IT Staffers Take on SEC Slate

Three weeks into the SEC football season, InsideTennessee staffers Jeffery Stewart and Randy Moore are deadlocked with 24-6 records in their weekly picks. Obviously, brilliant minds think alike.

Both Stewart and Moore missed on Maine's upset of Mississippi State and Auburn's defeat of LSU last weekend. Moore also missed on the North Carolina State-Ohio State scrap.

The marquee game on the SEC slate this weekend is Alabama at Arkansas. The other intraleague matchups are Kentucky at Florida and Mississippi State at LSU. Everyone else is facing non-conference foes.

Because there are only eight games involving SEC teams this weekend, we've added Clemson at Florida State and Iowa at Michigan to boost the picking list to the usual 10 games.

Jeffery Stewart's picks:

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT LSU: "Remember the Maine" was a worthy battle cry for the Spanish-American War but it won't get much traction this week in Starkville — not after the Bulldogs' embarrassing defeat to Maine last week. Now MSU has the unenviable task of traveling to Baton Rouge to play defending co-national champion LSU which is coming off a one-point loss to Auburn. The Tigers have their problems on offense, but you wouldn't know it on Saturday. LSU 40, Mississippi State 7.

OLE MISS AT WYOMING: Fresh off an overtime win over SEC whipping boy Vandy, the Rebels travel to Cowboy country in search of their second win of the season. Wyoming has been tough over the years at Laramie where the air is thin and the crowds are thinner. (UW averaged 15,7602 per home game in 2003.) Mississippi has more athletes and is carrying the SEC's banner into this intrasectional clash. I give the rebels the edge. Ole Miss 27, Wyoming 24.

VANDERBILT AT NAVY: This looks like a good spot for the Commodores to pick up a non conference victory, but they couldn't beat the Midshipmen last year in Nashville and Navy returns 14 starters and 41 lettermen from that 8-5 squad that went to the Houston Bowl. Navy 30, Vanderbilt 21.

THE CITADEL AT AUBURN: The biggest question concerning this match-up is: Why is it called "The" Citadel? Is there really any chance we'd get it confused with some other Citadel? The Tigers should be able to pile up rushing yards and tune up their passing game. Auburn 45, The Citadel 0.

ALABAMA AT ARKANSAS: It's puzzling why the Crimson Tide doesn't have the same acrimony for Houston Nutt that it reserves for Phillip Fulmer. After all, Nutt squealed like a pig over players that weren't even in his state. Alabama's chances of a win in Fayetteville took a direct hit when quarterback Brodie Croyle went down with a torn ACL, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Bama keep it very close. Arkansas 26, Alabama 21.

KENTUCKY AT FLORIDA: Kentucky is coming off a big win over Indiana and nearly upset Florida last season in Lexington before some late-game heroics by Chris Leak. Conversely, Florida is recovering from a heartbreaking defeat at Tennessee and has Arkansas and LSU on tap the next two weekends in Gainesville. Could that be an upset I smell? No, it's probably just the foul stench of the Mildcats' 0-16 record in SEC openers since 1988. Florida 38, Kentucky 17.

TROY STATE AT SOUTH CAROLINA: If these teams have self-esteem issues it's understandable, since they share the distinction of being the other USC and the other Trojans. The men of Troy State have played surprisingly well this season, but so have the Gamecocks who narrowly missed knocking off Georgia in Columbia. Carolina is looking to get back into a bowl game after a two-year absence which makes this contest critical. South Carolina 24, Troy State 13.

LOUISIANA TECH AT TENNESSEE: This homecoming contest against La Tech is as close to an open date as the Vols will get until Nov. 13 — a string of eight straight games without a break. It's also a sandwich game between intense SEC battles against Florida and Auburn. Plus LTU knocked off Michigan State last season on the road. Nevertheless, the Vols should be able to create enough space between themselves and the Bulldogs to rest their regulars and get their young players some valuable playing time. Tennessee 41, Louisiana Tech 16.

CLEMSON AT FLORIDA STATE: In view of Clemson's disappointing start following last season's strong finish, the Tigers' Peach Bowl victory over Tennessee might be the high point of Tommy Bowden's four-plus years at Clemson. That closing flurry began with a 28-16 victory over Florida State, a fact not lost on the Seminoles who should be ready to put things right Saturday. Papa Bowden might call off the dogs, but he can't help with the wolves that will be growling at Tommy's door after another setback. Florida State 42, Clemson 21.

IOWA AT MICHIGAN: These traditional Big Ten powers have performed well below their normal standards this season so this contest takes on added significance. It's hard to prove it by the way they've played to this point, but the Wolverines have better athletes and playmakers than the Hawkeyes. They also have the homefield advantage. Michigan 27, Iowa 17.

Randy Moore's picks:

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT LSU: If this were basketball, the game would be competitive. Unfortunately for Sylvester Croom, it's not. Even with an unstable QB situation, LSU will roll. LSU 31, Mississippi State 7.

OLE MISS AT WYOMING: Ole Miss QB Ethan Flatt made a successful debut last Saturday against Vanderbilt but life's different on the road. If David Cutcliffe's Rebels are to be a .500 team this season, this is a game they must win. Ole Miss 24, Wyoming 17.

VANDERBILT AT NAVY: The Commodores always seem to find ways to lose. The Midshipmen are 3-0, which suggests they're finding ways to win. The key question: Did Vandy's OT loss last week at Ole Miss build its confidence or break its spirit? We'll soon see. Vanderbilt 27, Navy 24.

CITADEL AT AUBURN: The Tigers don't have an open date before their Oct. 2 game at Tennessee but playing The Citadel at home is the next-best thing. Look for Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown to combine for roughly 300 rushing yards. Auburn 42, Citadel 7.

ALABAMA AT ARKANSAS: Bama would've been hard-pressed to win with Brodie Croyle at quarterback. Without him, the Crimson Tide isn't likely to give the Razorbacks a serious scare. Arkansas 27, Bama 17.

KENTUCKY AT FLORIDA: The Gators were 12 seconds from beating Tennessee in Knoxville last weekend. Look for them to take out their frustration on the weapon-less Wildcats. Florida 38, Kentucky 14.

TROY AT SOUTH CAROLINA: Troy upset Marshall 17-15 on Sept. 4, and Marshall subsequently played close losses to top-10 foes Ohio State and Georgia. What does it all mean? Beats the heck out of me but I'm taking the Gamecocks. South Carolina 24, Troy 14. LOUISIANA TECH AT TENNESSEE: Tech lost 48-0 to Miami last weekend and runs into a Vol squad that is flying high after a dramatic defeat of Florida. The key question: Can the Vols avoid looking ahead to their Oct. 2 game with Auburn? Maybe. Tennessee 38, Louisiana Tech 14.

CLEMSON AT FLORIDA STATE: Tommy Bowden hammered Daddy Bowden last season but this family reunion is scheduled for Tallahassee, and there's revenge on the menu. FSU 34, Clemson 21.

IOWA AT MICHIGAN: The Wolverines should be fired up coming off that upset loss to Notre Dame, so this could be an entertaining game ... at least by Big Ten standards. Michigan 27, Iowa 21.


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