By Bob Epling
The Campus Game
Last Week: 11-6
Comment: While the SEC picks went well last week (8-1 and missing only the Miss State win over Vandy), national picks cost the old professor a letter grade with a 3-5 mark. This week's picks are off to a good start with the upset call of South Carolina over what may end up being an overrated Ole Miss squad.
Best Pick: Nothing significant jumps out, but the call for Florida-Tennessee to be closer than expected (and for Kiffin to pop off afterward) were on the money.
Worst Pick: Miami continues to flummox ... the Canes blew away the professor's pick as ACC champ (Georgia Tech).
Here are this week's SEC picks and selected national games.
* All Times Eastern
LSU at Mississippi State (12:20 SEC Network) ... The Bengal Tigers continue to fly under the radar, getting little national attention even though they do rank in the top ten. The homestanding Bulldogs come in fresh from a road victory at Vandy, with tailback Anthony Dixon and WR/KR Leon Berry the biggest offensive threats. Tigers get ready for fresher meat down the road.
Professor's Pick: LSU
Arkansas at Alabama (3:30 CBS) ... Until the Arkansas defense imploded against Georgia, this promised to be a game pitting the division kingpin against this year's up and comer. The Hogs can still score, and QB Ryan Mallett has a big-time arm, but Arkansas will need to show vast improvement to play with Bama. The Tide looks like the best team - in the nation not just the SEC - with a balanced offense and excellent defense. This game provides a national CBS audience so there is no excuse for either team not to be primed and ready.
Professor's Pick: Alabama
Florida at Kentucky (6:00 ESPN2) ... That was really an upset when Florida lost to Tennessee last week. What? Oh, right ... the Gators actually won that game by double-digits. Such is life with Superman at quarterback and every pundit and prognosticator predicting a waltz to the national championship. The Gators should have three concerns in my opinion ... 1) they must find a big-play vertical receiver; 2) they better steel themselves to face power running attacks; 3) they might as well embrace the pressure and not whine about it (which I sensed a bit from Urban Meyer after the UT game ... if he lets a silly kid like Lane Kiffin get under his skin - that's not good news). Kentucky shows flashes on both sides of the ball, and I really like WR Randall Cobb, but the Cats are prone to letdowns too. Better not happen this week.
Professor's Pick: Florida
Ball State at Auburn (7:00 FSN) ... whenever the public at large seems to reach a consensus, I get a little skeptical. Many people are now jumping on the Tigers bandwagon, and they certainly should impress this week against the winless Ballers. Still, I want to temper my praise of Chizik and company until they have to beat a good (or even decent) team on the road. The AU offense has played well, the Tigers nearly always have a tough D ... a contender in the West? Not so sure.
Professor's Pick: Auburn
Arizona State at Georgia (7:00 ESPNU) ... Dogs have quietly played one of the nation's toughest early schedules and things don't really slack off with the Pac-10 Sun Devils coming to Athens. The Georgia offense exploded the past two weeks to torch South Carolina (which just shut down Ole Miss) and Arkansas, but the Dog defense is keeping opponents in games. ASU has not been tested in easy wins over Idaho State and Louisiana-Monroe. They will be tested between the hedges.
Professor's Pick: Georgia
Ohio at Tennessee (7:00 PPV) ... Neyland Stadium may need to be expanded in order to hold Lane Kiffin's swelled head if the Vols ever win big under the 1-2 coach. Kid Kiffin is able to bring his college coaching record to .500 with a win over the 2-1 Bobcats, but Frank Solich and Ohio should put a credible team on the field ... and Tennessee just does not look capable of scoring many points (which of the Kiffins calls offensive plays?). Expect the Vols to run the ball right at Ohio, and the real Coach Kiffin's defense to shut down OU.
Professor's Pick: Tennessee
Vanderbilt at Rice (8:00 CSS) ... Nothing comes easy to the Commodores, and a trip to Rice will not automatically result in a win (the Owls moved the ball against OK State). Still, Vandy should be good enough for the win.
Professor's Pick: Vanderbilt
Selected National Picks
Fresno State at Cincinnati: Bearcats keep clawing toward national attention. Professor's Pick: Cincy
Illinois at Ohio State: Ron Zook has had some success against Senator Tressel and the Bucks. Professor's Pick: Ohio State
TCU at Clemson: Gary Patterson's tough Horned Frogs defense against a good Clemson offense. Professor's Pick: Clemson
South Florida at Florida State: Loss of Matt Grothe does not bode well for USF against suddenly red hot Noles. Professor's Pick: FSU
Cal at Oregon: We learn about the Golden Bears this week. Professor's Pick: Cal
Iowa at Penn State: Can Hawkeyes hurt Lions pride once more? Professor's Pick: Penn State
Miami at Virginia Tech: ACC favorite may be determined in this matchup. Professor's Pick: Virginia Tech