Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
As legendary Georgia radio broadcaster Larry Munson would say in that trademark voice of his: "It's getting very late." But it's not too late for me to make a move and finish with the kind of respectable record in my picks that I expect out of myself. We'll sort everything out at season's end. I'm not going to panic during the season. I never make evaluations during the season. I don't give newspaper interviews during the season and talk about making changes or discuss buyout money. That's amateurish. We'll see how this thing plays out. If it's not in the best interest of the picks panel for me to be involved again next year, I'll take my $5 buyout and walk away. No booster pressure is going to make my decision for me. You are what your record says you are, and right now, my record says I'm staying afloat. The big games are the ones you have to get right. I hit Florida-LSU, but I missed Alabama-Georgia and then LSU-South Carolina last week. The Georgia-LSU game this week is huge. So is Florida-Georgia in two weeks and then Alabama-LSU on Nov. 8.
Anyway, I was 4-1 last week and am now 46-12 for the season. In the last three weeks, I'm 12-3. So, don't count me out if I keep that pace for the rest of the season. Now to my picks for Week 9:
Auburn 23 West Virginia 17: In the realm of the SEC, there are pivotal games every week. But for this season (and quite possibly Tommy Tuberville's future), few games have been any more important than the Thursday night game at West Virginia. The Tigers need to stop the bleeding and stop it fast. It's almost desperation time. A loss here, and you can almost write it down that they're not going to have a winning season. The players and coaches know how important this game is. Look for the Tigers to come out swinging.
LSU 28, Georgia 21: For LSU, it's close to being an elimination game in the West race. The Tigers can't afford to give Alabama a two-game cushion. For Georgia, a loss here doesn't doom the Bulldogs in the East race, because they would still get a chance to claim the head-to-head tiebreaker by beating Florida on Nov. 1. However, the loser here can certainly forget about the national championship. Neither LSU nor Georgia have had that breakout game this season, and each has suffered a thorough beating. The teams are pretty even, but the difference in the game will be LSU's offensive line.
Alabama 20, Tennessee 14: The Vols could go a long way toward helping make sure that their coach is still around next year by winning this game. Phillip Fulmer has had his way with Alabama, as his 11-4 record suggests. But he has never needed a win over the Crimson Tide like he needs one now. The Vols got a break with Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody being out for this game, but they haven't shown enough offensively this season to make anybody think they can win this game. The No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide simply have too much at stake to stumble in Knoxville.
Florida 35, Kentucky 14: The combination is a scary one for the Wildcats. They're going to be missing several players, including defensive tackle Myron Pryor and running back Derrick Locke, while the Gators are coming off an open date and are as healthy as they've been in a while. When we last saw them, the Gators looked like they were starting to get it offensively. Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey, who's had the extra week to rest his shoulder, have added an extra dimension to this Florida offense. This will be the toughest test yet for a Kentucky defense that has played well all season.
Ole Miss 34, Arkansas 21: It's the Houston Nutt Bowl, although I doubt Nutt will receive an outpouring of bowl gifts when he touches down in Fayetteville. If you don't think the Hog fans (at least most of them) vehemently dislike Nutt, then I've got a bunch of e-mails I want you to read. For a home-grown guy that was there for 10 years, went to bowl games and went to SEC Championship Games, I still don't understand all the disdain for the man. But he gets his sweetest win of the season Saturday at his old stomping grounds.
Vanderbilt 31, Duke 24: David Cutcliffe makes his return to the state of Tennessee and faces a Vanderbilt club he's plenty familiar with after all those years competing against the Commodores on the Vols' staff. Cutcliffe has done a super job with the Blue Devils in his first season in Durham, but they run into a Vanderbilt team that's on a mission. The Commodores (5-2) need just one more win to become bowl eligible, and this is where they get it.
Miss. State 21, Middle Tennessee 17: The Bulldogs better not sleep on Middle Tennessee, which has already upset Maryland this season and nearly beat Kentucky. Of course, given the way the Bulldogs are playing offense right now, they better not sleep on anybody. Quarterback Tyson Lee hurt his knee last week against Tennessee and threw three interceptions. Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said he may also play Wesley Carroll some at quarterback in this game.