Rivalry Week

SEC Rivalry Week
November 25, 2008

On this most American of all holidays, here’s hoping you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Since all the traditional SEC rivalries are played this weekend – making it too difficult to single out one game above the others – here is a special combined version of Professor’s Picks and the SEC Game of the Week.

Make sure to visit next week as we assign final grades for the regular season, and bestow special honors in several categories.

Professor’s Picks
Last Week’s Record 1-3
2008 Season Record 63-25

The old pigskin professor suffered a first losing week of the season, but expects to get back in the gravy this week (hopefully the game picks will go well too : -).

* All times Eastern

Egg Bowl
Mississippi State at Ole Miss

(12:30 Friday on Raycom)
First off, why is this game not being played on Thanksgiving night? Nothing better than finishing up the holiday evening with a third turkey sandwich, an iced-cold Coca Cola, and a heaping helping of Egg Bowl. Houston Nutt’s Rebels are one of the league’s hottest teams, thanks in large part to the big-time play of QB Jevan Snead. Ole Miss has plenty of other offensive weapons too and could be in line for a Cotton Bowl berth if they leash the Bulldogs. Sly Croom’s Bullies held off Arkansas last week, and have shown a knack for winning big games. Expect the Ole Miss Rebels to make a statement in this rivalry and to take home the Golden Egg.
Drumstick: Ole Miss

Battle for the Boot
LSU at Arkansas
(2:30 Friday on CBS)
The LSU Bengal Tigers probably feel like somebody already took a boot to them after the 31-13 beating administered by the Ole Miss Rebels last week … at Baton Rouge no less. Recurring themes cost the Tigers in that game: poor quarterback play and ragged defensive effort. Redshirt freshman QB Jarrett Lee has thrown 17 interceptions (and it seems like all of them have been returned for touchdowns) and will likely lose his job this week – partly because of injury and partly because of ineffectiveness. Freshman Jordan Jefferson should get the nod. The Tiger defense has not played well either. Ole Miss gashed them on the ground and through the air. Arkansas will not pose nearly the same offensive threat however. The Hogs jumped to a 14-0 lead against Miss State, but still lost 31-28. RB Michael Smith is one of the league’s best but State held him to 60 yards rushing (with only 1 yard in the second half). Redshirt freshman QB Nathan Dick (younger brother of regular starter Casey) played well (333 yards and 3 TDs) in the loss. Last season Arkansas won a triple-overtime thriller … this time the Razorbacks get booted.
Drumstick: LSU

Clean Old-Fashioned Hate
Georgia Tech at Georgia

(Noon Saturday on CBS)
This game should be a dandy. Paul Johnson brings the Yellow Jackets to Athens bearing a high-powered option offense. At 8-3, the Wreck could still win the ACC (needing only a Virginia win over Virginia Tech to reach the title game). B-Back (or fullback) Jonathan Dwyer makes the Jackets sting. At about 230 pounds, with good speed, the ACC’s leading rusher is a load. QB Josh Nesbitt is not always smooth running the triple-option, but he is a running and throwing threat. His favorite target is big wideout Demaryius “Bay-Bay” Thomas, who could be a key against Georgia’s smallish corners and over-eager safeties. Defensively, Tech is strong up front with a foursome that includes Michael Johnson, a 6’7 beast and certain NFL first rounder. Georgia will not come into the game with an empty offensive tank either. The Dogs boast four terrific play-makers in QB Matthew Stafford, RB Knowshon Moreno, and WRs A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi. The line is still young and battered, but has shown some scrappiness. The UGA defense will depend on LB Rennie Curran to contain Dwyer, and better hope the secondary and line plays better than in previous games. Here are a few keys for each side: Georgia must score because it is doubtful the Dog defense can hold Tech to less than thirty points … the Dogs better also try to take their time in scoring because the Tech offense cannot score from the sideline … balance is a beautiful word for Georgia because being able to move the ball on the ground and through the air will alleviate the Tech pass rush … for Georgia Tech: The Jackets need to hold onto the ball as they’ve lost 18 fumbles on the season and Georgia has some ball hawks on D … the Jackets should also be physical up front because Georgia got physically whipped in losses to Florida and Alabama and didn’t seem to like that type game … Tech needs a win to break a seven-game losing streak in the series but also because, contrary to what most think, option attacks do not improve so greatly after the system is ingrained in a program; actually regular opponents typically learn how to defend the attack more effectively upon seeing it season after season. This one is too close to call with any confidence although I think Tech is just a bit better right now; however, I’ll stick with the hometowners.
Drumstick: Georgia

Battle of the Palmetto State
South Carolina at Clemson
(Noon Saturday on ESPN2)
Clemson has won nine of the past eleven in this rivalry, but comes into this one with an interim coach (Dabo Swinney) and as part of a league where every team is 6-5 (or maybe it just seems that way). The Tigers have a dynamic duo of tailbacks with C.J. Spiller and James Davis (who needs 203 yards to become the school’s all-time leading rusher). SC will counter with a duo of quarterbacks. Coach Steve Spurrier plays musical chairs with Stephen Garcia and Chris Smelley, only the two never get to sit down … they simply get the play from the head ball coach and run right back in every other play. Clemson always seems to play looser in this game and I expect the Tigers to win.
Drumstick: Clemson

The Iron Bowl
Auburn at Alabama
3:30 Saturday on CBS
Have you heard the news? Tommy Tuberville and Auburn have beaten Alabama six straight times. Perhaps Tiger fans should repeat that taunt and hold as many fingers as they can in the air as many times as they can by Saturday afternoon. I have a sneaking suspicion that the top-ranked Crimson Tide, which has been rolling along without the publicity of Florida and all those Big 12 contenders, is ready to make a statement this week, against this team and this coach. There might be some drama if Tom Thumb pulled a “win one for the Tub” retirement speech before the game but I don’t expect that to happen. I do expect Nick Saban and the Red Elephants to rumble over the Tigers.
Drumstick: Alabama

Sunshine State Showdown
Florida at Florida State
(3:30 Saturday ABC)
The battle for the Charlie Crist’s cup (well, it’s actually the Governor’s Cup sorry) takes place in the panhandle and as Urban Meyer describes the rivalry … this one is nasty. Both teams lead their conferences in offense; FSU is second in the ACC in defense and Florida is third in the SEC. Both squads come into the game on a roll. Florida is widely regarded as the nation’s hottest (and perhaps best) team. Since losing to Ole Miss the last Saturday of September, the Gators have crushed everybody … only Vanderbilt has played them inside of thirty points. Offensively, Florida sends an array of speed at you and dials long-distance running and throwing. If there is a flaw, it’s that the Gators have only one power back and that’s QB Tim Tebow. FSU has come together behind QB Christian Ponder, but also boasts threats in RB Antone Smith (15 TDs) and WR Greg Carr (28 career TDs). FSU advances to the ACC title game if Boston College loses to Maryland. Florida is already in the SEC championship against Alabama, and that game will be a play-in to the BCS National Championship Game if both teams take care of business this weekend. It will not be a picnic for the Gators but they should pull out a close win.
Drumstick: Florida

Kentucky at Tennessee
(6:30 Saturday on ESPN 2)
No flashy nickname in this game, but it does have important implications. For Tennessee, the game marks the last time Phillip Fulmer will lead the Vols through the T at Neyland Stadium as head coach. While many UT fans are glad to see the Fulmer era end, historically he’ll be ranked as perhaps the second greatest Tennessee coach, trailing only Robert Reese Neyland himself. For Kentucky, the stakes are less emotional but more practical. At 6-5, the Wildcats are trying to get themselves into as nice a bowl as possible. As the saying goes, the more you win the warmer it gets for the bowl. I’ll go with emotion over bowl positioning this time.
Drumstick: Tennessee

The Academic Bowl
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest
(7:00 Saturday on ESPNU)
OK, I made that moniker up, but like it nonetheless. Both teams come into the game at 6-5 and awaiting a bowl destination. The Commodores are going bowling for the first time since 1982, but the post-season may be getting old hat for the Demon Deacons under Jim Grobe. Many expected the Deacs to vie for a conference crown but they fell a bit short. For Vandy, a hometown bowl in Nashville might be in store.
Drumstick: Wake Forest

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