It took Alabama about 20 minutes to wake up this past Saturday. After falling behind 17-7 to South Florida, the Tide exploded for 33 unanswered points. They will need to continue to play that brand of football if there is any chance of beating the #1 Sooners.
Oklahoma completed a dress rehearsal of sorts against North Texas last week. The Sooners were able to rest several of the starters late and to get some valuable reps for the 2nd teamers. The Sooner D certainly lived up to its billing and will set their sites on Tuscaloosa this Saturday.
Brodie Croyle had a decent game, but far from the effort it will take to beat OU. Shaud Williams is still the weapon of choice. Williams has been impressive rushing the ball, catching the ball, and on the return team. He will need a monster effort this week. I am not sold on the Tide's defense and it seemed to take a while for the coaching staff to make the proper adjustments. That luxury will not be afforded this week. Bama will give it the old college try, but come up short once again against Stoops' Sooners.
OU 24 BAMA 17
The Hogs tee it up for the 1st time on the 2003 season this weekend against familiar foe Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane lost 49-10 at Minnesota last week. Improvements must be made especially against the run if Tulsa hopes to keep it close.
Arkansas will turn once again to Cedric Cobbs. Many in Fayetteville believed Cobbs would be a Heisman caliber back before he exhausted his eligibility at Arkansas. Cobbs has been slowed by injuries, minor brushes with the law, and his own attitude. There is no denying that Cobbs has tremendous talent, but he has become his own worst enemy. If Cobbs should falter, Nutt will turn to De'Arrius Howard. The drop off in talent isn't much and the work ethic may be a little better.
The defending SEC West champs will need more than a little luck to repeat as champs again. Leading tackler Ken Hamlin defected to the NFL and the QB situation, which always seems to persist at Arkansas, is still an issue. There will be enough snaps to go around for everyone this weekend. This is a great chance for the Hogs to get some reps and they'll need them, because they are very short in the talent department. This week by comparison is really no comparison.
Arkansas 28 Tulsa 9
Is humiliation too strong a word for the pasting Auburn got last week? The stable of tailbacks were having to break tackles in the backfield just to get back to the line of scrimmage. When the Tigers looked to pass, Jason Campbell was throwing off his backfoot or just trying to cover up to prevent a turnover or injury. The Auburn Tigers now will look to bounce back from a crushing defeat and the loss of reputation among the pollsters. The national championship plans for many took on a dramatic change when the clock struck :00 and found the Tigers on the short end of a three possession loss.
Despite having to rebound on the road, the Tigers have a good shot to win this one. Tech lost at BYU last week in unimpressive fashion and looked vulnerable against the run. I am sure the altitude was partly to blame, but BYU looked more physical from the 1st quarter on.
Auburn has won 5 straight at Georgia Tech and this one should be no different. The interesting thing to watch in this one will be the psyche of the Tiger team. They can expect to see 8 or 9 men in the box all season and Tech will look to make Jason Campbell beat them. I know there are many in the Bulldog nation that have some affection for Jason, but I seriously doubt that he can make the plays to win consistently in this league. He'll have to make a few this week, but I think the defense plays better too.
Auburn 21 GA Tech 14
Middle Tennessee State at Georgia
Georgia looked nearly flawless in their blowout win at Clemson last week. Several questions were answered and the main ones were on defense. UGA looks poised to make another run through the SEC East, but they'll still need a little better play from their offensive line.
MTSU lost last week to Div 1-AA Florida Atlantic. This looks to be a rebuilding year, if there is such a thing at MTSU. While the paycheck will make the beating a little easier to swallow, a beating this week they'll get.
Mark Richt will ensure that Shockley sees more time behind center in this one and for good reason. Shockley adds a running element that David Greene lacks. Greene is the better QB and better pure passer, but it pays to have a change of pace in the college game. Hopefully, Greene can have the Dawgs up about 30 at the half, so we can see Shockley in the 2nd half. He has some amends to make this season after his mistake against Florida ended up costing UGA a shot at the National Championship. No such trouble this week.
Georgia 45 MTSU 3
Murray State at Kentucky
Strike up the band the Racers of Murray State are 1-0 on the young season after a 34-0 pounding of Valparaiso. I expect the task to be a tad more difficult this week despite the pathetic showing the Wildcats displayed over the last 3rd of the game against arch-rival Louisville.
UK showed ineptitude like the days of yore in the season's opening week. Jared Lorenzen had his moments, but he needs some help. The special teams play was down right atrocious. If UK doesn't show promise over the next few weeks, a 2 or 3 win season will be a very real possibility. New head man Rich Brooks vowed to correct the mistakes, but I just don't see it. Without Artsoe Pinner this offense is very one dimensional.
UK will win this week just based on attrition. Murray State can't deal with the size or strength of an SEC school. If UK doesn't roll up big numbers this week they won't all season.
UK 35 Murray State 7
LSU was held scoreless in the 1st quarter of their dress rehearsal last week against ULM. In fact, with just over 6 minutes to go in the half, the score remained 0-0. ULM blocked a field goal and intercepted a poorly thrown Matt Mauck pass in the end zone to deny the Tigers 1st blood. The Tigers got going finally and ended up throwing 3 TD passes before the halftime buzzer to lead 21-0. If they start that slowly this week they will lose!
Arizona looked a little better in their thumping of UTEP. This match-up can be a little difficult to call for a lot of reasons. #1 - Does Coach Mack have this team firmly behind him? #2 - Will it take 5 weeks for Matt Mauck to get it going again this year? And #3 - Can these young LSU Tigers go on the road and win in hostile territory?
The answers don't come easy and only time will bear them out, but here's a shot.
#1) I think Coach Mack has them team ready. They rallied around him at the end of the season a year ago and have been waiting for an LSU-type team to show-up on their home field.
#2) I am not sold on Mauck and I think he must have beaten Coach Saban in a poker game or something. Mauck keeps playing despite poor numbers. His job is made harder this year by a developing ground game. The offensive line was thought to be a strength for the Tigers, but ULM had Mauck running all night.
#3) I think the Tigers are still more talented, but I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see an upset here. Michael Clayton will be unstoppable most of the season, and with this game being an intersectional televised contest look for Clayton to lead the Tigers to victory.
LSU 27 Arizona 21
Mississippi at Memphis
Um escaped Nashville with a victory thanks to two bombs from 50+ off the foot of placekicker Jonathan Nichols. The Rebels offense sputtered around most of the game, but made the plays when they needed to. If the early returns are any true indicator the Rebel defense will see a lot of hard times ahead. One would wonder, based on the numbers, who the Heisman candidate really was, Manning or Cutler? A win is a win is a win and that rings even more true when it's a conference win.
Memphis trounced Tennessee Tech and had most facets of their game clicking. A familiar face now patrols the sidelines at Memphis in former Um Interim Head Coach Joe Lee Dunn. Dunn will look to solidify a Tiger D that has seen better days. Dunn is no stranger to Eli Manning and the two will renew their acquaintance once again and this game is huge for both teams. Manning had a field day last year against the Tigers in a 38-16 shelling. Many have wondered could this be the year the Tigers finally knock off their hated neighbors to the South? Tommy West certainly hopes so.
The answer to that question is a resounding NO! I look for Memphis to make a go of it, but JLD just doesn't have the correct personnel yet. They'll get after Manning and they'll hit him a lot and try to get him rattled. And contrary to media reports from North and Central Mississippi, he does get rattled. (See LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas Tech games from 2002 or Egg Bowl 2001) No such luck in this week's game. The hype machine rolls to 2-0.
Mississippi 31 Memphis 10
In the final seconds of the 1st half last week USC looked to add a field goal to take a 10-0 halftime lead. A funny thing happened on the way to the locker room. UL-Lafayette blocked the field goal and returned it 83 yards to tie the score at 7 a piece. The Gamecocks left the field in the midst of a thunderstorm of boos.
I suspected that USC would have some troubles on offense, but I never expected them to be held to 14 points. These problems could be long lasting and with a very stingy defensive team in UVA coming to town, this may not be the week for conservatism.
UVA defeated a Duke team that was expected to be improved, 27-0. The silver lining for USC is that 2002 ACC player of the year QB Matt Schaub will sit this one out for the Cavaliers. Back-up Anthony Martinez will start this week and maybe longer. Schaub suffered a shoulder injury in last week's win.
Despite the loss of Schaub, I don't think the 'Cocks can outscore UVA. This one will still be an ugly one, which is USC football. The uglier a game gets, the better they like it. USC will continue to struggle on offense and unless the defense can score once or twice, the Cocks will go down to UVA once again.
Virginia 17 USC 10
Marshall at Tennessee
The Vols stretched their legs a bit last week and were able to spread the ball around. The Vols D looks great and the running game looks even better. Marshall will provide a little sterner test than Fresno did, but the result should be pretty similar.
Marshall scored 45 points in last week's win over Hofstra and may need about that many to win this week. Marshall has some concerns on the defensive side of the ball and UT should be able to run at will. The bigger question is who will get to 100 faster, Jabari Davis or Cedric Houston?
Look for Clausen to stretch the field a little more to prevent the offense from becoming too vanilla, but with the holes these backs should be running through, anything more than 15 passing attempts could spell trouble.
UT 35 Marshall 14
UT Chattanooga at Vanderbilt
Vandy will look to rebound from a tough loss where they won everywhere but on the scoreboard. The Vandy offense looks more formidable than in year's past and Jay Cutler seems capable of leading this team to a score when they need one. Had it not been for a late break down from his offensive line, he may have pulled out they last minute victory last week.
The Mocs arrive in Nashville fresh off a loss to Samford U. Not Stanford, but Samford from Birmingham, Alabama. The folks at Vandy are scheduling some wins in non-conference play, which is what they need to do. This may be one of the only times this season the Vandy fans get to countdown the seconds to a Commodore win, but this one should be fun for them to watch.
Vandy 31 UTC 13
Florida at Miami
This used to be one of the biggest rivalries in football, but the 'Canes have dominated as of late. UF pounded SJSU last week and played three QBs. This week Ingle Martin will draw the start and Chris Leak will play every 3rd or 4th series. If either QB struggles Gavin Dickey could emerge into the mix.
Miami looked less than impressive with Brock Berlin at the helm against La Tech. Berlin had some accuracy issues and a few drops from his receivers. Frank Gore looked good, but not dominant. The Hurricanes will look to get on track in a big way this week at home. I expect a big improvement, but still a good game from both teams.
Florida scored mad points last week. They probably wish they could have saved some for this week. The Miami defense will put up much stronger resistance and UF has troubles running the ball. Miami should tee off on the Gator signal callers. As much as I'd love to see the Gators pull the upset, it ain't gonna happen.
Miami 31 Florida 21
Well folks, that's how I see them.
Our beloved Bulldogs get the week off, but I wanted to address a couple of issues that surfaced this past week. We do not need to throw in the towel and start all that "Fire Jackie" rhetoric. That is profitable to no one. The team doesn't need that, the coaching staff doesn't need that, and the fans don't need that. We've lost one game so far. I know we're all tired of losing. And the we includes not only the fans but also the players, and coaches.
For arguments sake let's say we fire Jackie right now. Who coaches us the rest of the way? What message does that send to the players and other coaches? Do we give up on our season already? Do we discount the work that's already been done and rebuild for 2005?
Let's say we can deal with all that and we just want Jackie gone. Who do you get? Bobby Wallace or Rick Neuheisel? Jimbo Fisher? Give me a break! Let's be brutally honest with each other shall we? We are a program with a tradition of losing with an occasional winning season. We are coming off two three-win seasons. We have one of the smallest budgets in the SEC. What caliber of coach do you honestly believe we could attract with those factors "in our favor"?
We knew Jackie had some baggage when we got him. Sure, nothing official, but there were issues we were all concerned about. Despite witch hunts and character assassinations we have not been on major probation and we have achieved a whole new level of success. For the most part we have kept our nose clean and the minor probation we did receive didn't involve Jackie. We have a winning record against our arch-rivals and have gone to bowl games 5 times in the last decade. From 1997-2000 we were the most successful program in the SEC West. The season before that everyone wanted to fire Jackie. Jackie will turn it around. He has done it before and there is no reason to think he won't again. Signs off life abound, with two great recruiting classes and an upgrade in our offensive playbook.
I know we must win now. More importantly Jackie knows we must win now. This talk of replacing our coach is far too premature. If we tank again this season, which I seriously doubt, I don't think anyone will have to ask Jackie to leave. He has even gone as far as stating that same sentiment. Rumors circulated last week that Jackie had guaranteed a win over Oregon or he would resign. When that didn't occur the same sources said LT wouldn't accept the resignation for many of the same reasons I mentioned above. Personally I'd like to see a lot less innuendo and rumor and a lot more cheering and supporting. Regardless of your stance, on this issue - and there are some passionate people on both sides - go cheer for the team. In the Bulldog Nation we're having some family problems right now. It's more important now to circle the wagons than beat the horses.
Until next week,
Steve Robertson is a free-lance correspondent who writes The Robertson Report for the premium site portion of Gene's Page. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.