Mark Green Picks The SEC

Columnist Mark Green analyzes this week's Southeastern Conference football matchups.

Editor's Note: A late hail mary touchdown last week by the LSU Tigers kept Mark from having another perfect week. For the season he is 63-19 (.768) in games involving SEC teams.

Louisiana-Lafayette at ARKANSAS

The only non-intra-league contest this weekend involves one of the SEC's hottest teams, the Arkansas Razorbacks who entertain lowly Louisiana- Lafayette in Fayetteville. This is the last true home game for the Pigs in 2002, and has the makings of a massacre. By the time this afternoon barbecue is completed, the Sunbelt's second worst team will have sustained loss number eight. And that's all there is to say about that. ARKANSAS 45. LA-LaFayette 10.


Vanderbilt at KENTUCKY

The "Hail Mary" ends with the phrase: "now, and at the hour of our death." Little did Kentucky know, that hour was coming that very second, when LSU's 75-yard prayer was answered much to the horror of what was, is and ever shall be UK football. Oh, the injustice of it all! However, out of every bad, some good may come. UK's self-sacrifice should serve as a reminder to us all, that not only do we not know the hour or the day (or the second for that matter), but we are reminded that great grandma knew what she was talking about when it came to raising poultry. "Don't count your chickens before they hatch." Indeed. Never forget it. Kentucky never will.

As for Vanderbilt? Bolstered by their same old near miss against Florida in Nashville last week, the 'Dores have promised to win one or both of their remaining games with Kentucky and Tennessee. I don't know if we've heard that before, but at least the attitude is positive, even if the reality continues to dictate against it. KENTUCKY 35, VANDY 27.


South Carolina at FLORIDA

For the past month, South Carolina's offense has reverted to the fetal position, costing an otherwise-good 'Cock football team several chances at victory. SC has averaged just zero points per game over that span and failed to get a flicker out of the scoreboard in last week's 23-0 home loss against Arkansas. The alarm has sounded. In midweek it was announced that senior Gamecock QB Corey Jenkins has been moved to safety, and sophomore Dondrial Pinkins was elevated to the starting spot in an effort to get more production from the passing game. But a change in quarterback may not solve South Carolina's problems, as the poor play of a very average wide receiver corps must shoulder some of the blame for a loss of balance in the Gamecock offense.

Florida, meanwhile, is the Lou Gehrig of SEC Football-the luckiest team alive. Last week's thrilling 21-17 win over Vanderbilt in Nashville served to confirm suspicions that Gator Coach Ron Zook is not picking up where Steve Spurrier left off. A year ago, UF blasted Vandy 71-13 in Gainesville. No, this is not your big brother's Gator football team, yet, incredibly, Florida still stands to win the SEC East pending the outcome of Saturday's Georgia- Auburn game. Thanks, in large part, to mediocre opposition from Eastern Division rivals, the Gators are on the brink of playing for the SEC Title, and need only to win this Saturday against the 'Cocks to finish their own half of the homework required for graduation to Atlanta. T.V. sets have already been installed in the Gator locker room so Florida players can see for themselves whether or not it's worthwhile to warm up for Saturday's 6:00 p.m. EDT contest. Hey, times have changed.

With Florida's attention so squarely focused on the happenings in Auburn, one has to wonder if the Florida football team is ready for a Lou Holtz invasion, even if the not-so-eager Beavers from Columbia aren't quite as ready to score as they were a year or two ago. If there will be a truly shocking upset in the SEC Saturday, this one could be it. FLORIDA 23, SOUTH CAROLINA 22


TENNESSEE at MISSISSIPPI STATE

It has been Clockwork Orange for the Volunteers this season, as wins over Wyoming, Middle Tennessee, Rutgers, South Carolina and Arkansas have been offset by embarrassing losses to Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Miami, each a former victim of UT teams past. Payback has been a sweet treat for the victims. And this season of penance may even continue into late-year games with Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt if the Vols don't wake up from their injury-plagued guilt trip.

Will the nightmare end soon? Possibly not. It looks likely QB Casey Clausen may not be able to go this weekend in Starkville as the Vols try to pick up a win against SEC West cellar-dweller Mississippi State. If Clausen can't go, look again for fast-footed freshman James Banks to take the reins in a simplified version of UT's "nobody's open-so run with it" offense.

The lone remaining offensive threat for the Vols appears to be TE Jason Witten, but even he got banged up last week in the Vols' loss to Miami. And still no sign of Kelley Washington, the one-time Vol superstar wide receiver, who has become the sideline jester's face of UT's dirty little secret, whatever it is. Only God and Phil Fulmer know what's really wrong with this team, but if the Vols don't show some life-signs pretty soon, prep All-America QB Chris Leak won't be the only defection from the UT's 2003 recruiting class. A word of warning for the Vols: Jackie Sherill's teams always play better in November, too.MISSISSIPPI STATE 17, TENNESSEE 16.


ALABAMA at LSU

After observing renewed anti-Tide prosecutorial interest in Memphis this past week, Alabama must now don its penitentiary face for a Deep-South confrontation with rage-aholic Coach Nick Saban and his Cajun War Daddies.

In an internet-circulated post earlier this week, the LSU-UK post-game locker room speech was revealed in which Saban appeared a tad resentful of Bama's "most favored players" status, and beseeched his own team to share his sense of injustice. Whether Saban really said all those things or not, Bama by now surely has a printout of the speech and will likely bring to Baton Rouge an attitude of its own. In any event, the remarks were right on, and Saturday night's shootout will surely seem like a second showing of the Good, The Bad and The Ugly with the "Good" part being played by the name of the team in the loss column of the post-game press release. ALABAMA 31, LSU 10.

GEORGIA at AUBURN

"Quiet the Dog. Tether the pony to a distant post. Our master, Caesar is in the tent, where the maps are spread His eyes fixed on nothing, a hand under his head. Like a long-legged fly upon the stream, his mind moves upon silence."

---W.B. Yeats

There is in the air now a stillness. A quiet calm before the battle of East versus West. Two teams representing their great universities in the South's oldest college football rivalry will meet Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn. The venue was named after the greatest gentleman the game has ever known, Ralph "Shug" Jordan, who coached Auburn to a National Championship in 1957. His protege, Vince Dooley, coached Georgia to a National Championship during the 1980 season. Dooley still runs Georgia football from his athletics director post.

The game Saturday brings back memories: Of 1971, when Tiger QB Pat Sullivan cemented his Heisman Trophy status with a huge game in Athens. Of 1983, when Auburn and Bo Jackson defeated Georgia to win the SEC Title. Of 1982 in Auburn when Herchel Walker led Georgia to the conference championship on the way to the big prize. Of an amazing tie in 1978. Of a disappointing tie in 1994. Of a goal line stand in 1974. Of a lady luck in 1992. Of the hills. And of the Plains. Between the Hedges. Fire hoses. Pat Dye. Ray Goff. Matt Robinson. Tiger Walk. Rudi, Wayne Johnson, Andy Johnson, Frank Sinkwich, Tucker Fredrickson, Terry Beasley, Chris Linderman, Robert Baker, Buck Belue, Jeff Pyburn, Eric Zier, Willie McClendon, Lars Tate, Kevin McLee, Brooks, Cribbs, Andrews, Fullwood, Frank Warren and Andray Bruce. The railroad tracks and the Allman Brothers Band. The Little Train and the Junkyard Dawgs. Erk, Wayne and Brother Bill. Moonpie Wilson and Takeo Spikes. The Red Clay Hounds and the East Alabama Cathouse. Whiskey and the choo-choo. Bars built over mountain streams. Red and Silver britches and orange jersies. I'll take my stand. Blue Sky, sunny day. Will he lie beneath the clay? Will this Spirit fall away? There is no end to the memories and the melody. They are set in eternity. "Like a long-legged fly upon the stream," this rivalry moves upon silence.

What a privilege it is to see another chapter of this great history unfold. AUBURN 27, GEORGIA 24.


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