The Southeastern Conference is the nation's best when it comes to college football, and one of the traits that make it so good is that the rivalries are among the deepest and most passionate in sports. Auburn vs. Alabama, Florida vs. Georgia and others are match ups that catch the attention of sports fans all over the country.
This week Tennessee visits Alabama in a match up that is of that magnitude. It is a bitter rivalry. Anybody who watched Alabama fans in recent years try to blame Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer for their program receiving substantial probation from the NCAA can testify to that.
This year, Bama Nation has been in a frenzy over the arrival of new head coach Nick Saban. So far, the Tide is experiencing success, but they have played a lot of close games. Conference games against Arkansas, Georgia, and Ole Miss all went down to the final seconds. Even their non-conference game against Houston ended with the Cougars passing the ball into the end zone with a chance to win in the final seconds. They didn't but it illustrates that Alabama's games have been a thrill a minute this year.
As for Tennessee, the Vols are slowly getting their act together. Tennessee has won three in a row, including their win last week at Mississippi State. Probably the most significant development during this streak is that we have run the ball well. Against State, we ran for 230 yards against a very physical defense.
Fulmer has been under a lot of heat this year, but one trump card he can always play is that he has been very successful against Alabama. He is 11-3 against them. This means a lot to Tennessee fans because one of the biggest knocks against his predecessor Johnny Majors was that he struggled against the Tide. Majors only had a 4-12 record against them and that seemed to always overshadow the many successes he had while at UT.
As for this year, all indications are that this will be another close game. The teams have split their last two meetings with the margin of victory being three points in each game.
It's going to be a close game that will make what's left of my hair turn gray.
The pick: Tennessee 27 Alabama 24
As for the Tennessee Titans, they couldn't quite pick up another ugly win against Tampa Bay last week. This week, the Titans visit divisional rival Houston. All divisional games are big, but if Tennessee can win, it will be their second divisional road win. They beat Jacksonville on the road in week one, and road wins like this are worth their weight in gold.
Of course, the big question is the health of quarterback Vince Young. He injured a quad (thigh muscle) against Tampa Bay, and the prospects of him playing are iffy. We are fortunate to have an experienced back up like Kerry Collins, but losing Young would be a big blow.
Still, I've got a good feeling about this game. The defense continues to blossom and deserved better last week. Expect another ugly game this week, but a different outcome.
The pick: Tennessee 17 Houston 16
Other SEC picks: Florida over Kentucky, South Carolina over Vanderbilt, Arkansas over Ole Miss, LSU over Auburn, West Virginia over Mississippi State
Other NFL picks: Indianapolis over Jacksonville, Dallas over Minnesota, Denver over Pittsburgh, New Orleans over Atlanta
Last week: 6-5 (.545), Overall: 62-20 (.756)