USM vs. Alabama
Derrick Nix is having the best season of any running back in the state of Mississippi so far. The season is still early, but Nix has 7 TDs and is averaging a thick 7.4 yards a carry. Mickey D'Angelo continues to improve as the trigger man for the Golden Eagles. USM has no respect for anybody and they'll try to show that this week. They have looked like the team to beat thus far this year. They beat Jackson State like a drum, snuck by Illinois and opened conference play with a win over Memphis. The Alabama game is a chance for USM to get some recognition. You'll know if the Golden Eagles are for real this weekend. Jeff Bower always gives the Tide fits. Alabama has enough offense to keep the Eagles on the field and tired. USM and Alabama will have essentially the same gameplan: Run the football and play tough defense. This game will be smashmouth and could be over in about an hour and a half. Look for Alabama to get the home field advantage and the ghost of Bear Bryant will spoil another Golden Eagle "upset" bid. In other news, Alabama's ludicrous appeal was denied by the NCAA and the full sanctions remain in place. This is a key because the SEC West champ only has to be better than 4 teams as opposed to 5.
Alabama 21 USM 17
Northwestern State vs. Georgia
This game is supposed to be a rent-a-win. Georgia will win, but somebody forgot to tell the Demons that they can't play. NSU has a knack of hanging around with Div 1A teams even though they lose. NSU is located in Natchitoches, LA and has a tremendous stadium for a small program that nobody has heard of. The Demons big rival is the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. The game is billed as the battle for Chief Caddo. Caddo was an old indian chief who had two sons, they could not get along and he made each one travel a day's journey away from the camp. One settled at the site near where NSU was founded and the other settled near SFA. The Chief Caddo statue is the largest rivalry trophy in the nation. Caddo stands over 9 feet tall and weighs over 400 pounds. The Demons could use Caddo this weekend against UGA.
The Bulldogs completely outweigh the Demons and shouldn't have a lot of trouble, but UGA has had trouble scoring points this year. If not for a late fumble, the Dawgs would have dropped a close one to South Carolina. Georgia should get on track this weekend, but don't be surprised if you see NSU right there at the half.
Georgia 35 NSU 17
Temple vs. South Carolina
USC is in trouble. They are 1-2 with the "easy" games running out with the calendar at month's end. USC dropped a heartbreaker last week against Georgia 10-7. The USC offense was stagnant most of the game, but found their rhythm late in the 4th quarter. The 'Cocks, losers of two straight, look to bounce back this weekend against the Temple Owls from the Big East. Temple has made some changes and have resorted to running a spread offense. The Owls return most of their starters from a year ago, but they were dismal and expect to be dismal again this year. Temple sports the services of a very nice tailback in Tanardo Sharps. Sharps is the team's leading rusher and receiver. The Owls will need someone else to step up if they expect to beat USC. The biggest concern this week is the foot of Gamecock QB Corey Jenkins. Jenkins has a severe case of turf toe and his mobility is in question. Jenkins is not a drop back passer and if he can't go, it's a huge problem. Jenkins has missed practice all week and most of the team's meetings. Holtz says Jenkins looks off, which may mean nothing as Holtz likes to "play possum". I think the game will be closer than it should be with James Atkinson still on the shelf for USC and Jenkins banged up. I still expect USC to find a way to win.
USC 23 Temple 14
Middle Tennessee State vs. Kentucky
Nobody expected this and I don't mean that UK is 3-0. What I mean is that the SEC's leading rusher plays for the Kentucky Wildcats. Artose Pinner leads the SEC with 114.7 yards per game. This is a huge change for the Cats and a large part of why they're 3-0. UK is getting pressure on the QB and running the football. Kentucky had the glass slipper or sorts break this week with news from the NCAA upholding the post-season ban for the 2002 Wildcats. With only 10 teams vying for bowls I wonder if the SEC will be able to fill it's bowl tie ins. Kentucky is having fun and has already won more games this year than they did all of last year. Coach Morriss isn't asking too much of Jared Lorenzen either. Lorenzen has been a part of the offense, but the Cat attack is much more versatile and balanced than before. MTSU completes an SEC tour before beginning battle in the Sunbelt. MTSU is 0-2 and they felt pre-season that this week would be their best chance to win against an SEC team. I am sure those thoughts have left Murfreesboro. Dwone Hicks kept the team around for Alabama and they made The Vols plenty nervous before succumbing in the 2nd half. UK won't overlook MTSU and vice versa. This could be the game of the week. The UK defense has only given up 17 points in all three games, so we won't change that this week either.
Kentucky 28 MTSU 17
Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi
I know this game is important for the 'Dores. They had Mississippi and former Heisman candidate Eli Manning dead and buried last season and let it slip away. Manning came roaring back and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Other than this game being a conference game it is a very insignificant game. UM has looked lackluster at times and has come on late in the game as was the case last week, which was highly reminiscent of the Music City Bowl vs West Virginia a couple years back. UM was down but came back to score some points against the scrubs before the starters had to get dressed again to polish off the Rebels. This is not the team that we were promised from the UM people and some of the "national" media as well. If UM can't answer their defensive problems quickly they could have a year that only Bulldog fans care to remember. Vandy always gives Mississippi trouble. I still see the home team winning, which would give the team some much needed confidence before the Florida game. Look for UM to try to get the offense going a bit earlier this week, but remember the Vanderbilt defense only gave up 17 points last week to Auburn. The other 14 points were scored on the Vandy offense.
Mississippi 31 Vanderbilt 14
Florida vs. Tennessee
This game just doesn't have the luster it once did. Without Darth Visor, the Gators seem almost toothless. Florida has looked horrible in the last two weeks. They went into the half ahead of Ohio 14-6. That's not Florida football. The Gators came on late, but it was obvious they were looking ahead. Florida cannot lose another high profile match-up and expect a good bowl game. In some ways I expect a letdown from UT because I don't think they believe Florida can beat them. This should be a good one, but UF can't run on UT and UT can run Jabari Davis and company on UF. The game will be won or lost on UT's ability to stop the Florida passing game. If they can get to Grossman they'll win this one going away.
Tennessee 27 Florida 21
Auburn vs. Mississippi State
Tommy Tuberville can't score against Mississippi State. No matter where he has coached he has never been able to score against Joe Lee Dunn. Tubby is 3-4 against MSU including the 1997 Corey Peterson 2-point conversion game and last year's Duval 3-pointer in the final seconds. He just can't score a lot of points. Auburn will look to pound Carnell Williams all night. Auburn averages 236.3 yards per game running the football. MSU is giving up 162.5 yards per game. MSU is traditionally much stronger against the run and for some reason they usually give Auburn's running backs trouble, i.e., Rudi Johnson. Last season Auburn only threw the football 13 times against MSU and young Jason Campbell was clearly intimidated all night. MSU had a lead late and gave the game away. The downward spiral started then. The Auburn game has been a very telling game for the Dog's season. When we beat them we usually have a strong year; when we lose we generally don't.
Mississippi State leads the SEC in passing. Yes, you read that right. MSU leads the SEC in passing with 282 yards per game. MSU also is last in the conference in running the football at 103 ypg. Both of these trends should hold form this Thursday as Auburn has difficulty stopping the pass and they are very good against the run. Auburn will look to run Williams and the clock and keep the FANTastic MSU offense on the sidelines. MSU is clearly a different team with Kevin Fant at QB. The biggest question is can Auburn hold MSU under 21 points? The answer to that question is NO! Don't be surprised if Fant tests the Tiger corners often in the 1st quarter. They cannot hold up. The Auburn pass rush led be Karlos Dansby has to be handled however. Reggie Torbor is banged up for the Tiger's and may not be as effective as he will need to be. If the game comes down to red zone scoring it is to the Bulldogs advantage. The Bullies are a perfect 8 of 8 when they get inside the 20 yards line. 7 of those 8 times the Dogs have registered touchdowns.
This game simply boils down to the math. Tubby can't score against JLD. He averages just under 13 points per game. Can and will the Dogs score more than 14 points? YES! The Dogs just need to contain Williams and make Cobb beat them. The Auburn offense has looked spotty ever since the end of last year. This game is crucial for both teams, so expect Tubby to go for it on 4th down and expect Joe Lee to send everybody but the water boy at the Tiger QB. If our defense can step it up like they did in the 2nd half of last week's game this one should have the Dogs fans smiling. This one will not go down to the last possession which would be a change in this series. Look for a boring last half of the 4th quarter.
MSU 28 Auburn 17
Well, folks that's how I see them. Here's hoping for another perfect week. The games only get tougher. These next two weeks we'll know what we have. The Dogs enter a very good stretch in the next several weeks. Auburn can't score, LSU can't pass, USC is banged up and hurting for offense, and then there's Troy State. To say that we owe them one is an understatement. If the Dogs can win 3 of the next 4 that puts us 4-2 with six to play and the Dogs would only need to split the final six to go bowling. If we can do a game better who knows. Let's just take care of Auburn and see what happens. The MSU Bulldogs have just as good a shot at this as anybody. We will know what kind of team we have come Thursday night. We need this one in the worst way and I truly believe these Dogs will deliver.
Until next week,
Steve Robertson is a free-lance correspondent who writes The Robertson Report for the premium site portion of Gene's Page. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.