Not since the seven deals in which Gordon Gekko was involved immediately prior to his Teldar Paper speech has anyone been so right so consistently as I have been in my recent S.E.C. picks.
Does that mean it is finally time for you to begin reposing faith in my skills as a Southeastern Conference prognosticator? No! Just to prove that, in fact, I'm going to go completely crazy with next week's predictions, calling upsets! Nothing but upsets, I tell you!
That ought to be all the warning you would ever need, but, in case it wasn't, please greet the following forecasts with more than a grain of salt and, whatever you do, Don't Bet On It!
Northwestern State at Ole Miss---Can you believe the Wildcats lost to Michigan State? I mean, they had a 38-3 lead, for crying out loud! How is it possible for a team to have such a complete collapse against the Spartans, who are the poster boys for complete collapses? (M.S.U.'s meltdown against Notre Dame began what thus far is a 1-5 skid including losses to Illinois and Indiana.) That's just embarrassing. So, anyway, Northwestern will be traveling to Oxford . . . oh, wait. Northwestern State? Oh, give me a break! The Rebels will win this one easily.
Arkansas State at Auburn---Conventional football wisdom holds that it's tough to beat a team twice in one season, particularly since the Razorbacks must travel back to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the rematch with a War Eagle team Houston Nutt's squad humbled earlier in the year. I find it difficult to believe that Arkansas will be able to . . . oh, wait. Arkansas State? Oh, give me a break! The Plainsmen will win this one easily.
In each of the foregoing instances, I missed the "State" in the name of the school, and therein lies the humor.
Mississippi State at Alabama---I don't want to make the same mistake thrice, so let me read that again . . . yep, it says "Mississippi State," not "Mississippi." When you think about it, though, that doesn't really make much of a difference, does it? The schedule says this game is going to be played in Tuscaloosa, but, come Saturday, it's liable to look more like it's being played in 1962, because this game has 13-7 written all over it. As I mull this one over more and more, however, it starts to look a lot like Georgia's homecoming game against Vanderbilt. A big-name program playing mediocre football has been barely skating by . . . a lower-tier conference opponent has been playing more competitive football . . . the two meet in a game that the home favorite doesn't take seriously enough but the visiting squad recognizes as the opportunity for a signature win. Add in the fact that Sylvester Croom was passed over for the 'Bama job and you have all the makings for a Bulldog win.
Florida at Vanderbilt---It couldn't happen . . . could it? Could a Commodore club that emerged victorious from its most recent series meetings with Tennessee and Georgia really pull off the Eastern Division hat trick? It isn't as though Bobby Johnson's team hasn't been competitive . . . and it isn't as though Vandy didn't almost get the win in Gainesville last year. The Gators are liable to be a mite complacent after essentially clinching the S.E.C. East with yesterday's big win in Jacksonville and you know Urban Meyer is already looking ahead to his November 11 rematch with the Ol' Ball Coach, so I'm taking the 'Dores to dethrone the Gators.
If you're Vanderbilt and you're about to beat Florida in Gainesville, I'm not sure there's anything you could do that would qualify as "excessive celebration." (Photograph from Orlando Sentinel.)
Louisiana State at Tennessee---Folks in Baton Rouge have had a long time to fume over last year's meltdown against the Volunteers on the Bayou. L.S.U.'s subsequent success and Tennessee's complete collapse down the stretch in 2005 have only worsened the sting of defeat from a game the Tigers had no business losing. Coming off of an open date and painfully conscious of the fact that Louisiana State has not won a road game in 2006, the Bayou Bengals are in a prime position to upend the Big Orange in Knoxville.
Arkansas at South Carolina---The Barnyard Battle resumes in Columbia this Saturday as the Razorbacks (who are, after all, just pigs) take on the Gamecocks (who are, after all, just chickens). Not since Snowball was banished in the George Orwell novel has there been a showdown this ferocious on the farm. The Hogs are the frontrunners, but something about them instills doubt. The Palmetto State Poultry have stumbled, but something about the Evil Genius's squad inspires confidence. Williams-Brice Stadium is a dangerous place to play and this might be South Carolina's last chance to claim a big win, so I'm taking the Gamecocks.
Those are my thoroughly unhinged multiple upset predictions, none of which may come to pass and all of which virtually certainly will not come to pass, so---really, seriously, no fooling around here, people---don't you dare place any stock at all in my forecasts. Instead, the wiser course would be to heed my advice: Don't Bet On It!