Mississippi vs. Alabama
Last season the self proclaimed Harvard of the south earned a rare victory over the Crimson Tide. This game is a must win for the Rebels. If they have any hopes of winning the West they must win this week. That task is a lot easier said then done. UM is riding high after a string of wins over some also-rans and a Florida team that's on the verge of tanking the whole season. The Rebel D has had problems stopping the run and Alabama hasn't had much problem running either. Look for the Tide to put up some monster rushing yards and swing the time of possession strongly in favor of the Homecoming crowd. Alabama is 19-1 in its last 20 at home against the invaders from Oxford. The trend won't change this year. Former Heisman candidate Eli Manning may scare the dickens out of them, but the Tide will live up to their legendary elephant status late in the 4th quarter as the big uglies drive the Rebs off the ball.
Alabama 24 Mississippi 17
Kentucky vs. Arkansas
UK has had some difficulties since conference play begun. They've lost two close ones in the final moments. UK had a chance to win both, but two hail-marys just weren't to be. Arkansas has suddenly found its big play ability. Arkansas ran on Auburn like they were a juco JV squad. Fred Talley nearly had 300 yards. Matt Jones hurt the Tigers as well most of the day. The 2nd half belonged to the Pigs. The Hogs probably should have beaten UT as well, but let their chances slip away. UK has some problems stopping the run. And remember, this team gave up big points to "Florida". UK will keep it close for a half, but depth and talent will win out late. Arkansas has shown some promise, but their secondary has a tendency to go to sleep on play action sometimes. Pinner and Lorenzen should keep them honest. Without a host of turnovers the Hogs have this one.
Arkansas 27 UK 20
Auburn vs. Florida
Boy, what a difference a year makes. Last year Auburn derailed the last ride of Steve Spurrier on their way towards a run at the SEC West crown. This season finds both teams heading in the opposite direction. The loser of this game will certainly head into the abyss of underachievers. The winner will live to fight another week. A loss by Auburn may not be so damaging by the day's end as some of the traffic ahead of them begins to clear up. A loss by Florida and Zook may not survive the season. One thing is certain, after a few weeks in the pun-n-gun offense, Rex Grossman made a catastrophic mistake by returning to Florida. Grossman missed his spots last week by 10-15 feet on a rather consistent basis. I guess it really is the system. Florida will bounce back this week. It's a tough one to pick because both teams are better than last week's scoreboard. Both squads are rebounding from blow-out losses, but Florida is at home. Perhaps this week Damon Duval can fake a field goal on the 1st offensive play for Auburn. Nothing would surprise me in this one.
Florida 35 Auburn 24
Vanderbilt vs. Georgia
Georgia could use a non-conference game after the blood letting last week against UT. Vanderbilt is the next best thing. Vandy is really bad. Not just bad for the SEC, but just plain bad. UGA visits UK next week, before the annual clash with the Gators. If UGA wins the next three there is no reason to think they won't go all the way. It's still a lot of conjecture at this point. UGA needs to get up on Vandy and rest the starters for the stretch run. After Vandy every team on the schedule should have a winning record which will help the all important strength of schedule. UGA has a tendency to play down to their competition and have won some close ones in conference. This should be a welcome break.
Georgia 31 Vanderbilt 10
South Carolina vs. LSU
LSU passed a big test last week. They exorcised the ghosts of blow outs past, by trouncing annual nemesis Florida. The test came at a large price to pay however. QB Matt Mauck, who just seemed to be settling in, is feared lost for the season after damaging ligaments in his foot. This is a huge problem for a team that had won 5 straight. Back-up QB Marcus Randall is recovering from knee surgery this spring and has been spotty at best in relief of Mauck this year. Somebody must step up soon or the whole dream season will go down the tubes.
I am sure Lou Holtz is licking his chops about coming to Tiger Stadium with the LSU QB situation in such disarray. USC is not the team most would pick to introduce a back up QB to. LSU is still reeling over the loss of TB LaBrandon Teauxfield. Domanick Davis has been the man and will still be the focal point of the offense. Special teams will play a huge part in this one and Ryan Brewer will match Davis play for play. The Cocks won't kick to Davis and without some big plays in the return game the Cocks win this one close despite the fact that they can't throw it. LSU has the D to make plays, but ole Lou will have more than one trick up his sleeve.
USC 17 LSU 13
Mississippi State vs. Memphis
The Dogs won last week. That's all that really matters. Despite fumbling at very inopportune times the Dogs pulled it out. The Bulldog secondary was very opportunistic and looks like a different squad with Darren Williams taking a bigger role. It's good to see the youngster step up. The Bulldogs must learn to hang on to the football on offense. Fumbles are killing us. The Auburn and South Carolina games had large swings in momentum because of key fumbles. We kept Troy State in the game, but thankfully our defense bent, but didn't break. This week the Bullpups take on familiar foe Memphis. The Tigers like to throw the ball. They've struggled through some very up and down stretches and if they throw it 25-30 times we'll catch some of those. Look for the Bulldog offense to try a more diverse attack than you saw last year in the season opener against this same bunch of Tigers. Fred Reid should have a large day and when we get in close Memphis doesn't have the personnel to keep Dontae out. Walker had a nice game a year ago and is due for a good one now. The Dogs are 1-1 in the 2nd third of the season where they needed to win at least 3 games to forge a winning season. This is where we should be getting fat and for what it's worth I'm not ready to give up on this team making a run and earning a bowl game. It continues this week at Memphis. We need a win and to emerge healthy. We can beat Kentucky if we play up to our potential. A win next week and the Dogs are 3-4 with 5 to play. 6-6 would get us in and that is certainly attainable.
Mississippi State 24 Memphis 13
I'd like to say folks that I get a lot of e-mail. Most good and some bad. The Rebs are the worst, but I'd be disappointed if they weren't. I read the message boards, again some good some bad. I remember when I was a kid we couldn't beat anybody. Oh yeah, we'd have a good season every 4 years or so. One thing that taught me was to enjoy the good times and understand that seasons good and bad all come to an end. We are coming off the most successful stretch in the modern era of our program and I for one am not going to forget all that. We'll be back. This year isn't over, but it's a pretty safe bet we won't be competing for the West. We'll have a hand in who does and I know this team has the talent to play with the rest of the West. We got much better down the stretch a year ago and should have won more of the close ones. Don't throw in the towel folks, all sunshine and no rain makes a desert.
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.