S ports In Paradise By Dale Jones
Say what you want, but after last week, I think the Iron Bowl just got a lot more interesting as a stand-alone football game. Yes, I realize that Alabama is no longer in the hunt for an SEC Championship or to repeat as National Champs, and I would agree that an Iron Bowl to decide who goes on to the Championship Game(s) would have been possibly more than the fans in this state could handle, but now, with circumstances as they are, the game on the 26th is going to be full of fireworks. Should Auburn beat Georgia, and travel to Tuscaloosa with an unblemished record to play an Alabama team with nothing to lose – WOW. It truly could be them most exciting Iron Bowl any of us have ever witnessed.
But, we are not there yet. Both the Tide and Tigers have to get past two different bunches of Bulldogs, both of which have the ability bite.
Last week, I went 10-5, taking me to 115-35 on the season for a .767 winning percentage. Hopefully this week, the gridiron seashell will lead me in a better direction. Here we go!
(#1) Oregon at California – With a scoring average of 54 points per game, one would think we were talking about the Oregon basketball team. The top-ranked Ducks, however, have lost the last three times they have visited Cal. Kevin Riley, the starting QB for California is out for the season with a knee injury, and backup Brock Mansion tossed two interceptions in his first outing as a starter last week against Washington State. Look for the Ducks to do their thing once again this week. Oregon 49 – California 17
(#3) TCU at San Diego State – If TCU wins on Saturday, they will no doubt end the season undefeated. San Diego State is 7-2 on the year, losing both games by a total of six points combined. But TCU is running over people like a freight train and the Aztecs will not get in their way. TCU 34 – San Diego 14
(#6) Wisconsin vs. Indiana – Wisconsin would fit in perfectly down South because they are a team that likes to score, and score often. Averaging over 34 points per game. The Badgers are 8-2 on the season and 4-1 in the Big Ten. If you have not had a chance to see John Clay play, be sure to catch this football game on television. Although Indiana has ALMOST won some big games, they have a pretty ugly looking road record in the conference. I don’t see them pulling out the upset on Saturday. Wisconsin 42 – Indiana 24
Kentucky vs. Vandy – The Wildcats only need one more win to become bowl eligible. They have two more shots at it – Vandy this week and Tennessee next week. Even though Tennessee is about as bad as we have seen them in recent years, one would think that Kentucky needs to go ahead and take care of business this week against the Commodores.. Both teams only have 1 conference win each, but Vandy is hurt, they are coming off of a 55-14 loss to the Gators, and honestly, are just a really bad team. Take the home team in a close one. Kentucky 24 – Vandy 21
Ole Miss vs. Tennessee – Ole Miss has been an interesting team to watching this season. No, they are not a very good football team, but they have had spurts of greatness. Other than their ability to pull off a QB sack every now and then, the Rebels have a pretty pathetic defense. Jeremiah Masoli is a great athlete, but he can’t beat Tennessee by himself. I think the Vols will be able to score often and should put up a good number of points. Tennessee 42 – Ole Miss 28
(#14) Arkansas vs. Texas El Paso – Price vs. Petrino. Folks in these parts will enjoy that story line, won’t we? Arkansas only losses came at the hands of Alabama and Auburn. Their blasting of South Carolina last week was a bit of a surprise to many. Not so much that they won but how they won. At 6-4 on the season, Texas-El Paso is not a bad team, but Arkansas still has a chance at a BCS bowl game should they run the table, and I don’t think Price and company can keep that from happening. Arkansas 30 – Texas-El Paso 21
(#5) LSU vs. Louisiana-Monroe – LSU needs to use this game to simply get better, then hope that luck will be on their side through the rest of the season. The Tigers will have to get past Ole Miss and Arkansas and hope that Auburn falls to Georgia and the Tide in order to make it to the SEC Championship game. Even after the big win over Alabama, I don’t expect a letdown against Louisiana-Monroe. LSU 34 – Louisiana-Monroe 10
(#22) South Carolina at (#24) Florida – /….;How fitting? Steve Spurrier goes for an SEC East Title and a shot at the SEC Championship…IF…he beats the Florida Gators at The Swamp. Strange, isn’t it, that two teams, both ranked outside of the Top 20, both with 6-3 records are battling it out for a chance to play in the SEC championship? The Gamecocks have never won in Gainesville. A month ago after beating the Tide, it looked as if they could beat anyone. Then they lost to Kentucky. At times, it has looked as if the Gators couldn’t beat Gulf Shores High School. So who is going to represent the East in the SEC? Great question. I’m going with the ole ball coach. South Carolina 33 – Florida 30
(#11) Alabama vs. (#17) Mississippi State – This could be a better game than many are expecting. Saban and the Tide are coming off a very disappointing loss to LSU, while the Bulldogs are enjoying the best season that they have had in years, winning their last six games. Coaches, players, and fans of the Tide are not happy with the way this season has gone, and I expect them to take it out on the Bulldogs in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Bama by at least 2 touchdowns. Alabama 35 – Mississippi State 21
(#2) Auburn vs. Georgia – Few teams close out their regular season with back-to-back rival games. Auburn does it every year, and, well, so does Georgia, facing off against the Tigers, followed by Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs have struggled this year, and at 5-5 on the season, they just want to make it to a bowl game. Auburn hasn’t been 10-0 since 2004, and we all know how that turned out. The Tigers are playing like a team with something to prove. Auburn 31 – Georgia 14
(#9) Nebraska 27 – Kansas 7
(#12) Oklahoma St. 31 – Texas 28
(#7) Stanford 38 – Arizona State 17
(#25) UCF 28 – Southern Miss 24
Upset of the Week:
Baylor 27 – (#23) Texas A&M 24
—Dale Jones is a reporter / sports columnist for Gulf Coast Newspapers and a Member of the Alabama Sports Writers Association. You can reach Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org