IT Staff Slides Again

If at first you don't succeed ... well, you must be trying to predict the outcome of this fall's SEC football games.'s Jeffery Stewart and Randy Moore figured there was nowhere to go but up after Week 5, when Stewart went 6-4 and Moore went 5-5. They were wrong. Stewart slumped to 5-5 in Week 6 and Moore plummeted to 3-7.

For the season Stewart stands 44-16, Moore 40-20.

In defense of IT's resident experts, last weekend's slate featured some unforeseeable (almost unimaginable) upsets. Tennessee, coming off a 24-point homefield loss to Auburn, stunned No. 3 Georgia. LSU, coming off a 29-point loss to Georgia, came from 14 points down to win at Florida. And Ole Miss, given up for dead, came to life long enough to shock South Carolina in Columbia.

No doubt Jeffery and Randy are longing for the good ol' days. That would be Week 1, when they went a combined 19-1. Now, battered but unbowed, they are determined to keep plugging.

This week's slate is pretty imposing. With only five games involving SEC teams on tap, we've added five games of national significance to the picks list -- Virginia at Florida State, Navy at Notre Dame, Wisconsin at Purdue, Arizona State at Southern Cal and UCLA at Cal.

No rest for the weary, right guys? Here are this week's picks:


SOUTHERN MISS AT ALABAMA: Bama flexed some muscle last weekend at Kentucky but the Wildcats are weaker than a twice-used tea bag. With Bama minus QB Brodie Croyle AND RB Ray Hudson, I like the visitors' chances. Southern Miss 27, Alabama 17.

ARKANSAS AT AUBURN: Auburn has scored 33, 34 and 52 points in its last three outings. Tommy Tuberville is 2-3 vs. Arkansas since taking the Auburn reins but his 2004 Tigers look like a team on a mission. Auburn 34, Arkansas 20.

VANDERBILT AT GEORGIA: Coming off that disappointing homefield loss to Tennessee, the Bulldogs will be looking to vent their frustration. V as in vent ... V as in Vandy ... V as in vicious. Georgia 38, Vanderbilt 10.

SOUTH CAROLINA AT KENTUCKY: Speaking of venting frustration, how mad do you think the Gamecocks are after losing at home to Ole Miss? Like Georgia's Mark Richt, Carolina's Lou Holtz gets to blow off some steam at the expense of a hapless opponent. South Carolina 35, Kentucky 14.

TENNESSEE AT OLE MISS: This game scares me. The Vols are coming off an emotionally draining victory at Georgia, while the Rebels are coming off a confidence-building upset of South Carolina. Throw in the fact David Cutcliffe knows UT's schemes inside-out, and I see a close game. Tennessee 27, Ole Miss 20.

WISCONSIN AT PURDUE: The Badgers (6-0, ranked No. 10) and Boilermakers (5-0, ranked No. 5) appear to be equally matched. I'll take the home team. Purdue 35, Wisconsin 28.

ARIZONA STATE AT SOUTHERN CAL: Another battle of unbeatens as ASU (5-0, ranked No. 15) tests USC (5-0, ranked No. 1). The Trojans had a real struggle last weekend against Cal, so they could be vulnerable. Again, I'll go with the home team. USC 31, Arizona State 24.

VIRGINIA AT FLORIDA STATE: Al Groh is doing an outstanding job with the Cavs, as usual. The Seminoles are ranked seventh nationally and playing at home but I'm going to go with my heart instead of my head. Virginia 31, FSU 27.

NAVY VS. NOTRE DAME (at East Rutherford, N.J.): The Midshipmen are 5-0 and coming off an open date, so this should be a barnburner. The Fighting Irish has better athletes but not by much. Notre Dame 27, Navy 24.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE AT FLORIDA: Gator fans are upset because Ron Zook supposedly used the F-word during a recent confrontation with some rowdy fraternity boys. If Florida loses this game, I'm guessing many of those same fans will be using the F-word, too. Florida 38, MTSU 14. JEFFERY STEWART'S PICKS

SOUTHERN MISS AT ALABAMA: Southern Miss hasn't beaten Bama in Tuscaloosa since 1982, including three straight setbacks — 17-3 in 2003, 20-7 in 2004 and 28-15 in 2001. Attrition has been Alabama's arch enemy this fall, claiming the services on No. 1 quarterback Brodie Croyle and No. 1 tailback Ray Hudson for the entire season with knee injuries. Second team signal caller Mark Guillon (back) is the latest Crimson casualty, pushing No. 3 QB Spencer Pennington into the line of fire against the undefeated (4-0) Golden Eagles. Still the Tide has an above average offensive line and enough residual talent to score points. Bama is coming off a good showing at Kentucky and this is one of those character tests that chart the progress of the program under Mike Shula. UA (4-2) is also playing for its first bowl game in three years which is significant for the Tide to maintain its shrinking lead for most bowl games played. Southern Miss has road wins at Nebraska, Tulane and South Florida but might be pushing the envelop in Tuscaloosa, playing without starting QB Dustin Almond against a good Bama defense. Alabama 23, Southern Miss 20.

ARKANSAS AT AUBURN: Arkansas has won three of the last five games played between these teams by margins of 24, 25 and 21. By contrast, Auburn's two wins were 21-19 in 2000 and 10-3 last season. Houston Nutt appears to get the better of it strategically vs. Tommy Tuberville both of whom are native Arkansans and were the top two contenders for the UA head coaching job in 1998. TT has a talent tilt in his favor this time and even an Arkansas off week won't level the field. This is a contest that will help Tuberville show the folks that didn't hire him at Arkansas as well as the ones that wanted to fire him at Auburn. Auburn 30, Arkansas 21.

VANDERBILT AT GEORGIA: Last season Vandy benefited from playing at home against a Georgia team that was coming off a big 41-14 blowout victory at Tennessee. Yet the Dores still lost 27-8. How much worse off will Vandy be playing between the hedges against a Bulldog team that was upset by Tennessee in Athens last week. Oh yeah, it's also homecoming. Georgia 44, Vanderbilt 13.

SOUTH CAROLINA AT KENTUCKY: Last week I wrote of how southern hospitality had reached seldom seen standards in Lexington where the Wildcats were whipped by Ohio two weeks ago. Well last week the big blue was steamrolled by the Crimson Tide at Commonwealth Stadium. This week the Mildcats host Lou Holtz's fighting Gamecocks whose feathers are still ruffled after a last second upset loss to Ole Miss in Columbia. Two weeks ago South Carolina knocked off Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Follow circular logic: how hard will it be to beat Kentucky in Lexington? South Carolina 31, Kentucky 17.

TENNESSEE AT OLE MISS: Oh me of little faith. I jumped off the Vols after the loss to Auburn and lived to regret it, as they rebounded to upset Georgia in Athens. Where did that pass rush come from? Why haven't we seen it before? Will we see it the rest of the season? It's the key to UT's defensive success which is the key to football success. Erik Ainge continues to amaze with his poise and passing touch while UT's offensive line plays smash-mouth football with the best of ‘em. Both teams are coming off upset wins on the road and each employs almost identical offensive systems. It's hard to predict what impact that might have but this is probably an emotional and strategical wash. Tennessee has more talent and the Vols are a proven product on the road. Tennessee 27, Ole Miss 16.

WISCONSIN AT PURDUE: Wisconsin is coming off an emotional victory at Ohio State and Purdue is back home after a win over Penn State. The Boilermakers have been tough to beat in West Lafayette, especially on homecoming. The Badgers will have to get a lot of heat on Purdue pass master Kyle Orton who scorched Wisconsin's secondary for over 400 yards in a 26-23 last year in Madison, despite seven Wisconsin sacks. That's a lot to expect against a much improved Boilermaker O-line. Purdue 28, Wisconsin 20.

ARIZONA STATE AT SOUTHERN CAL: Arizona State is coming off a bye week while USC is playing after a big revenge victory over Cal. This is the right time for a Sun Devil upset but the wrong place and the wrong team. The Trojans have won five of the last six in this series, including 37-17 last year at ASU. Still the Sun Devils may keep it closer than expected. USC 33, Arizona State 24.

VIRGINIA AT FLORIDA STATE: The Seminoles are 11-1 vs. Virginia since joining the ACC, so this is a major barometer game for Al Groh in his sixth season at the Cavaliers helm. However teams not named Miami have found the going tough in Tallahassee where Bobby Bowden usually always has his troops ready to rumble. Florida State 34, Virginia 23.

NAVY AT NOTRE DAME: Navy lost a heartbreaker at Notre Dame last year and have been pointing to this contest ever since. The Midshipmen had an open week to prepare and you can bet they'll be plenty fired up for this game which is being played in East Rutherford, N.J. However while Navy almost always plays the Fighting Irish close the fact remains that Notre Dame has won 40 in a row in this series. Some things never change. Notre Dame 29, Navy 28.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE AT FLORIDA: This game was moved to the middle of the schedule after hurricane Francis claimed the season opener. It's a good bet Ron Zook wishes he could start the season over after absorbing two SEC losses, including last week's come-from-behind victory by LSU in the Swamp. That's not going to happen but the Gators will be able to take out some of their frustrations on the Blue Raiders. Florida 42, MTSU 20.

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