Marshall: Too Early to Worry About Polls

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the Auburn Tigers and picks this week's SEC winners and losers.

Already, the polls are creating controversy.

It should have come as no surprise, really, that Southern California jumped from No. 6 to No. 3 after its 50-14 spanking of Arkansas. After all, the Trojans have two national championships and a trip to the BCS title game on their resume for the past three seasons.

It didn't go down well with some Auburn folks, for whom the memory of the snub of 2004 is still fresh.

But in the first week in September, it just doesn't matter.

Anyone who spends a lot of time worrying about the polls at this juncture is wasting energy. There is way too much football to be played.

Auburn must deal with the likes of LSU, Florida and Georgia at home. It must win four Southeastern Conference road games. If the Tigers get through those games unscathed and win the West and win the SEC Championship Game, they'll be where they belong in the end.

I know. I know. It didn't happen in 2004. But that was the one and only season since the creation of the BCS that there were three teams from BCS conferences with perfect records at season's end. It isn't likely to happen again anytime soon.

USC's leap wasn't the only move of interest in the polls. Notre Dame fell behind Auburn in one poll and is tied for fourth in the other. Who would have expected that? I wouldn't have, not even after Notre Dame's close call at Georgia Tech.

A lot of Auburn folks are also unhappy with ESPN's seeming snub of Auburn last weekend. Despite an impressive 40-14 victory over Washington State, the Tigers got barely a mention during a three-day weekend of college football.

I couldn't begin to explain why that is, but there's not a lot of reason to worry about that either. Having served several times as a voter in the AP poll, I can honestly say that who was or was not on television highlights never once had any impact on how I voted. The opinion of a television analyst never swayed my vote.

The idea that "the media" decides early who should play in the championship game is truly off base. It just doesn't work that way. There are voters in every state. Each one votes for his or her own reasons. Some of those reasons are better than others.

Anyway, with 11 games still to play, the race for the national championship is wide open. And the odds of Auburn--or any other team you want to name--going undefeated are long. All have more pressing matters for the moment.

For Auburn, the business at hand isn't the national championship. It's a game against Mississippi State in Starkville on Saturday.

Two days before Auburn beat Washington State, Mississippi State was shut out 15-0 at home by South Carolina. The Bulldogs lost their starting quarterback in the second quarter. They lost their tailback in practice Tuesday.

But it would be a mistake to assume that the Bulldogs will roll over and play dead when Auburn comes to town. They don't have much offense, but they have an impressive defense. And a team that plays good defense always has a chance.

The Bulldogs have everything to gain and nothing to lose against Auburn. I suspect they'll play that way. And I suspect it'll be somewhat closer than some Auburn folks would like.

Auburn will have its chance to make a statement next weekend against LSU. This weekend, the Tigers just need to win. My guess is that's what they'll do, in somewhat methodical fashion.

Mississippi State can be expected to use the new clock rules to shorten the game as much as possible. It probably won't be pretty, but it doesn't have to be. Auburn 27, Mississippi State 3.

Last week's record for your fearless forecaster was 6-1, the only miss being an ill-advised upset pick of Southern Mississippi over Florida.

Looking at the rest of Saturday's SEC games:

Vanderbilt (0-1) at Alabama (1-0): It surely must be a concern that the Crimson Tide struggled to run the ball against Hawaii, a team hardly known for its run defense. Vanderbilt, a 27-7 loser at Michigan in its opener, is usually a great cure for whatever problems its opponent might have.

This one might be closer than some anticipate. It wouldn't surprise me if Vanderbilt stayed in the game into the fourth quarter. But in the end, it is still Vanderbilt. Alabama 21, Vanderbilt 10.

Arizona (1-0) at LSU (1-0): Arizona will hit town dreaming of an upset. But a dream is all it will be. The Bayou Bengals will run the SEC's record against the Pac-10 to 3-1. LSU 28, Arizona 9.

Georgia (1-0) at South Carolina (1-0): Steve Spurrier's second South Carolina team didn't look anything like a championship contender in its victory over Mississippi State. Georgia wasn't tested against Western Kentucky.

The Gamecocks can be tough at home. It's still uncertain how Georgia's quarterbacks will perform against real competition, but the Bulldogs are deeper and more talented than the Gamecocks. Georgia 28, South Carolina 17.

Phillip Fulmer is shown prior to UT's victory over the Cal Bears.

Air Force (0-0) at Tennessee (1-0): Tennessee made quite a statement last Saturday, running away to a 35-0 lead before cruising to a 35-18 drubbing of overrated California. Air Force won't have the athletes to hang with the rejuvenated Vols. Tennessee 34, Air Force 16.

Ole Miss (1-0) at Missouri: (1-0): I saw nothing in Ole Miss' victory over Memphis to convince me that the Rebels are ready to go on the road and win against a pretty decent Missouri team. Missouri 24, Ole Miss 20.

Central Florida (1-0) at Florida (1-0): It'll be a nice payday for the Golden Knights. Of course, that won't be much consolation to the players. Florida 38, Central Florida 10.

Arkansas (0-1) at Utah State (0-1): Freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain will get his first start. He couldn't have picked a better opponent. Arkansas 42, Utah State 7.

It may soon be time to say Bye, Bye Brooks to UK's head coach.

Texas State (1-0) at Kentucky (0-1): The farewell tour continues for Kentucky coach Rich Brooks. The Wildcats were so bad in losing 59-28 to Louisville that not even a game against Division I-AA Texas State is a sure thing. Kentucky 31, Texas State 20.

Until next time...

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