Mark Green Picks the SEC: Week 12

Columnist Mark Green analyzes this week's Southeastern Conference football matchups.

KENTUCKY at GEORGIA

The howling Dawg, still kicking and licking wounds from a fourth quarter of shock and awe at the hand of the Tiger, now must attend to winning the consolation prize of the SEC East. Kentucky rolls into Athens Saturday a whopping 27-point underdog with no defense but the scoring know-how to command an alert response from Georgia safety Greg Blue and his defensive mates.

The best kept secret in the SEC all year has likely been UK's super sophomore running back Raphael Little who single-handedly destroyed Vanderbilt in Nashville last week, returning, receiving and running his way to the end zone on three occasions. Cat QB Andre Woodson will put it up with some success as well now that wide receiver Keenan Burton is again healthy and making plays.

UK's Rafael Little is having a terrific season.

For Georgia, there is only to earn a date to Atlanta, a dawg of a sister for a would-be prince of the college football palace, if you ask me. What's to play for? Georgia 41, Kentucky 24


MISSISSIPPI STATE at ARKANSAS

Now that Casey Dick has been inserted into the Hog lineup and the departed Robert Johnson benched for non-performance, the Power of the Pig could make a late-season charge onto the college football scene.

Two weeks hence, there is the shot at SEC West co-leader LSU in Baton Rouge. But first, let's see what super frosh running back Darren McFadden does against a moderately defensive Mississippi State Bulldog in Fayetteville this Saturday. Arkansas 31, Miss State 15


Clemson at SOUTH CAROLINA

There's a lotta new talk about an old ball coach after a remarkable late-season run for the South Carolina Gamecocks against Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida. Amazingly, Carolina could finish with nine wins, more if Georgia loses to Kentucky Saturday. The development of quarterback Blake Mitchell and the emergence of rookie running back Mike Davis and freshman wide receiver Sidney Rice have made Carolina a contender.

Clemson, meanwhile, has had a roller coaster ride in the tough ACC this season and just last week demolished long-hated Florida State in their home finale. Tommy Bowden's Tigers and gimpy quarterback Charlie Whitehurst certainly do have their work cut out for them in this bitter rivalry, and despite an edge in overall talent, may find winning the game for a fourth consecutive year too much to ask for.

But this is a tough matchup. Clemson's defense has cracked against good running teams, something Carolina is not. Clemson's offense has had its troubles against better secondaries, something South Carolina has. You tell me. Clemson 17, South Carolina 16.


LSU at OLE MISS

The Girls of Grove host SEC West co-leader LSU this Saturday night in what could be the Big O's last chance to prove useful as head coach of Oxford. His Cajun roots give him a fighting chance of at least understanding the visiting Fightin' Tigers, but his offensive coordinator will perform his usual due diligence in restraining the Rebel offense from producing the points necessary for an upset.

Injuries don't help matters either as Rebel running back Mico McSwain missed most of the Arkansas game on crutches, and Ole Miss compiled a measly 34 yards rushing against the Pig defense.

On the plus side, the Rebel defense said "no" to the Arkansas running game, but allowed a late, surprising passing display by a freshman quarterback to beat them.

Rumblings of discontent are in the air again at Ole Miss, but that would seem the norm for Coach O going forward, however long his tenure may last. LSU 23, Ole Miss 13.


VANDERBILT at TENNESSEE

It is said that the distance from the outhouse to the penthouse is not great. And indeed sooner or later you have to go, and it will be so. If not this year, then the next. If not the next, then this. For Randy Sanders, Eric Ainge and Phil Fulmer, this day had to come. Inevitably.

UT coach Phillip Fulmer is having his roughest season on Rocky Top.

Pillowed upon the Great Pumpkin's ripening belly, the lesser servants did suckle for so long upon teams such as this, the three never-cans of November: Memphis, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Is it any wonder the record is so good every year?

Now that jack-o-lantern with the grinning maw has shriveled and turned sullen. A bowl game in Music City likely hangs in the balance. A man's schedule has taken its toll on the mountaintop and there is disharmony and discord amidst the music of the fiddle and the bagpipe. Will the last two games be the turning point or the vanishing point?

It has now become a one-shot season for Vanderbilt, who was so rudely treated in Gainesville, and then faltered at home last week against a rejuvenated Kentucky offense. Can they revive within them their early-season song of 4-0? Is this finally the year?

No. Tennessee 34, Vandy 13


ALABAMA at AUBURN

Now it's down to this.

Here they come. Those who only pretend to passion, who come from a stockade of old iron tubors, rusted and clanging now, olive green and brown from years in the slum astride a statue of a boast of winning. There from a man in whose horizons are all their crimes remembered. And those sycophants of the Birmingham court who sing their allelujas, priest-like, in remembrance of this man they still call father. There's the root. Rotten, defiled and unsportsmanlike. Yet held high as a banner to be fought and died for. Caligula. And the Christians for Ciaphus.

Thinking back. When gas was high and New Orleans was under water and the Tigers were green but growing on the winds of so much expectation, yet so deeply disappointed with that hole shot against the Yellow Jackets. That breakdown. That screeching halt to 15-0. Then the doldrums of a modern0day schedule held against you.

We were in prison. A pent-up Tiger behind bars. It's been no life lately for those guys who came back on the heels of 13-0 just to show the world one more time that Auburn was in their hearts for keeps. To carry on as Caddy, Carlos and Ronnie had done before them.

Then came October and the daily grind of taking care of the Saturday chores. The dirty business of turning back an impotent Cock, and rustling a would-be Boar in the foothills of the Ozarks. Almost loitering in our steadfastness of duty performed. The thrill was gone, but the heart burned anyway. Obligation called in ordinary time, and Auburn answered.

Quarterback Brandon Cox has won praise from Auburn's coaches and his teammates for his performance as a first-year starter.

Finally a chance to show the world in Baton Rouge what a wounded Tiger could do. Kenny and the jets. Brandon under pressure. A kick in the pants. Ironically, all gained more respect for what did not happen than what did in that overtime. But the monotone resumed, though leading the SEC in offense and great on defense. None seemed to care. Another hapless home opponent. And on to Lexington for still another drill. To borrow from Coleridge, "day after day, we stuck, nor breath nor motion. As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean." Waiting for Godot--or Georgia at least.

Amen corner would be the damp gust that finally brought rain. And a play for the ages to the unpronounceable yet insuperable Aromashodu. A play that gave separate and new life to the 2005 Tigers. And again dealt defeat to the Richt illusion. A game-changing play for the drive, the game and the season, indeed for the ages in some ways. A play in whose process of unfolding we saw both victory and defeat vibrating, violently, quickly, tenuously. Back and forth, back and forth. What's it gonna be, boy? I've gotta know right now!!

Then the feeling came upon me like a tidal wave.

You 2005 Tigers, I'll love you till the end of time. AUBURN 27, Alabama 13.

Editor's Note: Mark Green was 3-3 on last week's picks and is 57-17 (.770) for the season.


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