Midterm Grades and Professor’s Picks

The SEC Report
By Bob Epling


Few words grab and hold the attention of a college student more quickly than that one. Late night parties get put on hiatus for a week, video game marathons go dormant for a few days, and study binges boost sales at the local Waffle Houses and IHOPs.

Welcome to the annual SEC midterm grades from Game Day Weekly and The Campus Game.

Every year we post grades halfway through the season, and grade inflation is a dirty phrase to us.

We do not allow makeup exams. There are no excused absences in our grading scale, and don’t even ask about extra credit.

Make the grade and you might be rewarded with a New Year’s trip to New Orleans, another BCS site, or the sandy beaches of Florida.

A failing mark means staying home for the holidays, or perhaps a mid-December trip to a city where the water is not naturally salty.

Overall, this is as strong a class as we have had in a while.

Grades are posted alphabetically by division.

SEC West

Alabama: A strong student who got a bit overconfident after acing some early quizzes. Could still pull an A, but will need to finish strong. Grade: B+.

Arkansas: Answers a lot of easy questions, but falters when faced with more complex tasks. Tough assignments coming up will tell us much. Grade: C.

Auburn: A student that must have had too much fun over the summer because was not ready for the start of season. Has buckled down and come along nicely though. Grade: B.

LSU: Star student could earn some major post-graduate prizes, but barely passed last exam. Hope pressure of high expectations is not too much. Grade: A+.

Ole Miss: Just not bright enough to pass the major tests and there are plenty coming up over the next three weeks. Could still pull a passing grade, but it will be a challenge. Grade: D/C-.

Miss State: A nice hard-working type, but wonder if capable of competing with some of the honor students enrolled in these courses. Grade: B.

SEC East

Florida: A very bright student that overlooked one test then came up just short on another. Seems a bit fatigued at the midterm. Grade: B+.

Georgia: Never know what to expect with this one … looks to know all the answers one week then sleeps through class the next. Grade: C.

Kentucky: A pleasant, if mildly surprising performer, who scored a little low last week. Some tough assignments ahead. Grade: A-.

South Carolina: Cocky, but pretty sharp too. Pass a few more tests and might earn top marks for the semester. Grade: A.

Tennessee: After a sluggish start, really starting to catch one to the material. Has completed toughest tasks already, and could manage the rest of them to rank at the top of the East. Grade: B+.

Vanderbilt: Sharp as a tack, but not as gifted as some fellow classmates. Should pass, but cannot overlook any tests. Grade: C.

Pigskin Picks (2007 Record: 41-10; 7-1 last week)

Our midterm pigskin prognostications garner about a B. Top pick was probably calling Kentucky to beat Louisville (before the Cardinals imploded) or Tennessee over Georgia (Mark Richt had never lost at Neyland Stadium); worst pick was probably taking Ole Miss over Vanderbilt (Rebs didn’t show up) or Tennessee to beat Cal (Bears too fast).

Alabama at Ole Miss (12:30 ET LFS)
See SEC Game of the Week article.
Game Ball: Alabama

Auburn at Arkansas (7:45 ET ESPN)
Auburn comes into this one with as much momentum as Hillary Clinton. The Tigers showed no emotional letdown after the big Florida victory, and soundly smacked Vanderbilt 35-7. QB Brandon Cox was an efficient 14 of 17 passing for 165 yards in three quarters, and Brad Lester returned from suspension to join fellow tailbacks Ben Tate and Mario Fannin in helping Auburn outgain Vandy 324-66 in the first half. Arkansas played sloppily against Chattanooga but handled the Mocs 34-15. Darren McFadden (122) and Felix Jones (141) both went over the century mark rushing again, but McFadden fumbled twice. These two have split the past six, but Auburn has won the last two in Fayetteville. Lingering visions of D-Mac and Arkansas running over Auburn on the Plains last season may be affecting my judgment, but on a hunch I think Hogs win.
Game Ball: Arkansas

Florida (Idle)
Next Game: At Kentucky on 10/20/07

Georgia at Vanderbilt (6:00 ET ESPN2)
What if they played a game and neither team showed up? That’s what happened with these two squads last week, and it’s a good thing they weren’t playing each other. Georgia snoozed through the Tennessee game, falling behind 28-0 before losing 35-14. Both lines were completely overmatched, and the Dogs showed little fight. Vanderbilt also fell behind by four TDs and never made a contest of the 35-7 loss to Auburn. Georgia’s motivation should be to avenge a home loss to the Dores last season; Vanderbilt is playing to reach a bowl-eligible plateau … I’ll go with the Dogs just on the revenge factor and pride (if either team has any left).
Game Ball: Georgia

LSU at Kentucky (3:30 ET CBS)

Letdown alert! # 1 ranked LSU battled back for an emotional win over Florida late Saturday night, and the Tigers have to be drained. Had Kentucky not fallen to South Carolina last Thursday night, this would have been a matchup of undefeated Top 5 teams. Big Blue QB Andre Woodson suffered through a poor game against the Gamecocks, much of the performance due to SC defensive pressure. If Kentucky could not block Carolina, the Cats should certainly have problems if LSU shows up ready to play. The Bayou Bengals have a clear path to the BCS title game, but cannot overlook anybody. Expect Kentucky to scare the Tigers. Expect LSU to survive.
Game Ball: LSU

Tennessee at Mississippi State (2:30 ET)
The Volunteers played one of their soundest games in years by thrashing Georgia 35-14. It was not that close, as UT sprinted to an easy 28-0 lead and then sat on it. I believe Tennessee is the favorite to win the SEC East at this point with road games remaining in Starkville, Tuscaloosa, and Lexington, plus home contests with South Carolina, Arkansas, and Vandy. That is manageable. The Vols cannot overlook Sly Croom’s Bullies. MSU trailed UAB after three quarters, and then ground down the Blazers for a 30-13 victory. This game looked much more winnable for State a couple of weeks ago, but Tennessee sure impressed vs. Georgia. Might be close, but Vols a little too good.
Game Ball: Tennessee

South Carolina at North Carolina (3:30 ET ABC)
In my mind I’m gone to Carolina … but North or South? Both teams come off significant victories. The Gamecocks knocked off previously undefeated Kentucky in an ESPN Thursday night game behind SEC and National Defensive Player of the Week Eric Norwood. The big sophomore defensive end from Acworth (GA) returned two fumbles for touchdowns and recorded five unassisted tackles in the 38-23 victory. The Roosters now lead the SEC East. UNC also rammed out a big win as head Heel Butch Davis beat former team Miami by 33-27 score. The victory moved the Heels to 2-4 on the year. This is a nice inter-conference pairing and could be a nice upset for the maligned ACC, but let’s go with SC in a close one.
Game Ball: South Carolina

Born on the Bayou

Born on the Bayou
Florida at LSU

SEC Game of the Week
October 1, 2007
By Bob Epling

LSU looks like a fast freight train … just a chooglin on down to New Orleans.

Florida jumped the tracks.

A national title contender was supposed to be born on the bayou this weekend in Baton Rouge. Instead, the Gators will be chasing down a hoodoo there.

Sorry to go all Creedence Clearwater Revival on you, but last weekend’s Insanity Saturday sent me up around the bend.

Top-ranked teams were falling faster than Congress’ approval ratings.

I don’t even know what a hoodoo is, but I’m pretty sure one was dressed in white and trimmed in Auburn Blue and Orange at Florida Field this past Saturday.

Florida got derailed from the championship chase (at least for a week), when the Plainsmen outplayed the Gators and beat them 20-17 on a last-second field goal at the swamp.

Down in Louisiana, LSU can still see the light.

The Tigers handled Tulane 34-9 without much commotion, although I heard through the grapevine that the first half (which ended with LSU up 10-9) was nothing to write a song about.

That brings us to this showdown.

For weeks, college football fans have eagerly anticipated the first weekend in October.

A day Texas and Oklahoma would battle in the Red River shootout to determine a national championship contender from the great Southwest.

Colorado and Kansas State put a spell on that.

A day West Virginia and Rutgers would hold serve to continue their unbeaten marches toward a tussle that provided a Big East entry into the championship chatter.

Maryland and South Florida knocked that notion down on the corner and out in the street.

A day Florida and LSU would determine a fortunate son from the Deep South.

Well, maybe someday.

Or, maybe, as John Fogarty and the boys sang … someday never comes.

Even after the Florida loss, this figures to be the SEC regular season game of the year.

Gator quarterback Tim Tebow is more popular than orange juice and sunshine in Florida, but keep in mind he is still a sophomore and this is only his second road start. He was brilliant the first time the Gators took to the road this season, rambling for 166 yards on the ground against Ole Miss.

LSU obviously presents a stiffer defensive challenge.

Tebow would be helped if the UF rushing attack consisted of more than his simple draws and bull rushes from the shotgun formation, mixed with an occasional reverse or option to one of the Gators fleet wideouts. Tebow is terrific, but he will take punishment against LSU and could use a little ramble tamble from Percy Harvin. Shiftier than a Louisiana politician, Harvin needs twenty touches in the game.

For LSU, Matt Flynn is steady as a certificate of deposit, only he provides better returns. Flynn has all the experience Tebow lacks, and his athleticism is underrated. The Tigers also boast a big, mobile, and talented backup in Ryan Perrilloux. He provides a nice change of pace to Flynn, and often enters for short yardage or goal line plays.

The Tigers backfield is deeper than Lake Pontchartrain. Jacob Hester, a hybrid fullback-tailback, gets the bulk of the work, but Keiland Williams, Charles Scott, and Trindon Holliday also get touches. Holliday is a particular long-distance threat.

LSU should hold a significant edge on defense.

The Tigers front seven and secondary are more experienced than their reptilian counterparts, and if the LSU offense can find seams in the Gator pass defense like Auburn was able to do, it might be another night of “who’ll stop the rain” for Florida.

Both teams are coming off less than stellar games.

You know about the Florida loss, but the LSU offensive line gave up six sacks, had four false starts, three holds, and a personal foul against Tulane.

Our bayou buddies know the term … Poo-yee!

So, showdown Saturday is not perfect.

But, LSU can stay that way with a win.

For Florida, there’s a bad moon on the rise.

Game Ball: LSU


Note: This week marks the 38th anniversary of the first SEC football game to be televised at night. Alabama beat Ole Miss and the great Archie Manning 33-32. Both teams wore special designs on their helmets commemorating 100 years of intercollegiate football. The Tide won, but Manning set an SEC record with 540 total yards.

Professor’s Picks for SEC Week 5

The SEC Report
By Bob Epling

Expect the unexpected.

Hey, it’s college football.

We probably should have expected an Auburn team that has a better road winning percentage than the Harlem Globetrotters to show some pride and salvage a season headed south.

This week features blue-hot Kentucky at South Carolina for a Thursday night game. Georgia travels to Rocky Top for an SEC-East elimination game, and Florida travels to the bayou for the conference game of the year against LSU.

Here are the weekly ratings. See you at kickoff!

1. LSU … Bengal Tigers might have looked ahead just a bit, but remained unbeaten headed toward Florida showdown.

2. Kentucky … Can Andre Woodson maintain the magic at Columbia?

3. Florida … sluggish first half and inspired Auburn knocked defending champs off for second year in a row.

4. South Carolina … Gamecocks offense smelling like a rose with Smelley at QB.

5. Georgia … Dogs showed great firepower in smashing Ole Miss.

6. Auburn … big jump for Tub’s Tigers after showing pride and poise at the Swamp.

7. Tennessee … Big Orange waits on Dogs at Rocky Top after idle week.

8. Arkansas … Houston called off the Hogs in the second half and still put up 66 against North Texas.

9. Alabama … Tide offense struggled in an ugly first half as Bama eventually fell to FSU.

10. Vanderbilt … Commodores sloppy but won game they should have over E. Michigan.

11. Miss State … blocked punt blunts Bullies at Carolina and leads to tough loss.

12. Ole Miss … Rebels outplayed Georgia for more than a half, but then collapsed.

Pigskin Picks (2007 Record: 34-9; 6-2 last week)

Houston at Alabama (3:00 ET)
Bama fourth quarter surge could not pull out the win in sluggish loss to FSU. The biggest problem was running the football. The Tide managed only 89 yards on the ground, and posted just three first downs and 78 total yards in the first half. QB John Parker Wilson passed for 240 yards but it took him 53 attempts to accumulate that amount. Houston lost a 37-35 thriller in C-USA Saturday night. The Cougars missed two late field goals to fall to 2-2 on the season. Expect the Tide offense to get rolling again this week.
Game Ball: Alabama

Chattanooga at Arkansas (7:00 ET)
Darren McFadden did not carry the ball in the second half and still rushed for 138 yards and 2 TDs in a 66-7 win over the Mean Green. Fellow TB Felix Jones added 132 yards another pair of scores as the Hogs grinded out 507 yards – in the first half! The Moccasins boast a great nickname and very little else. They fell to Southern Conference foe Citadel by a 46-14 score to drop to 1-3 on the season. If the Bulldogs of the Citadel can run on the Mocs, do you think D-Mac and Felix might be able to?
Game Ball: Arkansas

Vanderbilt at Auburn (12:30 ET LFS)
The Florida victory was huge for Auburn and should do wonders for the Tigers’ confidence level after earlier losses to South Florida and Miss State. QB Brandon Cox rediscovered his touch, throwing for 227 yards. Ben Tate (65) and Mario Fannin (62) provided enough rushing support to keep the Gators off balance, and Rod Smith caught nine passes for 102 yards. The Tiger defense deserves the most credit. Will Muschamp’s crew held Florida to 312 yards, around 200 less than normal. Vanderbilt continued to look solid in beating Eastern Michigan. WR Earl Bennett hauled in 9 more passes, and Vandy is within three wins of landing a bowl bid for the first time since 1982. While I’m tempted to go with the upset, the Commodores are unlikely to beat the Tigers.
Game Ball: Auburn

Florida at LSU (8:28 ET CBS)
See SEC Game of the Week article.
Game Ball: LSU

Georgia at Tennessee (3:30 ET CBS)
Georgia won a tough game with Ole Miss by the misleading score of 45-17. The Bulldogs pounded out 327 yards on the ground to move to 4-1. TB Thomas Brown was the star with 180 yards that included TD jaunts of 50 and 41 yards. Flashy freshman Knowshon Moreno added 90 more on the ground. Tennessee took the week off to prepare for the game and comes into the contest with a 2-2 mark. This is a strange series with the home team struggling. Georgia has a remarkable road record under Richt and he has never lost at Neyland Stadium. I keep expecting Tennessee to break out with a big win, so let’s give them one more call – but don’t bet on it.
Game Ball: Tennessee

Kentucky at South Carolina (7:30 ET Thursday ESPN)
A great Thursday night matchup featuring two teams trying to reach the top of the SEC East. Kentucky’s confidence level is through the roof, and Andre Woodson continues to play himself into Heisman contention. He passed for 5 TDs in a 45-17 win over a pretty good Florida Atlantic team, although his NCAA-record streak of passes without an interception ended at 325. South Carolina was the Game Day Weekly pre-season choice to win the SEC East and the Roosters are still in contention. QB Chris Smelley moved into the starting job over Blake Mitchell and responded with 279 yards and two TDs against State. The Carolina defense overcame the loss of LB Jasper Brinkley and held a strong-running MSU team to just 45 rushing in the first half. This game is the start of a brutal stretch for Kentucky so Cats better win. Here’s saying they will.
Game Ball: Kentucky

Louisiana Tech at Ole Miss (2:00 ET)
Got to see the Rebels at Sanford Stadium in a loss to Georgia and was more impressed than the 45-17 score might indicate. Ole Miss took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, then drove to the Georgia 1-yard line before botching a handoff that would have given them a two touchdown lead. Just as impressive was the opening drive of the second half. Trailing 17-10 at intermission, the Rebs used 18 plays and more than 9 minutes to tie the game. After that score, the Georgia rushing game took over and the Ole Miss defense wilted. La-Tech brings Dooley’s Dogs (Derek Dooley) to the Grove. Tech is 1-3 after falling to Fresno State and has also played Cal and Hawaii. Ole Miss should be too tough, but this is not a gimme.
Game Ball: Ole Miss

UAB at Mississippi State (2:30 ET)
Sylvester Croom’s Bullies struggled on offense at South Carolina, but still battled to take a second-half lead before losing on the road. At 3-2, this is a crucial game for future bowl chances, and State should be able to overpower the Blazers. UAB fell to 1-3 under new coach Neil Calloway, losing 38-30 to Tulsa. QB Sam Hunt threw for 2 TDs, and the Blazers rolled up 403 yards on offense, but it was not enough. State can’t overlook anybody, but should be solid enough to beat UAB.
Game Ball: State