At this point every team in the West still has a shot at a bowl game with the exception of Alabama. If MSU wins out they finish 6-6 which sends you to a bowl game this year. UM can split their last two and still salvage a .500 season as well. If MSU and UM both finish 6-6, MSU would get the nod for winning the head to head match-up. There are 8 bowl tie-ins and only 10 teams who aren't on probation, so there will be two teams sitting home. One team is secure on the outside in Vanderbilt. Conventional wisdom would have to say that either MSU or UM will be on the outside looking in, but the Bullies have to win three in a row for that to happen. What's real interesting is if MSU finishes 5-7 and UM finishes 5-7 how will the SEC fill it's bowl tie-ins since there won't be enough bowl eligible teams? To say it's a down year for the conference is putting it lightly.
Alabama vs. LSU
Alabama, without question, is the best team in the West right now. They'll get to state their case to the defending SEC champs this weekend at Tiger Stadium. For LSU, the task is simple win out and they win the West. If LSU happens to stumble, the road becomes a little more treacherous. Alabama is playing for pride and for the right to cause a royal mess and to have an SEC West championship with an asterisk. The asterisk to signify that the 2nd best team won the West, because of Alabama's NCAA troubles. Alabama got beat last year in record fashion by the Tigers. Rohan Davey and Josh Reed made Bama look an awful lot like a junior college last season. Times and teams are much different. Davey and Reed are now safely in the NFL and LSU couldn't beat most of us in pickup game if they have to throw the ball. The name of the game in Baton Rouge is defense and special teams. Look for Domanick Davis to make a play if Bama kicks to him. I think Alabama can run the ball against LSU; they are extremely physical. This one should be low scoring as the conference's top 2 defenses square off. LSU will have to throw the ball to make a game of this one and I still don't think Randall can do that, but, hey, he got a win last week in dramatic fashion. Luck will only get you so far, though.
Alabama 17 LSU 13
Georgia vs. Auburn
This game is huge for several teams. This game has post-season implications for almost all teams in the conference. Georgia lost a heartbreaker last year as Jasper Sanks was stuffed at the goal line as time expired. I still question the call to run the ball, but it's ancient history now. Auburn has to have this one if they hope to win the West. Auburn needs LSU to lose one and the AU Tigers have to win their last two. Auburn, winners of three in a row, hold the tiebreaker over LSU in the event of a tie. Georgia needs a win and they're in regardless of what Florida does. Georgia can lose this one and win the East if South Carolina upsets Florida. The Bullies are beat up and Auburn seems to be peaking at the right time. This one is huge for both programs and will send shock waves all the way up til national signing day. I like Georgia, but Tubby always seems to find a way to win when he shouldn't. This one is almost a coin flip, but I just think Georgia is hungrier.
Georgia 23 Auburn 17
ULL vs. Arkansas
The fact that ULL shows up is significant. They have no shot. They are a garbage football team and they will get steam rolled in this one. Enough about that. Arkansas is 3-3 in conference and must win their last two against MSU and LSU to have a chance to win the West. They hold the tie breaker over Auburn, but they need Auburn to lose their last two and have LSU lose two of three. Of course Arkansas plays LSU head to head, so they essentially need Alabama to win out over LSU and Auburn. Win out themselves and hope Georgia wins this weekend. That's as simple as I can explain it. It's a long shot because Arkansas is depending on two teams to help them, but they are the best teams from each division. It's a lot more feasible then some say. Arkansas will win this weekend and then evaluate their postseason plans on Sunday. The Hog defense may pitch a shut out for the third straight week.
Arkansas 38 ULL 0
Open Date vs. Mississippi
U of M needs to handle open date and win out and hope Arkansas, LSU, and Auburn all finish the conference schedule with 4-4 records. In case of a 4-way tie UM gets the nod. To put it simply, UM has to beat LSU and State which will make them 4-4. They need LSU to lose their remaining three making them 4-4. They need Auburn to lose their remaining two to make them 4-4 They need Arkansas to at least beat LSU and MSU to beat Arkansas, making the Hogs 4-4. Of course if the Rebels lose one of their last two, which is a virtual certainty, it's all over. UM winning a game in November. Who I am kidding?
Tennessee vs. Mississippi State
MSU is the only team in the West guaranteed of a losing conference record. This game appears that it will be a much better game than most expected. UT has had some real problems scoring points this season. That task just got more difficult with Casey Clausen coming up lame again. MSU leads the conference in picks and is one of the toughest in the nation against the pass. Of course most teams try to run on the Dawgs. UT has a stable of fine young backs and we will see all of them this weekend. If MSU can put UT in long third downs, they'll win the game. MSU has to find a way to control the football. The turnovers have been a season long plague and if MSU is to make a run that's where it will start. MSU scored almost at will in the 1st half last week and trailed 21-14 late in the game. A pair of costly turnovers kept the Dogs off the scoreboard in the second half. The half time adjustments have been a huge issue on the season. MSU needs to hang around and survive the third quarter. If MSU is within a possession in the 4th quarter, they will pull the upset. Jackie always finds a way to rally the troops in games like these. For players like Mario Haggan this may be one of his last chances to bring home a big win for the maroon and white faithful. I look for him to come up big and I know I'll get e-mail on this either way, but I'm picking the Dogs in the upset.
MSU 24 Tennessee 20
Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky
This one in my mind is just pathetic. The SEC should consider realignment just because of this game. The annual battle for the cellar. This year the "Cats don't have as much to play for as the cellar is safely Vandy's as far as won/loss records. The "Cats will show #6 in the standings thanks to the NCAA spanking. UK will look to save the Gatorade until the game is won after last week's premature celebration. The "Cats will end the season with a lot of respect and they have a legit shot at winning out in two weeks in Knoxville. UK will put up some points and have some fun. Vandy is already turning their attention to basketball.
Kentucky 42 Vanderbilt 14
South Carolina vs. Florida
This game is big for both team's. Zook and his Gators have to win and pray for a Georgia loss. Considering how bad UF has looked at times, it's remarkable that they even have a realistic shot to still win the East. UF holds the tiebreaker because of the upset win two weeks ago. USC has looked down right awful in the last three. They can't score. They can play a little defense, but they can't win a track meet. They need some turnovers and special teams plays to go their way. I think Florida will take care of their part and all thing considered probably deserve a better fate for not tanking the season when they dropped some early. They still beat UT in Knoxville and UGA in Jacksonville. The Gators may not win the East, but with a win over USC will be the only team in the East to beat all the other teams in the East. The Gators will be back, and they still may have a few cards to play before the season's done.
Florida 27 USC 14
Well, folks it all shakes out this week. Some may be eliminated for Championship contention and others from bowl contention. If the picks hold, the West will still be up for grabs. The Tide rarely lose in Baton Rouge and will be looking to bounce back after two straight losses to LSU. It promises to be a great weekend for watching football. If you can't be there live find a couch and a friend. This weekend should be one to remember.
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 email@example.com.