IT Analysts Take Final Shot at SEC Slate

With one weekend of SEC games remaining, our ''expert'' pickers have a final opportunity for redemption. This week's big game finds LSU trying to nail down the SEC West title against a dangerous but erratic Arkansas team. Will the Tigers take care of business or will they choke?

Another interesting encounter finds Florida hosting bitter rival Florida State. This is a game that will have some ramifications in the bowl picture, for sure.

That said, here are this week's picks:


ALABAMA AT HAWAII: This two-game series in paradise was hastily arranged after Bama was placed on probation by the NCAA as compensation for the bowl bids it was ineligible to receive. Crimson Tide washes ashore with four loses in its last five games and a dismal 4-8 record. Don't expect the Rainbow Warriors to greet the Tide with leis, or to lay down come game time. A much better Alabama team (10-3) only managed a 21-16 win last year at Hawaii. This year's squad will be hard pressed to repeat that feat, especially given its porous pass defense that has surrendered 2,686 yards. Bama is coming off two tough games against LSU and Auburn and the nine-hour flight and four-hour time difference will do nothing to restore its energy. Hawaii 27, Alabama 21.

ARKANSAS AT LSU: Will the Tigers be down off Cloud Nine in time to tangle with Razorbacks? Last week's victory over Ole Miss may have taken its emotional toll, but there's a ton of incentive and much on the line in Baton Rogue. Of course, the Tigers need a win to advance to the SEC Championship Game and keep their national title hopes alive, They remember being in a similar situation last year when Arkansas hit a 31-yard touchdown pass — Matt Jones to DeCori Birmingham — in the last 10 seconds to capture a 21-20 win and end LSU's title hopes. Meanwhile, in Little Rock, Hog fans are still celebrating that last-gasp victory as replays of the "Miracle on Markham" continue to play on media outlets throughout the state. Arkansas looks to be a headed to the Independence Bowl regardless of Friday's outcome and it would be surprising to see the Razorbacks come up with the type of effort or performance needed to swing a win in Baton Rogue where they have traditionally struggled. With that said, this figures to be one of the most intriguing SEC match ups in 2003 as Arkansas pits the top rushing offense in the conference (240.4 yards per game) against LSU's top rush defense which is surrendering just 57.7 yards per contest. Keep an eye on the battle between Arkansas All-American offensive tackle Shawn Andrews, 6-5, 350, and LSU defensive end Marcus Spears, 6-4, 295. It should be a dandy. Arkansas' passing game is sound, but LSU's pass defense is outstanding. Mike Mauck is an experienced signal caller who is enjoying a superb season whereas last inexperienced sophomore Marcus Randall ran LSU's attack last season. The combination of those factors plus playing in Deaf Valley should give the Tigers the edge. LSU 24, Arkansas 13.

FLORIDA STATE AT FLORIDA: The annual Sunshine State showdown looks to be even Steven and that's reflected by odds makers who have installed the Seminoles as a one-point favorite in the Swamp. In a case of the BCS making for strange bedfellows, most Tennessee fans will find themselves cheering for the Gators to topple Bowden's boys because it would enhance the Vols chances of landing a BCS invitation. Florida has lost two games at home this season (Tennessee and Ole Miss) and I don't look for it to become three defeats in Gainesville. The Gators are playing good football and have beaten better teams in LSU, Georgia and Arkansas than FSU has played this season. The highest ranked team the Seminoles have beaten this season was two weeks ago vs. North Carolina State. They also have two one-sided losses on their slate vs. Miami and Clemson. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare and should be primed and healthy. The Gators are still stinging from a 31-14 loss t Seminoles last year and will ready to reek revenge. Florida 30, FSU 23.

GEORGIA AT GEORGIA TECH: Georgia Tech has struggled in recent weeks but figures to give its best at home against arch rival Georgia. Vols need the Rambling Wreck to pull the upset if they are to get a shot at next week's SEC Championship Game. When is the last time something has gone Tennessee's way in Atlanta? (Reference: 2001 SEC Championship Game, 2002 Peach Bowl and 2003 NCAA Women's final four.) Don't expect things to change this week. Georgia 33, Georgia Tech 17.

TENNESSEE AT KENTUCKY: Vols were forced to the limit the last time they were in Lexington before coming from behind to score a 38-35 win. Wildcats could make things tough again and will, undoubtedly, let it all hang out in Jared Lorenzen's last college game. However Tennessee is a team that is hitting its stride and it still appears very hungry. That's a tough combination to overcome for an underdog that doesn't have Tennessee's talent, depth or incentive. Sure Kentucky would love nothing more than to end Tennessee's unprecedented winning streak in this series, but that hasn't been enough to in the last 18 meetings and it won't be enough on Saturday. Tennessee 34, Kentucky 20.

OLE MISS AT MISSISSIPPI STATE: A Thanksgiving Day battle in Jackson, Miss., that is sure to make college teams grateful they aren't the bad news Bulldogs. The question isn't whether the Rebels will prevail, but rather, can Mississippi State even make this a game? I don't think so. Jackie Sherrill's departure from football reaches the end of the trail and not a moment too soon. Ole Miss 42, MSU 10.


ALABAMA AT HAWAII: The Golden Rainbows are tough enough -- and the Tide is vulnerable enough -- that this trip to the Island Paradise may not be so heavenly for Bama. June Jones' team might even give Mike Shula one more reason to wish he'd stayed in the NFL. Alabama 27, Hawaii 24.

ARKANSAS AT LSU: Arkansas has sandwiched two four-game winning streaks around a three-game losing streak. If the Razorbacks are clicking, they can give LSU fits. Look for a defense-dominated game with a lot of punts. LSU 20, Arkansas 10.

FLORIDA STATE AT FLORIDA: The Gators have won five games in a row since losing to Tennessee, lucking out at Kentucky and losing to Ole Miss. FSU is their most hated rival, so motivation shouldn't be a problem. Florida 24, FSU 14.

GEORGIA AT GEORGIA TECH: Tech gets fired up for Georgia. But if the Yellow Jackets weren't good enough to hang with Duke how can they hang with the Bulldogs? Georgia 31, Ga. Tech 14.

TENNESSEE AT KENTUCKY: Jared Lorenzen is my favorite SEC player because of his rifle arm, his sumo-wrestler build and his bubbly personality. I'm going to miss him a lot more than UT defensive coordinator John Chavis will. Tennessee 31, Kentucky 21.

OLE MISS AT MISS. STATE: The Rebels may be a little flat after losing to LSU last weekend and having just four days to bounce back. The question is: Can the Bulldogs get up for Jackie Sherrill's swan song? Probably not. Watch Eli go wild. Ole Miss 49, MSU 7.

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