Marshall: Goodbye to Old Friend, SEC Picks

Columnist Phillip Marshall previews this weekend's SEC football games.

I lost an old friend today.

The Birmingham Post-Herald, where I learned so much about being a journalist, published its last edition. It was no big surprise. When The Post-Herald and The Birmingham News switched cycles, the countdown started. Afternoon newspapers don't work anymore. Cities much larger than Birmingham have been unable to support two newspapers.

But it was a sad day just the same. I did two tours of duty at The Post-Herald, one covering high schools in 1970 and another as assistant sports editor from 1974-77. Had Bill Lumpkin, then the sports editor, not taken a chance on a wet-behind-the-ears kid, my career in this business might never have gone anywhere.

I covered a lot of big stories for The Post-Herald, including Shug Jordan's retirement. I made a lot of good friends. While I was there, I met Teresa, to whom I have been married for more than 29 years.

Bill retired in 1994 but continued writing a weekly column until the paper's death knell sounded. We reminisced Thursday about those days of long ago. I thanked him again for the opportunity he gave me and the lessons he taught.

It was ironic that The Post-Herald played such a significant role in my life. I grew up viewing The Post-Herald through the eyes of my father, who as the sports editor of The News, saw The Post-Herald as competition. But he and Bill were friends. And Bill became a treasured friend and mentor to my father's son.

The Post-Herald did, indeed, give me a lot.

Moving on to another weekend of college football…

Auburn has its last dress rehearsal Saturday before diving into seven consecutive Southeastern Conference games. Western Kentucky is ranked No. 1 in Division I-AA, but that shouldn't mean a lot on homecoming at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The Hilltoppers will come to town with big dreams. They'll play hard. They'll put up more of a fight than Ball State did in falling 63-3 last Saturday. But, in the end, they won't physically be up to staying in the game. Auburn 38, Western Kentucky 6.

Last weekend's picking performance was lacking, to say the least. I picked Tennessee over Florida, Kentucky over Indiana and Tulane over Mississippi State. I missed them all and finished with a paltry 3-3 record. I even picked Arkansas to give Southern California a tussle. Maybe this week will be better.

Arkansas at Alabama: No legitimate Division I-A team should give up 70 points to anybody, but that's what Arkansas did in falling 70-17 to USC.

If the Razorbacks have any pride, they'll play with passion and determination against Alabama. Of course, I thought they'd play that way against USC.

I still don't believe Alabama is a serious championship contender, but I know Arkansas isn't. Alabama 31, Arkansas 20.

Tennessee at LSU: You have to feel sorry for LSU players. Many have had family and friends who fled Hurricane Katrina staying with them. They were supposed to play their third home game of the season Saturday night against Tennessee. Instead, because of yet another hurricane, they'll play their first home game Monday night against Tennessee.

To say LSU's pass defense looked suspect against Arizona State would be an understatement. To say Tennessee's offense has been a major disappointment would be more of an understatement.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer spent the summer dealing with players getting into trouble. He's spent the first weeks of the season trying to explain the quarterback rotation between senior Rick Clausen and sophomore Erik Ainge. He's decided to go with Ainge, a decision not popular among his players. And now there is the disruption of Saturday night's game being postponed.

The Vols were the preseason favorites to win the SEC, but there's something missing on this Tennessee team. LSU 27, Tennessee 20.

Florida at Kentucky: Urban Meyer's spread option offense might have proved to be an urban legend, but his special teams and defense saved the day in last Saturday's 16-7 win over Tennessee. Kentucky has clearly established itself as the SEC's worst team. Florida 42, Kentucky 14.

Mississippi State at Georgia: Call me crazy, but something tells me the Mississippi version of the Bulldogs are going to give a good account of themselves Saturday night.

Good enough to win? Not likely. Georgia 21, Mississippi State 13.

Wyoming at Ole Miss: Ed Orgeron will finally coach a game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The defense he coordinates himself was abused in a 31-23 loss at Vanderbilt. The offense was shaky at best. Wyoming upset the Rebels in Laramie last season, hastening David Cutcliffe's departure.

Make it two in a row for the Cowboys. Wyoming 30, Ole Miss 28.

Troy at South Carolina: In his first season, Steve Spurrier is learning what life is like as an SEC bottom-feeder. Larry Blakeney is in rebuilding mode at Troy. South Carolina 28, Troy 9.

Richmond at Vanderbilt: This might have been a trap game for previous Vanderbilt teams, but the Commodores, directed by senior quarterback Jay Cutler, have learned how to win. Vanderbilt 35, Richmond 10.

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