Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 28, 2006

hoping to hog-tie the Tide

I guess it took a few weeks to get rolling but last week, my picks were right on point.

I correctly called the upset of Notre Dame by Michigan and my scores for the Florida/Tennessee and Troy/Georgia Tech games were almost perfect.

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In this week's games, the Alabama Crimson Tide will square off in its first SEC Western Division game at Arkansas.

The winner of the Hogs and Tide will join Auburn as the leader in the SEC West.

Following Saturday's game against Louisiana-Monroe, Alabama head coach Mike Shula put to rest the controversy surrounding several players' suspensions as he announced seven players were suspended for the first three games in the order in which they got into trouble so that all seven players wouldn't be suspended at the same time.

The Tide should be at full strength Saturday, and that could spell doom for the Hogs.

Here are this week's predictions (home team listed first):

No. 2 Auburn vs. Buffalo

Auburn earned a huge 7-3 win over LSU Saturday, putting the Tigers in the driver's seat in the SEC Western Division race, and this week's contest with Buffalo should be a great tune up for the next three SEC games against South Carolina, Arkansas and Florida.

The Tigers didn't escape last weekend's game without any injuries, or controversy, and several players should be held out of this week's game.

Kenny Irons and Brandon Cox were both banged up following Saturday's game and both should see limited action against the Bulls.

Although LSU head coach Les Miles and athletic director Skip Bertman are still crying like babies who have had their corndog stolen, Auburn has moved past last weekend's game and should move right past the BullsŠ

Auburn 47, Buffalo 7.

Arkansas vs. Alabama

The Tide struggled to find its offense during the first two games of the season but regrouped last week to put up 41 points against overmatched Louisiana-Monroe.

This week the Tide gets a true test, and a road test, in Fayetteville, Ark.

Both the Tide and the Razorbacks struggled against Vanderbilt, but so did Michigan, who toppled Notre Dame last weekend.

Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson and Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain are both still learning the ropes while running backs Ken Darby and Darren McFadden both have already established themselves as two of the SEC's premier rushers.

The Hogs have been a thorn in the Tide's side since joining the league in 1992, with the Tide barely leading the series 8-6.

The Arkansas game has been a good indicator for how head coach Mike Shula's season is going to go and this year should be no different.

The Hogs are a tough team to play on the road, but the Tide is a tough team on the roadŠ

Alabama 20, Arkansas 17.

No. 23 Nebraska vs. Troy

The Trojans just can't buy a break.

A week after almost pulling the biggest upset in Troy history in Tallahassee, the Trojans nearly toppled Georgia Tech in Atlanta Saturday.

Now, if those two games weren't enough, the Trojans must travel to Nebraska today to take on the Blackshirts one week after they fell in a close game to USC.

Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook has established himself as on of the best quarterbacks in the Sun Belt Conference and had the Trojans' defense not allowed three touchdowns in the final quarter Saturday, Troy could be headed into Lincoln with a lot of confidence following a huge win.

The Huskers held their own against the extremely talented USC Trojans, but this week's Trojans aren't the same.

It's tough to comeback from a devastating loss like the one to USC, and it's even tougher to get up for a game against a Sun Belt Conference team when you play in the Big 12.

If the Blackshirts aren't prepared and haven't moved on after last week's loss, the men of Troy could be shooting for the upsetŠ

Nebraska 35, Troy 17.

UAB vs. Mississippi State

If Sylvester Croom's season hadn't started off bad enough, now his 0-3 Mississippi State Bulldogs must travel to Birmingham to take on a Conference USA opponent in a game that could put the coach in hot water and on the hot seat.

In the past, teams like Troy have been able to topple the ‘Dogs and with this year's game being at Birmingham, the Blazers have a legitimate shot at beating its second SEC team in school history.

The Bulldog defense has been strong during the first three weeks, although the scores may not indicate it, but the Mississippi State offense has been missing almost as long as Jimmy Hoffa.

The Blazers shocked the world when they beat LSU on a Rhett Gallego kick in Baton Rouge several years ago and a win this week, although not as big, would be huge for struggling UAB.

Blazer running back Dan Burks is small but shifty and if UAB can get him into the open field, Legion Field could be the home of many silent cowbells todayŠ

UAB 16, Mississippi State 10.

No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 24 Penn State

The Buckeyes are on a roll after knocking off Texas and Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions are looking for redemption after being trounced by Notre Dame.

Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith is one of the most dangerous players in the game and can make plays on the ground and through the air.

Buckeye wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., is no slouch either, and with the two huge offensive weapons leading Ohio State toward a BCS berth, don't look for Joe Pa's Lions to get in their way.

If this were still 2005, this one would be close. But, it's not 2005, it's 2006 and the Buckeyes will continue to rollŠ

Ohio State 33, Penn State 14.

Last week: 7-2

This week: 2-2

Overall: 15-7

Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor. He can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 122, by fax at 382-7104 or by e-mail at