Hello to one and all. I want to take this opportunity to apologize for my extended absence. Also, I want to thank my good friend Norka for taking up my slack and doing an outstanding job continuing the blog. For this week the post will be a collaborative effort with Norka and I. In addition, Norka will now be posting the BIG 10 and Next Best 3 (I guess there are some non-SEC fans out there, but I just can't imagine why) so be sure to check it out for his always insightful opinions.
To all of my Fannation friends, I want to thank you for the warm "Welcome Back" that I have received. I feel like I am home again.
Now that I have dispensed with all the warm, touch-feely sentiments, lets get down to some SEC Football!
This weeks slate has some interesting matchups as we approach the nitty-gritty of the season. As always, the order of the picks are by kickoff times
ARKANSAS at OLE MISS: At the beginning of the season these two QB's were supposed to the cream of the crop and potential Heisman candidates. That has all fallen to the way side. Now Ole Miss is playing to recoup some lost pride and Arkansas is trying to exert itself as a force in the Western Division. The Hawgs came within a few missed FG's (and a couple questionable calls) of knocking-off the Gators last week and they have to still be feeling the pain. Ole Miss enjoyed a week beating up on UAB. Which team will be in better shape for this week's game? I believe that Arkansas is improving from week to week and they have found the beginnings of a defense. They forced 4 turnovers against a good Gator team - and Ole Miss ain't Florida. Snead has struggled, especially when pressured and I believe the Hogs will be bringing the heat. If the Hogs aren't hungover from last week's game, they should be able to take this one.
NORKA: Arkansas Razorbacks (3-3) on the road OVER Mississippi Rebels (4-2) Ole Miss has struggled offensively this year in conference while Arkansas has proven they can light up a score board
TENNESSEE at ALABAMA: As a Bama fan, this is always a special week. The Third Saturday In October is a high-holy day for Southern football. "The Mouth" Kiffen has been relatively mum about Saban and the Tide and perhaps it is because of what he has seen on film of the Bama defense. Vols QB Crompton looked like a totally different person (did the pod people come and replace him?) as he lit up the Bulldogs last week. Either this means that he has turned some kind of corner or that Georgia's defense is even more pathetic than I thought. However, this week he is facing the best defense in the nation and I don't think he will posting such great numbers. Alabama's defense has been the quarterback humbler this season and I think that Crompton will be getting a painful reality check. Monte Kiffen's defense may slow Bama down some, but the Tide rolls in this one.
NORKA: Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0) at home Over Tennessee Volunteers (3-3) Which Vol team is going to show up, the team that thrashed UGA or the team that stunk it up against Auburn? It won???t matter; the only difference will be margin of victory for the Tide.
VANDERBILT at SOUTH CAROLINA: South Carolina played a tough game in their loss to Bama, but showed why their defense was ranked 6th in the nation coming into that game (currently they are 19th). Their offense still has a way to go, but Stephen Garcia has shown marked improvement in his QB play. Vandy, on the other hand, has just been pathetic. They have followed up last year's bowl season with a resounding flop this season - they even got drilled by Army and could only manage 10 points against Georgia's "We Can Make Any Offense Look Good" defense. File this one under the category of clubbing baby seals as the Gamecocks win going away.
NORKA: South Carolina Gamecocks (5-2) at home OVER Vanderbilt Commodores (2-5) SC should have little trouble at home with Vandy, who look to be quickly re-occupying their familiar role as SEC door mat.
UL-MONROE at KENTUCKY: Kentucky is coming off a big win against Auburn and this in spite of losing their starting QB Mile Hartline. Against the Warhawks, it is believed that the Wildcats will start freshman QB Morgan Newton. IF they aren't suffering from a big-win hangover, Kentucky should win this one. However, I just have a bad feeling about the game. ULM is not a bad team and could easily manage the upset. In fact, I am going to go out on a limb on this one and say that the Warhawks catch the Wildcats flat and get the win.
NORKA: Kentucky Wildcats (3-3) at home OVER Louisiana Monroe Warhawks (4-2) Coming off a huge win at Auburn last week, the Wildcats face a decent ULM team not to be taken lightly.
AUBURN at LSU: In the last two weeks, Auburn's stock has dropped faster than a Bernie Madoff fund following a thumping from Arkansas and a meltdown at Kentucky. LSU has had a week to recoup from their loss to the Gators. Rumor has it that Coach Miles spent that week with bloodhounds searching for their offense. This is a real tough game to call as both teams have been very inconsistent this season and there is no telling whether Jekyll or Hyde will show up Saturday. LSU's best play has been on the defensive side of the ball and Auburn's biggest improvement has been Gus Malzahn's offense. Although QB Chris Todd has regressed in the past few games, Ben Tate has been carrying the load. So in that respect it will be strength-against-strength. However, the real question will be LSU's woeful offense (a pitiful 112th nationally) vs. Auburn's porous defense (a dismal 72nd in the nation) and which one will play well enough to make the difference. I have to give the nod to LSU in a low scoring affair as they have more talent on the offensive side of the ball and are playing at home. But I wouldn't be surprised if Auburn pulls out a win.
NORKA: Louisiana State Tigers (5-1) at home OVER Auburn Tigers (5-2) Still waiting for LSU to turn on the jets, could this be the week? Doubtful, looks like another ugly win for LSU.
FLORIDA at MISSISSIPPI STATE: This should be a week that makes Gator fans feel better about their offense as they are facing one of the worst defenses in the SEC. The Bulldog offense is hardly better and facing a very good Florida defense. This one has "slaughter" written all over it, as I expect that Meyer will have his Gators go full throttle to quite some of the critics and regain some national respect. So much for being nice to his coaching buddy.
NORKA: Florida Gators (6-0) on the road OVER Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-4) After the Gators lackluster win at LSU and their near miss last week at home against Arkansas, the Bulldogs could be in for a long evening.
Now for the Next Best Three. This weeks trio has a bit of importance in sorting out the BCS pecking order as well as some important conference matchups.
As usual, these games are chosen by popular demand by various FN posters (and if I didn't like their choices, I chose the ones that I wanted).
IOWA at MICHIGAN STATE: The Hawkeyes have quietly slipped into the national BCS picture in the past couple of weeks with a big win over Wisconsin last week. While they haven't been very spectacular on offense, they have a stingy, hard-hitting defense that will keep them in any game. Last week they held the Big 10's top rusher (John Clay) to 75 yards. Michigan Stateis on a three game winning streak, after a three game losing streak. Almost every week has been a struggle for the Spartans and this week should be no exception. It looks like Thermopylae all over again as the Spartans take a beating.
TCU vs BYU: Can you remember at the first of the season when BYU was being touted as a BCS buster? Then Florida State came to town and burst that bubble. Now it is TCU in the role of BCS buster and the Cougars have a chance get a little revenge. But while the Cougars appear to have bounced back nicely from the week 3 meltdown, they have not been playing anyone near the caliber of TCU. The **** Toads (I love calling them that) bring the nations 4th best defense into Provo and an offense that is averaging nearly 34 points per game. QB Andy Dalton touts a 152.2 rating and has to be licking his chops going against a secondary that is not exactly world class. Still the deciding factor is going to be TCU's defense and whether or not Max Hall can throw while running for his life. I look for the Horn Frogs to take control of this one early and throttle the Cougars.
OREGON STATE vs USC: The Beavers have enjoyed being the fly in the ointment for the Trojans in the past few years having won two of their last three meetings. Also, a win would be a huge step in a quest for a PAC 10 title. A win by USC sets up a big game next week at Oregon. The Trojans are coming off a close win against ND, and one has to wonder if their emotional tank may be a bit empty. OSU has enjoyed an open week to get ready for the Trojans.
There are several keys to this game:
1. Can USC's defense contain the Rodgers brothers?
2. Can OSU's offense get anything going against the Trojans 9th ranked defense?
3. Can OSU's defense step up and stuff McKnight and pressure Barkley?
While the Trojans may be a bit drained from their drama last week, I think that they will be too strong for Beavers in the coliseum.
So there it is, my choices (and Norka's) for this week. Please comment as you like, but respect the rule of no cheap smack without something to back it up. Bring some facts. Bring some substance to your position. Demonstrate your football knowledge rather than lack of class.
Remember to go ahead and leave your nominations for your Next Best 3 choices for next week. The only rule is that no more than one game per conference. Otherwise, I try to choose games that could have national implications.
To all fans, of all teams: Enjoy the weekend. I wish your teams good luck. And let's all show some class and sportsmanship.