If you are a fan of SEC football, then this is a dream weekend for you. No. 1 Florida travels to Baton Rogue for a prime time meeting with No. 4 LSU, while No. 3 Alabama also hits the road to take on a Mississippi team that only two weeks ago was ranked No. 5 in the country.
Those two games should have a lot of impact on the division races (the SEC has an eastern and western division format) and could determine which two teams play for the SEC title game the first Saturday in December.
Before we take a look at those two games and a handful of others, we must first review last week’s record. A 7-5 mark brought the season record to a very mediocre 23-23 (53 percent). It’s definitely time to turn this thing around, starting this week!
Eisenhower vs. Humble: Ray Evans’ Eagles opened District 19-5A play with a 31-28 win over Kingwood, which was the team’s third straight victory after a 0-2 start to the season. The Eagles have a dual threat in quarterback James Jones, who is hurting teams through the air and on the ground. Look for Jones to have another big night against Humble on Saturday in Thorne Stadium. My pick, Eisenhower 32, Humble 12
MacArthur vs. Kingwood: Bernie Mulvaney’s Generals have found the going tough thus far in the season, and they take on a Kingwood team that put up 28 points against Eisenhower two weeks ago in the district opener for both teams. The Generals need a win in the worst of ways, so look for a strong effort from the team on Friday night in Thorne Stadium. My pick, MacArthur 16, Kingwood 14
Nimitz at Atascocita: Robert Toomer’s team takes to the road to face an Atascocita team that won its first five games of the season and is putting up some impressive offensive numbers. They opened league play with a 31-0 win over MacArthur two weeks ago. The Cougars must have success on the ground if they hope to hand the Eagles their first loss of the season. My pick, Atascocita 23, Nimitz 21
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M: The Aggies take a big step up in class when the high-scoring Cowboys come calling to kickoff A&M’s Big 12 season. In winning their first three games of the season, the Aggies averaged 45 points per game and quarterback Jerrord Johnson of Humble has been a big reason why. The 6-6 QB has passed for nine touchdowns and run for another four scores, but he’ll be facing a fast OSU defense that will be looking to make things difficult at Kyle Field. The Cowboys will bring a pretty decent offense of their own to Aggieland, and look for talented running back Kendall Hunter to return to make Zac Robinson and Co. all the more potent. My pick, Oklahoma State 36, Texas A&M 31
Wisconsin at Ohio State: Wisconsin won its first five games of the season, but they will get a real test when they hit the road for Columbus and the Horseshoe on Saturday. The Badgers will also have to contend with a pretty fair quarterback in Terrell Pryor come Saturday. Pryor has yet to have that “wow” sort of game, but this would be a good week for him to turn one in. The Badgers have shown an ability to throw the football early on this year, so the Ohio State defense will need to apply pressure if they hope to avoid being upset at home. Look for a bust out game from Pryor as the Buckeyes prove to be too much at home for Wisconsin. My pick, Ohio State 34, Wisconsin 24
Alabama at Mississippi: It’s been years since the Rebel faithful have hosted a game this big, so expect a loud and raucous crowd in Oxford on Saturday. The Crimson Tide have a history of playing in big games, so they won’t be intimidated, but you can bet your hounds tooth hat that that won’t look past a Ole Miss team that weeks ago was ranked No. 5 in the country. The key to a Rebel win will be how well quarterback Jevan Sneed performs. He was downright awful two weeks ago when his team was upset at South Carolina, but he’s the sort of player that has a short memory and will wipe that poor performance out of his mind. ‘Bama has received stellar play from quarterback Greg McElroy, who was unproven when the season began. Four games in, McElroy has been steady with 938 yards passing and seven touchdowns. It also helps to have a dependable running back in Mark Ingram and a defense that has given up 54 points in the team’s first four games. This game will come down to which quarterback does the best job of protecting the ball and this intangible: Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s team may be playing the best football in the nation and badly wants to win a national championship. A big road win would go a long ways towards sending a statement to the rest of the SEC and the nation. My pick, Alabama 23, Mississippi 20
Florida at LSU: What a day for the SEC. Two huge games and this one will be seen in primetime (I’m assuming on CBS), just as it was two years ago when the Tigers upended the then defending national champions en route to a national title of their own. Talk about re-living history. Florida returns to Death Valley defending a national title but they have one big question mark, the availability of Superman, errrr, quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow suffered a concussion two weeks ago after he took a vicious hit in his team’s win at Kentucky. He will have had two weeks to recover, but when you are dealing with a head injury, you don’t take chances, especially with a kid who has a chance at a career in the NFL. But if you know anything about Tebow, you know he’s a team first sort of guy. If he’s able to play, he’ll be out there, which is good for college football and this game. Florida has won, but hasn’t established itself as a dominating team as of yet. Urban Meyer’s team will be in for a real test against a fired up crowd and LSU team that won its first four games heading into last week’s game at Georgia. LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson must be poised and protect the football to give his team a chance to win and it would help if the Tigers can establish their running game early. Tebow’s health will be a major factor in this game, but the guy has proven himself time and time again during the last three years. Look for him to come through once again for the Gator faithful in a game that could propel them too much bigger things down the road. My pick, Florida 34, LSU 31
Houston at Arizona: Well, here we go again. Just when you want to start believing the Texans have turned the corner and will become a real NFL team, they fall flat on their face against a team they have owned over the last few years. Houston’s loss to Jacksonville two weeks ago was inexcusable, considering they were playing at home and coming off a season-saving come-from-behind win at Tennessee week earlier. It’s become apparent the Houston defense has some issues and that’s not a good thing heading into a game against pass happy Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. Warner did struggle two weeks ago and played one of his poorest games in years in his team’s 31-10 loss at home to the Colts, but don’t expect a repeat of that against the Texans. The Texans have been woeful against the run and while the Cardinals aren’t a great running team, they can fling it all over the field. This could turn into an offensive shootout, but something tells me Warner will make one more play than Matt Schaub to pull out the win. My pick, Arizona 34, Houston 31
New England at Denver: Denver head coach Josh McDaniel welcomes his old boss to the Mile High City when Bill Bellichick and the Patriots visit the surprising Broncos. New England appeared to begin putting things together two weeks ago in their 29-10 win over Atlanta, but they should get a test against a Denver team that is gaining confidence week by week. Denver’s defense is better than most expected, but it will receive a real test from Tom Brady, Randy Moss and running back Fred Taylor, who looked like his old self in the win over the Falcons (100+ yards rushing, one touchdown). When Denver has the ball, look for them to run the ball with rookie Knowhown Moreno and veteran Correll Bulkhalter to take pressure off quarterback Kyle Orton. In the end, look for the master to teacher the pupil a lesson he’ll never forget as the veteran Pats leave Invesco Field with a solid road win. My pick, New England 26, Denver 21
Dallas at Kansas City: The Cowboys had to work a lot harder than they wanted to in their 21-7 win two weeks ago at home against Carolina, and this week they travel to Kansas City to face perhaps one of the worst teams in the NFL. This is no week for the Cowboys to let down their guard. The young Chiefs would like nothing more than to meet the much-despised Cowboys at home. If Tony Romo plays within himself as he did against the Panthers, the Cowboys should take care of business. It would help if Marion Barber or Felix Jones, both of whom are nursing injuries, were available for this one. Third-team RB Tashard Choice is a solid backup, but he isn’t ready to carry the load. Look for the defense, which finally made some timely plays against Carolina, to apply pressure early and often against a porous KC offensive line. My pick, Dallas 26, Kansas City 13
Indianapolis at Tennessee: When the schedule makers picked this one for Sunday Night Football, they figured this would be a battle for first place in the AFC South. Now, it’s a game that Tennessee must win to stay alive in the division race after the Titans opened the season with three straight losses. It’s desperation time for Jeff Fisher’s team. The Colts, on the other hand, can play free and breezy (is it me, or is Peyton Manning putting together another MVP-type season?) thanks to the big cushion they have already built in the South. Manning has done a great job of spreading the ball around, and running back Joseph Addai looks like he did two years ago when he was one of the top five running backs in the league. The Titans will need to get Chris Johnson and Lindale White going early in this one to take pressure off of Kerry Collins. One thing Collins and the Titans will have going for them is the fact speedy defensive end Dwight Freeney should miss this game with a leg injury. I know the Titans must win this game, but something tells me Manning will be his usual cool self and lead his team to the win. My pick, Indianapolis 31, Tennessee 27
New York Jets at Miami: Rex Ryan brings his salty Jets to prime time on Monday night to take on a Dolphins team that lost its first three games and is going dealing with injury woes, most notably starting quarterback Chad Pennington, who was lost to the season with a dislocated passing shoulder two weeks ago at San Diego. Second-year QB Chad Henne will be facing a tough New York defense that will bring pressure all night long. It would behoove the Dolphins to get Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams untracked early in this one, or it could be a long night for Henne. The Jets have a young signal caller of their own in rookie Mark Sanchez, who has played brilliantly in his first three NFL games. This week, he’ll have to handle the glare of the national spotlight. Let’s see how he handles that. My pick, New York 23, Miami 21