Arkansas @ LSU
The battle for the Boot will take place the day after Thanksgiving at LSU. This series has been pretty wild the past several years. This game has determined the winner of the Western Division on more than one occasion. And this year's edition will be no different.
Arkansas comes in on a roll, with a freshman QB in tow. Casey Dick and his classmate backfield of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones got to beat up on the bottom two in the West and gain some confidence, but the sledding gets a lot tougher this week.
The LSU defensive line beat Ole Miss up so convincingly last Saturday night that if it had been a boxing match the ref would have stopped it. LSU played one of their better games of the year despite two turnovers. The Tigers are peaking at the right time, but the chances of them playing in Pasadena are remote.
LSU 31 Arkansas 13
Tennessee @ Kentucky
What in the world is going on in Knoxville? I thought Vandy could spring the upset, but I felt that Tennessee had the talent and drive to win. With Randy Sanders out as offensive coordinator and David Cutcliffe apparently waiting in the wings, the Vols need some help quickly.
Kentucky hung in with Georgia for about a quarter and then the thrashing commenced in full force. Kentucky had played a bit better as of late, but Georgia was not going to be denied a return trip to Atlanta.
This week the Vols need to get up early and hope Kentucky quits. The Cats are wretched on defense and that bodes well for an offense that's backfiring as much as Tennessee. Despite some hints of a mutiny, and some game-planning issues on offense, the Vols have too much talent. It won't be pretty, but Tennessee will find a way to win this one. If they let UK hang around who knows.
Tennessee 27 Kentucky 10
Florida State @ Florida
Who knows what to expect from either of these teams. FSU is up and down and haven't played very inspired football as of late. Florida had a week to think about losing to Spurrier. It probably feels like an eternity since they have played a game.
In this one the teams are even talent-wise, but Florida State knows that they have one more next week in the ACC title game. The Gators have a long time to rest after this one. Florida needs this win to show some sort of progress. Down the stretch last year the Gators played hard for Ron Zook and even knocked off the Seminoles in their own backyard. This year they have stumbled in spots down the stretch. They have won two of four and easily could have lost all four since the MSU game.
FSU, which has lost two in a row, needs a win to right the ship. Gainesville is not an easy place to get well, but the Seminoles better find a way. Given that the Gators are at home and coming off a bye week against a team that has no national championship hopes, they could catch them a little flat. Not to mention, despite it all, Florida could claim a win over all of their traditional rivals this season.
Florida 24 FSU 21
Georgia @ Georgia Tech
The Wramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech knocked off Miami last week and are playing with a lot of confidence. Tech has yet to beat Georgia in the Mark Richt era. Reggie Ball will need a game similar to last week's performance rather than the efforts he had against Va. Tech and UVA.
Georgia could be due for a letdown. After nearly squandering a two-game lead on everyone in the SEC East, they finally clinched last week. Will the Bulldogs be satisfied? I think not, but Georgia has to get up and go again next week. They will know who their opponent will be by the close of business on Friday. This could be the old sandwich game scenario.
Georgia 28 Georgia Tech 17
The Egg Bowl
For the Bulldogs and Rebels the season is coming to its merciful end. It has been a season to forget for both teams and their fans. Sure there have been some bright spots, Jerious Norwood's record breaking season, Willie Evans leading the SEC in sacks and Patrick Willis' courageous play. But outside of those guys it's been dismal.
Both teams will start quarterbacks on Saturday that didn't start the opener and both teams are struggling with some injuries. State will be without the services of Titus Brown and Johnny Wadley and the Rebs will be without top wideout Mario Hill. And most of the Reb running backs are on the shelf or playing through pain.
Despite all of that the game still means a lot to the fans. Neither team will get anywhere near a bowl and you would have to combine the win total of both teams after Saturday just to get bowl eligible. Has the Egg Bowl ever meant so little?
Don't try to sell the coaches of these two teams on the meaninglessness of this game. Coach Croom has billed this contest as the game of the year and his Rebel counterpart states that he understands the importance of the rivalry. They both want and need this win very badly.
Last week the Rebs began the week by dismissing offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, then had to deal with news reports of possible tampering with Tulane football players. To close out the week the Rebels suffered their worst home loss in over fifty years.
For Mississippi State they kept their names out of the newspaper, but turned in perhaps their worst half of football in recent memory. The long and difficult season is drawing to a close, but there is still the matter of bragging rights.
This game will more than likely not be an offensive masterpiece. The Dogs can't throw it and the Rebs can't run it, but they can both play some pretty good defense.
Games like this nearly always boil down to who makes the most mistakes and field position. Blake McAdams has had a decent year punting for MSU and his duties will take on added importance this week. The Bulldogs need a short field and need to win the battle of field position.
What else can be said about Jerious Norwood? He has been everything for MSU for two seasons and deserves to go out a winner. The Bulldogs must try and work the edges like LSU did and try to avoid Patrick Willis if at all possible. The tight ends will be key in this ballgame. If Eric Butler can make some plays across the middle as well as help out on run support it could be the boost the Bulldogs need in what more-than-likely will be a low scoring ballgame.
This is Senior day at MSU and Coach Croom pledged that MSU would never lose again on Senior day after letting one slip away last year against Arkansas. I certainly hope the team can rally around these Seniors who signed with MSU just after the days of three straight bowl appearances and four winning seasons. They will graduate without ever taking a bowl trip and have yet to win an Egg Bowl.
I like MSU in this one for a couple of reasons. Jerious Norwood is due for a big game and despite the Rebs being pretty stingy against the run I think Norwood has a couple of big gallops left in those skinny legs of his. Another reason I like MSU is that it is at home and, as of late, weird things seem to happen in this series in odd numbered years. Those games have certainly been memorable. In 1997 it was Cory Peterson, 1999 The Comeback, 2001 The Upset, 2003 Jackie's last ride. What will happen this year is anyone's guess, but it will be exciting nonetheless.
MSU 10 Ole Miss 7
What happens to the winners during the off season? The losers? To get some perspective on all of that I called a man who knows firsthand what it's like to win and lose Egg Bowl games, former MSU head football coach Emory Bellard. Coach Bellard, who coached from 1979 to 1985, led MSU to two top 20 finishes (19th and 17th in 1980 and 1981) and possibly the greatest victory in MSU history, the 1980 6-3 win over then No. 1 ranked Alabama.
Coach, what are your thoughts on the Egg Bowl series?
"Well, I tell you I always get a bitter taste in my mouth thinking about those two games we should have won in 1981 and 1983. The pass interference call in '81 and Artie's kick in '83 are the things I remember. The ones that got away are the ones I think about.
"The thing about that interference call is the next week we got a letter from the SEC office saying they might have made a mistake. It didn't make me feel any better about losing the ball game, but I was glad to see they were trying to take some accountability. It was the wrong call.
"That dang kick was something else. I have never seen anything like that and I don't think I ever will again. I know I'll never forget it."
What does the rivalry mean to the players and the fans?
"Like all in-state rivalries it takes a tremendous effort. Both teams always fought hard and they were tough to beat. We had to always be at our best. You have good friends separate for the game depending on which team they were pulling for. After the game they might get back together depending on who won. The fans take it very seriously. The players I believe hurt more than anybody after a loss, though."
Worse than the coaches?
"(Laughs) No, not the coaches. The head coach hurts the worst, then the staff and then the players. The players are younger so they are a bit more resilient."
Does a win in the Egg Bowl help in recruiting?
"Son, winning, period, helps with anything you want to talk about. Recruiting, the offseason, just life in general everything is better after winning. When you win over your rival it's even better. It stays with you whether you win or lose. If you lose it's hard to talk about in the offseason. If you win it's all you want to talk about. It's not about winning at all costs, but you play to win."
What about 1980 and 1982?
"1980 we had a great team and did some good things. We played some great defense that day, but I think we may have been better on pass defense in 1982. Those were some good teams."
What's something about those Egg Bowl teams that the average fan doesn't know?
"I tell you we had some great players, but Donald Ray King was a big key for us. Donald may not be considered a great player by most people, but he played great. He was a great Bulldog."
So what are you up to these days?
"Partner, I'm just enjoying life. I moved to a golf course community out here in Texas and I'm just enjoying it."
Enjoying the fruits of your labor?
"I don't know about that. I wish there was more fruit to go around, but you tell everyone I said hello and good luck in the Egg Bowl."
Coach, thanks so much for your time. It's been a true honor.
"Will you do one favor for me?"
"You tell them ole boys that Coach Bellard said 'Do it like a big Dog!' "
Until next time,
Steve Robertson writes The Robertson Report for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.