Don't Bet On It: Around the S.E.C.

Two revelations about me will not surprise you in the slightest. (Don't worry; I'm not going to divulge my secret identity like Orson Swindle did. Wait a minute! I don't have a secret identity! Dang!)

First of all, I am way behind the curve in popular music. (Josh was right . . . you really did just have to be there.) Secondly, I am bad at forecasting the outcomes of college football games.

How bad am I at forecasting the outcomes of college football games? I went 4-3 in last week's S.E.C. picks, dropping my record for the season so far to 29-9. Granted, Sunday Morning Quarterback did even worse, but he had Vishnu to blame, so SMQ's similar shortfall is little solace to me as I once again issue the warning that virtually ought to go without saying: Don't Bet On It!

You've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. In my case, folding 'em is almost always the correct call.

We begin with this week's Southeastern Conference prognostications, all of which concern games being played on Saturday, October 6, unless otherwise indicated:

Tennessee-Chattanooga at Arkansas: Let's jump right into it with both feet by starting out with one of the most exciting matchups of the weekend. The Razorbacks host the Volunteers in a thrilling rematch of the famous game from 1998 in which eighth-year senior quarterback Clint Stoerner gift-wrapped a fumble and handed it over like a boxer throwing a fight. Wait just a minute . . . isn't Georgia playing the Big Orange this Saturday? Oh, I see; it's Tennessee-Chattanooga, not Tennessee-Knoxville. Well, that makes all the difference in the world, then, doesn't it? Prozac poster boy Houston Nutt has the sideline demeanor of the Tasmanian Devil with David Lynch's coffee intake, but, just because he calls a game while twitching and fidgeting like a cocaine-addled John Belushi doing an impersonation of Joe Cocker operating a manual telephone switchboard at peak call volume doesn't mean he can't outduel the Mocs in Little Rock. Houston Nutt and the Hogs will handle their serpentine visitors . . . figuratively speaking, of course.

Pork Rind Jimmy just filed a F.O.I.A. request for records of Taz's text-messaging with Elmer Fudd.

Louisiana Tech at Ole Miss: I guess the Rebels scheduled this one because they figured there weren't enough teams nicknamed "Bulldogs" on the Mississippi slate already. Louisiana Tech head coach Derek Dooley's dad, Vince, was winless in Oxford until claiming victory in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the first time in 1979 and, although I expect the W.A.C. Bulldogs to get better under Coach Dooley fils, they have a long way to go. The visitors will give their hosts a game for a while, but, in the end, the Rebels will prevail.

U.A.B. at Mississippi State: Speaking of Bulldog teams on the Ole Miss schedule that are in the habit of losing football games, Sylvester Croom's squad came up short in Columbia after holding a 21-17 lead late in the third quarter. This was particularly damaging to a Mississippi State squad riding a three-game winning streak, as a victory over the Gamecocks would have put the Western Division Bulldogs strongly in contention for bowl eligibility. After their date with the Blazers, though, the squad from Starkville will face, in succession, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, and Arkansas. M.S.U. had better get a win while the 'Dogs still can . . . and they will.

Bully is reading up on the Blazers already.

Houston at Alabama: Losing to the winningest S.E.C. program of the last decade in overtime is a forgivable sin. Falling to a resurgent Florida State squad in the Seminoles' home state was cause for concern, but not panic. Losing to an out-of-conference opponent from a non-B.C.S. league? That will wake up the grumblings. Losing to Memphis in 1987 got Bill Curry's tenure in Tuscaloosa off to a sour start. A pair of losses to Louisiana Tech and a 40-38 defeat at the hands of Central Florida doomed Mike DuBose. Mike Shula never really recovered from a home setback suffered at the hands of Northern Illinois. If the Cougars register the upset in Tuscaloosa, then, Houston, Nick Saban has a problem. The Armani Bear shouldn't be scared, though; the Tide will roll right through the Cougs en route to an easy Alabama victory.

Vanderbilt at Auburn: It could happen, you know. The Commodores are much improved under Bobby Johnson. Vandy ranks ahead of the Tigers in scoring offense, total offense, pass offense, scoring defense, total defense, pass defense, and turnover margin. With a 3-1 record and home games remaining against Miami (Ohio) and Wake Forest, the Commies know that a win over unranked Auburn would make bowl eligibility a near-certainty . . . but, if they lose, the rest of their slate (Georgia, at South Carolina, at Florida, Kentucky, at Tennessee) is not conducive to producing a .500 record. The Plainsmen are bound to suffer a letdown after knocking off the Gators in Gainesville. Surely all the pieces are in place for a Vanderbilt upset, right? I'd love to think so; I'll be rooting hard for it to happen . . . but I just don't see it. Sadly, Auburn will win. I hate Auburn.

Fox Mulder felt this way about the existence of extraterrestrials. I feel this way about a Vanderbilt victory on the Plains. Both of us will suffer disappointment. Only one of us, however, will have a good-looking redhead repeatedly tell us, "Mulder, you can't be serious!"

Kentucky at South Carolina (Thursday, October 4): Over the years, Steve Spurrier has taken his share of potshots at the Wildcats. The Evil Genius said he felt good about last season's Gamecock victory over Clemson until the Tigers turned around and lost to Kentucky in the Music City Bowl. When downplaying South Carolina's win over Georgia earlier this autumn, Darth Visor snidely observed that the Bulldogs had lost to Kentucky in 2006. Is there any chance Rich Brooks can use that successfully as motivation to silence Steve Superior and turn the host squad into Kentucky-fried chicken? I genuinely hope that Coach Brooks is able to pull a rabbit out of his hat on this one, but, sadly, I fear this is the week the U.K. glory run comes to a screeching halt as the Gamecocks cause me no end of annoyance by keeping the dream alive.

Florida at Louisiana State: And now the moment for which you all have been waiting . . . the big showdown between the Fighting Gators and the Fighting Tigers. Obviously, this one has lost a little bit of its luster, what with Florida losing last weekend and all, but the Orange and Blue will bring an added sense of urgency to Baton Rouge, secure in the knowledge that the Eastern Division now is up for grabs among four or five contenders. Now that the blueprint for stopping Urban Meyer's squad has been revealed, it is tough to see how even a Les Miles-coached team could fail to get the better of the boys from ol' Florida. The Gators rank third in the league in scoring offense? L.S.U. ranks first in the league in scoring defense. Florida's aerial assault is the third-best in the conference? The Bayou Bengals' pass defense is the S.E.C.'s second-best. With an outrageous +11 turnover margin and a defense that does not allow as many as 175 total yards per game, Louisiana State simply stands head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. The Tigers will prove that at home on Saturday.

Please please please please please shut this guy up by shutting this guy down.

I'm going to go ahead and warn you: I'm wrong about at least half of that, and, if I knew which half, I'd let you know, but I don't, so I'm sticking with what I know are an erroneous set of picks. For your part, you should follow a simple piece of advice: Don't Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Games of Interest. . . .

Go 'Dawgs!

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