It’s time for this week’s forecast, although a quick retirement was strongly considered after last week’s perfect, 7-0 slate.

While last week did include some walkovers, this week’s schedule does not. Interesting, competitive games abound, beginning with No. 1 ranked Alabama visiting Ole Miss.

So, who you got?

Alabama has opened the season by out-scoring its first two opponents 90-16. One was traditional power Southern Cal, the other Conference USA defending champion Western Kentucky, a Top 25 team last year.

Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland Credit: Melanie Thortis

To listen to Nick Saban, you’d think the Tide has been outscored by the same margin. Last week, Saban said he had never been so disappointed after winning a game. He has chided his team’s offensive line, the running game and the complacency, while chewing out college football’s most famous assistant coach, Lane Kiffin, on the sideline.

Now, Saban takes his 2016 team on the road for the first time, with a true freshman quarterback, playing at Ole Miss. The Rebels have won two straight over Saban’s well-trained assassins and start a senior quarterback, Chad Kelly, who has already beaten Bama before.

My first impulse is to take the senior over the freshman, especially at Oxford. But I just can’t pull the trigger. Just can’t see Alabama losing three straight to anybody, freshman QB or no freshman QB, and this freshman happens to be immensely talented.

Ole Miss won 43-37 at Tuscaloosa with a 5-0 turnover advantage. They’ll need to be plus-3 in turnovers to win this year. I just don’t see it. Alabama 27, Ole Miss 20.

LSU is a 14-point favorite over Mississippi State for reasons I fail to grasp. Indeed, the quote of the week has to be from MSU safety Kevin Coman, when asked about what makes Tiger Stadium on Saturday night so intimidating. Answered Coman, “It’s not.”

Two years ago, State stoned LSU at Baton Rouge. The Tigers again have passing issues, quarterback issues. I don’t think they can just shove the ball down State’s throat.

The weather forecast is for rain and a wet field. I see a close, low-scoring game. LSU 17, State 13.

Southern Miss enters Saturday night’s home game with Troy with a 2-0 record and offensive numbers that look like video game stats. But Troy is far, far better than Savannah State and probably better than Kentucky, too.

If not for one quick whistle on a fumble play, the Trojans would have won at Clemson, which is supposedly one of the nation’s top teams.

USM is a 12-point favorite and that’s too many points, especially if the field is soggy, as predicted. Southern Miss should win, but it will be far from easy. Southern Miss 20, Troy 17.

Florida State plays at Louisville in a game with huge BCS playoff implications. If you haven’t seen Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson play, you should either watch – or record – this one. Jackson has produced 1,015 yards of total offense in two games with a blend of dazzling running back moves and accurate passing. Jackson vs. FSU’s swarming defense will be a treat. Las Vegas oddsmakers made Louisville a slight favorite but the betting public has moved the line to FSU being a slight favorite. I like Jackson and Louisville 34, FSU 30.


Upset special: East Carolina 24, South Carolina 20.

Auburn 27, Texas A & M 20.

Ohio State 27, Oklahoma 23.

Georgia 30, Missouri 28.

Stanford 27, USC 17.

Alcorn 31, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 20.

Grambling 27, Jackson State 19.


Rick Cleveland is Mississippi Today’s sports columnist. Read his previous columns and his Sports Daily blog.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.