The Robertson Report

It's now the next to last week of the regular season and time for the rivalry games to begin. There are a couple of lame duck coaches and a couple more on the hot seat that need strong finishes. Could the SEC see four coaching changes in the off-season? If the games fall the wrong way it's certainly possible that new faces may be the "in-thing" for the SEC in 2005.

Florida vs. Florida State

Last week Ron Zook was able to conjure up some Swamp Magic for Senior Day in an impressive win over South Carolina. The win helped to prolong the Ron Zook era one more game with a bowl game now in the offing. How will his players respond in what should be a pivotal battle for recruiting?

The reports are already circulating that a deal has been reached to bring Utah's Urban Meyer to Gainesville. All parties are of course denying the rumor. Meyer's Utes still have a shot at a BCS bowl, so he would be remiss if he didn't sidestep the speculation. Utah should have no problem bouncing BYU and crashing the BCS party, but the media reports about his departure are certain to increase before New Year's Day.

Florida could make a game of this, but FSU seems to have more momentum. FSU still has a shot at sharing the ACC with Virginia Tech, but they need some help from Virginia. FSU should still be the team to beat in this rivalry at least for a couple of more years and, despite emotion from the Gators, should emerge victorious this week.

FSU 38 Florida 28

Auburn vs. Alabama

Auburn needs an impressive win over Alabama. And despite it being Bama they should get it. Since moving the game to on-campus sites, Auburn has never lost in Tuscaloosa. Alabama, try as they might, are one-dimensional on offense. Kenneth Darby is good as any back in the conference, but he must get more help from the passing game.

The Tide defense is awfully good, but they haven't faced the likes of Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. As the game wore on last week in Baton Rouge, LSU was able to see some very nice runs against a tired Tide defense.

Emotions will be high and Auburn better be ready for the Tide's best shot. Bama has been riddled with injuries, but they have had players step up and make plays. Whether they win or lose in this one, it's pretty safe to say Alabama is an improving football program. That improvement won't be enough this week, but next year could see a reversal of roles in the Iron Bowl.

Auburn 31 Alabama 17

Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt

Thanks to a very poor play call to end the first half against Notre Dame, Tennessee is now without both of their superstar freshman QBs. This week the Vols will turn to Rick Clausen, younger brother of former QB Casey Clausen, to punch their ticket to Atlanta.

The good news for Vols fans is that Clausen has had two weeks to work with the ones and reports are he has shown some improvement. Because of the extra work, the Vols should be able to make some plays in the passing game. The running game should be enough, but the jury is still out on whether Brent Schaeffer will be ready for the SEC Championship game. The Vols have no shot at beating Auburn by simply running the ball, but the game plan would work on Vandy and Kentucky. Clausen needs the work, so unless the game is in doubt you should see the Vols throw the ball a little more.

Vandy has lost twenty-one straight to Tennessee, and with Bobby Johnson having a very disappointing year the odds of an upset in this one are very long. After losing to Kentucky last week in a contest Vandy should have won easily, you have to think Johnson may have updated his resume. After what appears to be the Dores third straight two win season, it would be understandable if Johnson were not asked back. Johnson said this week on his call-in show that he had no plans to make any changes to his staff and that he expected the staff to return in tact next season.

Tennessee 31 Vanderbilt 10

South Carolina vs. Clemson

Last year with Coach Tommy Bowden's job on the line and reports that he was interested in the Mississippi State job, Clemson bum rushed the Gamecocks to the tune of 63-17. The win gave Bowden a 4-1 mark over his instate rival. Bowden of course stayed at Clemson and even signed an extension, but with the lackluster performance this season you have to wonder if some folks aren't lamenting that extension now.

This year it appears that the coach on the opposite side of this rivalry is on the way out. Lou Holtz is expected to announce early next week that he is retiring as head coach in Columbia. It was announced by several media outlets on Thursday that Steve Spurrier has agreed in principle to replace Holtz at South Carolina. If this comes to fruition and most people expect it to, it will certainly be a very odd turn of events.

Spurrier would be staying in the SEC East, which would have him playing Florida every year. Williams Brice stadium holds over 80,000 people and the Gamecock faithful still flocked even when their Cocks were getting flogged. The South Carolina folks give money generously, so what's not to attract Spurrier? A huge stadium, a generous fan base, and a chance to stick it to Florida A.D. Jeremy Foley on a regular basis. It all makes perfect sense.

Clemson needs this win to become bowl eligible and salvage something of what has been a season of disappointments. The Gamecocks want to send Lou out on a high note and you can bet they still remember that thrashing they got at the hands of the Clemson Tigers last year. It won't be pretty, but it's tough to expect an upset even though it is a rivalry game.

South Carolina 27 Clemson 21

Mississippi vs. LSU

Last week with their bowl hopes on the line the, Rebels didn't even put up a fight. Arkansas moved the ball at will and the outcome of the contest was pretty much decided before half time. It's tough to know what to expect from the Rebs this week, but they generally play LSU tough. In fact, the Rebs have lost the last two to LSU by a combined four points.

Ethan Flatt will start this week despite speculation that Robert Lane may get the nod at quarterback. Lane did take more reps this week and will see tons of playing time. The man who changed Lane's plans of playing in Baton Rouge, JaMarcus Russell, will start for the Tigers and be relieved again by Marcus Randall.

LSU should have little problem with the Rebs and should have them heaving end over end passes sometime in the third quarter.

One big question for LSU fans was answered this week when it was announced that QB Matt Flynn had not seen action due to a shoulder separation a few weeks back. Many of the purple and gold contingent were calling for Flynn, but it appears that he will not see action again this year. No matter who the Tigers play behind center they should have little resistance from a Rebel team who appears to have quit on a coach the fan base clearly wants fired. An embarrassing loss this week and loss in the Egg Bowl could be the final straws for David Cutcliffe.

LSU 31 Mississippi 17

Arkansas vs. Mississippi State

Senior day in Starkville sees the Arkansas Razorbacks pay a visit. The Hog/Dog games had been hotly contested until last year's 52-6 debacle. This year should prove to be more competitive especially with the Dogs coming off a bye week. The last bye week brought two straight SEC wins for the Dogs and hopefully this brief vacation will bring similar results.

Houston Nutt is 5-1 all time versus Mississippi State with the lone loss coming to the 1998 SEC Western Division Champion Bulldogs. Nutt's bowl game streak will be on the line this weekend, as the Hogs must win out to become bowl eligible. It's tough to win three straight down the stretch, but the Hogs have been here before and have closed the deal down the stretch under Houston Nutt more times than not.

Arkansas will load up the box to slow down Jerious Norwood and force Omarr Conner to beat them. Against Kentucky the MSU wide outs had an off week and against Alabama Conner had an off week. Conner and his receivers must be on the same page if the Bulldogs are to win this game.

Nick Saban has never won in Arkansas, so perhaps the Hogs will get caught looking ahead to next week. The pressure is clearly on Matt Jones and the Hogs with no margin for error. If the Dogs can get an early lead and force Jones to throw it they have a great shot. Much has been made about the Bulldog linebackers ability to contain the running game. It will take their best effort of the season to contain Jones.

As much as I hope to see the Bulldogs close out the season winning four of five, I just don't think we have the horses to win a shootout with Arkansas. They are clearly on a mission and they destroyed a Rebel team with plenty to play for last week. A lot must go right for MSU, but I think we come up just short.

Arkansas 31 MSU 27

Well, that's the week. It should be a great week for football. Set the recorder and come on out to Davis Wade Stadium to send off the seniors, as well as Matt Jones. He is certainly a player I am happy to see graduate. Get the rain gear and get out there early for the last family reunion of the football season.

Until next week,

Steve Robertson
Galatians 2:20

Steve Robertson writes The Robertson Report for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website. Steve's email address is

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