Mark Edwards' picks: Tide, JSU have something to prove
by Mark Edwards
medwards@annistonstar.com
Sep 27, 2013 | 2960 views |  0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama head coach Nick Saban watches his team during pregame warmups before facing Colorado State. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Alabama head coach Nick Saban watches his team during pregame warmups before facing Colorado State. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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Alabama and Jacksonville State are unbeaten, but both schools face significant tests today.

Both should win, but it won’t be easy in either case.

No. 21 Ole Miss (3-0) at No. 1 Alabama (3-0): Alabama has recorded a pair of blowouts and an exciting win at Texas A&M, but the Crimson Tide is struggling.

Alabama coach Nick Saban always says it’s best to focus on the process, rather than the results, and in this case, that’s best at the moment.

Alabama is 3-0 but it ranks last in the Southeastern Conference in rushing offense and next-to-last in third-down conversion. The Tide is sixth against the run and ninth in total defense.

Those figures aren’t Alabama-like at any point in its history when it has done well.

Today, the Crimson Tide either will gather itself, ram it down Ole Miss’ throat and score a big win ... or see that No. 1 ranking get swept away. We’re betting the Tide rises. ... Alabama 38, Ole Miss 13.

Murray State (2-2) at Jacksonville State (4-0): This is Jacksonville State’s Ohio Valley Conference opener, which makes it the most important game of the season so far. JSU likely will need a 6-2 record or better to compete for the title, so a loss today would put the Gamecocks in a hole.

Murray State is coached by Chris Hatcher, who took Valdosta State to the 2004 Division II national title. The Racers have fallen to Missouri 58-15 and Bowling Green 48-7 but have beaten Missouri State 41-38 and Campbellsville 83-14.

JSU is 6-0 at home against Murray State, which allows about 555 yards a game. ... Jacksonville State 31, Murray State 27.

No. 6 LSU (4-0) at No. 9 Georgia (2-1): Only four SEC teams remain unbeaten (Alabama, Missouri, LSU and Ole Miss), and that figure should shrink to two today. Either Alabama or Ole Miss will lose, and LSU likely will join the crowd.

Five of the last seven national champions from the SEC had at least one loss, but it’s much easier for the league champion to make the BCS National Championship Game without a blemish on the record.

Georgia’s Aaron Murray leads the SEC in passing efficiency, and Todd Gurley, who runs like Trent Richardson, is tops in rushing. ... Georgia 27, LSU 20.

No. 10 Texas A&M (3-1) at Arkansas (3-1): The Aggies have thrown for almost as many yards (1,564) as the Razorbacks have gained (1,590). Arkansas ranks second to Florida in the SEC in total defense. ... Texas A&M 42, Arkansas 24.

South Alabama (2-1) at Tennessee (2-2): The Vols could use a pushover after losing to Oregon and Florida on the road, but South Alabama isn’t it. The Jags have beaten Tulane and Western Kentucky. They’ll provide a challenge for Tennessee, which is 12th in the SEC in scoring defense and last in throwing the ball. ... Tennessee 24, South Alabama 14.

UAB (1-2) at Vanderbilt (2-2): Hey, did you know UAB beat LSU in 2000? And Mississippi State in 2004?

The Blazers have had an awful lot of almosts since then — almost beat Tennessee, almost beat Florida State, almost beat Oklahoma. They haven’t had a winning season since 2004. ... Vanderbilt 38, UAB 14.

No. 11 Oklahoma State (3-0) at West Virginia (2-2): West Virginia has fallen on hard times, which last week’s 37-0 loss to Maryland showed. Oklahoma State is 10th nationally in scoring offense. ... Oklahoma State 41, West Virginia 21.

No. 23 Wisconsin (3-1) at No. 4 Ohio State (4-0): Wisconsin has won the last three Big Ten titles, but have lost five of its last six to Ohio State. The Badgers are led by Gary Andersen, who is a former assistant coach at Utah for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. ... Ohio State 24, Wisconsin 17.

No. 14 Oklahoma (3-0) at No. 22 Notre Dame (3-1): Notre Dame’s 30-13 win last year in Norman, Okla., is what turned the Irish into a serious player in the national title race. This year could do the same for Oklahoma, which is coming off a bye week.

Notre Dame is 9-1 in this series, with the Sooners’ only win coming in 1956 when their national championship team beat a 2-8 Irish squad 40-0. ... Oklahoma 27, Notre Dame 20.

Eastern Kentucky (2-2) at Eastern Illinois (3-1): Eastern Illinois is ranked No. 8 in the Sports Network’s FCS poll and was the preseason pick to win the Ohio Valley Conference.

EIU already has beaten FBS member San Diego State 40-19 and barely lost to MAC defending champion Northern Illinois 43-39. ... Eastern Illinois 34, Eastern Kentucky 21.

Last week: 9-1.

Overall: 34-6.
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