Don't Bet On It: Around the S.E.C.

A sub-par week at picking the national games of interest was partially redeemed by a solid 8-0 record in predicting conference contests. Combined with Labor Day weekend's 9-1 league ledger, I am now 17-1 for the season in S.E.C. predictions.

For the most part, though, these have been easy games to forecast and we now find ourselves entering into the meat of the league schedule, so slip-ups are liable to be more plentiful on my part. All of that is to say, of course, when it comes to my prognostications . . . Don't Bet On It!

These predictions are purely for purposes of entertainment, not actual edification, so, please, as always, no wagering.

Here are my (most likely erroneous) forecasts of the Southeastern Conference's September 16 slate of games:

Wofford at South Carolina---The Evil Genius is never more quotable than he is in defeat and last Saturday night's shutout was no exception. Quoth Darth Visor: "We're just stupid right now. And us coaches, we're stupid too right now." Fortunately for Steve Superior, his Gamecocks will have a shot at claiming second place in the Palmetto State when the Big Chickens host Wofford. The downgrade from Bulldogs to Terriers should be enough for the home team to handle and I wouldn't be surprised if South Carolina took part in its third straight shutout, this time with Wofford being held scoreless.

The Ol' Ball Coach is hard at work preparing the game plan to defeat mighty Wofford. (Photograph from E.S.P.N.)

Louisiana-Monroe at Alabama---The U.L.M. Warhawks (formerly known as the Northeast and/or Southwest Louisiana Indians and/or Ragin' Cajuns) swoop into Tuscaloosa after losing narrowly to the Jayhawks in Lawrence. There, the visitors will face a Crimson Tide squad that has won home games against Hawaii and Vanderbilt by a combined 11 points. Is 'Bama ripe for the upset? Three years ago, the Red Elephants might have been vulnerable to U.L.M., but the Warhawks are no War Eagle. I like Alabama to win, but not necessarily to look good doing it.

Tulane at Mississippi State---A recent survey conducted by M.S.U. revealed that 73.4 per cent of the school's season ticket holders thought the word "Tulane" emblazoned on this Saturday's ducats was descriptive not of the visiting team but of the roads fans would travel to get to the game. I am sorely tempted to pick the Green Wave in this game, inasmuch as the Bulldogs have not scored so much as a single skinny point this season. It should be noted on Mississippi State's behalf, however, that the 'Dogs have faced two of the top five scoring defenses in the S.E.C. . . . so, while they're bad, they may not be that bad. For that reason, I'm picking Mississippi State to win one ugly football game. If the Bulldogs don't score in this one, I'm marking them down for 0-12.

Will Sylvester Croom soon find himself looking back wistfully on the halcyon days of 3-8?

Arkansas at Vanderbilt---The intriguing aspect of this game is the contrast between the two coaches. Bobby Johnson brings a dignified demeanor to the sideline, exhibiting determination and discipline through an intense countenance capped off by a grey mane. On the opposite side of the field will stand Houston Nutt, whose maniacal antics make him look like a snake-handling tent-revival preacher on crystal meth being zapped repeatedly with a cattle prod. The Hogs have come up short in eight of their last 10 road games and, after consecutive losing seasons, Coach Nutt is on the hot seat. Personally, I think it is preposterous that Razorback fans are considering cutting him loose; Coach Nutt took over a program that had posted one winning season in the previous eight years and guided it to six straight postseason appearances. In his first eight years at the helm in Fayetteville and/or Little Rock, he posted four wins over Alabama, four wins over Auburn, three wins over L.S.U., and two wins over Texas, in addition to capturing an S.E.C. championship game berth. Nevertheless, Coach Nutt's future is imperiled and he simply cannot afford back-to-back losses to the Commodores, so I'm taking the Razorbacks to win because they have no other choice.

Ole Miss at Kentucky---The Rebels and the Wildcats rank 11th and 12th in the league, respectively, in scoring defense, so there should be some fireworks when these two teams hook up in Lexington. Mississippi didn't look particularly good against Missouri, but there is no doubt that Ed Orgeron has upgraded the team's talent level. Add to that the fact that Rich Brooks's S.E.C. wins have come against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, and it becomes clear that the squad from William Faulkner's home town has the advantage against the team from Robert Penn Warren's home state. It wouldn't shock me if the win came on another Bluegrass Miracle, but, in the end, Ole Miss will emerge victorious.

All right, Coach, I picked your team to win . . . now please don't kill me, cook me, and eat me.

Florida at Tennessee---Only two teams in the S.E.C. have averaged over 300 aerial yards per outing over the course of the campaign's first two games and they will meet in Knoxville on Saturday. Reports of the Volunteers' resurgence may have been greatly exaggerated, whereas the Gators have appeared consistent, if not overwhelming. There may never have been a more accomplished coach in whom I reposed less confidence than Phil Fulmer, but I just don't see the Great Pumpkin getting out of his own way enough to pull out a victory in this one. I believe Florida will win the meteor game.

Louisiana State at Auburn---I like the Tigers in this one. While this was never a bad rivalry (as evidenced by the earthquake game of 1988), divisional play in the S.E.C. has turned this into a critical game in the wild, wild West . . . and, as often as not, a close one. Since the league expanded, the annual Auburn-L.S.U. showdown has produced such dramatic outcomes as those in 1992 (30-28), 1994 (30-26), 1995 (12-6), 1996 (19-15), 1997 (31-28), 2004 (10-9), and 2005 (20-17). Another tight ballgame appears probable and I'm picking Auburn, based on home field advantage and the coaching acumen of Will Muschamp.

The fact that this dufus will be standing on the L.S.U. sideline doesn't help the case for the Bayou Bengals, either. (Photograph from E.S.P.N.)

Those are my forecasts for the forthcoming weekend of Southeastern Conference action. I know it may be tempting to repose a measure of faith in my predictions, given my record in picking S.E.C. games so far this season, but that is all the more reason why I must remind you of my complete ineptitude in such matters. In other words . . . Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!

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