bruces1g's Football Blog
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Once again I must apologize for the late hour of this posting. Unfortunately, real life has intruded (again) into my recreation time. However, to my credit, I am making the effort.

Last week I was perfect in the SEC (although Cupcake Saturday was pretty easy to call), but not so well in the NB3 as Stanford and Ohio State surprised me.  Last week's total of 9-2 give me a respectable (if abbreviated) season total of  23-7.

This week offers a much more challenging slate of  games.  As always, I start from the earliest kickoff times first???

Tennessee at Ole Miss: Both the Vols and Rebels vented some of their season frustrations last week against less than challenging opponents. This week, much more is at stake as both teams are seeking bowl eligibility. Both teams have had a bit of a yo-yo season thus far, but the Vols appear to be the more improved team. Certainly, their defense is much more stout than the Rebels, and I feel pretty sure that Dad Kiffin will be dialing up some special treats to dazzle Jevan Snead.

The one wild card in this is the recent off-field, um, "distractions" for Tennessee. But I don't think a little thing like armed robbery will hurt the Vols and they steal a win from the Rebs.

Kentucky at Vanderbilt:
Minus Mike Hartline, the Wildcats have managed to go 3-1 with quarterbacking by committee. This week there is the chance that Hartline will return to the lineup - not that they will need him against the hapless Commodores.  Vandy has quickly plummeted from bowl team last season to a team circling the bowl this season. Kentucky should be able to keep their bowl hopes alive with the win this week.

Florida at South Carolina:
In recent days the Old Ball Coach has demoted his son and will take up the play calling duties this week. The Gamecocks will also be sporting special camouflage uniforms in honor of service veterans.

Make no mistake this game will be a war. There is no love lost between the teams or coaches, and nothing would make Spurrier happier than to beat his old team in his new home. However, unless a Special Forces team abducts most of the Gators, the Gamecocks will be fighting a losing battle. The Gators just have too many weapons and even though this game might be close in score, the end result is not in doubt.

Besides, didn't Spurrier get the memo from Commissioner Slive that any team facing Florida or Bama will have to beat the refs as well?

Louisiana Tech at LSU:  A bruised and battered group of Tigers are awaiting a Bulldogs team that got a close-but-no-cigar loss to Boise State last week. Even without all-star running back Charles Scott and possibly a hobbled QB Jordan Jefferson, LSU should have little problem putting away a struggling La Tech team.

Auburn at Georgia: Neither one of these teams have been defensive juggernauts this season and it promises to be a high scoring affair in this long running rivalry. AU's Ben Tate has been churning out some impressive numbers on the ground this season and the Tigers lead the SEC in total offense. The Dawgs have a been a bit more pedestrian on offense, only the 10th best in the conference, but have been playing slightly better on defense than the Tigers.

This game could very well come down to the team that has the ball last. In that kind of shoot-out, I think that Auburn has the edge as their offense has been much more dynamic than the Bulldogs. I look for Tate to have a big day carrying the ball and Georgia will have to look elsewhere if they hope to go bowling this season.

Alabama at Mississippi State:
The last time the Tide traveled to Starkville, the Bulldogs handed them a defeat. This season there is much more at stake for Bama. After a bruising  game last week, one could expect the Tide to come into this game a little flat. However, this game is also an important preview of the Florida offense that they will face in the SEC CG. Coach Dan Mullen has been Meyer's right-hand man at three different schools, including offensive coordinator at Florida, and has brought the same spread type attack to State.  MSU has hung tough with the 4 ranked opponents they have faced this season mostly because of a hard hitting defense. They also have a tough running back in Anthony Dixon who is averaging over 125 yards per game.

However, Dixon and company are facing one of the nation's elite defenses and slamming runners has been their real forte. The Tide also sports a fairly decent RB themselves in Mark Ingram (if you haven't heard of him) and I think Bama will keep their focus and hammer out a win in what should be a low scoring game.

Troy at Arkansas:
Troy comes into this game sitting atop the Sunbelt Conference with a 7-2 mark, but are venturing into much deeper waters in taking on an SEC foe. The Hawgs looked very sharp in routing the Gamecocks last week and now have the luxury of facing a team whose weakness is defending the pass. The Hawgs have also been very good at home (4-1) this season and I look for Ryan Mallet to have a big day while shredding the Troy D.


Now for the Next Best Three. All three are important games for determining conference champions.

As usual, these games are chosen from suggestions by various FN posters.

Iowa at Ohio State:
The Hawkeyes played with the fire all season and finally got burned last week. Meanwhile, OSU put together perhaps their most complete win in smothering PSU. Iowa also lost the QB that they truly needed and OSU perhaps found the QB they have been waiting for.

When Stanzi went down last Saturday, so went the hopes of the Hawkeyes of making it into the BCS Championship picture.  Stanzi has been the orchestrator of comeback after comeback for Iowa and without him, their offense was very ineffective. And this week they face the challenge of going against a Buckeye defense that played extremely well in crushing a good offense last week. With Stanzi, and the luck he seems to bring this team, I might have considered the Hawkeyes to have a real chance in this game. Without him, OSU will be too much on defense and even if their offense doesn't perform as well they should be able to handle Iowa.

Stanford at USC:
Stanford used a battering ram of a RB to bring down the high-flying Ducks last week, and now are ranked for the first time since 2001. They also find themselves in the unusual position of contending for the PAC 10 crown. QB Andrew Luck has played much better than expected for a freshman, and Toby Gerhart has been just unstoppable. However, Stanford has really been a tale of two teams when comparing home games and on the road - their three losses have all come on the road.

Whether on the road or at home, USC has just not looked like the same team that has previously dominated the PAC 10. Their offense has been average at best, and their defense has uncharacteristically inconsistent. Talent abounds on their roster, but they just seem to lack some spark on both sides of the ball.

However, as inconsistent as USC has been, and as much as I like the comeback story of Stanford this season, I fear that USC has just too many weapons. The Cardinal has one of the poorest defenses in the NCAA (ranked 83rd in total defense) and that does not bode well when visiting the Colosseum. It might not be pretty, but USC will outscore the Cardinal in this one.

Utah at TCU: Combine the 3rd best defense in the NCAA and the 8th ranked offense and you have the Horned Frogs. TCU has used this combination to become, IMO, the best of the non-AQ teams. QB Andy Dalton has been phenomenal, sporting a 162.7 rating, tossing 16 TDs, and rushing for 341 yards. But to me the real strength of this team is a fast, tenacious defense. For example, star DE Jerry Hughes started his career as a RB and he has channeled  that speed and agility into being one of the best pass rushers in the nation.

Utah comes into this game 8-1, but the only team of note they have played, Oregon, generated the only loss. The rest of their opponents have not exactly been world-class. Add to this, against TCU, the Utes will be stating freshman QB Jordan Wynn. I think the Horned Frogs will avenge last years loss in a big way and continue to put pressure on the three BCS ranked teams ahead of them.

That's my picks for the winners and losers of this weekend.  Sorry for the lack of the usual depth, but the late date and hour forces me to give an abridged version this week.

As always, feel free to disagree or point out the error of my logic, 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.

For more Big 10 action and a different slant on other games, be sure to check Norka's excellent "The Big 10 and Next Best 3" blog.

To all fans, of all teams: Enjoy the weekend. I wish your teams good luck. And let's all show some class and sportsmanship.

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