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Prevost: Muschamp meets his mentor

POSTED: September 28, 2011 7:30 p.m.

It’s already Week 5 of the college football season and Saturday’s games take place on the first day of my favorite month, October. Comfortably cooling temperatures, clear blue skies, and five October weekends of big-time SEC match-ups, including Saturday night’s clash of conference titans, Alabama and Florida.

The third-ranked Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC) square off against the No. 12 Gators (4-0, 2-0) at 8 p.m. in Gainesville, Fla. The Swamp will be at full strength for the late start and Florida fans are pining for first-year coach Will Muschamp to card an upset win over his former mentor, Alabama’s Nick Saban.

Muschamp cut his coaching teeth under Saban’s tutelage at LSU from 2001-2004, then bolted from the bayou to join Nick Saban’s staff with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Saturday night’s showdown marks the first time Muschamp will confront his old teacher as a head coach.

Everyone loves a good student-teaches-master story, and it’s a common if not overdone theme in Hollywood. For example, the 1987 classic “Wall Street” comes to mind, in which Bud Fox outsmarts his corporate raider mentor, Gordon Gekko. The “Star Wars” films featured Obi-Wan Kenobi as Darth Vader’s Jedi master, and we know how that turned out. Vader struck down his master but then, as Obi-Wan mystically predicted, he became more powerful than Vader could possibly imagine.

Despite the talk emanating from Tuscaloosa and Gainesville, the fate of the galaxy is not on the line this Saturday evening in the Swamp. But Nick Saban, the undisputed Gordon Gekko of college football, will put his team’s championship aspirations to the test against Will Muschamp’s somewhat surprising Gator squad.

Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will turn to speedster Jeff Demps for offensive production against one of the nation’s strongest defenses. With a fired-up fanbase and a young Alabama quarterback, the Gators should keep this one close through the first half. But Bama running back Trent Richardson will have the Tide rolling out of Gainesville with its unblemished record intact. No student-teaches-master story with this one.

Now for a glance at select SEC match-ups this weekend. I say “select” because I have no idea what to write about the Tennessee-Buffalo game, except that the Buffalo Bulls have beaten exactly one team from a BCS conference in school history (Rutgers in 2002, and I’m not even sure that counts). Here we go:

Auburn vs. South Carolina: Fans on the plains of Auburn and in the Palmetto State are perplexed at their teams’ recent underwhelming performances. Marcus Lattimore should ease South Carolina’s worry by tearing through the porous Auburn rush defense, so I’ll take the Gamecocks in this one. And speaking of palmettos, have you tried Palmetto Cheese out of Pawleys Island, SC? That stuff is unreal, especially the jalapeno flavor. I mean it’s slap-ya-momma good.

Mississippi State vs. Georgia: Some Georgia fans are brimming with confidence after a dominating win at Ole Miss. Only problem is it wasn’t dominating, and it was against Ole Miss. I’ll take the Bulldogs of the SEC West in an upset between the hedges.

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M: No one outside of College Station, Texas or Fayetteville, Ark. cares about this game. I guess I’ll take the Hogs over the Aggies as Arkansas previews what A&M can expect when it joins the SEC next year.

Best of luck to your SEC team this weekend. Meanwhile, I see “Wall Street” is on cable tonight. I think I’ll settle in with some Palmetto Cheese, a cold beverage, and study the parallels between the film and the Alabama-Florida game. Wish me luck.

Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for The Times. Contact him at secbanter@hotmail.com.



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