LSU overcame a stubborn Mississippi Rebel team last week in Baton Rouge. The Tigers ran for well over 300 yards and despite dominating the line of scrimmage, they couldn't shake the Rebels until the final minutes.
The battle for the Boot between Arkansas and LSU has been very even over the last several years. The home team has won seven in a row, which bodes well for Arkansas. Nick Saban has yet to win in Arkansas and the last time he paid a visit Arkansas stole the SEC Western crown away from the Tigers back in 2002.
LSU has had to reshuffle the offensive line this week due to injury, which may prevent Ally Broussard from finding some lanes to run through. Nate Livings will more than likely switch back to tackle where he has looked very uncomfortable.
You know it hardly seems fair. The home team always wins in this series. Houston Nutt has been to a bowl game every year at Arkansas and he needs this win to keep that streak alive. It's Senior Day for Matt Jones and company, so you know they'll be even tougher. The SEC needs another team to become bowl eligible, so the deck seems stacked against the Tigers.
I like Arkansas in this one for the obvious reasons, but LSU has the better team. Matt Jones at home on Senior Day, there's no telling what magic he'll perform. Memo to LSU if the final seconds are ticking away and you are behind snap the ball before the umpire gets in the way.
Arkansas 17 LSU 14
This is a great chance for the Vols to rest some folks, especially in the second half. UK hasn't won in Knoxville in twenty years and this year should be no different. The Vols dilly dallied around last week and nearly allowed Vandy to pull the shocker. You have to give Vandy some credit for playing as hard as they did last week.
Kentucky saw offensive coordinator Ron Hudson turn in his resignation this week. Hudson's departure should be the first of many since Brooks will probably be allowed to clean house, while staying on himself. Some have suggested Ron Zook as a possible replacement if Rich Brooks is dismissed.
UT might experience a bit of a let down now that the East is wrapped up, but it's doubtful. Kentucky plays Tennessee tough even in lean years. Rick Clausen will make his second consecutive start for Tennessee, but the Vols are hopeful that Brent Schaeffer is available next week.
I like Tennessee in this one for all the right reasons, but UK should make a game of it at least for three quarters.
Tennessee 28 Kentucky 17
This is always a pretty good battle, but David Greene will be going for the career sweep versus his in-state rival. Georgia was supposed to be preparing for the SEC Championship game, but surprising Tennessee will take the stage next week, while Georgia begins month long preparations for a major bowl.
As good as Georgia has been under Mark Richt, they were unable to build upon the SEC Championship in 2002. The SEC Eastern hen house just got a little more crowded with South Carolina expecting to be more competitive now that Steve Spurrier is in town. One has to wonder if Georgia has missed their window of opportunity. They lose a ton of starters next season, so by the time Georgia is ready to challenge again, Spurrier should have his system in place in Columbia.
This week the Bulldogs should be okay. They've battled with injuries most of the season, but seem to be getting healthier. If Tech can survive the first half, they could make a game of it, but I think Greene and company will get the fast start and coast in the second half.
Georgia 31 Georgia Tech 21
The Egg Bowl
There were some folks who thought this game might decide a winning season for both teams and a possible bowl berth for the winner, but it was not to be. Despite the lower stakes, the intensity in this Egg Bowl will be tremendous. Dog fans, due to improved play by their team the last few games after strugging to grasp the Sylvester Croom way of doing things earlier in the season, are feeling better about their program and relishing a possible win over the rival Rebs. Reb fans are disgusted with their program and a loss to State might just be the final straw.
Injuries have plagued the Rebels all season and this week they are extremely beat up after a very physical game with LSU. There's not much need for a two deep chart on defense, because there wouldn't be enough available players to fill it out.
Hype was the name of the game this summer, and it usually is in Oxford, as Michael Spurlock was lauded as the next great SEC Quarterback. The Heisman campaign got off to a bumpy start with losses to Memphis and Alabama as well as an unimpressive win over Vanderbilt. The man who was to lead the Rebs to the promise land doesn't even get to see the road map these days as he isn't even allowed to hold the clipboard.
Off-the-field scandals, grand jury indictments, suspensions, and dashed hopes have some Rebs ready to jettison David Cutcliffe off to parts unknown. In all fairness to Cutcliffe, he has put a winner on the field every year of his tenure. But let's be totally honest, part of the reason that he has been a winner every year is due to a pitiful non-conference schedule and the fact that Vandy is the UM permanent Eastern opponent. That's basically four wins right out of the chute.
Um has had just one winning record in the SEC under Cutcliffe and that was last season's ten win season. During the Manning years, Cutcliffe won two bowl games, Eli's junior and senior campaigns. As a junior, Manning led a very mediocre 6-6 Rebel team over a very mediocre Nebraska team in the Independence bowl. In 2003, Manning beat a very good Okie State team in the Cotton Bowl.
In 2001, a loss to MSU in the Egg Bowl kept the Rebs out of the post season. In 2002, a win over MSU gave the Rebs their sixth win to become bowl eligible. In 2003, a win over MSU in the Egg Bowl gave the Rebs the false sense of entitlement to put up lettering on the stadium as "SEC WESTERN DIVISION CHAMPS 2003". With no bowl hopes on the line or real division titles the Rebs and Dogs are left to scrap for 5th place in the SEC's Western division.
Most people not involved in the MSU/Um feud will be content to watch the score roll across the bottom of the sports ticker without much thought or concern, but for the fans of both schools this game means everything this year.
MSU seems to have righted the ship and even has Houston Nutt calling them the most improved team in the SEC. The Rebs seemed to have been in a tailspin until coming up just short versus LSU. These two programs seem to be moving in two different directions and an MSU win would more than signify that.
The Rebel defensive line is just absolutely broken down. A long season and a pretty solid thumping last week has the Rebels thin along the forward wall. If the Rebs are to win this game, they must stop the run. Against Arkansas the Rebs were not able to stop either facet of the Razorback offense. The Hogs mixed and matched all afternoon and the Rebs quit right after half time.
MSU will look to use a similar balanced attack. The Dogs had the Hogs on their heels all of the first quarter and part of the second half last week. If the Dogs can play with the some crispness of the 1st quarter and the toughness of the fourth they'll win this game hands down.
Norwood will be the key early, but Omarr must keep the Rebs honest in the passing game. The Rebels have struggled with mobile QBs this season, so Omarr may need to make some plays with his feet.
MSU last won in Oxford in 1998 to clinch the SEC Western Division crown. A win this year in front of dozens of in-state recruits could swing the momentum squarely back to the Dogs side. With rumblings about Cutcliffe being evaluated by the administration after this week, you have to wonder what changes are in order in Oxford. Will there be a house cleaning of assistants or will Cutcliffe himself be asked to leave?
Has Cutcliffe preformed so far below expectations that he deserves to be fired after one losing season? Maybe, maybe not, but when you've seen your in-state rival experience one of the worst periods of futility in school history and you are unable to take advantage you have to wonder if Cutcliffe is safe?
After all that's been said and done the senior class of 2004 could finish 2-2 versus MSU. Somewhere deep down in the bowels of Vaught Hemingway stadium that very idea is being tossed around. With their payroll it hardly seems acceptable.
With a win the Bulldogs could finish the stretch run as winners of three of their last five as well as be one win below .500 in the SEC. It's clear who has the momentum and has played better in the last few weeks, but the Bulldogs from Starkville haven't been able to finish on the road. They played Alabama tooth and nail until the final whistle, so perhaps they've learned from that.
The Rebels from Mississippi are probably ready to put this season behind them, but they'd love a win in the Egg Bowl to ease some of the disappointment. This game means a ton when it comes to recruiting, so both coaches will pull out all the stops.
When I look at the last few weeks worth of effort and the injury report I have to go with State in this one. It will be one bitter atmosphere, but as the game wears on depth becomes a factor. The fact that David Stewart will be beating up injured and back-up defensive ends all night makes me feel that we should have a huge game off tackle. Once the safeties pull up in run support the play action pass will be open.
I think it will be a struggle and both teams will get in their shots, but it's time the good guys won again. I am a firm believer that sooner or later everybody gets what they deserve. If that proverb rings true this week, it should be a blow-out of record proportions, but we can take our just reward in annual increments.
MSU 27 Mississippi 21
Well that's the week. Next week will be SEC Championship week as well as most of the bowl announcements. We'll preview the game as well as take a look back at the season that was 2004.
Until next week,
1 John 4:7-8
Steve Robertson writes The Robertson Report for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.