Spare me the puns from the pundits. Both the Green Wave and the Bulldogs are looking to this weekend's match-up to wash the taste of early season disappointment from their collective mouths.
The Bulldogs are struggling to put things together on offense. An injury to Anthony Dixon that resulted in a mid-week surgery did not prevent the freshman from going out and doing his best to contribute against Auburn last weekend. Despite a bad handle, the youngster matched Heisman candidate Kenny Irons as the leading rusher in the contest with sixty-nine yards.
This week could be the week Dixon has his breakout performance. Tulane gave up 244 yards on the ground to Houston last week as part of a 621 yard dogpile by the Cougars.
It's been said before that the best remedy for a struggling offense is an opposing struggling defense. Tulane is having some issues getting going despite starting eight upper classman on defense. In Tulane's defense, Houston should prove to be one of the more formidable offenses in Conference USA, but to give up over 600 yards was very disappointing to the Green Wave faithful.
Lester Ricard started last week for the Wave, but sophomore signal caller Scott Elliot finished the contest. It was the first game and a clearly a chance to get the heir apparent some snaps, but you have to wonder how short a leash Ricard could be on if he struggles early.
Tulane Head Coach Chris Scelfo told the media earlier this week that he was concerned about being able to match up physically with Mississippi State. If MSU is to win this game they have to be more physical in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
One would think that the difference in the weight programs and recruiting classes should give the Bulldogs an advantage, but a slow start could bring on another case of the "here-we-go-agains".
Field position will be important, especially early on. The Bulldog defense has recorded just four "three and outs" this season and surprisingly three of those have come in the second half when fatigue may have been a factor. Some early defensive wins where the Bulldogs can get off the field and shorten the field would go a long way towards helping the offense.
Tulane rushed for just fifty-five yards last week and they should find the sledding just as difficult this week, if not more so. The Bulldog defense features three of the SEC's top ten leaders in tackles for loss. (Deljuan Robinson, Quinton Culberson, Michael Heard)
The bottom line on this weekend's game is this. Tulane should struggle to score and MSU should be able to run the football better than it has the past two weeks. With Anthony Dixon and Arnill Stallworth both showing some flashes early, this could be the week that the running game carries the show.
I have heard it said that if MSU could get fifty they should. I expect some improvement in the offense and a win, but to expect an offensive juggernaut to emerge in one week is not realistic.
Mississippi State 24 Tulane 10
Elsewhere around the league
Arkansas vs. Vanderbilt
Chalk up another moral victory for the Commodores over Alabama. Vandy as usual gave the Tide some trouble, but was unable to pull out the victory.
This week's contest with Arkansas is very interesting. Vanderbilt as usual is pretty active on defense. Big Jonathan Goff is a key reason why. Goff leads the SEC in tackles and could prove to be the heart and soul of the Vandy D. It will be very interesting to see how the ‘Dores come after Mitch Mustain.
This could prove to be a more entertaining game than it is being billed, but I will take the Hogs running attack in this one.
Arkansas 27 Vanderbilt 17
UAB vs. Georgia
UAB has played well in the early going especially on defense. The Blazers are averaging just seventeen points per game, but held a late 3rd quarter lead on Oklahoma back in week one.
Georgia will start Quarterback Matthew Stafford this week after JT III went down with an injury a week ago. Stafford looked comfortable a week ago despite the circumstances.
UAB may make a game of it early and Stafford may make some mistakes, but in the end Georgia's overall talent, especially on defense, will win out.
Georgia 31 UAB 10
LSU vs. Auburn
The West could be won this week in just week three. In a lot of ways this is a must win ball game for LSU. LSU has a very daunting road schedule in the SEC and to fall a game back of Auburn this early could prove to be very difficult to overcome.
The orange and blue Tigers feature the SEC's leading rusher in Kenny Irons. Irons shredded LSU for 218 yards a season ago. Last week Irons was clearly having trouble cutting back across the defense. He must be a factor early.
LSU will counter with a very explosive passing and game and what appears to be much improved JaMarcus Russell. This one could prove to be low scoring, so turnovers will be huge. LSU DB Jonathan Zenon has already taken two interceptions the distance, so Brandon Cox would be wise to avoid taking chances with his side of the field.
Auburn 20 LSU 17
Ole Miss vs. Kentucky
You would have a tough time convincing Ole Miss Head coach Ed Orgeron that teams improve the most from game one to game two as his Rebels clearly took a step backwards last week. In a 34-7 loss the Reb passing game threw for just 90 yards. The passing production must improve if the Rebels are to have a decent season.
The Wildcats had a chance to feel better about themselves last week with a 34 point win over Texas State. With Ole Miss having trouble stopping the pass, look for Wildcat wide-out Dicky Lyons to be a target early.
A more conventional offense should allow the Rebels a chance to improve on their year-to-date defensive numbers, but containing Rafael Little will be key.
With Kentucky and Ole Miss bringing up their rear in most defensive categories, there could be plenty of scoring. A shoot-out is the last thing the Rebel offense needs, but expect Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis to have a better showing this week. Despite an improvement it probably won't be enough.
Kentucky 31 Ole Miss 27
UL-Monroe vs. Alabama
Alabama is dominating the time of possession early on with an SEC leading 36:03 per game. The numbers should only improve as the Tide should roll over ULM.
A scare last week against Vandy could be cause for concern for the Tide faithful. Two nail biters in a row do not bode well for the team about to head into league play. This is the time of year the Tide should be getting fat and getting the offense on track.
We will worry about SEC play when it gets here, but this week the Tide should have the chance to pick up some confidence.
Alabama 38 ULM 13
Wofford vs. South Carolina
Life has a weird way of working out. Some questioned the wisdom behind scheduling a school like Wofford. With South Carolina starting QB Blake Mitchell now suspended for an off the field indiscretion, the Chris Smelley era is upon us. A game against a lesser than opponent can only aid in the freshman's development.
South Carolina's offense should be able to get on track and get some much needed game reps for Smelley.
South Carolina 36 Wofford 3
Florida vs. Tennessee
The lower ranked team in this series has won four of the last five, which bodes well for Tennessee. Air Force and their option attack gave The Vols all kinds of problems a week ago and a questionable decision to go for two cost the Falcons in the end.
The Florida spread option features a different set of challenges and who could blame the Vols for looking ahead a bit last week? This game could prove that the Vols are back. As impressive as Tennessee looked in week one on defense they were equally unimpressive last week.
Tennessee will be ready, but the Gators have won two of the last three times they visited Knoxville. The Florida defense has yet to be challenged, so it is difficult to tell just how good they are. With the top two net passing leaders in the conference, this may not be your typical UT/UF match-up.
Florida 27 Tennessee 24
Well that's the week. I wanted to recognize a young man this week and ask you for your prayer and support for him and his family. Mississippi High School player Robert Cassidy has been paralyzed from the chest down due to an on the field accident.
Reports are the young man is in great spirits, but he needs to be remembered. He has a tough road ahead.
When Coach Dan Bankhead leads Ruleville Central High School on to the playing field this week, #7 won't be with them. The hope is that Robert will one day walk again.
While we all will be enjoying our favorite teams compete this weekend, Robert will be competing in a much more meaningful contest. Remember what matters most and please keep the Cassidy family in your thoughts and prayers.