Mark Green Picks The SEC

Following a 9-0 week, Mark Green is back again analyzing the SEC as he takes a look at the Big Boy, Georgia's embarrassment, cheating Bama and the big showdown in the SEC East as Florida visits Rocky Top.

Editor's Note: Mark Green was 9-0 last week to improve his record to a sterling 26-4 through three weeks of picking Southeastern Conference football games.


Mark Green


VANDERBILT at OLE MISS

The Commodores of Bobby Johnson have shown surprising competitive zeal in the past two weeks, and have a win over Furman to show for it. Freshman QB Jay Cutler is cutting his college football teeth on opponents' helmets and shoulder pads and has a bloody lip to show for that.

Ole Miss, meanwhile, took the expected dive last week in Lubbock against Texas Tech and launches its bid for the SEC West title at home in the morning JP game. This is no time slot for the faint of heart, and Vanderbilt has a history of competitiveness in Oxford. Look for more of the same Saturday morning. OLE MISS 42, VANDERBILT 27.


MTSU at KENTUCKY

The Blues brothers hook up in Lexington Saturday afternoon to determine which team really is THE BIG Blue. Kentucky and Big Boy QB Jared Lorenzen have certainly laid claim so far by going 3-0 on the young season. Middle Tennessee State started the year with high hopes to go along with a lofty schedule which includes four SEC teams. Two down; two to go, and MTSU is 0-2. Make that 0-3, but not by much at all (if at all). KENTUCKY 24, MTSU 23.


Northwestern State at GEORGIA

How absurd. Who on earth is Northwestern State? Just where in northwestern Louisiana could one go to school on a football scholarship and get to play against an SEC team? The scalpers should file suit against the Georgia athletic department. The fans should stay home and watch Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. GEORGIA 100, NWSCC 0.


Temple at SOUTH CAROLINA

The Gamecocks were staggered in the rain last week by SEC East rival Georgia when RB Andrew Pinnock mishandled a pitch from QB Corey Jenkins. USC is staring down the barrel of a disappointing season and now finds itself in the midst of a two-game losing streak.

This is no good time to play a Big East team, but luckily that team is mediocre Temple. Still, in their current frame of mind, the ‘Cocks of South Carolina need to take care to get up for the Owls just as if they were Miami. SOUTH CAROLINA 23, Temple 20.


FLORIDA at TENNESSEE

This very likely will be one of those frightful football Saturdays when all semblance of Top 25 pecking order breaks down. The upsets could start popping up like cadavers at Bryant -Denny Stadium. One to watch out for may be the all-or-nothing attempt by the Florida Gators to unseat defending SEC East Champ Tennessee in Knoxville. The Gators sure did look sick against Miami a couple of weeks back, and the doubters in Gainesville are already negotiating with the Washington Redskins for a coaching trade. After Monday night, both sides seem to be interested in a deal. But you can never go home again, unless it's to be buried. It's time for Florida to move on with life after Spurrier.

Tennessee, meanwhile, will finally be so privileged as to have the services this week of star receiver Kelley Washington, who held himself out of last week's game for personal reasons. Prior to that, Washington had missed the opener against Wyoming with a knee injury. Also injured for UT have been some key members of the all-important offensive line. Guards Jason Respert and Chavis Smith may play, but will certainly be hobbled if they do. That could be key as RB Cedrick Houston and the Vol running game are key to Tennessee success this weekend.Gator

When he was at Arkansas, current Florida Defensive Coordinator John Thompson made it a habit to shut down the Tennessee offense. But a lack of depth on the Gator front four could be an Achilles heel for him throughout this year, as it was against Miami. The middle linebacker problem has been addressed by moving outside backer Bam Hardman inside to replace Matt Farrior. This Saturday, Florida QB Rex Grossman and RB Earnest Graham will see if they can do it without the old ball coach there to show them the way. If they can't, the predominant direction for post-Spurrier Gator football will be down hill all the way. FLORIDA 31, TENNESSEE 29.


Southern Miss at ALABAMA

Alabama Football got confirmation this week of the lifetime cheater achievement award it received from the NCAA last winter. Apparently no one on the appeals committee knew what Alabama officials were talking about when complained of a "secret witness" whose testimony against the Tide, supposedly, was used unfairly.

Using the term "Death Penalty" about a half-dozen times, the committee responded to Alabama with the same disgust the infractions committee displayed back in January. After all, what has changed? Seems the Tide ought to go ahead and self-impose the Death Penalty now, just to get it over with. As it is, the five-year clock restarts this week anyway.

Five more years without cheating? Five more years without paying a single player or coach, not even one red dime? With so many willing recipients of Alabama influence out there, what is Bama to do? It's hard to be virtuous in a brothel. What if these players come to Alabama with their hand out? What then? How can Alabama resist the temptation to oblige the needy and lift up the downtrodden? Does no one out there appreciate the kindness and the magnanimity? Does no one appreciate the leadership? Are we all alone in our perception of the Tide as philanthropic paragon? Yes, you are. All alone. Perhaps the NCAA's surgically implanted pacemaker will at least give you the appearance of decency. Though, Lord knows, it doesn't suit you. ALABAMA 34, SOUTHERN MISS 20.


AUBURN at MISSISSIPPI STATE

In recent years this game has been Joe Lee Dunn winning the war against Noel Mazzone. But the cast of coaching characters has changed considerably, particularly on the Auburn sidelines, where new coordinators Bobby Petrino and Gene Chizik take center stage Thursday night on national television.

What has changed from a year ago? Some new stuff about Auburn football has emerged in recent weeks:

*AU covered the spread for the second time in two games (USC went off at 7.5) . The Tigers are at least exceeding the expectations of the experts.

*Karlos and Caddy are two money players, just like Auburn followers knew they would be.

*Reggie Torbor did not play against Vandy. Mayo Sowell made a big hit on Cutler which paid instant dividends in the form of a fumble and a touchdown.

*VU had a very good offensive line and good skill players. The Georgia Tech loss by VU was a direct result of panic play on the part of Jay Cutler, the RS frosh QB making his first start. He played with much more confidence and poise last Saturday than he did in his opener.

*AU held Vandy to six points, 10 if you give Stricker his muffed catch (what goes around in Nashville comes around in Auburn, Dan).

*Miami gave up 21 points to Temple, using fewer players on defense than Auburn did.

*Two defensive scores means two fewer offensive possessions.

*The Auburn offense got inside the five twice and got nothing. That was an aberration, which led to a sluggish start.

*Cobb and Campbell missed wide open bombs (threw short) because they were throwing against a strong wind. They should take that into account the next windy day, should it occur.

*Cadillac averaged 8.5 yards per carry. Good against anyone, especially when they are looking for you on every play. He could be the best RB in the country.

*Cobb looked more in control against Vandy than I've ever seen him.

*Stricker was held in check better than I have ever seen-3 catches and usually covered like a blanket.

*VU's second-teamer, Benji Walker is an excellent QB. I have watched him practice many times. If Bobby Johnson likes Cutler better, my guess is the Dores will score some points against Ole Miss this weekend.

*AU played the second team on defense early and often vs Vandy. Gotta like T.J. Jackson.

*Marcus McNeil is great, about to be a star. I'm less worried about OT than I was.

*The return of Marcel Willis may save the life of the Auburn passing game until the kids start making more plays. Silas Daniels is there if you need him. Ditto Lorenzo Diamond.

*Donnay Young seems to be playing well behind Travaris Robinson at FS.

*Junior Rosegreen looks to be coming of age at SS.

*Horace Willis is ready to step up at CB. He has great talent.

There are two major negatives:

1. Auburn's defense needs to LEARN to play the option better.

2. Auburn's defensive backs are getting confused on occasion, especially in some of the blitz packages. That should get better every week as they get more comfortable with the defense. Despite that, Auburn has still have not given up the big play TD. That tells me Chizik is making the right calls.

There is no such thing as dominant defense anymore, unless the opposition is non-existent. Just as balance has become essential for an offense (see Nebraska), defenses are willing to give up some rushing yards to keep points off the board. It may not be as much fun as the good ole days, but it's the way it is in the golden age of the forward pass.

Thursday night's game will be a turning point game for the loser. No matter what is being said, the outcome is critical to both programs and coaches. State will try to prove last year's failure was a fluke. Auburn will try to reverse the Noel Mazzone trend of scoring nine points per game against the Bulldogs. This game is BIG for both teams, and they will play like they mean business. For Auburn, defense should win the day, as Kevin Fant's dropback style may play right into the strengths of Coach Chizik's turnover-oriented schemes. AUBURN 30, MISSISSIPPI STATE 16.


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