It was another wacky weekend in the S.E.C., as I went 5-1 in a fairly predictable slate of games---more about my one misfire shortly---to improve my conference ledger for the autumn to a 51-16 mark that reads better than it lived.
You have to remember, though, that my record is buoyed by several straight-up picks in Sun Belt mismatches and Division I-AA rent-a-wins, so that inflated tally is misleading and it should not be taken as in any way indicative of an ability to predict the outcomes of college football games on my part. Trust me when I tell you that I'm not good at this . . . so much so that I feel the need to offer a weekly disclaimer: Don't Bet On It!
How reliable are my forecasts? I'm the one who thought "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" would be last year's breakout hit.
Here are this weekend's Southeastern Conference contests, all of which are coming up on Saturday, November 10:
Louisiana Tech at Louisiana State: Here's where the Bayou Bengals' strength of schedule begins to take a hit, as the Fighting Tigers---who began the regular season in Starkville against one set of Bulldogs and who hopefully will end the regular season in Atlanta against another set of Bulldogs---welcome yet another set of Bulldogs to Baton Rouge for what the L.S.U. faithful have not seen for many weeks . . . namely, a Louisiana State game that is not decided in the game's closing minutes. Louisiana Tech's claim to fame is that the squad from Ruston took Hawaii to overtime earlier this season, but the Warriors are paper tigers and now the Bulldogs are going on the road to tangle with the real thing. Louisiana Tech visited Louisiana State in 2003, when the Bayou Bengals smashed the Bulldogs by a 49-10 final margin en route to the national championship. The latter result might not be duplicated, but the former certainly will as L.S.U. will roll.
Yeah, I know they're coached by Vince Dooley's son, but, if this guy isn't lining up under center on Saturday, I don't think they have a chance.
Alabama at Mississippi State: You don't think it could happen, do you? The Western Division Bulldogs went on the road and handed high-flying Kentucky a 17-point setback to claim their fifth win of the season, then they took last Saturday off to heal up and calm down while the Crimson Tide took on L.S.U. in an emotionally-charged last-second setback that surely left 'Bama a bit demoralized. Is it possible that the Red Elephants could come into Starkville to find an M.S.U. squad that is rested, ready, on the verge of bowl eligibility, and remembering last year's win in Tuscaloosa? Yes, I know the attitude at the Capstone has changed completely since Mike Shula was run out of town on a rail, but (at the risk of being accused---quite falsely, on both counts, by the way, as I have demonstrated before---of being a Nick Saban hater and a supporter of the S.E.C.'s least classy program) I would like to point out these facts: Alabama is 9-10 in the Tide's last 19 games, whereas Mississippi State is 8-10 in the Bulldogs' last 18 games. What, other than name recognition, ought to lead me to believe that 'Bama has improved more dramatically than M.S.U. from last year to this . . . or, at least, that the Red Elephants have gotten so much better over that span that they now will be able to defeat on the road a Bulldog team better than the one that beat them at home by a 24-16 margin a year ago? I've talked myself into it: I'm picking the Bulldogs to end the Armani Bear's honeymoon. Nick Saban, you are about to be Croomed.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt: The feel good story of the S.E.C. East comes to an end on Saturday, when either the Wildcats' resurgence will fall finally and completely flat or the Commodores' aspirations of attending a bowl game will take yet another, and possibly fatal, hit. Either way, a good run will be done for a deserving team, which is unfortunate but inevitable for one or the other of them. Personally, I'd prefer it if Kentucky came into Sanford Stadium on November 17 without the added incentive desperation would give the Bluegrass State Felines and I'd like Vanderbilt to save its best effort for the Music City Sailors' subsequent showdown with in-state rival Tennessee, so, more out of hope than belief, I'm going with Kentucky to give me the result that sets up the weekend I want after this one.
Bobby Johnson and Rich Brooks will duel to the death in Saturday's Battle of the '70s Comedy Icons!
Arkansas at Tennessee: The thought that terrifies me, that keeps me up at night and awakens me in the wee hours in a cold sweat, is that Houston Nutt actually thinks he still has a chance to save his job. It's not that I want Houston Nutt to be fired; where the Razorbacks' head coach is concerned, I adopt the posture taken by the political cartoonist who said he had mixed feelings about presidential elections because they usually presented a choice between a guy who was good for the country and a guy who was good for business. I'm just afraid of what Houston Nutt might do if he thought it would allow him to remain gainfully employed in Fayetteville. Coach Nutt's special combination of lunacy and desperation is apt to manifest itself in any number of wacky ways in Knoxville on Saturday, particularly once Houston Nutt catches sight of Phillip Fulmer in the inevitable egregious fashion faux pas of one of the Tennessee skipper's ubiquitous orange sweaters. Coach Nutt might go running across the field, security blanket in hand and Sally Brown in tow, declaring, "It's the Great Pumpkin! He came! He came!" Coach Nutt might mistake Coach Fulmer for Sergeant Schultz and assume the persona of a "Hogan's Heroes" character---my money is on Newkirk, but I wouldn't rule out LeBeau---for the remainder of the game, confusing tailback Darren McFadden by asking him to send signals in to the huddle by telegraph and referring to the Hogs' star player as "Kinch." It isn't even altogether outside of the realm of probability that Coach Nutt will mistake Neyland Stadium for Monster Island, assume the role of Mothra, and attack the perceived Godzilla that is Coach Fulmer. The most surprising possibility of all, though, is the one I believe will happen: Arkansas will find a way to beat the Volunteers on the road.
Florida at South Carolina: At some point along the way, I was dumb enough to start believing in South Carolina. It isn't as though I didn't know better. In just my second posting on my first weblog, I predicted that newly-hired Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier would get the Palmetto State Poultry to the level of consistent mediocrity, which would represent a distinct improvement for the school with the least storied tradition in the Southeastern Conference. Even after Georgia's loss to South Carolina, I knew better, but, when I proved mistaken in my prediction that the Gamecocks would lose to Mississippi State, I began to believe and proceeded to pick the East Coast U.S.C. to take down Kentucky, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Arkansas in succession. South Carolina looked good in exactly one of those contests and the 'Cocks have dropped three in a row while I have persisted in picking them, in flagrant indifference to about 115 years' worth of U.S.C. football history. Well, you know what? I'm pulling the ol' switcheroo here! In order to eliminate any possibility of the Gators backing into a second straight Eastern Division crown, I'm picking Florida, secure in the knowledge that, if I pick the Fighting Fowl to upset the Evil Genius's alma mater, there's no chance South Carolina will win. Reverse contramojofication in action! Go 'Cocks! (Is it possible that our Eastern Division rivals from Columbia could sneak into the conference championship game with a win over Florida? According to our colleague over at Garnet and Black Attack, several things would have to happen in order for South Carolina to capture the division. For one thing, "[t]he Volunteers need to lose ne[x]t week to this same Arkansas team, then lose to Vanderbilt and BEAT Kentucky." For another, Kentucky "needs to lose to Vanderbilt, but beat Georgia and Tennessee." If I'm reading that right, I think it means South Carolina needs Tennessee to beat Kentucky and Kentucky to beat Tennessee. I'm pretty confident that only one of those things will happen, so Bulldog Nation may root against the Gators with willful abandon.)
South Carolina . . . they didn't invent the chicken, just the chicken-themed late-season collapse.
That, in my addled estimation, is what will happen in the course of the upcoming weekend's S.E.C. action, and there is no reason in the world why you ought not to trust the man who "covers the Dawgs in a more verbose fashion than anyone" . . . unless, of course, you count the facts that (a) my prognostications are unreliable even under normal circumstances and (b) 2007, like the subject of Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible," has been anything but typical. That being the case, I really cannot sum it up more succinctly than to say: Don't Bet On It!
Coming Soon: National Games of Interest.