Gators looking for revenge in The Swamp

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 3, 2006

The No. 2 Auburn Tigers got the college football weekend off to a hot start Thursday night in Columbia, S.C., as the Gamecocks and Tigers played one of the most thrilling games of the young 2006 season.

The Ol' Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, benched quarterback Blake Mitchell, who was arrested last week after reportedly hitting a bouncer, in favor of Syvelle Newton and Newton thrived under the offensive genius' direction.

Newton and Spurrier gave the Auburn defense fits all night, but it was the Tiger defense that stood firm and secured the victory.

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Auburn held the ball for the entire third quarter and the Gamecocks could never quite recover.

I called this one as 23-22 in favor of Auburn when I made my preseason predictions over the summer and the Tigers and Gamecocks did everything they could to try and make my pick correct.

Here are my predictions for this weekend's games (home team listed first):

No. 5 Florida vs. Alabama

The Gators were also ranked No. 5 last season when head coach Urban Meyer got a warm welcoming to the SEC with a 31-3 thrashing in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle had a field day and connected with wide receiver Tyrone Prothro for a touchdown on the Tide's first offensive touchdown.

The Tide never looked back and Croyle connected for two more touchdowns, one to Keith Brown and another to Prothro.

Florida went of to defeat rival Tennessee, Georgia and Florida State, but the devastating loss in T-town has haunted the Gators ever since.

Alabama is reeling from a heartbreaking 24-23 double-overtime loss at Arkansas as freshman kicker Leigh Tiffin, son of former Tide kicker Van Tiffin, missed three field goals and one extra point.

Two of the kicks could have won the game for the Tide and the missed extra point would have sent the game into a third overtime.

Conservative play calling by the Tide coaches in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss has been the hot topic this, along with the kicking saga, and the Tide needs nothing more than a win to silence the critics.

Meyer's Gator offense has still not figured out the stifling defenses of the SEC, and Alabama brings, not only one of the best defense in the SEC but one of the best defenses in the country, to Gainesville Saturday.

The Swamp is one of the toughest places to play in the country and if Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson can stay calm under the fire, the Tide has a chance to pull off back-to-back wins over the Gators.

This one should be an SEC classic, but the Gators have too much talent not to pull away at the endŠ

Florida 25, Alabama 20.

No. 13 Iowa vs. No. 1 Ohio State

The Buckeyes continued to roll Saturday against Penn State and this weekend's showdown with the Hawkeyes is one of only three games left on Ohio State's schedule that the Buckeyes could potentially lose.

Buckeye quarterback Troy Smith continues to be the man to beat in the Heisman race and made another spectacular play Saturday when two Penn State linemen forced him out of the pocket, he then reversed field and threw an off-balanced 37-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie.

Although Ohio State scored two defensive touchdowns, including a 61-yard interception return and a 55-yard interception return, with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Buckeye offense is still potent and the tandem of Smith and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., makes Ohio State the team to beat.

Iowa has come into their own under head coach Kirk Ferentz and a win this weekend would thrust the Hawkeyes into the national title hunt.

Iowa is winless against No. 1 teams in school history, but there is a first time for everything.

Just not this weekendŠ

Ohio State 24, Iowa 20.

No. 11 Virginia Tech vs. No. 24 Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets were completely embarrassed last season, 51-7, in Blacksburg and are looking for revenge.

Virginia Tech is coming off a close 29-13 win over Cincinnati last week in which the Hokies needed 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to down the Bearcats while Georgia Tech is coming of a 24-7 win over Virginia.

The Jackets came close to downing the overrated Notre Dame Irish early in the season and former Auburn quarterback Patrick Nix has Georgia Tech's offense headed in the right direction.

Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball is elusive on the run and accurate when passing, which could spell doom for the Hokies.

Yellow Jacket wide receiver Calvin Johnson, 6-4 235 pounds, may be the best in the land at his position, but so is Virginia Tech cornerback Victor Harris,

Harris picked off two passes against the Bearcats, returning one for a touchdown, and is poised to be a great back in the ACC.

The Yellow Jacket defensive front is quick and Hokie quarterback Sean Glennon will need to get settled early if Virginia Tech wants to avoid the upset.

Hokie head coach Frank Beamer is one of the best in the nation and he has turned Blacksburg into one of the toughest places to play.

This year, however, he has no Vick to rely onŠ

Georgia Tech 21, Virginia Tech 17.

No. 12 Notre Dame vs. Purdue

Although the Irish were picked as preseason favorites to win the national title by many organizations, Notre Dame has floundered in recent weeks, including the trouncing at the hands of Michigan and last weekend's close call against Michigan State.

The Irish barely escaped East Lansing last weekend, needing two crucial interceptions to end the Spartans' hopes of an upset, but many experts believe the close win has put the Irish back into the national title hunt.

After going from Heisman favorite to Heisman imposter in recent weeks, Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn was sharp during last week's win.

The Purdue Boilermaker defense is ranked 115th nationally in pass defense and if the Irish offensive line can keep Anthony Spencer from penetrating the Notre Dame backfield, this one could get out of hand.

Look for Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weiss to go to the air early and often as the Irish are hoping to pass one more test before the schedules cools down for a few weeks until the showdown with USCŠ

Notre Dame 40, Purdue 28.

UAB vs. Troy

The 1-3 Blazers and the 1-3 Trojans are both better than their records indicate due to the fact that these two teams from lower-tiered conferences like Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference have played teams from the SEC, ACC and Big 12 during the first four weeks.

The Trojans put up a fight in Tallahassee and in Atlanta, but rolled over and died in Lincoln last week.

The Blazers played close games in Norman and Athens and nearly escaped Legion Field with an overtime win over Mississippi State last weekend.

Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook and UAB running back Dan Burks are both playmakers and fun players to watch.

While the state of Alabama is known for one in-state rivalry game, the Auburn-Alabama game, this newfound rivalry is picking up steam in a state that thrives on college football.

With Auburn winning Thursday night and Alabama playing at Gainesville, the crowd could come out for what should be a thrilling game.

UAB head coach Watson Brown gave life to a football program that most people thought would never work, but many people are now thinking it is time for Brown to pass the reins of head coach to someone else and take over as athletic director.

Both teams have been tested this season, but Larry Blakeney's Trojans should be extremely hungry after last week's lossŠ

Troy 34, UAB 20.

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