This week is pivotal in the SEC divisional races. Georgia let a golden opportunity slip by last week against Florida. LSU still controls their own destiny, but that could easily change this week. Arkansas and USC battle for bowl position and Mississippi State and Mississippi seem on a collision course to decide last place in the SEC west. This week has every team in the conference in action. As the season draws to a close every game becomes more and more valuable. Here's a look at this week's action.
Arkansas vs. South Carolina
The Gamecocks play host in this game which has been one of the more competitive conference contests the last couple of years. It's usually ugly and that's the way the Cocks like it. With a loss Arkansas cannot have a winning record in conference. This is key as the folks in Fayetteville are more than a little tired of being middle of the pack. USC would love to improve their bowl position, but has some work to do to insure they reach a bowl game. A loss in this one certainly hurts Holtz & Co. in their bid to reach a New Year's day bowl game. This game will feature two of the conference's most athletic QB's and the game will be decided on the arms and legs of these two. The Hogs have the better running game, but USC is tough at home. Look for Arkansas to set the tone early with a clinic type effort of basic run formations. The Cocks will make things tough on them and Holtz always finds away to keep his team in it. For some reason I like Arkansas in this one and the strength of that tough O line.
Arkansas 24 South Carolina 20
ULM vs. Auburn
The Tigers are rolling and that won't change this week. They have two tough games left, so this week the bench will be cleared and everybody with a helmet will see some P.T. Auburn has suddenly found an offensive spark plug in Jason Campbell. While, his numbers aren't that impressive the team just plays better with him at the helm. Ronnie Brown has exploded since his insertion into the line-up. If the Auburn D had made a stop earlier in the 4th quarter last week Brown may have ran for 300 against Mississippi. That type effort won't be necessary this week, but Tubby must be careful not to break the rhythm of his suddenly potent offense.
Auburn 31 ULM 7
Florida vs. Vanderbilt
Florida saved their season by knocking off the SEC's only hope for a national title contender. The Gators may be tempted to have a let down this week, but if you have to have one Vandy is the team to have one against. USC and FSU are in the offing in the next two weeks. Florida would like to play some younger players in this one and rest their stars for the home stretch. Florida still has some work to do before they'll call this season a success, but this step is much easier than the last two.
Florida 33 Vanderbilt 13
Mississippi vs. Georgia
To say the Rebels are in trouble would be an understatement. After starting 5-1 the Rebels seem destined for a .500 record of 6-6 on the season. This weekend will feature the 4th consecutive loss for the former media darlings. U of M, mired in another 2nd half spiral, have begun to grow impatient over such matters. The room got a little warmer last week after a loss to former Head Man Tommy T. One would have to conclude that the Rebels must win 2 of the next 3 to have a realistic chance at a bowl game and to avoid the negative scrutiny that is sure to come after another season as an also ran despite having former Heisman candidate Eli Manning running the show. Georgia is a lot angry after dropping another close one to Florida. The Bulldogs are still kicking themselves for letting that one slip away. Considering how bad the defense has been this season at Oxford the Rebels could be just what the doctor ordered for Richt and Co. Look for Georgia to run and run and run. The Bulldogs should be fast starters and that's not at all what the Rebels are ready to deal with.
Georgia 31 Mississippi 21
LSU vs. Kentucky
If I were an LSU fan I'd be very worried. LSU should still win the west as basically the last man standing in the SEC west. Alabama is the best the west has to offer, but LSU through a battle of attrition should still prevail. I think LSU needs at worst a split in the last 4 to win the west. That would still give them 3 losses in conference, but they will probably be the only eligible team in the west with a winning record in conference. The biggest problem the Tigers have this weekend is the fact they may not be able to score enough to win the track meet that is sure to break out. Kentucky found their grove and LSU has some very big issues on offense. Marcus Randall has reportedly had two good weeks of practice, but a road game is a tough place to try to find your self in the SEC. I may be crazy, but I'm picking the upset and the Battleship Lorenzen. Special teams has been a huge plus for the Tigers with Domanick Davis, but Derek Abney and the blue grass boys neutralize that strength at least. Look for fireworks late. The LSU secondary must step up or this one could be over early.
Kentucky 38 LSU 24
Miami vs. Tennessee
Pre-season many people had this game pegged as a BCS make or break game. The chances of the Vols making the BCS are well next to impossible, but Miami needs a win to recapture the #2 spot in the BCS. Ohio State leap frogged the Canes after 1-7 Rutgers led the defending national champions in the 4th quarter. UT pulled out a tough one last week against a game South Carolina squad. The 4th down bootleg with Clausen put a nail in the 'Cocks coffin and their hopes of a upper tier bowl game. Miami has the ability to run the ball at will and may have looked ahead last week. The folks at Rocky top would love to see an upset, but the Vols are just to beat up. Kelley Washington may be done for his career and there are nearly a dozen starters and regulars on the injured list. Clausen must find a way to keep this one close and give his defense a chance to rest. If the Vols are in it late they might pull some burnt orange surprise, but I just can't see it with all the holes up and down the depth chart.
Miami 27 Tennessee 17
Mississippi State vs. Alabama
Jackie always gets up for this one. As bad as last season was we still should have won this one. Alabama is having the season they had a hoped to have to show the nation that they will still be a force in the SEC despite NCAA sanctions. Hats off to Coach Fran. The front 7 at Bama may be the best in the nation and the secondary continues to make plays. It's a shame that the Tide can't go to Atlanta. Well, you have to pay if you want to play. MSU needs a win to restore some confidence in themselves and to restore some of the respect for the program. Many are calling for the head of JWS. I don't think that's the answer. He has always found away to pull out one or two he shouldn't when he has been under the gun. I think the Dogs have to win 2 of the last 4 to avoid major changes in Stark Vegas. If the Pups could beat Mississippi and Alabama many would be willing to forgive some of the pain of the last two years. Any two will do for me, but I know beating Bama is always special for Jackie. I look for the Dogs to be up for this one, but I just think Bama is too strong and too talented for us right now. I still think we'll get our two, but Bama won't be one of them. If the Dogs can win time of possession they could pull the shocker, but the Tide is playing for the right to say they were best in the west. I remember a time not so long ago when we were playing for the same thing. Oh, the memories.
Alabama 35 Mississippi State 14
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.