Mark Green Picks the SEC

Columnist Mark Green gives his opinions on this week's Southeastern Conference football games.

Mark Green

Editor's Note: Mark Green will try to get back on a hot streak after slumping to a 4-3 mark last week. He is 46-10 (82.1 percent) for the season.


MISSISSIPPI STATE at Memphis

In last week's exciting showdown victory over Troy State, Mississippi State reasserted itself as a team capable of actually beating someone. That's called a baby step in AA parlance. Going to Memphis and beating a wounded Tiger can be a tall order in dry-out conditions like these, but the Bulldogs have the advantage of playing a team whose season has been as sick as their own. Revenge could carry the day for Memphis, which lost badly last year in Starkville, but incompetence will probably take over by the fourth quarter, when the Tigers should find their comfort zone on the short end of the scoreboard. Mississippi State 23, Memphis 20.


VANDERBILT at GEORGIA

Suspended Commodore QB Jay Cutler gets back behind center in Athens Saturday morning with high hopes of turning highly-ranked Georgia into a mere Eastern Division contender. So far, the Dawgs look to have already inherited a ticket to the Dome in December, as co-favorites Florida and Tennessee can't win a football game between them. For Georgia, it's two contenders down and one to go, that one being the Jacksonville Cocktail party opponent in November-the once-proud Florida Gators.

So now that the East is won, and Georgia is just waiting around for the chance to play for a National Title in January, why should the Bulldogs even show up for the 1-5 Commodores? Because they have to. Georgia 34, Vandy 31.


SOUTH CAROLINA at LSU

Lou Holtz and South Carolina are back. Maybe not all the way back, but the Gamecock defense under the direction of martinet Charlie Strong is getting it done in tough places. Last Saturday's 16-10 win at Kentucky was like pulling teeth from a chicken, only it was the chickens doing the pulling, and the Wildcats doing the screaming. Still it was win number four for USC.

This week the Cocks visit the Tigers' lair in Red Stick where Nick Saban and company are still toasting last week's demolition of Florida in G'ville. A consequence of that game with the Gators, however, is a season-threatening injury to starting QB Matt Mauck. Backup Marcus Randall will go this Saturday.

LSU has a clear path to the SEC West, but that path wanders through Auburn and Fayettville, places unwilling to guarantee the Bengals a hot meal or even a floor to sleep on. If LSU wants to win the West, the Tigers must avoid what all favorites must avoid: every opponent's best shot. Look out for Lou. LSU 20, South Carolina 17.


KENTUCKY at ARKANSAS

The Razorbacks return home with renewed hope for a SEC Championship after winning at Auburn last Saturday. Confidence lost in a 30-12 early-season loss to Alabama has been mostly restored, and Pig Power is the new motto du jour in Fayetteville.

The Power of the Pig will be tested this Saturday by the great white throwboy of Kentucky, Jared Lorenzen, whose size alone should give UK the best third-and-short conversion ratio in the country. Pinball RB Artose Pinner will not shy away from a ferocious Arkansas linebacking corps, but it's the speed of the Arkansas secondary that could keep the 'Cats from scoring enough to win. Arkansas 33, Kentucky 20.


OLE MISS at ALABAMA

The Fran Float flies again in Tuscaloosa Saturday as Eli and friends bring an ambitious attitude to town, with every intention of popping the always over-inflated Tide balloon. The puff 'n stuff of a 4-2 Alabama record is rendered vain by fourth quarter losses to Georgia and Oklahoma, as Alabama Football continues to be of the "first- three-quarters-only" variety.

Think about it. Last year the Tide led UCLA, Tennessee, Ole Miss and South Carolina late before losing each one. The four finger salute, long a Bama tradition, has become, not a rallying cry for victory, but a sign of surrender. A statement to the fans that, although we--the Alabama football team--have made a game of it so far, we have been deliberately wasting your time, and were only teasing our opponent about actually winning the game. And so the Bama trend of close-but-no-cigar is being established under Franchione, a far cry from the "Bama is a winner" attitude of old. Mediocrity appears to be just fine with Tide supporters, as long as Fran can beat Auburn. Whom else has he beaten?

Oh, Ole Miss. Yeah, Bama will give her a big dose this Saturday, I guess, but it won't be the first time somebody's done that. The next fourth-quarter collapse will come next week in Knoxville. Alabama 45, Ole Miss 14.


AUBURN at FLORIDA

Auburn served up Tub's famous Pond Platter on the Plains last Saturday for the visiting Swine Herd. And the Pigs feasted until fat, piling on and stampeding through the soft middle of the Tiger belly. After the Hogs had run past the 400-yard mark, and left the killing field for the Ozarks, Auburn administrators and coaches became the Hush Puppies, moaning mostly about mistreatment by a booing fan base. Fact is, the Tigers' performance earned some disrespect, much of which was indirectly aimed at the sidelines. The only way now for Auburn Football to be restored to dignity will be when the principals quit complaining about fan abuse and get back to the business of blocking and tackling the opponent.

The first chance at redemption comes Saturday in Gainesville, Florida, where the home-standing Gators of Ron Zook are still sitting around in shock from a 36-7 electrocution at the hands of LSU last week. That little piece of capital punishment followed a similar disaster the weekend before in Oxford, Miss., where Ole Miss took a Gator skin of its own. The newly-acquired habit of losing is not what Florida fans are used to, and the few who do make to Ben Hill Griffith Stadium Saturday night might let out a boo or two of their own, even though Halloween is still a couple of weeks away.

Neither of these teams is in any shape to take out frustrations upon the other, but Florida may have an edge in proximity to the abyss. Zook appears well on his way to becoming a one-term Ball Coach, and probably has to win this one and a few more like it to regain even a snicker-free seat at the bar of the Purple Porpoise.

Tuberville, on the other hand, has built a speed defense that should match up well with teams like Florida, yet suddenly finds himself in a near must-win situation if Auburn is to stay in the hunt for the SEC West title. The nest egg has been dropped on the pavement. From now on it's paycheck to paycheck for the Auburn Tigers. Let's hope they spend it wisely. Auburn 27, Florida 20.


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