The top SEC games this weekend find Alabama (5-2) visiting Tennessee (5-1) and Georgia (5-1) invading Arkansas (3-3).
Since there are only six games involving SEC teams on tap this weekend, we've added four of the most competitive national games to fill out the picks slate.
Jeffery Stewart's picks:
FLORIDA AT MISSISSIPPI STATE: After a month of hurricanes, floods and tropical storms, Starkville will seem like the garden spot of the union to the Florida Gators. The competition is also inviting and it's a great way to prepare for those other Bulldogs that the Gators tangle with in Jacksonville next Saturday. Florida 38, Mississippi State 13
. EASTERN KENTUCKY AT VANDERBILT: Rumors of the Commodores rebirth were greatly exaggerated. Vandy has always struggled in the SEC, but it has hardly distinguished itself outside the conference this season, losing to Navy and Rutgers. Now Eastern Kentucky comes to Music City in what is a sandwich game for the Dores who played at Georgia last week and at LSU next week. With Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee up after that, this appears to be their last best chance at a win in ‘04. Vanderbilt 24, Eastern Kentucky 10.
KENTUCKY AT AUBURN: Kentucky has been waxed more this season than a ‘63 Corvette in mint condition. So it almost seems cruel the Wildcats lose LSU on the schedule only to pick up Auburn. Hang tough Big Blue fans, basketball season is just around the corner. Auburn 45, Kentucky 10.
ALABAMA AT TENNESSEE: I expressed some misgivings about this game in our Devil's Advocate piece, noting Alabama could have an emotional edge coming off a confidence building victory over Southern Miss. UT should show up ready to rumble and the Tide appear too one-dimensional on offense to win without some breaks or pyrotechnics from the kicking game. This game has all the earmarks of a typical head-knocker and should be highly competitive. Tennessee 24, Alabama 16.
GEORGIA AT ARKANSAS: It's the Dawgs vs. the Hawgs in Fayetteville where Georgia is 2-0 since this series started in 1992. On the other hand, Arkansas has defended its home turf well since Houston Nutt came on the scene in 1998. The Razorbacks have problems on defense while Georgia's defense is a problem for everyone else. Yet with Florida up next and the Bulldogs on the road, this one could be closer than expected. The Razorbacks played poorly in the first half at Florida and Auburn, but rebounded in the second stanza to make the scores respectable. They should overcome the slow starts now that they're back home, but overcoming the Dogs is a different story. Georgia 27, Arkansas 21.
TROY AT LSU: Troy steps out of Sun Belt Conference play this week in a big way with a trip to Baton Rouge. The Trojans haven't fared well when playing back-to-back road games the last two years, a trend that portends trouble against the Tigers, who have a week's rest and are 30-0 against Sun Belt opponents. LSU 41, Troy 14.
FRESNO STATE AT BOISE STATE: Don't adjust your plasma TV screen, that is blue grass these teams are playing on. Not blue grass like they have in Kentucky, but rather an artificial neon blue hue that's known as Smurf Turf. At most away stadiums you have to worry about the crowd being loud — not the grass. If that's not enough of a problem for the Bulldogs, Boise State is 3-0 vs. Frenso State since joining the WAC and none of those prior contests were even close. Boise State 35, Frenso State 17.
MARYLAND AT CLEMSON: Here's a Peach of a match-up sure to make UT fans feel a pit in the old stomach. Of course, these teams no longer resemble the squads that soundly defeated the Vols in the 2002 and 2003 Peach Bowls. In fact, rumor has it they're going to change Clemson's Death Valley to Slippery Slope due to Tommy Bowden's inability to gain any traction in six seasons at the helm. The Tigers are favored at home but I'll take Maryland in the upset given Ralph Friedgen's tactical success vs. Clemson's defensive system. Maryland 28, Clemson 24.
MICHIGAN AT PURDUE: I took the Boilermakers last week against Wisconsin and was disappointed to receive my only miss. However Michigan disappoints every week and Purdue isn't likely to drop two straight at home. Of course, I said the same thing about the New York Yankees and was WRONG. Still I like Purdue QB Kyle Orton to light up the Wolverines' secondary. Purdue 31, Michigan 24.
TEXAS AT TEXAS TECH: Believe it or not, this is only the second road game Texas has played in 2004. The Longhorns struggled to defeat Arkansas in their first road test and this one figures to tougher with Texas Tech having two weeks to prepare. Mike Leach's free wheeling offense is in capable hands with QB B.J. Symons and Texas has had problems stopping the pass. Once again, I'll go against the odds and take the Red Raiders in an upset. Texas Tech 35, Texas 31.
Randy Moore's picks:
FLORIDA AT MISSISSIPPI STATE: I love SEC football but even I won't watch the Jefferson Pilot telecast of this mismatch. The only way this game can be competitive is if Florida is totally flat, which would make for an even more boring telecast. Florida 45, Mississippi State 10.
EASTERN KENTUCKY AT VANDERBILT: I thought Vandy would go 3-0 in its non-conference games this season but the Commodores already have sustained three-point losses to Navy and Rutgers. There's a pattern there but I'm going to ignore it. Vanderbilt 27, Eastern Kentucky 20.
KENTUCKY AT AUBURN: Do they have a 10-touchdown mercy rule in college football? There's no way high-flying Auburn can get up for the Mildcats, so this might not be the slaughter we're expecting. Then again ... Auburn 52, Kentucky 7.
ALABAMA AT TENNESSEE: Bama hasn't missed star QB Brodie Croyle and star RB Ray Hudson the past two weeks. Still, facing Kentucky and Southern Miss (minus its No. 1 quarterback) is a little different than facing a Volunteer team that is gaining confidence each week. Tennessee 27, Alabama 14.
GEORGIA AT ARKANSAS: Except for their blowout of LSU, the Bulldogs have looked pretty ordinary all season. The Hawgs are tough to beat in Fayetteville but they've surrendered 45 points (to Florida) and 38 (to Auburn) the past two outings. Georgia 31, Arkansas 24.
TROY AT LSU: Troy already upset Marshall and Missouri this season, so it won't catch LSU napping. That, plus the homefield advantage, makes the Tigers a pretty safe pick. LSU 27, Troy 7.
FRESNO STATE AT BOISE STATE: Who would've thought five years ago that a game between these two programs would have national implications? A couple of entertaining offenses should make this a fun game to watch. Boise State 38, Fresno State 27.
MARYLAND AT CLEMSON: The last two teams to beat Tennessee in bowl action get a chance to compare notes. Both teams figured to be really good this fall but both have been flops thus far. I hear the winner has the inside track for another Peach Bowl bid. Clemson 27, Maryland 24.
MICHIGAN AT PURDUE: The Boilermakers looked like the class of the Big Ten until they ran into Wisconsin last weekend. Will that loss tear them down or fire them up? I'm guessing it'll be the latter. Purdue 24, Michigan 20.
TEXAS AT TEXAS TECH: Tech hung 70 points on Nebraska a couple of weeks ago, and the Red Raiders have a chance to beat Texas if they suit up in Oklahoma uniforms. Since this would be against the rules, I'm going with the Longhorns. Texas 34, Texas Tech 27.