Ohio @ Kentucky
Much of the focus this homecoming week has been on the health of Jared Lorenzen. Lorenzen was knocked out of last Thursday's game at South Carolina with a concussion. There was a lot of speculation that back-up Shane Boyd would start. Boyd had the Wildcats within one score of a win last week with about 6 minutes left. Due to his improved play and the health of Lorenzen it would have been a safe assumption that head coach Rich Brooks would give the start to Boyd and allow his starter a little more time to recover. Despite the rumors and internet polls Jared Lorenzen will get the start on Saturday.
Ohio comes to Lexington looking for an elusive win over a big-name opponent. Ohio nearly upset the new national Cinderella, Northern Illinois, a few weeks back. Ohio is a team that believes in the run. They feature a double-wing T set and run a lot of option. The QB in this offense is the key to its success. Ohio is down to QB #3 after several injuries running the football. Running the ball may be a little easier against UK now that sophomore sack sensation LB Deion Holts has been suspended one game for unspecified violations of team rules. This could be a huge factor if UK lets OU hang around.
The Cats should have enough talent to win this game despite the questions at QB. If J.Lo struggles, expect to see Boyd sooner rather than later. The offense showed a nice sense of urgency with Boyd at the controls last week. Many in the Cat family suspect that Lorenzen's teammates have lost respect for him thanks to the extra 40 pounds he put on during the summer. This is a developing story and should be watched carefully as the season progresses.
Kentucky 28 Ohio 17
Florida @ Arkansas
Just when it seems Ron Zook's Gators are dead and buried they come alive to win one they shouldn't. Last year, the Gators followed the same formula. After a few tough losses, the Gators went on to a strong second half that included a win over Georgia. The UF faithful are hoping for similar results after last week's upset win in Baton Rouge.
Arkansas doesn't lose at home. They have one of the most impressive home marks in the conference the past 10 years. One mark the Hogs aren't so proud of is their record against Florida. Since joining the SEC Arkansas, has not defeated Florida once. They haven't played very often, but nearly every meeting has been a huge Florida blowout. Houston Nutt and staff will look to change the streak and get back in the race for the SEC West. Arkansas now trails Auburn and will need some help to make it to Atlanta.
The running game in this one will be a huge factor. Tennessee and Mississippi had huge games on the ground in wins over Florida. That fact must have escaped the game planners at LSU. Don't expect Arkansas to miss out on a great chance to pad the rushing stats. Cobbs and Jones should be able to find some success against a Gator D that has played well, but has given up huge rushing yards in losses. Look for more of the same this week.
Arkansas 21 Florida 17
Mississippi @ Alabama
This series has been extremely one sided in the modern era. Alabama could almost schedule homecoming the weekend the Rebels come to town. This is a huge game for both teams, but Alabama is looking to build on last week's hard fought win over Southern Miss. Last week, Alabama threw 7 passes. Taking a page from the old Bear Bryant playbook is never a bad thing and perhaps using that same philosophy this week isn't a bad idea either.
Alabama has kept their QB situation a secret, but the good bet is that Brodie Croyle will start. Croyle is still somewhat hampered by a shoulder injury on his non-throwing side. Croyle says he'll go if the decision is his. The offensive game plan shouldn't change much no matter who is taking the snaps. Shaud Williams will be given the ball early and often. The Shula gameplan will be simple, pound the ball and keep the other offense off the field. Alabama cannot afford to let this game become a shoot-out.
Mississippi received horrible news when Jamal Pittman had his second torn ACL of the calendar year. The running game had begun showing some signs of life and one would wonder how this injury may effect the running back rotation. Pittman was not the workhorse, but when you lose a talent like him it effects all involved. No matter who gets the carries, the going will be a bit rougher running against the Tide. Alabama is only giving up 96 yards a game on the ground and has not allowed a TD in the last 6 quarters.
Alabama 24 Mississippi 20
Georgia @ Vanderbilt
This game is a huge mismatch. After the physical pounding the Commodores received from Navy, they may be ready to pack it in. Vanderbilt has shown some sparks on offense, but their defense has continued to get worse as the season wears along. If Georgia gets a two to three possession lead in the 1st half this one will get real ugly real quick.
Georgia played their best 60 minutes of football last week and absolutely humiliated Tennessee in their own back yard. The key play was the 92-yard fumble return to end the 1st half. If you watched the game, you just kept waiting for the Bulldogs to explode and explode they did. Tennessee is not as good as originally thought. With two losses now in conference, the Vols seem to be firmly planted behind Georgia for the second straight year.
This game is a chance to pick up an easy conference win and rest some of the wounded. Back-up QB DJ Shockley has an injured knee that may require surgery. His status is not clear at this time, but he is out for this weekend. David Greene's favorite target Fred Gibson will sit out again this time with a bruised knee. Defensive tackle Kedric Gloston suffered a broken scapula and will be out several weeks. These injuries are central to the Bulldogs season, but shouldn't slow them down this week.
Georgia 35 Vanderbilt 10
LSU at South Carolina
LSU went from the cover of national publications to page three of the sports page in one fatal swoop. The former trendy pick for a national championship game needs a win this weekend to stay in the race for the SEC West. With a huge home date against Auburn next week, the Tigers must stay focused this week on the road or next week may just be for pride.
South Carolina likes it ugly. Lou Holtz would love nothing more than to lure the Tigers into Williams-Brice stadium and hit them over the head with a garnet hammer. This is a very dangerous game for the Tigers. Holtz and company weren't treated very hospitably last season in Death Valley and I'm sure they haven't forgotten. USC was in the game but after a couple of quick turnovers the Marcus Randall led Tigers had a huge lead.
While LSU, has a lot of reasons to get focused, it is only human nature to feel more pressure after a loss, especially if you lost a game most expected you to win. USC could pull the upset here. LSU is vulnerable and they're on the road. If USC is hanging around they could pull the upset. The Tiger offense lost a little more punch last week when it lost Joseph Addai for a few weeks with an MCL problem. The purple and gold bengals will now turn down the depth chart to tailbacks 3,4, and 5 in Justin Vincent, Barrington Edwards, and Alley Broussard. These kids must step up or the season could be lost in the balance. Starting tailback Shyrone Carey is still sidelined from a knee injury he suffered against Mississippi State.
LSU 23 South Carolina 17
Mississippi State @ Auburn
The Bulldogs bring in a two-game winning streak and a little renewed confidence. The Bulldog defense gave up huge yards again through the air last week, but made the plays when they had to in order to escape with a win. The Bulldog secondary will get a break of sorts this week as they visit the plains of Auburn.
This is a much more favorable match-up for the Bulldogs than most would be willing to say. Auburn lives and dies with the run and when they have been forced to throw they have struggled. The Tiger defense is very strong against the run, but has had their share of problems stopping the pass. Look for the Bulldogs to attempt to exploit this weakness.
Last season six Bulldog turnovers and 21 4th quarter points turned a 21-14 Auburn lead into a 42-14 blow-out win. The Bullies were in it, but poor clock management at the end of the first half and sloppy ball handling cost the Dogs severely. To make matters worse Tommy Tuberville ran a fake field goal when the game was well in hand. I am sure the Bulldogs haven't put that one behind them just yet.
There is a lot of bad blood between these teams and apparently the head coaches as well. You could almost say that Jackie Sherrill and Tommy Tuberville were destined to be rivals. They two had their first encounters when Tommy coached arch-rival Mississippi Rebels. Tubby now coaches the arch-rival of Coach Sherrill's alma mater Alabama.
This series between the two coaches has had its fair share of memorable finishes. If it wasn't the Cory Peterson 2 point conversion in 1997, it was the Matt Butler catch for the Bulldogs against Auburn in 1999. This year may be no different. The odds makers have installed Auburn as a 3+ touchdown favorite. I am not a betting man, but if I were I'd take those odds. The Bulldogs have only been blown out once this season and that was more the result of the Bulldogs shooting themselves in the foot.
Expect to see a new wrinkle or two in the MSU defense and improved play in the secondary. If MSU can make this game more about Jason Campbell and less about Carnell Williams, they have a great shot to win. Kevin Fant is looking for redemption after a bad performance a year ago against this same Auburn team. Justin Jenkins should be able to get open against the trash-talking Tiger secondary.
Auburn defensive tackle Demarco McNeil has come out publicly and stated that he will look to deliver some cheap shots against Mississippi State. He went on to say that's MSU football and you have to expect to get stepped on and hit late. This will be a situation the referees I am sure will be expecting. The Bullpups have had their fair share of yellow hankies and if they can eliminate the stupid penalties they have a good chance to win this one.
The big concern I have on this one is the fact that we're playing on the road. I realize we're playing our best football and this is your classic sandwich game, but I just don't think we're quite ready to pull the upset on the road. We'll make it close and earn some respect, but sadly, I don't see us winning. I still think we'll upset somebody and have a great shot against UK, Bama, and in the Egg Bowl. This week, our pups may get housebroken, but they will continue to improve as the season wears on.
Auburn 24 MSU 17
Well folks, that's how I see them. It's a great week for football and there will be several games on the television worth watching. Next week, the Bulldogs return to the airwaves against Kentucky. That's a game we have a great chance of winning. Don't give up on these kids. They're playing hard and appear to be showing some unity.
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.