Marshall: Can Improved AU Win In Baton Rouge?

Phillip Marshall gives his picks before a big Saturday in the SEC.

Who would have believed four weeks ago that Auburn would be playing LSU on Saturday for first place in the Southeastern Conference West? Who would have believed, in the wake of back-to-back losses to South Florida and Mississippi State, that Auburn would even have a realistic chance of winning at Tiger Stadium?

A lot has changed since Sept. 15. Auburn has won four straight games, including road wins at Florida and Arkansas, to move to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the SEC. LSU (6-1, 3-1) was shown to be human in last Saturday's 43-37 loss to Kentucky, though few teams have ever been penalized less in the polls for losing.

Auburn can claim the favorite's role in the West with a victory over LSU. And Auburn certainly has a realistic chance to do that.

The question is how realistic.

Winners of 14 of their last 15 on the road, the Tigers won't be intimidated by the noise and hostility at Tiger Stadium. Winners of 17 straight home games and 24 straight Saturday night home games, LSU won't be intimidated by Auburn's road record.

Both offenses have had good moments and bad. Both defenses have often been dominant. There's every reason to believe this Auburn-LSU game will be like so many others – a violent football confrontation.

If you compare the two teams man-for-man, LSU probably has an advantage. And it is playing at home.

A turnover or two could swing it the other way, but...

LSU 20, Auburn 16.

Your fearless picker was 5-1 last week, including hitting the score of Alabama's 27-24 win over Ole Miss on the button. For the season, the record is 39-14.

TENNESSEE (4-2, 2-1) at ALABAMA (5-2, 3-1): It's hard to know what to make of Alabama. The Crimson Tide shares first place in the West with Auburn and LSU. But its three conference wins are over teams that have combined for exactly one conference win.

Tennessee, like Auburn, has rallied strongly from a 1-2 start. The Vols' offense will give Alabama's shaky defense problems. But Alabama's offense might also give Tennessee problems. Plus, Alabama is playing at home.

This one probably will go down to the wire, but the Vols don't often lose to Alabama these days.

Tennessee 31, Alabama 27.

Phillip Fulmer has faired well against Alabama, but lost his last visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium 6-3 in 2005.

FLORIDA (4-2, 2-2) at KENTUCKY (6-1, 2-1): The Wildcats earned one of the biggest wins in school history last Saturday. Meanwhile, Florida was taking a week off after back-to-back losses to Auburn and LSU.

Maybe Florida just isn't all that good. And maybe Kentucky really is that good. I still have to be convinced.

Florida 28, Kentucky 21.

ARKANSAS (3-3, 0-3) at OLE MISS (2-5, 0-4): Despite being shut down by Auburn's defense last Saturday, Arkansas has the best rushing attack in the SEC. Ole Miss has a rare trifecta. It is last in the SEC in rushing defense, pass defense and, obviously, total defense. But, hey, the Rebels are 11th in scoring defense.

Arkansas 34, Ole Miss 24.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-3, 1-3) at WEST VIRGINIA (5-1): If Mississippi State is going to make it to a bowl game, it is going to have to win one it's not supposed to. Could this be the week?

Something tells me the Bulldogs will give a good account of themselves, but they don't have enough firepower to pull it off.

West Virginia 27, Mississippi State 17.

VANDERBILT (3-3, 1-4) at SOUTH CAROLINA (6-1, 3-1): Vanderbilt was oh so close to pulling off a big win against Georgia last Saturday but suffered a 20-17 loss at home instead. South Carolina is on a roll and South Carolina has better players.

South Carolina 34, Vanderbilt 10.

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