UL @ Lafayette vs. LSU
LSU had a strong game from all-purpose back Domanick Davis last week. Davis has become the team's best player and biggest weapon. If it weren't for a fair catch here or there Davis would have had over 300 all-purpose yards. In the state of Louisiana there is a large amount of LSU envy. Only Tulane can compete academically and in a few athletic events. ULAL has the worst case of LSU envy and has a very healthy hatred of the Tigers to go along with it. This past baseball season was marked with several bench-clearing incidents and several bean balls. ULAL hates LSU and LSU is proud of it. LSU is by far superior on the gridiron and they'll prove that Saturday night, but the game will not roll on without incident. Ragin' Cajun fans love their school too and they like drinking and yelling as much as the Tigers do. The biggest difference is the Cajuns have something to prove and they'd love to do that against LSU. The schools haven't met on the playing field since the 1930's, but the Cajuns have only been D1 for a few seasons now. Look for the Cajuns to try to punch the Tigers in the mouth every chance they get, but there is no way LSU loses this one. The weight program alone should take care of that. LSU just needs to stay healthy and move on. LSU still can't throw the football, but the running game will wear the Cajuns down. Look for the game to get out of hand in the 3rd quarter.
LSU 37 ULAL 14
Georgia vs. Alabama
This game is certainly not for the faint of heart. The UGA O-line vs the BAMA D-line is worth the price of admission alone. Every player along the front wall will play in the NFL. This battle will determine the victor. Bama needs to run it and run it hard to control the tempo and the time of possession. UGA will be able to throw it better than any team Bama has played and that includes Oklahoma. David Greene/Cory Phillips need to stretch the Tide by completing a few deep balls early. This will prevent the Crimson Tide from flooding the backfield and causing erratic passes. This game should be one of the better games we see this year. Alabama made it painfully obvious that Arkansas is not ready to step up to the next tier just yet. Alabama looked in control from the 1st possession and never looked back. The score should have been much worse, but with a rookie signal caller you miss some reads. You could probably watch the 1st quarter of this one and turn the TV off and have a real good idea who won. UGA will be very two dimensional and they'll need to be to win, but they'll have just enough.
Georgia 23 Alabama 17
Florida vs Mississippi
The Gators had just enough to hold off UK last week. It would have been real interesting if Lorenzen had gotten that hail mary off in the final seconds. The UK kids seemed disappointed in the loss and unsatisfied by just keeping it close. Florida must play better defense if they hope to maintain a stranglehold on the SEC. UK exposed some weaknesses that I am sure David Cutcliffe took note of during last week's open date. While Mississippi doesn't have the running game UK does, they do have a very capable QB in Eli Manning. Manning, the former Heisman candidate, is not as accurate with the deep ball as Lorenzen and has a tendency to start slow and finish with a flurry. If UF let's the Mississippi squad hang around it could be lights out in Oxford. The big question is can the Rebel's out-manned and undersized defense stack up against Florida and Earnest Graham? This is the same D that gave up 35 points to Vanderbilt. I know the TV cameras and the thoughts of the "glory days" have a few tobacco lawyers in a tizzy this week, but around 1 o'clock Saturday those same folks will be headed to the grove to complain about Jackie Sherrill.
Florida 38 Mississippi 24
Arkansas vs. Tennessee
Arkansas has made this game worth watching the last few seasons. In 1998, you had Hog QB Clint Stoerner tripping over his own feet and fumbling the SEC West crown. In 1999, Tee Martin played one of his worst games ever and gave Arkansas its biggest win in recent memory. In 2000, things got nasty and Nutt fired his DC mid-season after giving up 63 points. UT won again a year ago in a tight and sloppy game in the pouring down rain. Travis Stephens got on track late and the Hogs played about a dozen people at QB that night. Arkansas always seems to play up to UT, and this year should be no different. The Hogs are vulnerable against the run and UT will send more than enough running plays at them to get ample practice at playing the run. Arkansas looks toothless on offense without a vertical passing game. Arkansas looked decent in their early non-conference games, but looked like a non-conference game for Bama last week. The game was far worse than the score indicated. Cedric Cobbs had a few nice runs, but Talley and Holmes look like shadows of their former selves. Same song different year. Arkansas can't throw it and they don't have enough offense to give their defense a blow when they need it. Look for UT to pull away late, but the Hogs will find a way to stay in it. They almost always play UT to the final whistle.
UT 28 Arkansas 17
Mississippi State vs. South Carolina
When Lou Holtz poor mouths his team nobody listens. If he does it now there may actually be some truth to it. The USC offensive line is in complete disarray. The two starting guards are questionable due to neck strains. The starting left tackle is doubtful due to a death in the family. That situation may change however.
USC cannot throw the football. MSU has heard that a lot lately. Auburn and LSU both struggled throwing the football and both found away to paste the dogs late. Daniel Cobb and Matt Mauck looked bad against State, but both threw a dagger in the hearts of the Dogs late to put the game away. The biggest difference is that USC doesn't have a running back the caliber of Carnell Williams or Domanick Davis. This game is always close and this year won't be any exception. The 'Cocks will have trouble moving the football and they have been slow starters all season.
MSU must get out of the gates if it hopes to win. This is a must win. The vultures aren't circling yet, but the are on the limb. With a win, MSU would pull to 2-3 and have two very winnable games on tap before UK. 4-3 sounds a whole lot better than what we have now. The Dogs can win three in a row, but they have to win this Saturday first. It's not time to panic, but the Dogs cannot afford to give away extra downs like it has in conference play this season. This team has a lot of young kids, but it's time for the leaders on this team to step up. USC is decent against the run, but has looked vulnerable to the intermediate pass and the deep ball. Look for the WR screen to pay some dividends when the USC corners give a nice cushion. Fant is due for a big game, but like all of you, I'll settle for a win.
MSU 23 USC 17
Folks, that's the way I see them. I encourage everyone to remember that we were 4-3 before we made our march to win the West in 1998. I don't expect us to win the West despite the fact it's a 5-team race, but it's certainly not time to pack up the tents and quit on the team. This team has a lot of talent and a lot of youth. Our receivers and QBs should be more in sync this week. We can't afford another loss and I know our team knows that as well. Kevin Fant is a leader and his leadership skills were tested severely last week. They'll be tested again and again and again. He is our guy and he'll get it done this week.
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.