Third Saturday in October can only mean Tide vs. Vols
Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2006
The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Auburn Tigers crashed back onto the Bowl Championship Series scene last week with a thrilling 27-17 win over the Florida Gators.
As the No. 2 ranked team, the Auburn Tigers were humiliated by the Arkansas Razorbacks but then regrouped against last week's No. 2 team, the Gators, to reposition themselves back into the national title hunt as the first BCS poll has the Tigers at No. 4.
In a game filled with blocked punts, safeties, interceptions, fumbles, controversial calls, few offensive touchdowns and too much piped in noise, the Tigers played as bad of a defensive first half as can be played but then turned around, after a fiery halftime speech by head coach Tommy Tuberville, and played one of the best defensive halves of football in recent memory.
While the Tigers held the spotlight last week with ESPN's Full Circle coverage covering everything from the Tim Tebow camera to the overhead camera that swung from every corner of Jordan-Hare, it is the Third Saturday in October this weekend and that can only mean one thing: Alabama-Tennessee.
Here are my picks for this week's games (home team listed first):
No. 11 Tennessee vs. Alabama
For the past few years, the Third Saturday in October has not been the same without Alabama playing Tennessee but the game returned to its original weekend last season and the Tide rolled, 6-3.
Jamie Christensen's game-winning kick lifted the Tide to victory over the Vols and kept Alabama's undefeated record intact.
This season, the rolls are reversed, although the Vols have one loss at the hands of the Florida Gators.
Tennessee desperately needs a win to stay alive in the SEC East hunt and the Tide, and Tide faithful, needs a win because losing to Tennessee is never acceptable.
David Cutcliffe has returned to Knoxville and turned Eric Ainge into the SEC's most accurate passer, perhaps following the Manning brothers' advice when both Eli and Peyton told the junior quarterback of Cutcliffe, “Just shut up and do what he says.”
The Mannings should know, as Cutcliffe coached Peyton at Tennessee and Eli at Ole Miss.
Alabama is coming off an emotional overtime win over Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa and the Tide offense is finally starting to break out of its shell (see Kenneth Darby).
The Tide defense remains solid under Joe Kines, but Alabama needs to start rushing more than three linemen if they expect to escape Knoxville with a win.
If the Tide doesn't get to Ainge early and rattle his cage, he could be deadly when hooking up with the nation's second leading receiver, Robert Meacham.
The Vol band loves to play Rocky Top and something tells me, “Rocky Top, you'll always be, home sweet home to meŠ”
Tennessee 30, Alabama 17.
No. 4 Auburn vs. Tulane
My, how things can change in a week.
This time last week, the Auburn Tigers were down and out, reeling from a devastating 27-10 loss at home to Arkansas that all but assured the Tigers would be out of all championship contention.
Then the No. 2 Florida Gators came to town and everything changed.
The Tigers were dominated and then were the dominator during a wild game on Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium and escaped the nationally televised event with a 27-17 win and a No. 4 spot in the debut of the BCS rankings.
After such a hard fought game, a game like today's is just what the Tigers need and Tulane, unfortunately, is the team that stands in the way.
With today's game being homecoming for the Tigers, look for many unfamiliar faces to get some playing time, something the Tigers will need down the stretch in games against Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama.
The Green Wave should be commended for how they persevered through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, but today's game will not help their psyche at allŠ
Auburn 40, Tulane 10.
No. 12 Clemson vs. No. 19 Georgia Tech
The Battle for ACC supremacy is on the line today as the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets travel to Death Valley to take on the Clemson Tigers.
Tommy Bowden has positioned his Tigers for a big run, as Clemson debuted in the BCS poll at No. 12.
Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets are a close loss to Notre Dame in the opening week away from being undefeated.
Georgia Tech has possibly one of the best quarterback-wide receiver tandems in all of college football with Reggie Ball and Calvin Johnson, but Clemson's offense is no slouch as the Tigers have the fourth best rushing attack in the nation.
Neither team has been able to get over the hump in recent years and been able to take control of the ACC away from teams like Florida State and Miami, but someone has to take the upper hand today.
Who will it be?
I'm not quite sure, so I'll defer my prediction to each team's average ACT scoreŠ
Georgia Tech 36, Clemson 30.
Florida State vs. No. 20 Boston College
Although Florida State only has two losses, Bobby Bowden's Seminoles find themselves out of the Top 25 for the first time since Bowden was at a loss for words.
The Eagles dropped a double-overtime thriller in the second week of the season to Clemson, 34-33, but they have since regrouped and reeled off four consecutive wins.
Drew Weatherford is coming into his own as the Seminole quarterback and wide receivers Greg Carr and De-Cody Fagg and huge, go-to guys.
The best news for Florida State is that Doug Flutie may make some commentary about the game, but it will be from the studio, not the field.
The Seminoles haven't missed out on a bowl game in 25 years, but a loss Saturday, coupled with the brutal remaining schedule, Bowden's Tallahassee troop may be on the outside, looking inŠ
Florida State 24, Boston College 23.
No. 17 Nebraska vs. No. 9 Texas
Mack Brown's Texas Longhorns have suffered only one defeat this season, a hard fought loss against the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes, but the ‘Horns got no love in the recent BCS poll, debuting at No. 9.
Bill Callahan has begun to turn this Nebraska program back into the power it was in the ‘90s as the Cornhuskers, too, have suffered only one defeat, a hard fought 28-10 loss to the No. 2 USC Trojans.
The people in Lincoln have not had a lot to cheer about since Tom Osborne decided to give up coaching for politics, but a win today against the defending national champs would go a long way in boosting the spirits of the blackshirt faithful.
Colt McCoy has “shot the lights out” in almost every game he has played in this season, passing for 1,200 yards, 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
A win for the Longhorns would go a long way in putting Texas back into the BCS picture, but a win for the ‘Huskers would go a long way in bringing the national spotlight back to LincolnŠ
Texas 28, Nebraska 24.
Last week: 5-4
This week: 1-3
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.