LSU lives to fight another day after edging out Mississippi in a very ugly ball game. The game featured some of the ugliest turnovers of the season. In the game, former Heisman candidate Eli Manning received a severely bruised elbow. Manning seemed to suffer through it and threw an interception to end the Rebels chances late in the 4th. LSU still has difficulty scoring and must rely on their defense to keep the games close. Arkansas held off a late rally by MSU and vastly improved backup QB Kyle York. The Dogs found themselves deep in a hole in the 3rd and needed a miracle to win and nearly got it. Arkansas must finish stronger this week if they expect to win the SEC West championship.
With a loss to rival Clemson, South Carolina finished the season 5-7 and out of bowl contention. Alabama and Kentucky are ineligible due to NCAA sanctions. Both would have been eligible for a bowl had they not been on probation. Vanderbilt and Mississippi State have found the going rough and won't be making any postseason plans. Will we add another name to the list of ineligibles this week in Mississippi? The rumor hounds think the fix is on and that the SEC wants to insure it meets its required bowl tie ins. Folks, I think that's hog wash. The SEC doesn't need the money, but all member institutions could use the bowl revenue. In order for Mississippi to beat MSU this year it would have to be fixed. The game just means too much to the Bulldogs and they will look to take out another year's frustration out on the rival Rebels.
Alabama vs. Hawaii
If you read last week's article you know my thoughts on this game. Some folks may remember that last year Hawaii demolished BYU in the season finale. Coach June Jones has the Warriors 9-2 and ready to play again this year. Alabama has a great team, but may be a little too happy to take a trip. There is a game to be played and I don't know if that's foremost in their minds. A UH win would be a great thing. I generally don't pull against SEC teams in non-conference play, but I have to make an exception this time. If Alabama lost this game it would suit me just fine. In some strange way a form of justice would be served. The game seems almost secondary to the fact that Bama scheduled a 13th game in an effort to reward themselves for their 5-year probation. Perhaps next season the NCAA will allow Alabama to play an exhibition in Europe somewhere. This is a joke and makes a mockery of the system, but the NCAA allows it. To say that organization needs some reform would be an understatement. Back to the game. Justin Holbert for UH needs just 4 yards to have 1,000 yards receiving. QB Timmy Chang has had an up and down season, but is slowed by injuries. Last time out Chang was injured by a cheap shot by a UC Bearcat that caused a riot of sorts to break out. Both benches cleared and as UC left the field Hawaii, fans pelted them with anything they could find. Some unruly fans had to be sprayed with pepper spray. Maybe Alabama picked the wrong team to pick on. Hawaii can score some points, but this will be their toughest challenge to date. Just call it a hunch or wishful thinking, but I'm taking the homestanding Rainbow Warriors in Bama's version of the Aloha Bowl.
Hawaii 31 Alabama 24
Florida vs. Florida State
FSU is in trouble. Not NCAA trouble, but trouble nonetheless. The program has had a very difficult season and things don't get any easier as the Gators come to town. Earlier this week new QB Adrian McPherson was dismissed from the team for his part of a check cashing scandal. Former cover boy Chris Rix is back in the saddle as signal caller this week. Across the way Rex Grossman seems to be firing on all cylinders after having some major problems with interceptions earlier in the season. Florida has won 4 straight including a win over SEC East champ Georgia. The Gators are rolling and the Seminoles are reeling. With Miami's return to prominence one would think that the loser of this game will be the odd man out in next year's recruiting battles. I know this one is a rivalry game, but Rix lost his job for a reason. Rix is a liability, but Bowden is a great coach and he'll have them ready. The McPherson saga is a distraction, but I'm sure that's the farthest thing from Rix's mind. It's redemption time. A win over your arch rival covers a multitude of sins. Despite all of that I still like Florida against the FSU secondary. Zook has resurrected his program after back to back losses to UM and LSU. They could have easily tanked the season, but here they are ready for a major bowl.
Florida 27 FSU 17
Kentucky vs. Tennessee
All the games this week are tight, but this one may be the tightest. UK has the ability to score, but UT has been pretty greedy with their real estate. UT is very banged up and will look forward to the break prior to their bowl game. For UK this is the finale. Guy Morriss deserves some consideration as SEC coach of the year, but I'm afraid his fellow probationee Coach Fran will wear that crown. This may be UK's best chance to beat UT, but I think the UT running game is just too much for the 'Cats. If they could just get the Vols to punt 6 or 7 times and give Derek Abney a shot at returning 1 or 2, this could be a great game. This one will be a tough one and I wouldn't be shocked to see UK come out on top, but I can't see UT losing at home.
Tennessee 28 Kentucky 20
Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
I know this is a rivalry game, but I just can't see UGA letting this one get away. They'll know who their opponent for the SECCG will be on Friday. UGA is better than LSU and Arkansas, but if they look ahead the Yellow Jackets could sting them. I look for Richt to get a lead, milk the clock, and empty the bench. This has been a hotly contested rivalry through the years and GT would love nothing more than to knock a little luster off the Dawgs return to glory. The main thing for UGA is get out with a win and your starters healthy. UGA is 4th in the BCS and would need a miracle to sneak into the national championship game. Two more wins and they could leap frog Iowa. And if Miami lost to the 'Cuse and Va Tech, the Bulldogs could play for the national title. Yeah, that could happen.
Georgia 23 Georgia Tech 14
LSU vs. Arkansas
It's funny how things work out. For two straight season's LSU will play their final regular season game for all the marbles. Last year they got it done against Auburn. Can history repeat? The SEC has tried to make this game into a rivalry since neither team has a true conference rival. The problem has been that the game has never really meant anything until this year. Arkansas, labeled a dark horse early in the year, has quietly played its way back into contention after starting 1-3 in conference play. LSU was the odds on favorite with Bama on probation. This is where LSU expected to be, but they didn't expect it to happen like it did. The offense has struggled most of the season, but has scored when it had to. Since starting QB Matt Mauck went down after the Florida game, the offense has relied on luck and the great play of its defense. The Tigers are 3-2 since Mauck's injury thanks to a miracle hail mary and a gutty 4th quarter by backup Marcus Randall last weekend. If the Tiger's want to defend their SEC crown they will have to stop the running game. The Razorbacks have run wild most of the season and clearly have nothing to lose. They weren't expected to be in this position, but seem to be just fine with their good fortune. They get a wounded LSU team at home in the red clay of Arkansas. LSU can't score and Arkansas can run on anyone. Saban has a knack for getting his team to play, but the three strong running teams the Tigers have faced, Va Tech, Auburn, and Alabama, all won going away. I don't see this one as a blowout, but I can't see the Tigers changing their stripes this late in the season.
Arkansas 24 LSU 10
Mississippi State vs. Mississippi
Well Rebel fans the bell tolls and it tolls for thee. UM has lost what seems like a hundred in a row. In fact when was the last time a MS school beat a D1 school? It's been a while and Hardy Street High did it. The Rebs started 5-1 and were riding high after their annual pasting of Arkansas State. A funny thing happened on the way to the Fiesta Bowl, reality set in. Suddenly the offense got off gear and the defense was as vulnerable as everybody outside of NW Mississippi thought it would be. Can you say mediocre? Please bear with me just a moment as I get my soap box out.
How bad a coaching staff do you have to be to field a losing team in Eli Manning's junior season? You mean to tell me you can't get anybody to come to school to run the football or to play defense. Why aren't blue chippers beating down the door to play in Oxford? I don't have the answer and the Rebel fans I talked to outside Tiger stadium don't either. I never thought I would see the day when Rebels fans were calling for Eli to be benched. The latest rumor is that Eli IS going pro. Well, why shouldn't he? Would you want to spend another year in Oxford and run the risk of getting hurt and never play in the NFL? They don't appreciate him and haven't utilized him they way they should have. Eli has been knocked around all season and LSU hit him with some bad intentions. I can't imagine how hard the Bulldogs will hit him. Eli Manning is the most prized recruit that will ever play at the University of Mississippi. And what have the done for him other than have all the male students wear the same haircut he does. I almost feel sorry for him, but I'll save all that for after the 2002 Egg Bowl.
For Justin Griffith, Thanksgiving will be the last time he and his fellow seniors wear the maroon and white. Who can forget Mario Haggan taking the snap away from the BYU QB in 2000? Or Josh Morgan being thrust into the line-up as a replacement in the 1998 Egg Bowl and being named defensive player of the game? Or Korey Banks taking Eli behind the wood shed in last year's egg bowl? Or Donald Lee doing the Snow Bowl shimmy after a huge TD catch? Or Terrell Grindle streaking down the field at Auburn in 1999 to set up the game winning score? Or Dontae Walker bursting through the Florida defense all day in 2000? The season is over for a few of our seniors and to all of you guys thanks for coming to MSU and thanks for the memories.
Before we get too misty eyed we still have a final memory to make, the 2002 Egg Bowl. War was declared on MSU by UM's tobacco law contingent. From cowbells, to private investigators, to down right slander, the Rebels are in it to deep. The only way to get even with these type people is to hit them where it hurts, which is in their massive egos. They have these delusions of superiority . They can't win on the field, court, track, pitch, or diamond, so they try to tear down MSU by less scrupulous means. Program envy is a huge issue for Rebel supporters. MSU has essentially ended the Rebels season in the big three this past season and they don't like it. Instead of building their program up to ours they'd rather try to pull MSU down to their level. I'm sure it's frustrating to rarely win an NCAA men's basketball tournament game when your rival has gone to the Final Four or rarely going to the CWS when your rivals helped build college baseball into a revenue producing sport or never having a winning conference record in Football when your rivals have appeared in the conference championship game as well as three straight bowls in the same time frame. I'm sure all those things are difficult, but I can't relate.
Last season my e-mail was full of hate mail from Rebels all year. I made a huge mistake last season; I didn't save them. Well, this year I saved every one of them and I am going to personally answer everyone after this year's Egg Bowl. I have kept them all season; every single solitary one of them. The childish insults, the name calling, the threats, the predictions, all of them. The Rebs are a "class" bunch; that's why I'll take great pleasure in watching our seniors put the last nail in the Mississippi Coffin.
This Egg Bowl is special to a lot of people because of all that's gone on. There is even a rumor that the UM students are going to bring cowbells and ring them, hoping to get 15-yard penalty on MSU. I say that's great news for us. We'll get the benefit of the bells and the penalty, because the artificial noise maker rule applies to the home team. Hey Rebelettes bring 'em and ring 'em.
Jackie is 7-4 against the Rebs, which I'm sure is a legendary type performance at UM because they are forever going 7-4. This one may mean a little more to Coach Sherrill after all the personal attacks.
I would say that 80% of the people I hear from want Jackie back and that includes fans from other schools. I'd like to see him back, but I don't get to vote. I think some changes need to be made, but you don't force out the school's all time winningest coach. That's seems to be the wrong thing to do. I will admit I have been frustrated with our W-L record, but I also remember that all sunshine and no rain makes a desert. To think we'll stay in the hunt every year in the West is a bit unrealistic. Just ask Mississippi.
I know Eli's hurt and I know that Fant is banged up, but I'd take Kyle York over David Morris any day. In fact I wouldn't trade Kyle for all of the Rebel backups combined. Eli has a bad elbow, but if he has an elbow at all he'll be in the game. This one means too much and, well, Colonel Khayat promised the boosters a win this year. They all did their part, but they didn't know that their bowl game would be riding on it. They never expected to be 5-6 at this point. The table is set for MSU to put all the smack and backbiting right back in UM's face with a win. I do know this, win or lose this one will be physical. Expect a lot of flags, cheap shots, and scuffles after the whistle. In the unlikely event UM "upsets" MSU, they'll lose the bowl game and have a losing record. Let's just save everybody the trouble and knock off the Rebs Thursday night. If you can't be there find a TV and put the women and children to bed, because this one will be as heated as a game can be. I just think MSU has a lot more to prove and the Rebs aren't ready to deal with the emotion of the game after losing another close one last week.
MSU 27 UM 24
Well folks, that's how I see them. The next time you hear from me, I'll be forecasting the SEC Championship game. Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy the watching the Rebs get scrambled in the Egg Bowl.
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.