Questions Abound in the SEC

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the Auburn football Tigers and other teams across the SEC.

Noted in passing...

Auburn's freshman wide receivers have quickly made a name for themselves. Ben Obomanu's sprinter's speed and Anthony Mix's strength and athleticism have given the Tigers something they never really had last season. Mix reached over a defender from behind to snare a touchdown pass against Mississippi State and Obomanu ran right past another for a touchdown just before halftime.

Some Auburn coaches say privately that Courtney Taylor, who played quarterback at Carrollton last year and is being redshirted, could be the best of the bunch.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Montae Pitts, yet another freshman with exceptional talent, end up at cornerback before it's all said and done. He could be an outstanding receiver, but he could be an All-America defensive back.

TROUBLE ON ROCKY TOP

Turns out Tennessee has more problems than just getting the snap from center.

The Vols lost to Florida 30-13 at home last Saturday when the Gators scored 24 points in less than five minutes at the end of the second quarter. They fumbled snaps, they blew coverages, they did about everything you can do to lose a football game.

Earlier this week the real problem boiled over.

The antics of wide receiver Kelley Washington, it turned out, weren't going down well with his teammates.

Washington loves to talk about himself. He gave himself the nickname "The Future." It seems some of his teammates would be just as happy if he'd gone on to the NFL and become "The Past."

"I just go out there and try to make big plays," Washington said. "I'm an outspoken guy, and I think the team feeds off it."

Defensive tackle Rashad Moore may be feeding off it, but he doesn't like the taste. And he's wondering when head coach Phillip Fulmer is going to do something about it. He doesn't mention Washington by name. He doesn't have to.

"If the coach is going to let it go on, it's going to go on, regardless," Moore told The Tennessean. "I feel that's the coach's job to straighten that out.

"There's always going to be somebody playing for himself and himself only. The type person I'm talking about is somebody who would be happy if they got 10 big plays and we lose than to have two big plays and we win."

Strong stuff.

I interviewed Washington last summer and came away with the feeling that he was the cockiest college athlete I'd interviewed since talking with Deion Sanders before Auburn played Florida State in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 1987 season.

DANGEROUS ORANGEMEN

Despite their woeful defensive statistics, it would be a mistake for Auburn not to consider Syracuse a dangerous opponent Saturday night at Jordan-hare Stadium.

The Orangemen turned their season around after a 1-2 start with a 31-14 victory over Auburn last season. They are 1-2 and eager to do it again, though they don't have the impact players they had a year ago.

Auburn certainly should win, but a turnover here and a mistake there could turn it into a nail-biter that goes to the wire.

HAPPY DAYS AT UK

Despite NCAA sanctions, these are happy days for Kentucky football. The Wildcats are 4-0. They feel so good about themselves that they even talk about being proud of the way their bench cleared in a fight with Middle Tennessee State last Saturday.

Reality is about to set in. The Wildcats play eight straight SEC games, starting with Saturday's visit to Florida. Just what that reality is remains to be seen. There seems to be no question this is the best Kentucky team in several years. Good enough to beat Florida? Probably not. Good enough to make it a fourth-quarter game? Maybe, but probably not. Good enough to have a winning season? I'd say there's a good chance of that.

ANSWERING QUESTIONS

Just how good is Arkansas? All we know so far is that the Razorbacks are good enough to blow out Boise State and South Florida. We'll find out more soon. They play Alabama at home this week, then have back to back games at Tennessee and Auburn.

Arkansas has taken some criticism for being the only team in the SEC not to play a game against a team from a BCS conference. Personally, I think it's a wise decision. If Auburn had played a creampuff instead of Southern California and if Alabama had played a creampuff instead of Oklahoma, both would be ranked in the Top 15 if not the Top 10 right now.

There are differing views on scheduling, but if I was an SEC head coach, the one thing that would be assured would be that I would be unbeaten in nonconference play every year. Eight SEC games--nine if you get to the SEC Championship Game--are more than enough to take care of any strength of schedule issues.

THIS WEEK'S PREDICTIONS: Auburn 35, Syracuse 20; Arkansas 24, Alabama 16; LSU 28, Mississippi State 27; Vanderbilt 17, South Carolina 15; Tennessee 63, Rutgers 6, Georgia 38, New Mexico State 17.

Until next time...


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