Marshall Picks AU and the SEC

Columnist Phillip Marshall predicts Auburn's football season opener and other SEC football games.

Every week is different in college football. A team that looks like a world-beater one week can look like a chump the next. That's because you're dealing with college kids.

With that in mind, it's hard to know what to make of LSU's 45-0 victory at Mississippi State on Thursday night. I tuned in wanting to see two things: Is LSU the beast of a football team so many think it is and has Mississippi State improved like Sly Croom believes it has?

It might sound strange after a score so lopsided, but LSU looked a team with some work still to do. The game got out of hand mainly because Mississippi State quarterback Michael Henig threw six interceptions, most because he threw into coverage or just threw the ball up for grabs.

LSU's defense was very, very good, as expected. But it seems the Bayou Bengals could have some problems on the offensive line. Quarterback Matt Flynn is no JaMarcus Russell. LSU certainly will have a chance to win any game it plays. But it doesn't have the look of a team that is going to dominate the SEC, at least not after one game.

Mississippi State? I like, admire and respect Sly Croom. I would like to believe his program is making progress. But the truth is that the Mississippi State team I saw Thursday night looked a lot like last year and the year before--pretty good on defense, all but helpless on offense. The Bulldogs have won three games in each of Croom's first three seasons, and it's hard to find more than three wins on this year's schedule.

Enough about last night. Let's look ahead to the first full Saturday of SEC football. There are three games of some national significance--Kansas State at Auburn, Tennessee at California and Oklahoma State at Georgia.

KANSAS STATE AT AUBURN: The Tigers have a lot of the ingredients they need to contend for a championship. They also have some question marks, mainly surrounding young guys playing key roles on both sides of the ball and on special teams. A lot of eyes will be on redshirt freshman right guard Mike Berry and true freshman right tackle Lee Ziemba. And then there is true freshman kicker Wesley Byrum, redshirt freshman punter Ryan Shoemaker, redshirt freshman linebacker Craig Stevens and a lot of other young guys playing backup roles.

Craig Stevens is scheduled to start at linebacker for Coach Tommy Tuberivlle's Tigers.

My impression is that Kansas State is a decent team that would need some help from the home team to mount a serious upset bid. Because of that, don't look for Auburn to be particularly wide-open on offense. I suspect the defense will be called on to carry much of the load in this one. Auburn 27, Kansas State 9.

TENNESSEE AT CALIFORNIA: Tennessee embarrassed California in Knoxville last season, racing to a 35-0 lead and coasting home for a 35-17 victory. Supposedly, it was the atmosphere at Neyland Stadium that got to the Golden Bears. Could it not have been maybe Tennessee's speed and athleticism?

It'll be closer this time, but look for the Vols to celebrate again. Tennessee 28, California 23.

OKLAHOMA STATE AT GEORGIA: There are a lot of similarities between Georgia and Auburn. The Bulldogs have lots of outstanding players. And they have lots of young players playing critical positions.

UGA coach Mark Richt

There's a lot of optimism at Oklahoma State. Some even believe the Cowboys could challenge Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12. They might, but they're not going to enjoy their trip between the hedges. Georgia 24, Oklahoma State 17.

WESTERN CAROLINA AT ALABAMA: The game will be incidental to the spectacle of Nick Saban's first game as Alabama coach. We won't anything more about Alabama this game than we know now. Alabama 45, Western Carolina 14.

OLE MISS AT MEMPHIS: Ed Orgeron, going into his third Ole Miss season, talks the best of game of any coach in the SEC. Unfortunately for him, nothing that has happened on the field has backed up his bluster.

Lots of better Ole Miss teams than this one have struggled at Memphis. In this week's upset special...Memphis 21, Ole Miss 20

In other SEC games: Arkansas 38, Troy 10; Florida 42, Western Kentucky 7; Kentucky 49, Eastern Kentucky 17; South Carolina 35, Louisiana-Lafayette 7; Vanderbilt 31, Richmond 6.


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