy game with nothing in the way of history to go by. The shiny new Gator ball coach puts on his blue necktie and orange wingtips for his first day at the SEC office, where athletes of near super-human skills bring their game-time feats of barbarism to your doorstep.

Here they come, death-hilarious. Not only do the toothpicks propping open your own eyes struggle against the downward pull of the lids, but your wife and children get to hear up close and personal the blood-curdling howls from the disgruntled sand-shoed Gator fans when your wide receiver drops the ball. Whatever language this is, it's not English, and it's as dirty as the bathroom floor at the Purple Porpoise across the street. What a way to make a living.

While Urban Meyer naively tidies up for a football game, the Great Pumpkin from the East Tennessee hills, nostrils flaring and massive midriff bulging and heaving, is pumping up for a street fight of SEC Title proportions. Grindle could not seem more hideous to the Florida faithful than will the sight of the invading Tennessee Volunteers. Not only did UT win in its last two trips to The Swamp, but the Vols stole away a well-earned victory from the Gators in Knoxville last September in what was an almost laughable quagmire of late-game zebra injustice.

So far, the "Urban Spread" offense has played a benign brand of ball, besting lowly Louisiana Tech and Wyoming the past two weeks. Tennessee's offense was a near no-show on opening day as the Vols managed but 17 points against a not-famously-defensive UAB squad. The only result worth mentioning from that game is the replacing of starting Tennessee quarterback Eric Ainge with senior Rick Clausen for this Saturday's game in Gainesville. Clausen was the hero of UT's Cotton Bowl smashing of Texas A & M last January.

The wildly talented Vol receivers will be called upon Saturday to play up to speed and the untested but improved Florida defense will be called upon to stop them. Defensively, the Achilles heel for the Vol defense could be exposed as true freshman Demetrice Morley may be called upon to fill in at free safety, a position which has puzzled defensive coordinator John Chavis for two seasons now. If the Gators pull off the win, quarterback Chris Leak and WRs Andre Caldwell and Chad Jackson will be observed looking often into the deep middle of the Vol zone. This may be the best game played this weekend. Scissors cut paper. FLORIDA 31, Tennessee 30.


Mississippi St. at Tulane (at Shreveport, LA)

Another hurricane game takes place in Shreveport this Saturday as the displaced but not yet downhearted Tulane Green Wave retreat north to set up refuge against the invading Starkville Bulldogs. Though it may be hard to tell after only two games, one a 28-0 loss last week to Auburn, MSU has grown into a tougher football team after a year under Head Coach Sylvester Croom. The only question in this game is, will Tulane continue a trend of Louisiana teams playing for the hurting home fans or will they succumb to the traditional tendencies, temptations and distractions of Tulane football.

Junior quarterback Lester Ricard could make the difference for Green Wave. But this one could go either way. TULANE 24 Mississippi State 23.


Mississippi at VANDERBILT

Is this love or is this illusion? Of all the unlikely things that have ever happened on the gridiron, one event stands out as a candidate for "most unlikely" honors is Vandy's come-from-behind 28-24 upset of Arkansas in Fayetteville last Saturday night. Not only could you not see it coming, but several days after it happened, you still can't believe it. What day is it? Where are we?

Vanderbilt is in fact 2-0 and looking at a possible bowl invitation at season's end, and rumor has it, Vanderbilt Stadium may actually be sold out by kickoff of this Saturday's home contest with 1-0 Ole Miss. Talk about pressure.

Jay Cutler is off to a strong start as a senior.

Can Cutler's Commodores sustain their spiritual growth? Will Bobby Johnson win enough to get a job offer from LSU after the season? Is self-respect actually possible for the SEC's call girl after all these years of taking it lying down?

Perhaps the most important question is a practical one: can a team win a SEC game at home without a good rushing defense? Maybe, with a little luck, a good senior quarterback and a lot of momentum they can. We can only wait and see what Ed Orgeron and the Rebels think about all this Commodore talk come Saturday morning. VANDY 28, Ole Miss 27.


Arkansas at USC

Squeal like a Piggie. At least this week it's Trojans and not Commodores. The embarrassment and shame from last week's home humiliation may last a lifetime, but for Arkansas the future is now in Los Angeles, this Saturday.

I suppose if there was one wish a beaten Porker could ask for after being exposed at the home box office like that, it's a redemption opportunity against the number one team in the land. After all, what more have you to lose? Dignity, honor? A football game?

The secret that USC is about to slip into semi-mediocrity in 2005 after three successive seasons of domination is not yet out. And it may stay a secret a while longer if Arkansas cannot find a way to slow down opposing quarterbacks. USC's Heisman quarterback Matt Leinart is not likely to take pity on the Pigs this Saturday, so it's simply up to Arkansas to do something about it. This ain't welfare. This is football.

USC coach Pete Carroll and Matt Leinart have had plenty of reasons to smile.

Despite the calls for his head of late, Razorback Coach Houston Nutt has a way of getting his team ready to play as an underdog. And if Reggie Herring's defense had had a couple more pieces in place, this could have been a heck of a ball game. Still, don't be too surprised if the Hogs make a game of it for a while. USC 31, Arkansas 22.


Alabama at SOUTH CAROLINA

No more talk and pretense. Alabama must now hit the road in the SEC, and the opponent isn't Vanderbilt (thank goodness, mamma!). Self image is important, and it can only be artificially manufactured in journalistic hotbeds such as Tuscaloosa and Birmingham as long as the puppet opponents have no financial or political stake in the dethroning of the governor of the province. In other words, kangaroo courts only work in your favor within the trailer park. Shoot the victim, and drag him inside. You don't even have to wipe up the trail leading into the screen door. We'll get him for breakin' and enterin'.

Now, however, it's time for the Tide to put up or shut up. South Carolina is certainly not an upper-tier SEC team, and new Coach Steve Spurrier is likely a year away from developing a consistent performer, but at least the air in Columbia is fresh, void of steel mill smoke and stale beer.

Young Gamecock quarterback Blake Mitchell will give it his best shot against an overrated but still effective Alabama defense, but the lack of a sound Carolina rushing defense will likely allow Tide running backs Ken Darby and Tim Castille enough room to keep Brodie Croyle & company playing their game. Alabama 24 South Carolina 17.


Ball St. at AUBURN

Don't count Auburn out of the SEC race just yet. Team records and performances are dependent to a large degree upon who the opponent is, and most SEC teams have not yet been tested. Those who have, like Auburn, LSU and Georgia, have not been all that impressive. Tennessee and Florida meet this Saturday in Gainesville to decide who of that twosome means business.

Ball State returns to Auburn after a four-year hiatus to take on a vastly superior opponent whose mental acuity has not yet caught up with its physical ability. But they're getting there.

Redshirt freshman Brad Lester will try to add more punch to the AU running game.

The Cardinals have been plagued with in-house rules violators this season, partially accounting for their 0-2 start. But in truth, they are no match for Auburn on either side of the ball, regardless of who is or isn't playing. Quarterback Joey Lynch has put it up relentlessly in losses to Iowa and Bowling Green, and running back Charles Wynn gives State some offensive balance, but a team with no defense is a desperate and hopeless team. Rock crushes scissors. AUBURN, 49 Ball State 13.

Editor's Note: Mark Green was 5-2 on last week's pick has a 16-3 record (.842) going into week three.


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