Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Professor's Picks for September 29

The SEC Report
By Bob Epling

Only Larry Munson could have made it more exciting.

In a finish sure that surely would have evoked a memorable moment from Larry legend, the Georgia Bulldogs (for whom Munson has been a beloved announcer since 1966) stemmed the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa with a thrilling 26-23 win in overtime.

Munson’s health is limiting his work almost exclusively to home games this season, and he missed a doozy.

Bama overcame a 10 point fourth-quarter deficit for the second week in a row then settled for a field goal on the first overtime possession. Georgia wasted no time in the OT; on the Dogs’ first play QB Matthew Stafford lofted a perfect 25 yard TD rainbow to Mikey Henderson for the win.

Georgia was one of four SEC East teams taking on Western foes, and for the most part the East was a beast, winning three of the four inter-division showdowns. The travel reverses this week with three Western teams trekking East across the mighty Mississippi for conference games, and Alabama doing the same for a matchup with Florida State in Jacksonville.

Let’s look at our latest GDW power ratings.

See you at kickoff!

1. LSU … Bengal Tigers chewed up the head ball coach with speed and trick plays … Tulane in the Big Easy is next.

2. Florida … Tim Tebow may be Heisman material and Gators seek revenge against Auburn.

3. Kentucky … Comeback Cats did it again at Arkansas. That’s 10 wins in past 11 games as UK hosts Florida Atlantic.

4. Georgia … Dawgs emerged from SabaNation with overtime win and take on Ole Miss.

5. South Carolina … not good enough to beat LSU, but Gamecocks still in race.

6. Alabama … Crimson Tide must recover from UGA loss when they face FSU and Bobby Bowden, the man who should have been (and wanted to be) Tide coach twenty years ago.

7. Mississippi State … We like the running game, but can young quarterbacks hold up in Columbia?

8. Arkansas … second straight fourth-quarter failure damages Hogs ratings.

9. Tennessee … Vols get week off to prepare for Georgia; offense is fine, but defense needs work.

10. Ole Miss … Rebs gave Gators a battle, now travel between the hedges.

11. Auburn … Tigers cannot afford another slow start against a team like Florida.

12. Vandy … A week off costs the Commodores in our poll, beating E. Michigan this week won’t help much.

Pigskin Picks (2007 Record: 28-7; 5-2 last week)

Alabama vs. Florida State (5:00 CBS)

A rare SEC-ACC battle in the middle of the season. Alabama nearly pulled off another come from behind win, but fell to Georgia in OT. The offense played well late after a sporadic first three quarters. FSU had a week off to prepare for the Tide and this is one Bobby Bowden would love to win. He wanted (and thought he would get) the Bama job when Bill Curry was hired in 1986. A nice game between two upper tier conference teams struggling to reach the top. Slight edge to Bama.
Game Ball: Alabama

North Texas at Arkansas (7:00)
Arkansas let another SEC game slip away, losing at home 42-29 to Kentucky. The Hogs dominated the first half of the game (outgaining UK 373-171) but led only 20-14 at intermission after third-string TB Michael Smith fumbled in Kentucky territory and Wildcat DB Trevard Lindley returned 66 yards for a TD with just 26 seconds left. The Razorbacks’ dynamic duo of Darren McFadden (173) and Felix Jones (123) both went over the century mark rushing again (and Jones added an 82 yard kickoff return for a TD), but both also missed stretches of the second half with injuries. The Mean Green should be a fairly easy mark with a 0-3 record that includes a blowout loss to Oklahoma (79-10).
Game Ball: Arkansas

Auburn at Florida (8:00 ESPN)
Tim Tebow does everything for Florida but play in the marching band, and I thought he was carrying a tuba at practice last week. He certainly carried the Gators over Ole Miss, running for a school-record 166 yards and accounting for over 400 yards of total offense. With the game on the line, Tebow made several time-consuming bull rushes to keep the clock moving and the ball away from the resolute Rebels. It was a Heisman-worthy performance. Auburn lacks any such magic right now. The Tigers beat an average New Mexico State team 55-20 by pounding them on the ground, but the score is misleading. Running backs Ben Tate (112) and Mario Fannin (103) each gained over 100 yards rushing, and QB Brandon Cox came off the bench for starter Kodi Burns to pass for 125 yards and one TD to help break open what had been a 21-20 halftime lead. Expect Florida to play much better, and to avenge last season’s lone loss in convincing fashion.
Game Ball: Florida

Ole Miss at Georgia (1:00)
An old-fashioned afternoon kickoff with no TV timeouts (the game will not be carried). This should be a good one. The Dogs got themselves back into SEC East contention with a big OT win at Alabama. Sophomore QB Matthew Stafford has the league’s best arm, but is sometimes erratic. He passed for 224 yards and 2 TDs to go along with 2 INTs. Georgia has a young offensive line (3 freshmen started against Bama), so inconsistency plagues them, but running backs Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown are excellent. The Rebels have lost three straight, but they are gritty and I like them. QB Seth Adams passed for 301 yards against Florida, and the Rebs consistently moved the ball before sputtering in the red zone and settling for field goals. They will need touchdowns to beat Georgia between the hedges, but it would not be a shock if they do. A little too much momentum for Dogs right now though.
Game Ball: Georgia

Florida Atlantic at Kentucky (1:00)
Kentucky is the league’s hottest team after the Big 2 of Florida and LSU. The Cats won another come-from-behind thriller, this time ripping the Razorbacks of Arkansas 42-29. QB Andre Woodson overshadowed another Heisman rival for the second straight week by leading his team to victory (last week it was Brian Brohm of Louisville this time Darren McFadden of Arkansas). Woodson started slowly, but finished with 265 yards and he broke the NCAA record for consecutive passes without an interception (his streak is now at 296). The Cats face a tough non-conference opponent in the red-hot Owls of FAU. Howard Schnellenberger’s birds beat North Texas one week after a huge win over Minnesota of the Big Ten. FAU is 3-1 and led by QB Rusty Smith who passed for 322 yards in the win at North Texas. Could be close, but Cats are on a roll.
Game Ball: Kentucky

LSU at Tulane (12:00 ESPN2)

The Bengal Tigers may take it easy on their Bayou brethren. That might be the only way the game stays competitive. Cats tune up for Florida showdown by washing away the Green Wave.
Game Ball: LSU

Mississippi State at South Carolina (12:30 LFS)
See SEC Game of the Week article.
Game Ball: South Carolina

Eastern Michigan at Vanderbilt (7:00)
The Commodores are 2-1 coming off a bye week. Vandy beat Ole Miss 31-17 two weeks ago in a game many expected them to lose (including yours truly). Bobby Johnson’s boys have plenty of offensive firepower, including All-American WR Earl Bennett, and need this win for future bowl opportunities because the schedule is about to get brutal (Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina are next three games). The Eagles from Ypsilanti evened their season record at 2-2 with a 38-15 win over Howard. QB Andy Schmitt passed for 4 TDs. Expect the Commodores to ground the Eagles in Nashville.
Game Ball: Vanderbilt