The Robertson Report

This week, things get a bit more serious for the teams in the middle and rear of the pack in the SEC. There are only five games on this week's schedule with only one of them being non-conference. Someone's bowl hopes will take a hit this week. And what in the world does Disney's Snow White have to do with Vanderbilt football?

MTSU @ Vanderbilt

In 1937, FDR began his second term, the Golden Gate Bridge was completed, Amelia Earhart vanished, the Hindenburg went down, Disney released it's first full length animated film, Snow White, and the Vanderbilt Commodores opened the '37 football season 5-0.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen it has been a long, long time since Vanderbilt started a season on a tear like this. Vandy is the SEC's version of the Chicago Cubs. The lovable losers from Nashville may be the best story in college football this year, though. Behind a solid defense and a playmaking quarterback, Vandy is just two wins away from going bowling for the first time since the Reagan administration.

This week, everyone's sentimental favorites play Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders are 0-3, but have won the last two from the Commodores. MTSU would love to play spoiler, but it's Vandy's time to shine. As long as Jay Cutler stays healthy, the Dores will win this one and at least one more. Stay tuned.

Vandy 31 MTSU 7

South Carolina @ Auburn

Auburn has suddenly become more than a darkhorse contender in the SEC West race. The Auburn offense has started to get on track and their defense continues to play well. With Gamecock QB Blake Mitchell a little banged up, the task gets easier for the Tigers.

Auburn should have little trouble moving the ball on South Carolina. Kenny Irons has played well to date and appears to be ready to be the main running threat on the Plains. Irons transferred to Auburn from South Carolina, so this game is one he has had circled on his calendar for awhile.

As everyone knows, Tiger Head Coach Tommy Tuberville likes to settle old scores with old battlefield veterans, so he may have a trick or two up his sleeve for Spurrier. Could we see a rushing TD instead of a kneel-down in the final seconds or a fake field goal when the outcome has been determined? I wouldn't put anything past Tuberville.

Auburn 28 South Carolina 13

Florida @ Alabama

Thanks to one of those quirky things that happens in SEC scheduling, this is the first match-up between these two SEC powers since Mike Dubose and Freddie Milons trounced the Gators for the SEC Championship way back in 1999.

Chris Leak will get a second look at a speedy and strong defensive team this week. Earlier this season, against a very athletic Tennessee defense, the Gator signal-caller struggled. Leak still seems uncertain about the running QB nuances of the spread option. That uncertainty will be compounded this week when he gets popped a time or two by Alabama's linebacking corps.

Florida certainly has the talent to win this one, but Alabama has that look. Florida was the beneficiary of great field position due to some bonehead plays in the win over Tennessee. If Alabama can avoid similar mistakes and play more physical than the Gators, they can pull the minor upset. Since Florida hosts MSU next week, it is only par for the course that the Bulldogs face a dangerous team coming off a loss.

Alabama 20 Florida 17

Mississippi @ Tennessee

Are the Vols due for a letdown? Probably, but can the Rebels capitalize on a Vol team coming down off an emotional win at LSU? Probably not. The Rebs do get a couple of players off of the injured list and that will help their chances. WR Mario Hill's status is still up in the air and drainplug LB Patrick Willis will watch from the sidelines again this week.

The Rebs were abysmal last week without Michael Spurlock. Spurlock at 75% gives the Rebs a better chance to win than no Spurlock at all. The chances of the Rebels beginning a second straight season at 1-3 are great. If you get down to the brass tacks of it all, the Rebels are one play away from being winless.

There is some hope for the Rebs after this week. Of their remaining seven games, five of them are at home. Assuming a win next week versus the Citadel the Rebs would be 2-3 with six to play. The problem is they have Kentucky and the rest of the SEC West on the schedule. If they are good enough to split those games, that still leaves them at 5-6 and home for the holidays. A win this week would be huge, but the prospects are unlikely.

The Vols have won eleven straight in the series, but this one is a little more personal. Former Reb head coach and Tennessee offensive coordinator, David Cutcliffe, is still beloved by many in Knoxville. The Cut contingent would love to see the Rebs rolled up big time this week. Cut took the Rebs to five bowl games in seven seasons and won a New Year's Eve bowl game before being unceremoniously dismissed after his first losing season.

Tennessee 31 Mississippi 9

LSU @ Mississippi State

The last Bulldog win in the series was back in 1999, the year of the comebacks. The following year the Bulldogs had a 31-17 4th quarter lead in Tiger Stadium before the Tigers rallied to force overtime and eventually win 45-38. Since that memorable game, MSU has managed a meager nineteen points against LSU and have been shutout twice.

The Tigers, in good times and bad, have had the Bulldog's number. MSU has only defeated LSU three times in the last twenty tries. Two of those three wins were back-to-back wins in 1990 and 1991. On behalf of my fellow Baton Rouge Bulldogs, we're sincerely hoping Coach Croom can reverse that trend.

LSU, while talented, seems to have lost a bit of their swagger in the early going of the 2005 season. Much like the Rebs, the Tigers are one play away from being winless. If not for a 4th down bomb from JaMarcus Russell to Early Doucet against Arizona State, the Tigers would be 0-2 and out of the top 25.

Last week, the Tigers fell apart. If it wasn't the Chinese fire drill for a last second field goal attempt at the end of the first half, it was the picture of new LSU head coach frantically trying to call a timeout after LSU's LaRon Landry intercepted a pass in the closing seconds. I though all D1 coaches were aware that on a change of possession the clock automatically stops, but apparently I was wrong.

The Bo Pellini defensive system has seen more than its share of growing pains in the early going. Vol QB Rick Clausen looked like Tom Brady in the 2nd half last week against the Tiger D. The kid who wasn't good enough to play at LSU wore the Tigers out Monday night figuratively and literally. Seven LSU players had to be helped from the field due to cramps before the night was over.

The Tigers took Tuesday off to watch film and look at the gameplan for MSU. The Tigers practiced very light Wednesday and Thursday to allow their bodies as well as psyche to recover.

The emotional and physical nature of Monday night's game has to have taken a toll on the Tigers. When you factor in that you have four days before you're back on the playing field, in a day game no less, you have to think the Tigers might melt under the Starkville sun before kick-off.

Much has been made about the Tiger's defense, but the Tiger offense hasn't exactly been world beaters. Of the Tiger's eight touchdowns, three were scored by the defense or special teams and the first TD against the Vols was courtesy of an Erik Ainge fumble at the 19-yard line. If you give the Tigers a short field they will make you pay. It is very important that MSU win the turnover battle and battle of field position if they have any hopes of winning.

The fact that the offense has had trouble sustaining drives has only compounded the defense's problems for LSU. Sound familiar?

The MSU defense has proven to be pretty salty so far this season and the Bulldogs will need an effort just a bit better than last week's effort. If the Bulldogs can play with the same intensity and cut down on pre-snap penalties, they can stay in the ballgame.

While the defense may be good enough to keep us in the ball game, the Bulldog offense must win the game. The burden of that will fall squarely on the shoulders of Omarr Conner and the Bulldog receiving corps. Jerious will get his carries, but the sledding against the front wall led by Wroten and Williams of LSU will be difficult.

Against both opponents this season LSU has had coverage problems similar to those witnessed under former MSU DC Ron Cooper. Ironically, the 4-3 cover 2 is what Pellini uses at times. Several times in both games the middle of the field was wide open and had some Vol receivers made some catches the comeback may not have been so dramatic. More times than not, a back has been able to slip out of the backfield uncovered against the Tigers. Look for Jerious on the wheel route and Davis slipping out in the flat. Both of those calls should keep the LBs honest and could go for big gains.

When LSU has the ball, look for them to utilize some form of screen after seeing Georgia have success with them against MSU last week. In the 2nd half, the Dogs from Starkville bottled them up better, but the Tigers will certainly give it the old college try. Also look for LSU, like everyone before them in 2005, utilize the tight end or slot WR across the middle of the field. This continues to be an issue for the Bulldog D.

The big question is, Do we have a shot?" Many of the LSU folks certainly think so. Whomever can play defense will certainly win this game. Based on early returns, you have to like the Bulldogs chances, but remember weird things happen when these two get together. We've seen some really good Bulldog teams lose to some very weak LSU teams and this LSU team is far from weak. I think our Dogs will make a fight of it, which is an improvement over years past.

Two picks:

My heart says MSU 21 LSU 17

My head says LSU 28 MSU 10

Until next week,

Steve Robertson
Galatians 2:20


Steve Robertson writes The Robertson Report for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Steve's email address is therobertsonreport@hotmail.com.

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