story by Chris Rushing
Follow me on Twitter: @rushicw
You’ve had a week to think about it, dissect it and (hopefully) forget it.
Those upsets that make college football so great are always enjoyable – when it’s not your team that is on the receiving end of the egg on the face.
Admit it: when Appalachian State took down Michigan in 2007, you chuckled if not laughed out loud at Big Blue’s big fall. When Louisiana-Monroe took down Alabama and Nick Saban later that season, you couldn’t help but smile because the mighty Tide dropped a game against a lowly Sun Belt member institution.
Then came Saturday. Suddenly, the shoe was on the other proverbial foot.
The statewide call in shows have been flooded with pleas for Bobby Petrino’s return and the premature end to the failed John L. Smith era (or error, depending on your viewpoint). This was supposed to be a year of met expectations, not a year that included a loss to ULM. Frankly, those of you who are still steaming about the 34-31 defeat have every right to be livid. Even without Tyler Wilson, this kind of loss should not happen.
The fourth quarter play calling from Paul Petrino was head-scratching at best. There were 20 plays in the fourth quarter: five runs and 15 passes. Why, with a lead that you’re steadily losing, would you keep throwing the ball with a backup quarterback?
Why, with a lead that you’re steadily losing, would you not put the ball in the hands of your All-American tailback?
This is a much more important week for the Razorback brand and program. It’s Alabama week.
The defending national champions did not look as crisp as they did a week earlier versus Michigan, but it was still good enough to pitch a shutout against Western Kentucky. Points have already been at a premium for Alabama opponents this year, and it will just be harder for teams to score on this defense as it continues to grow up and gel as the season moves along.
The main question is the health of Wilson. The senior signal-caller was reportedly throwing Wednesday at practice but had not been cleared by team doctors prior to the writing of this column. My guess is that he will be cleared right before the team takes the field for warm-ups Saturday afternoon to energize the crowd a little during pregame festivities.
Alabama is much better than Arkansas. I figured this going into the season, but I thought the Hogs could hang for a little while with the 1-2 punch of Wilson and Knile Davis. Obviously, after ULM shocked the Rock, it’s not a question of if Bama wins Saturday but by how much.
Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson will make their 2012 debuts with CBS Sports Saturday in Fayetteville. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CT.
Call it now: Alabama 31, Arkansas 14
• Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn (Auburn, Ala., 11:21 a.m. CT, SEC Network)
Speaking of ULM, the Warhawks will try to run their record to 2-0 overall and 2-0 in the SEC Saturday when they visit struggling Auburn. As Auburn senior cornerback T’Sharvan Bell stated Tuesday, “We (Auburn) are playing America’s favorite team.”
The Tigers have looked hapless on offense so far as the transition away from Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up, no huddle approach has taken its toll on AU’s productivity. Kiehl Frazier has struggled with his early days of being a pro-style, drop-back passer, while the running game appears to miss the home run threat former All-American running back Michael Dyer possessed.
It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but I look for Auburn to play a little better in front of the home crowd.
Call it now: Auburn 27, ULM 13
• Presbyterian at Vanderbilt (Nashville, Tenn., 11:30 a.m. CT, CSS)
About the only thing that I know about Presbyterian is the school’s mascot is The Hose.
The only reason I know this is because one of my best friends in high school bought one of their hats and insisted on us calling him, “The Hose” all of junior year.
Vanderbilt couldn’t have asked for a better opponent to try to get back on the right track in a season that had much higher expectations than the 0-2 start will afford the Commodores to meet said expectations.
Call it now: Vanderbilt 41, Presbyterian 3
• Texas A&M at SMU (Dallas, Texas, 2:30 p.m. CT, FSN)
Someone needs to let the Texas A&M administration know that big-time SEC programs do not schedule away games with non-Bowl Championship Series opponents. This is two on the docket for the Aggies as A&M takes on SMU in Dallas.
The Aggies didn’t look as bad as I thought they would in the opener against Florida, but the lingering issues of a year ago that surrounded closing games out in the second half seem to still be an issue. With June Jones and Kevin Sumlin running the offenses in this game, look out for a lot of points and a final play being snapped somewhere after 7 p.m. CT.
Call it now: Texas A&M 38, SMU 27
• Florida at Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn., 6 p.m. CT, ESPN)
ESPN’s College GameDay will be making its triumphant return to Knoxville, Tenn., for the annual matchup between the Gators and the Vols. Thanks to Tennessee’s trouncing of N.C. State in the opener and Florida’s big win last week in College Station, both teams find themselves entering the contest with high hopes and high spirits.
If you’ve never been to a Florida-Tennessee matchup, it’s one of the best ways to spend a mid-September Saturday. While the fan bases do not have to interact on a daily basis in large doses, there is still a nice rift between the two schools thanks to the success of the programs in the 90s.
Lately, the Gators have held the upper hand in the rivalry, winning every year since 2005. Look for Tyler Bray and the home crowd to pull the Vols through and earn the first triumph in the series since 2004.
Call it now: Tennessee 26, Florida 23
• Mississippi State at Troy (Troy, Ala., 6 p.m. CT, ESPN3.com)
I think this is the first time I’ve ever listed a .com as a television option for a game in three-plus seasons of writing these forecasts.
This is the classic let-down game for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs dominated Auburn last week in Starkville and finally got a win over a Western Division school not named The School Up North or Ole Miss, a first in the Dan Mullen era. Now, the question is how MSU plays with prosperity. Troy is a difficult location to play, but the Trojans are pretty bad this year.
Call it now: Mississippi State 35, Troy 14
• Arizona State at Missouri (Columbia, Mo., 6 p.m. CT, ESPN2)
Missouri proved that it can hang with just about any Southeastern Conference foe a week ago, but the Tigers are still a couple of recruiting classes on defense away from competing year-in and year-out for the SEC East title. I feel bad for any secondary that has to go up against receivers like TJ Moe and Co. especially when they’re coupled with a dynamic playmaker like James Franklin.
This will be a solid test for Mizzou as it welcomes first-year head coach Todd Graham and Arizona State to the Zoo. If the atmosphere from last week’s Georgia game can be replicated, it should not be much of an issue to get a big win over a Pac-12 opponent for the league’s newest member.
Call it now: Missouri 38, Arizona State 17
• Western Kentucky at Kentucky (Lexington, Ky., 6 p.m. CT, ESPNU)
Kentucky looked much improved a week ago against Kent State. It’s a good thing because Joker Phillips needs as many wins as he can get this year to hold on to hope for roaming the sidelines in 2013.
The Hilltoppers did not play terribly against Alabama, but there’s still a huge talent gap between WKU and the worst of the SEC.
Call it now: Kentucky 27, Western Kentucky 20
• UAB at South Carolina (Columbia, S.C., 6 p.m. CT, FSN)
If you have great remote control skills, you will be able to catch over half the SEC amongst the six channels that these games span at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Garrick McGee returns to a place that was great to him as an assistant at Arkansas, this time as the head coach of UAB. I highly doubt McGee will leave Columbia, S.C., with the same warm and fuzzy feelings he had when the Razorbacks wrapped up road trips to Williams-Brice Stadium.
Call it now: South Carolina 34, UAB 10
• Florida Atlantic at Georgia (Athens, Ga., 6:30 p.m. CT, CSS)
Florida Atlantic has matched its win total from 2011 in the first two weeks of the 2012 campaign. It will not surpass last year’s win total this week.
Call it now: Georgia 38, FAU 10
• Idaho at LSU (Baton Rouge, La., 7 p.m. CT, PPV)
I have been really impressed with Zach Mettenberger so far through two weeks. The kid has great touch on his passes, and he gives Les Miles something the Hat has never had the luxury of having in Baton Rouge: a true passing threat at the quarterback position.
As Miles proved last year, the bottom will fall out on the Tigers at some point this year and things will get bad quickly. This is not the week it occurs.
Call it now: LSU 51, Idaho 7
• Texas at Ole Miss (Oxford, Miss., 8:15 p.m. CT, ESPN)
Through the first two weeks, Hugh Freeze has gotten the Ole Miss team to really buy into his offensive philosophy and get a couple of much-needed victories to get the season started on the right note.
Now, the brutality of the 2012 schedule really sets in with a visit from Big 12 power Texas.
The Longhorns haven’t returned to the glory years of Vince Young and Colt McCoy just yet, but the amount of talent on Mack Brown’s roster is insane. The gap between these two schools is insurmountable – despite what should be a great atmosphere Saturday night at the Vaught.
Call it now: Texas 31, Ole Miss 17
OVERALL RUSHING PICKS
Last week: 8-3