The Robertson Report

The SEC slate begins in earnest this weekend and there are some very good match-ups. Most of the non-conference schedule this Saturday has some clear favorites and some others that may be too close to call. A lot of questions will be answered this week. Can the Florida spread option offense compete with athletes the likes of Tennessee and is Vandy for real?

Alabama @ South Carolina

In the past few years this has been one of the better inter-divisional games in the conference. This is a game that Alabama must have if they are to compete for the SEC Western division title. The Tide has started slow each of the past two weeks. South Carolina has played a little better out of the gate and that could spell trouble for the Tide.

The Gamecocks expect to take some lumps this year, but SEC leading passer Blake Mitchell is showing that he has more than ample skills to run the Spurrier offense. He has had his moments, but overall his marks are good. He needs his best effort this week if South Carolina hopes to win their first conference game.

Alabama has the fire power to sustain a shootout even though that's not their game. Bama needs to be patient and establish the run game. Georgia made their decisive drive behind the strong efforts of their running game last week against South Carolina.

This one will be entertaining for a spell, but the Tide should put this one away late if they can survive the first half without trailing again. Sooner or later the slow starts are going to catch up with the Tide, just not this week.

Alabama 27 South Carolina 17

Kentucky @ Indiana

The Hoosiers are actually favored in this game, but I am not sold on them after they narrowly defeated Nicholls State a week ago. Kentucky had a tussle with Idaho State last Saturday before piling it on in the second half.

Kentucky has had some success in this series as of late, including their largest offensive output of the season a year ago. The Cats are averaging 32.5 points per game and Indiana gave up nearly that much to the Colonels of Nicholls State.

Indiana is 2-0 no matter the competition and there is cause for a little jubilation after the Gerry DiNardo years, but the unbeaten streak stops this week.

Kentucky 31 Indiana 24

Mississippi @ Vanderbilt

Vandy QB Jay Cutler leads the SEC's #2 most potent passing attack into this weekend's home opener against the Rebels from Oxford. This should be a very entertaining match-up. The past few years have seen most of these games go right down to the wire and in a couple of cases into overtime.

The Commodores are 2-0 after completing two last minute come-from-behind road wins. The Vandy defense continues to make plays and Jay Cutler is competing with Chris Leak for SEC supremacy among signal callers. One key to Vandy's success has been their ability to score in the red zone. The Dores are perfect this year when reaching the red zone and have been very efficient on 3rd down. Vandy converts nearly half of the time.

Ed Orgeron and staff have had a week off to work on a game plan to improve the offensive production from week one. The Reb defense was very stingy against Memphis, but this week they will face an All-SEC caliber quarterback as opposed to a Conference USA redshirt freshman.

The Rebs must have better production on offense to give their defense a break. Reb WR Mario Hill had a big game in week one. He will need another one this week and could use some help from Mike Espy. Vandy will score some points and the Rebs must match suit or the Dores will be 3-0 for the first time since 1984. With two very winnable non-conference games up next the Commodores should be 5-0 when they visit Baton Rouge.

Vandy 27 Mississippi 20

Tennessee @ Florida

This used to be the marquee match-up of the SEC. This weekend's result will go a long way in determining the SEC East representative for the championship game. Florida has looked a little out of sync at times, but those moments have been fleeting. In fact Florida's Chris Leak has yet to throw an interception.

The Vols have settled on Rick Clausen as the man under center for the moment. Clausen shows poise and a lot of the intangibles that sophomore Erik Ainge does not. Clausen will be forced to make plays in this game, but his job can be much easier if Gerald Riggs and the Vol O-line can make a huge statement.

The Swamp has seen Tennessee come in and leave with a victory the last two times. This year, Florida seems to have the better team even though they have yet to be challenged. The Vols did little to rattle UAB's Darnell Hackney in week one, so if Chris Leak is given the time to set up camp like Hackney was, this one could get nasty.

Florida 24 Tennessee 14

Arkansas @ USC

Perhaps the Hogs were looking ahead last week and looking over a very game Vanderbilt team. The Hogs ran wild in week one, but last week were unable to make the final push, despite rushing for nearly two hundred yards. This week, the running game may be obsolete unless Houston Nutt decides to shorten the game.

USC is without a doubt the consensus favorite to play for the national championship. Arkansas has a way of staying in these type games, so the 30 some odd points the Trojans are favored by may be a bit optimistic. I do think USC is head and shoulders better than Arkansas, but I am not sure if they are over four touchdowns better.

If Arkansas is to stay close they must shorten the game by pounding it out on the ground and keeping the All-American Trojan offense on the sidelines. At some point USC will force Arkansas to throw the football and despite the limited success of a week ago they have not shown they can make plays down the field. Look for USC to put eight or nine men in the box and dare the Hogs to throw it.

USC 42 Arkansas 17

Ball State @ Auburn

Ball State has looked horrible so far this season. Iowa hammered them in week one and Bowling Green looked pretty sleek last week against the Cardinal defense. Things got worse when the school announced that eight Cardinal football players were suspended for violating NCAA violations for improper benefits. NCAA violations at Ball State? Unreal!

Auburn at times last week looked like a team competing for a championship and at other times looked pretty average. The MSU defense played very well in spurts and despite a few blown assignments in the first half had a very solid day. Auburn was able to work out some kinks and saw RB Kenny Irons run hard. Irons and his teammates should get plenty of reps this week.

Tiger QB Brandon Cox should have his best outing this week and the Auburn defense should pitch another shutout.

Auburn 49 Ball State 0

UL-Monroe @ Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs looked pretty run of the mill last week. As great as D.J. Shockley looked in week one, he looked equally confused in week two. The Bulldogs will have no problems this week getting back on track. But if nothing else, the Gamecocks were able to show that Georgia can be had.

UL-Monroe is led by QB Steven Jyles, who has had a record setting career. With just two games gone in the 2005 season, Jyles needs just eighty-one yards to become the all-time leading passer in Indians' history. That's no small feat when you consider that long time NFL quarterbacks Bubby Brister, Stan Humphries and Doug Pederson all played at UL-Monroe back when they were NLU. Humphries was an All-American who won a 1-AA national championship in 1987 and later led the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl.

Jyles should get the record and that will be the only solace for Indians fans as Georgia mauls them in between, over and around the hedges.

Georgia 56 UL-Monroe 7

Mississippi State vs. Tulane

MSU comes into this game as a slight favorite over Tulane. The displaced Green Wave will open their season against MSU for the second straight year. Last season the Dogs were the sentimental favorite as Coach Sylvester Croom made history. This season, Coach Croom and his Dogs will see the sentiment shift to the other sideline as perhaps the entire nation will be rooting for the Wave.

Despite the emotion of the game, the contest will still be played between the sidelines. MSU has the talent to win this game. And in a lot of ways the Dogs must win if they have any hopes of going bowling.

Tulane is led by LSU transfer QB Lester Ricard. The Dogs will not face another QB with more big-play ability this season save Florida's Chris Leak. Ricard had a rough outing against the Dogs a year ago, but went on to have a very solid season. He will count heavily on RB Matt Forte, since his talented corps of wideouts led by Roydell Williams have departed.

Two seasons ago Bulldog safety Jeramie Johnson was the victim of some not so good-natured picking as the Wave hit a couple of big ones over Johnson in a home Tulane win. Jeramie currently leads the SEC in passes defended and will need to add to his total this week to keep the high flying Green Wave grounded.

Despite seeing most of the 2004 defense return in tact, the Wave will have to slow down Jerious Norwood. The running game in this one should be where the game is won or lost. If Norwood and Derek Ambrose can find some holes early, it will open up things down the field.

Louisiana residents got to see their Saints as well as their LSU Tigers win in dramatic fashion a week ago and would love to see a trifecta at the expense of the Bulldogs. MSU must be more physical and do a better job on offense than they did against Auburn. Of course the talent level is not the same, but trying circumstances usually cause people to perform above their ability. Tulane is good enough to win this game and the partisan crowd will be a factor. The Bulldogs will need as many of the maroon and white contingent as they can muster.

I just cannot see Omarr Connor playing as poorly this week as he did last week. The quality of competition may not be the same, but Connor must make plays to help the defense. If the Bulldog defense can play with the same intensity this week and avoid the lapses in coverage namely on the tight ends or slot receivers, the Bullies should spoil the party.

I expect this one to go down to the wire with the defense sealing the deal late. This is a very important game for all parties concerned. I trust and hope that Coach Croom and staff have our kids ready to play, because I feel certain the Green Wave will be ready.

MSU 21 Tulane 17

Well, that's the week! The Independence Bowl holds some good memories for us Dog fans and our last visit there was magical. Here's hoping that venue has some magic left for our Dogs.

Until next week,

Steve Robertson
John 3:14

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

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