Mississippi has lost a week of practice this week, due to rain from the tropical visitor. It's a good thing the Rebels have an off week. The Rebels are reeling despite hanging on to defeat a very game Vanderbilt Commodore team last week. Mississippi is the SEC's answer to the old WAC, they score a lot of points, but can't stop anybody. That task just got tougher with the loss of LB Lanier Goethie. Goethie who is probably done for the season suffered a broken foot. The biggest blow was the loss of TE Doug Zeigler. Zeigler, who many considered one of the best tight ends in the country, suffered a broken leg that had to be surgically repaired. Here's wishing Doug a speedy recovery and best wishes in future endeavors. Doug was a huge part of the Mississippi offense. That position just got exponentially worse.
Alabama vs. Arkansas
This is generally one of the best conference games of the year. Alabama's defense looked impressive in a very physical win over USM last week. The Tide front 7 took Derrick Nix completely off his game. Arkansas has looked good against sub-par competition, but this will be their 1st true test of the season. The big advantage is they get this one at home. Matt Jones should face his toughest foe in the Alabama defense. Bama is quick and they string out the run very well. Arkansas has never been known as a very ingenious offense. The Hogs like to line it up and slug it out. The passing game is still a challenge for the Pigs, but they hope to be balanced enough to keep Bama from stacking 8 or 9 people in the box. This one should be close and relatively low scoring. Alabama passed a big test by scaring the daylights out of OU, Arkansas has no relative experience this season. Look for Bama to beat the Arkansas big uglies to death. Bama will control both lines of scrimmage. Don't expect a blowout or a lot of points.
Alabama 24 Arkansas 13
Syracuse vs. Auburn
To say that Syracuse has been a disappointment thus far would be putting it mildly. They were picked in the top half of the Big East, and now look lucky to be in the top half of the entire nation. The 'Cuse won 11 games a year ago and had a stretch of 8 straight wins. There defense has been a virtual disaster and QB R.J. Anderson looks like a different player than the one who won the starting job early in 2001.
Auburn has a great running game and an adequate passing game that proved very efficient and effective last week vs. MSU. Don't look for Daniel Cobb to win any completion percentage awards, but he made the plays when he had to. Cobb, along with a few MSU miscues, kept Auburn in the game until Carnell Williams got going. Look for the Tigers to start a little quicker and finish about the same. Maybe this week Damon Duval can fake a punt with the game in hand.
Kentucky vs. Florida
Kentucky has nothing to lose in this one . Guy Morriss got a vote of confidence by inking a new contract extension this past week that keeps him knee deep in blue grass until at least 2007. Look for UK to come out and take it right at Florida. These guys believe they can win and why not. They have hung up some major points this season already. Florida gave up big points to Miami, but hey who doesn't. UK won't back down, however. Look for Florida to throw a lot of looks at Lorenzen early to try to get him rattled. The big guy has been real smooth since UK has a running game to take some of the pressure off him. Florida has superior talent and they are playing at home. UK has everybody's attention and they'll earn some more respect this weekend, but they'll also get their 1st L of the year.
Florida 33 UK 24
New Mexico State vs. Georgia
Georgia dropped the hammer last week on Div 1-AA power Northwestern State. The going won't be much more difficult this weekend against the NMSU. Look for David Greene to have a huge day early and the Dawgs running game will be featured often in the 2nd half. Georgia goes on the road to Tuscaloosa next week, so the starters should be lifted somewhere around 350 yards total offense.
Georgia 38 New Mexico State 10
South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt
The 'Cocks need to get going. This should be the week for that to happen, but Vanderbilt showed last week they can put up points. USC ain't UM, so the points won't be so plentiful this week. QB Jay Cutler and his young Dores grew up a lot last week, but they still aren't quite ready to win an SEC game. This will be one of their best chances. USC is still trying to find themselves. They have started poorly all season and come on late. That can't continue in the SEC. The 'Cocks host the Bullies next week and they need an easy week to rest and get some banged up players on the mend. USC should pull this one off, but it won't be easy.
USC 28 Vanderbilt 20
Rutgers vs. Tennessee
Rutgers is just what the doctor ordered for sick Vol fans. This was supposed to be the year they put Florida in their rear view mirror. The Vols showed a lot of immaturity last week and got embarrassed at home by their arch rival. The Vols were as sloppy as the conditions. Rutgers set a conference record last season by only scoring 36 points in 7 conference games. The kicker led the team in scoring with a cool 26 points. UT will be fired up and looking to earn some pay back at the expense of the Scarlet Knights. The Knights turn the ball over at an amazing clip. Fulmer will play a lot of people, but will let his kids stretch their legs a bit in this one. Look for the Vols to get up early and pour it on.
Tennessee 63 Rutgers 0
Mississippi State vs. LSU
Most people would tell you that this one shouldn't be hard to pick. Jackie Sherrill hasn't done well throughout his career vs. LSU. There is one huge advantage for the Bullies; it's a day game. LSU is 5-11 since 1990 in day games at Tiger Stadium. One of those 5 was a day game win over MSU in 1996. MSU has had a tough time with the Tigers in the past decade. The Dogs haven't gotten much respect from the Tigers since the days of John Bond, who absolutely owned the Tigers. The 1998 SEC West champ team got beat 41-6 in Tiger Stadium. The 1999 Comeback Kids knocked off the Tigers on a late plunge by Rod Gibson. In 2000, the Dogs and Tigers played a classic that had the Bulldogs blowing a 31-17 lead in the 4th quarter. The Tigers stopped Wayne Madkin short on 4th down in overtime and the rest as we say is history. In 2001, the Tigers walloped the Bullies 42-0.
Kevin Fant hasn't played in Tiger Stadium, but I think he's ready. Kevin will look to bounce back from a very up and down game a week ago. I can't see Kevin playing poorly this week. He must get some time. LSU cannot defend the pass. This has been a traditional weak spot, but the Dogs haven't been able to throw the ball. This been a huge problem in this rivalry. We haven't been able to exploit the weaknesses other teams have. We can throw the football this year and this could be a breakout game for the offense.
LSU will look to keep Fant and his group of talented wideouts on the sidelines. LSU will just try to run all over MSU. MSU looked much better against the run for about 3 and 1/2 quarters. When you turn the ball over 6 times you wear your defense out. The MSU D was given the short end of the field most of the night. If MSU can win the turnover battle in this one it would be huge. LSU can't throw it. Matt Mauck gets rattled easily, but he must be pressured. MSU must put LSU in obvious passing downs and make Mauck beat them. They did that a lot against Auburn and Cobb made a few plays that turned the game around.
The Tigers have had a week off to get ready, the Bullies have had 9 days. I think we'll be able to exploit their secondary, but Domanick Davis and Toefield scare me a lot. We have to make plays that keep the defense on the sidelines, so that we can hold on late. As much as I hate to admit it, and I know all my Baton Rouge friends will let me have it for this Saturday morning, I'm picking the Tigers. I just don't think our kids are ready for Tiger Stadium. I hope I am wrong, because I am sick and tired of walking out of that stadium a loser. I do think we have a good chance in this one, but we're going to need some luck and no stupid 15 yard penalties. Look for a nail biter, with the Tigers making a defensive stop when it counts.
LSU 27 MSU 21
Well folks that's how I see them. The Tropical intruder didn't do near the damage forecasted a week ago. There should be great weather all weekend. The fast track should help MSU if LSU put the tarp down. People may think that's a joke, but this past baseball season LSU ran out of pitchers on Saturday vs. MSU and everybody in the state expected rain that night and the next morning, guess what? They "forgot" to put the tarp down. LSU has a good team with great fans in a huge stadium. They won't be nearly as drunk as usual unless they all pull all-nighters Friday night. That's a plus for us!
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.