After celebrating a much needed conference win a week ago, the Wildcats will return back to earth this week. Much credit is to be given to Cat back Rafael Little. Little leads the SEC in all purpose yards and is the only player in the SEC to top the 1,000 yard mark this year.
Auburn has flown under the radar a bit, thanks in large part to the season their rival Tide is having. The pressure and attention has been focused elsewhere thanks in large part to an ugly season opening loss to Georgia Tech. Kenny Irons and Brandon Cox are quietly having a very good season. Both Cox and Irons rank among the top three in their respective statistical categories. This may not be their year, but the Tigers are poised for a very solid campaign next year, if they can find some replacements for a departing receiving corps.
This week Irons should have little trouble maintaining his 100+ yard average. If Brandon Cox can stay within himself this game should be over midway through the third quarter. This shouldn't be much of a contest if the Tigers don't have several bouts with the turnover virus.
Auburn 35 Kentucky 10
Tennessee @ Notre Dame
My how the mighty have fallen! Phil Fulmer's Vols were the chic pick early in the year for a possible run to the BCS Championship game. A funny thing happened on the way to Pasadena. The season took another strange turn this week with the resignation of offensive coordinator Randy Sanders. Tennessee has a realistic chance at a losing season and at best can plan on 6-5. Tennessee has never had five regular season losses under Phil Fulmer. In 2002, the Vols went 8-5, but the 5th loss was to Maryland in the Peach Bowl. The last time Tennessee had a losing season was way back in 1988 when Johnny Majors went 5-6.
Notre Dame is catching the Vols at the right time. The Irish are fresh off a bye week and if you give a guy like Charlie Weis two weeks to prepare you're in for some trouble. The last bye week came just before the USC game. A game that many thought the Irish should have won. Despite the loss the game showed that the Irish were ready to make a splash on the national landscape once again.
Tennessee and Notre Dame are headed in different directions. Notre Dame has been reborn, while the window for Tennessee is rapidly closing. Georgia has become the team to beat in the East under Mark Richt and now Fulmer's old nemesis, Steve Spurrier, is patrolling the sidelines of eastern division opponent South Carolina. When you factor in Florida and the advances they will make once they recruit for their system, Tennessee could be and more than likely will be fighting for fourth in what has traditionally been a two team division.
Notre Dame 27 Tennessee 17
Vanderbilt @ Florida
This is a very interesting match-up. Next week the Commodores get Kentucky, a team they should beat. That would mean that Vandy must upset either Florida or Tennessee to become bowl eligible. Both Vandy and Tennessee could be fighting for their bowl lives come the 19th of November. Who would have ever though the Vandy/Tennessee game would mean so much to both teams? Go figure.
Florida still has a chance to win the SEC east with some help. Thankfully they hold the tie breaker over Georgia. One could argue that Florida has an easier schedule the rest of the way, but that game with Spurrier and South Carolina will be very, very interesting. Florida needs to win their remaining conference games and hope that Auburn or Kentucky can defeat Georgia. Georgia's loss to Florida was huge. The injury to Shockely changed everything. Georgia was a lock two weeks ago, now things could get very hairy.
This week Florida needs to stay healthy and run the football. Last week they showed some new looks and had QB Chris Leak in more traditional passing formations. It clearly gave Georgia some problems early. Florida will get Vandy's best shot, but fortunately for Florida Vandy's only been shooting BBs on offense the past few weeks.
Florida 31 Vanderbilt 13
Appalachian State @ LSU
This week LSU gets to take another less than talented opponent to the woodshed, to work out some kinks and pad the stats. There was not a Ryan Perrilloux sighting last week, but back-up QB certainly made his presence known. Flynn entered the game in the third quarter with the game in hand and went 7 for 7 for 139 yards and three TDs. With such a bevy of talent behind center you have to wonder if someone could feel left out. Russell and Flynn are just Sophomores. This is eerily reminiscent of the problem LSU had in 2000 with Josh Booty, Rohan Davey and Craig Nall. All three of those QBs spent some time on NFL rosters, but only Davey played his Senior season at LSU.
This week the Tigers main goals are to win and stay healthy. Next week's game with Alabama is the biggest one on the remaining schedule. LSU controls their own destiny. A win over Alabama should all, but sew up the SEC west race. With all due respect to Ole Miss and Arkansas, LSU is finished with the meat of their schedule next weekend in Tuscaloosa.
LSU 63 ASU 3
South Carolina @ Arkansas
While this game won't get the national attention that others will it could end up being the best one of the week. South Carolina ranks near the bottom of the SEC in run defense and they will get plenty of chances to practice their run defense skills this weekend. Arkansas leads the SEC in rushing and is one of the most formidable teams in the country on the ground. The Hogs have four running backs with at least forty carries and average 256 yards per game running the football.
You can expect even more carries this week with the start of true freshman Quarterback Casey Dick. Dick is the youngest QB on the roster, but may be the salve for a wounded passing attack. The Hogs have played better as of late. They won as expected over UL-Monroe, hung with Auburn for three quarters and played well enough to beat Georgia, but couldn't close the deal.
Arkansas couldn't ask to get the Cocks at a better time. South Carolina is fresh off an upset win in Knoxville and they get the Gators in Columbia next week. Arkansas is coming off a bye week and they are playing at home. This one has all the makings of an upset. Arkansas needs to win out to become bowl eligible. That won't happen, but the dream will last another couple of weeks.
Arkansas 20 South Carolina 17
Alabama @ Mississippi State
This weekend's game is an ole timer's dream. There will be some very hard hitting defense as well as plenty of smash mouth running. Two of the SEC's leading rushers will be on display in the national broadcast game. Jerious Norwood and Kenneth Darby were both expected to have big years and they have not disappointed.
Norwood needs a signature game this week for the Bulldogs to have any chance to win. Jerious has had back to back milestone games, but the Bullies were unable to tally a win in either contest. The Bulldogs all time leading rusher set a single game record against Houston, but you know Norwood would have traded those milestones for a win in both games.
Montgomery, Alabama native Mike Henig gets the start against his home state Tide. The last time MSU had a native Alabama freshman QB against the Tide it was Wayne Madkin. Madkin was able to record a victory that day and recorded a 2-2 record against the Tide in his record setting career.
Henig will face one of the country's stingiest defenses. Alabama is only giving up just over nine points per contest and has only allowed seven touchdowns all season. Henig has a big time arm and did some very nice things in the loss to Kentucky last week. Henig completed fifteen of thirty one passes to seven different receivers including a very nice ball up the right hash mark to tight end Eric Butler.
Mike will certainly see some different looks and Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines will try to pressure the young QB into making some mistakes. MSU QBs have been sacked an SEC worst twenty seven times, so you have to know Bama will bring the house. If Norwood can break some draws and Henig can complete a few screen passes it could keep the Tide at bay.
MSU defensive end Willie Evans continues to have a solid campaign and at this point is a shoe in for 1st team All-SEC. Evans leads the conference in sacks and tackles for loss. He will face double teams all day on Saturday as he has much of the season. If Evans can cause some confusion from his end spot and force the action back to the middle of the field the Dogs have a chance to keep this thing close.
For the coaching staff at MSU this one is more than just a ball game. This is not about Croom/Shula II, but about former Tide players and coaches putting one back on the Capstone. Nearly half of the MSU staff played and/or coached at the University of Alabama. Even our own Rockey Felker coached at Alabama before becoming the head coach at MSU.
This one will certainly be emotional. For our Seniors it will be their last chance on a grand stage to show who they are. It will be their first CBS nationally broadcast game. While the networks like a good story and would love to showcase Alabama we have some guys who would love to crash the party.
Despite the emotion and hype of games like this they still have to be played on the field. The players certainly know what this game means to our fans and the coaching staff, but more importantly they, like their counterparts in 1980 and 1996, would love to shock the country with a win. I just don't think we have it in is to put the nail in the coffin, but I expect a better game than most.
I think Mike Henig can be a solid Quarterback for us, but we are expecting an awful lot of him if we expect a win this weekend. These are the moments that all athletes dream about and hey who knows we could catch them looking ahead to LSU. It's happened before, just ask Dana Moore.
Alabama 27 MSU 14
Well, that's the week. I expect our Dogs to play better down the stretch. I believe Henig is good enough to give us a great chance to win the last two and give us some momentum into the off season. It should be a fun stretch drive, Lord knows we need it.
Until next week,
Steve Robertson writes The Robertson Report for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.