The Hogs got their snouts rubbed in the slop pretty good a week ago. It's been a while since an SEC team gave up seventy points. For Arkansas, it had been eighty-seven years since they surrendered such a total. To add insult to injury, Hog QB Robert Johnson left the game just before halftime with a back injury. I am sure he had many teammates who would have preferred to sit out the rest of the game as well.
Alabama has their fans excited about the possibilities of going 4-0 for the first time since 1996 when the Tide opened with seven straight wins. The Tide has dropped two of the last three to Arkansas, so they better not overlook the Hogs who will be the most talented team they have faced, especially running the football.
The Tide hasn't scored seventy points in a game since they hung seventy-seven points on Virginia Tech in 1973, so the Hogs can rest a little easier. Believe it or not seventy-seven is not the record number of points given up by a Tide opponent. That distinction goes to a team from Mississippi and ironically it's not the Rebs. The Rebs have given up some huge point totals even going over sixty a couple of times, but it's actually Delta State. The Statesman gave up eighty-nine points to the Tide in an 89-0 loss in 1951. The Tide won't get anywhere near that this week, but they will win none-the-less.
Alabama 31 Arkansas 14
Western Kentucky @ Auburn
It's homecoming on the plains this week, and the Tigers will get to sharpen their claws again this week before getting into the meat of their schedule. Brandon Cox continues to improve and the running game is beginning to blossom.
The Auburn defense may find themselves in a tussle for a half or so thanks in large part to a decent running game from the Hilltoppers. The visitors from WKU are pretty decent against the run as well, so Cox will have to make some plays to open things up. The difference in the weight programs will be evident by halftime.
WKU is ranked #1 in the Division 1-AA polls heading into Saturday fresh off winning the "Battle of the Bluegrass" over rival Eastern Kentucky. The Toppers won a national championship in 2002 and may very well do it again this year. This weekend WKU will probably get their hats handed to them, but this is not your typical rent-a-win.
Auburn 35 WKU 16
Florida @ Kentucky
The Gators and the "Urban Legend" took a huge step toward Atlanta by knocking off pre-season SEC favorite Tennessee. Florida still has some very difficult games on the schedule. And as last week taught them, with the loss of big-play wide out Andre Caldwell, you're one injury away from facing some adversity. Save an injury to Chris Leak the Gators should be okay.
If anyone can complain about injuries, it's Kentucky. After a close loss to Louisville and a less than impressive win over Idaho State, the Cats are without the services of several players, including their top two wide outs for probably the remainder of the season. The Cats got spanked last week by Indiana and can expect more of the same this week.
Florida has won eighteen in a row in this series. And this year it appears that number nineteen should be easy to come by. The Cat season could easily be over if some of the understudies don't step up. Trips to South Carolina and Oxford are up next before the Cats return home to host Mississippi State. There's not a winnable game on the schedule after those three, so the Cats better make hay now or a 1-10 season could easily happen.
Florida 42 Kentucky 14
Wyoming @ Mississippi
The Rebs get their long-awaited home opener after two tough road contests. The confines may be friendlier this week, but the opponent won't be any easier despite the internet banter. Wyoming won this game a year ago thanks in large part to four interceptions.
Patrick Willis is the heart and soul of the Reb defense. Willis is second in the league in tackles and has become a steady playmaker. The Rebs will be without the services of Willis and S Jamarca Sanford this week. That's not good news when you have an All-American WR like Jovon Bouknight coming to town. Bouknight hit the Rebs for two trips to the endzone a year ago and could find the plowing a little easier this year.
When you add in that QB Michael Spurlock has a broken finger on his non-throwing hand and that SEC leading receiver Mario Hill is doubtful for the game the home opening win appears to be in serious jeopardy. The Reb ground game must take up the slack. The 124 yards from a week ago was an improvement, but the numbers are a bit misleading. When you factor in that Mico McSwain's cutback run on a busted play went for fifty-three yards you are only left with 71 yards on 27 carries for an average of 2.62 yards per carry. That simply won't get it done.
If the Rebs were healthy this would be a barnburner of a game, but with the injuries on both sides of the ball I'm not sure if the homestanding Rebs can outscore the visiting Cowboys. Spurlock and Hill may try to give it a go, but with a big conference game with Tennessee next week Orgeron may be smart to hold them out. This week will be a tough one. Expect to hear Bramlett to Bouknight more than a few times as the Cowboys burn a hole in the "O Zone".
Wyoming 30 Mississippi 20
Troy @ South Carolina
This week the Spurrier-lead offense will look to get back on track after sputtering against the Tide last weekend. This will probably be one of the last games that the Gamecocks are favored to win this season. I would expect the Cocks to be favored over Kentucky, but any other win would more than likely be an upset. Did you ever think you'd see Spurrier as an underdog to Vandy? It could happen.
Troy has had their challenges and this week will be no different. They have had their moments in the past few years and it will take one of those special moments to score a win this week. Look for Blake Mitchell to get back on track. And if the defense can make some stops this one should be won handily.
South Carolina 35 Troy 10
Richmond @ Vanderbilt
Probably the best story in college football is the Vanderbilt Commodores. Vandy fans have endured some very painful seasons over the years, but this year has the makings of a good one. A favorable schedule as well as a savvy quarterback like Jay Cutler have Commodore fans hoping to spend the holidays somewhere other than Nashville even though a Music City bowl bid certainly wouldn't be refused.
The next two weeks should be wins for the Commodores. And barring a major injury or two Vandy should contribute to the SEC bowl coffers for the first time since 1982. Vandy should beat Kentucky and South Carolina looks like a toss-up at this point. The game that jumps out at you is the season finale with Tennessee. The Vols are a better team on paper, but Vandy could have more to play for at that point since the Vols National and SEC title hopes should be dashed by then. I'm not ready to pick a winner, but that game could prove very interesting.
This week Vandy just needs to survive without any injuries. 5-0 is just around the corner if the Dores don't get cocky. They won't sneak up on anyone this year, so it will be interesting to see how the string plays out.
Vandy 31 Richmond 10
Tennessee @ LSU
It is very difficult to predict how Tennessee will respond this week after last week's hard-fought loss. The Vols play four games of the next six against teams that are currently in the top 25. The season started with such promise, but the Vols are now averaging just twelve points a game on offense. The quarterback situation could easily become a distraction and in some ways already has.
LSU, despite giving up a quarter mile in passing yards, managed to win it's season opener. The Tigers have had another week to prepare and come down off the emotion of that huge win. This weekend's contest is perhaps the most celebrated in the country. ESPN's College Gameday was scheduled to attend, but apparently the threat of Hurricane Rita has them making other plans.
The LSU defense must be better this week, but the disarray on the Tennessee offense should help matters. Rick Clausen will return to Baton Rouge as a back-up where he played before transferring to Knoxville. He could be a factor if things go south for Ainge early.
The Vols have changed their travel plans and will not arrive in Baton Rouge until noon on gameday. The Vols will also only use their hotel rooms for a brief rest period as to avoid seeing any Hurricane victims be displaced once again by losing their hotel room.
This one should be a good one, but there are a lot of question marks. If the Vols can show some continuity on offense and burn the Tigers 4-3 cover 2 defense it could be a rough night in Baton Rouge, but as we all know too well you don't bet against the Tigers in a night game at Death Valley.
LSU 20 Tennessee 13
Georgia @ Mississippi State
This will be the first time the Bulldogs have played each other since Robert Edwards destroyed the Dogs from Starkville in a 47-0 cakewalk back in 1997. MSU has not defeated the Bulldogs from Athens in over twenty years and missed their best chance in the John Bond/Herschel Walker shootout that saw the MSU Bulldogs fumble the game away in the final minutes.
An interesting fact about that game was that MSU kicking legend Dana Moore threw his only collegiate pass during the game. Moore threw a touchdown pass on a fake punt that kept the MSU Dogs very much in the ball game, but it was simply not to be.
The challenge of beating Herschel Walker was a daunting one and this week's challenge may prove equally as difficult. Georgia has the SEC's top rated offense. Georgia averages an SEC best 36.3 points per game and an SEC best 489 yards per game. The Bulldog offense is led by the SEC's top rated passer, D.J. Shockley. Much to the chagrin of Georgia head coach Mark Richt his team also leads the SEC in most penalty yards.
The MSU defense has shown substantial improvement thanks in large part to the play of big man Willie Evans. Evans has totaled an SEC best five sacks on the young campaign. Evans will need a huge effort this week as Shockley has only been downed twice in three games.
No one has ever accused MSU top dog Sylvester Croom of "coachspeak". He made it known pretty early in fall practice that the offense left a lot to be desired. The Bulldog offense had a great start against Murray State, but the performance the last two weeks has the Bulldog faithful more than a bit concerned. The Bulldogs did have a nice third quarter last week and answered back when Tulane tied the game at fourteen. The Bulldogs will need their best effort if they hope to even stay with Georgia.
The MSU defense will be the best defense that Georgia has faced thus far, so the gaudy numbers mentioned earlier shouldn't be seen this weekend. By comparison there is no question that Georgia is the most talented offense MSU will have seen come close of business on Saturday and may be the most talented they see all year.
The defense must score if MSU has any hope of making this a ballgame. MSU is currently rated as the 21st rated defense, Georgia has only faced one other defense in the top seventy five and that's South Carolina who is number seventy-five.
Georgia is more than a two-touchdown favorite in this ball game and rightfully so. D.J. Shockley is a dual threat and will make the Bulldogs pay with his legs at some point. If you thought Murray State's Ken Topps was elusive wait to you get a load of Shockley on the Scott Field turf.
In order for the MSU Bulldogs to win they must control the time of possession and win the turnover battle by a margin of two or three. At this point there is not a lot of room for optimism unless you're simply pulling for Blake McAdams to take over the all around lead among SEC punters.
In a couple of years a game like this will be a huge event in Starkville. Despite our shocker over Florida last year, most teams still look forward to coming to Starkville to play football. That has to change. The next three weeks will be extremely difficult and if the Dogs could win one of those three it would make the season. Once we get through this stretch the Dogs should be competitive in most other games.
When the schedule came out some time ago everyone penciled in a loss here. We should be able to apply the ink pretty early and just hope no one gets hurt.
Georgia 31 MSU 13
Well that's the week. We bid our Bulldogs down in Texas good luck with the coming storm and safe passage to higher ground. It's been tumultuous couple of weeks and this newest storm is nothing we need. In a personal aside please remember me and my family as we deal with my father's illness. It has been a long hard road and he has certainly been through a lot. Thanks for your many e-mails of support they have certainly helped.
Until next week,
Steve Robertson writes The Robertson Report for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Steve's email address is email@example.com.