Marshall: Auburn vs. Ole Miss and SEC Picks

Phillip Marshall takes a look at this week's action as Auburn travels to Ole Miss plus the other football matchups around the Southeastern Conference.

I'll sit in front of my television and watch almost any college football game. I think it's great that lesser conferences often play on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to get television exposure.

Yet when the best football players in the world play on Sundays, I have only passing interest. I haven't watched an entire NFL game yet and probably won't. That includes the Super Bowl.

The college game is, in almost every way, more fun than the pro game. But there is one thing I like better about the NFL: The only thing that matters on the field is winning. How or by how much is irrelevant.

Partly because of the polls and partly because college football fans like to go to work on Monday and brag about how impressive their teams were on Saturday, there is a lot of fretting in college football over things other than winning and losing.

Auburn has beaten two Top 10 teams this season. It is ranked No. 7 in all three major polls and is No. 5 in the BCS standings. But in some games, particularly against overmatched opponents, the Tigers haven't exactly won in style. That gets us back to the fretting among fans.

All that really matters is that, save one puzzling Saturday morning against Arkansas at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn players have sung in the locker room after every game.

Auburn goes to Ole Miss on Saturday favored by almost three touchdowns. But it's an SEC game. It's on the road. Any kind of win will make the records 8-1 and 5-1, and that should be welcomed.

Earlier in the week, I thought this game would be close. I took note of Ole Miss' overtime loss at Alabama, its near miss against Georgia and its victory over a halfway decent Vanderbilt team.

But as the game gets closer, I'm not so sure. When I compare the two teams, I can't find an advantage for Ole Miss other than middle linebacker Patrick Willis. Auburn, it seems to me, has the advantage everywhere else.

And that doesn't take into account the turmoil that was surely caused within the Ole Miss team by the dismissal of one player, the defection of another and the suspension of four others.

Statistically, Ole Miss has the worst offense in the SEC. Auburn's defense has been terrific at times and had more holes at times than a slice of Swiss cheese. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is tired of hearing about the struggles. So are his players. I have no doubt they will go to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on something of a mission.

Auburn's offense seems to be rounding into form, though Tulane's defense really wasn't much of a test. A healthy Brandon Cox makes a lot of difference.

It's always tough on the road, but Auburn has won nine of its last 10 away from Jordan-Hare Stadium. Ole Miss doesn't have the firepower to interrupt that run. Auburn would have to offer lots of help, and one thing this team has not done is turn the ball over frequently.

The Rebels will, no doubt, play with passion and emotion. It won't matter. At least it shouldn't matter.

Auburn 34, Ole Miss 10.

Your fearless picker was 5-1 last week, running the record to 47-12. I would have been 6-0 had I not temporarily lost focus and picked Vanderbilt to beat South Carolina at home. There is one truism about predicting the outcome of SEC football games: Pick against Vanderbilt, and you'll usually be right.

On to this week's other games:

Florida (6-1, 4-1) vs. Georgia (6-2, 3-2): Florida can move within an eyelash of locking up a trip to the SEC Championship Game with a victory in Jacksonville. A Georgia victory, combined with a South Carolina victory over Tennessee, would throw the East into absolute turmoil.

It's hard to accept that Georgia just isn't any good, but in the past three weeks the Bulldogs have given up 51 points to Tennessee at home, lost to Vanderbilt at home and had to recover a fumble deep in their own territory to hold off Mississippi State at home.

On the other hand, even if they were good it probably wouldn't matter. Georgia beats Florida about as often as Lee Corso says something about college football that makes good sense. Florida 27, Georgia 13.

Florida International (0-7) at Alabama (5-3, 2-3): Alabama has the ultimate breather--a homecoming game against a winless opponent that has suspended 18 players.

Alabama players probably go against better players on their scout teams than they will go against Saturday, and that's not a joke. Alabama 56, Florida International 0.

Tennessee (6-1, 2-1) at South Carolina (6-2, 3-2): Is Steve Spurrier working his magic again? It was about this time last season that the Gamecocks took off on a run that included wins over the Vols in Knoxville and over Florida at home.

Much like last season, South Carolina started out this season not looking like much. Then Spurrier inserted Syvelle Newton at quarterback and everything changed.

Syvelle Newton has made a positive difference for the South Carolina offense.

Tennessee, fresh off a harrowing 16-13 win over Alabama, has already proved that last season was an aberration. The Vols have more talent top to bottom, but this one could go either way. Tennessee 23, South Carolina 17.

Kentucky (3-4, 1-3) at Mississippi State (2-6, 0-4): Mississippi State seems to be improving. Kentucky seems to be getting worse.

The Wildcats are so bad on defense that they might even be able to make Mississippi State's offense look good. Mississippi State 24, Kentucky 20.

Vanderbilt (3-5, 1-4) at Duke (0-7): The Blue Devils have actually been playing better lately, and they are at home. Assuming a Vanderbilt victory over anyone is always dangerous.

But the Commodores have the better team. Vanderbilt 31, Duke 21.

Louisiana-Monroe (1-6) at Arkansas (6-1, 4-1): The Razorbacks get one last creampuff before going into the stretch that will decide if they represent the West Division in Atlanta. Arkansas 49, Louisiana-Monroe 7.

Until next time...


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