Don't Bet On It: Around the S.E.C.

Last weekend was a great weekend. Georgia won, Georgia Tech and Steve Spurrier both lost, Auburn and Florida both struggled with lesser opposition, my brother-in-law and I correctly answered the Aflac trivia question from the Michigan-Penn State game, and Dawg Sports is brimming with quality diaries. All, in short, is right with the world.

Except, of course, for my prognostications, which, as usual, stunk.

(Artist's rendering of my picks.)

Oh, all right, I did O.K. in my S.E.C. forecasts, posting a 5-1 record to improve my league ledger for the season thus far to 25-6, but I misread just about every game. I foresaw easy wins for the Plainsmen, the Gators, and the Bayou Bengals, as well as a victory for the Razorbacks. In reality, Florida led 27-24 after three quarters, L.S.U. led by a single touchdown until a fake field goal padded the Louisiana State lead, Auburn clung to a 21-20 halftime lead over New Mexico State, and Arkansas lost.

That should cement in your mind the certitude that I have no idea what the heck I'm talking about when it comes to college football, but, out of an abundance of caution, I still will issue my usual warning regarding the degree of credence you should lend to my predictions; namely: Don't Bet On It!

These are this week's S.E.C. games, excluding Georgia's upcoming home date with the Rebels, about which more anon:

Eastern Michigan at Vanderbilt: Last fall, you may recall, the Commodores opened the season with a road trip to Ann Arbor, where they lost to the Maize and Blue by a 27-7 final margin. This is the return game from Vandy's home-and-home deal with the Wolverines, who have rebounded nicely from a disastrous 0-2 start and who are venturing into the South for the first time since . . . hang on a minute. Eastern Michigan? Who the heck is Eastern Michigan? Isn't the Great Lake State more tall than wide, anyway? Why in the world are the directional state schools running left-to-right instead of top-to-bottom in the first place? There's no good reason why this school even exists, much less why it has a Division I-A football team, much less why its Division I-A football team is coming to play Vanderbilt. This whole thing is ridiculous; I'm picking the Commies just because I can locate Nashville on a map and Vandy at least has a legitimate justification for its existence.

The football teams from Eastern Michigan University have been known, in succession, as the Normalites, the Men From Ypsi, the Hurons, and the Eagles. With such a sequence of lame names, how is it that no one ever thought to call the team the E.M.U. Emu?

North Texas at Arkansas: Houston Nutt seems like he's walking an emotional tightrope between herky-jerky and just plain crazy even on his best day . . . and it's probably been three or four years since he's had anything that might have qualified as his best day. After enduring an offseason that even Cincinnati Bengals fans thought was harsh, Coach Nutt has seen late leads squandered in back-to-back losses to Alabama and Kentucky. By this point, Coach Nutt has to have been driven stark raving bonkers, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him standing on the sideline staring wild-eyed and unblinking into nothingness while rolling ball bearings around in his palm, muttering about strawberries and yellow dye markers, concocting harebrained conspiracy theories only slightly less half-baked than the ceaseless ludicrousness that has been life in the Arkansas program these last few months, and constantly asking a graduate assistant to check and re-check the Mean Green media guide to make sure he isn't facing a third straight team that used to be coached by Bear Bryant, whose ghost he claims has visited him and told him to off his uncle so he can ascend to the throne of Denmark. Fortunately, North Texas will pose no challenge for the Hogs, even if Coach Nutt decides at mid-week to turn over the play-calling duties to Chief Bromden, so Arkansas is a safe bet to win this one.

Louisiana State at Tulane: I think it's cute the way the Fighting Tigers continue to play their in-state rival, even though the Green Wave no longer competes in the same conference or at the same level as L.S.U. It reminds me of the way Georgia still plays Georgia Tech. Anyway, the Bayou Bengals are on autopilot at this point and this is nothing more than a dress rehearsal for the following Saturday's huge showdown with the defending national champion Gators. The Tigers can name their score in what will be an unmitigated whipping.

Sooner or later, the sheer unbridled dufusness of Les Miles is going to cost L.S.U. a football game . . . but it won't be against Tulane.

Florida Atlantic at Kentucky: The Wildcats have won nine of their last ten games. That can't be right. Can that be right? Let's see . . . Mississippi State, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Monroe, Clemson, Eastern Kentucky, Kent State, Louisville, Arkansas . . . well, I'll be danged; that is right. I don't know what the heck Rich Brooks did during Kentucky's October 21 open date last year, but, since that time, his 'Cats have dropped only a 17-12 road game against Outback Bowl-bound Tennessee. Well, son of a gun. Who would've thought? Hey, I know better than to mess with a streak . . . I'm going with Kentucky to win this one, for sure.

Mississippi State at South Carolina: One of these teams took a licking from Louisiana State but upended a storied division rival on the road and won less than thoroughly impressive games over a Division I-AA opponent and a marginal Division I-A squad to run its record to 3-1. The other of these teams has a chicken for a mascot. The Gamecocks are smarting from their loss in Baton Rouge and they will face a short week leading up to their looming October 4 date with Kentucky in a key Thursday night Eastern Division matchup. Sylvester Croom has his squad playing with confidence and flying under the radar. The Gamecocks seldom have shown an ability to handle success and I think they're about to get caught napping by a Bulldog squad that is going to score an upset in Columbia.

Steve Spurrier, you are about to be Croomed.

Auburn at Florida: Oh, yeah, this is going to be a ballgame! An upset on the Plains was all that stood between the Gators and an undefeated 2006 season. The game is being played at The Swamp and the home team is apt to be fighting mad after performing poorly in Oxford last Saturday. The Tigers sandwiched losses to South Florida and Mississippi State between poor performances against Kansas State and New Mexico State. Tommy Tuberville's team has yet to play a road game this autumn. This one has all the earmarks---sorry, Tubs; it's just an expression---of a Gator beatdown.

Alabama v. Florida State: That Nick Saban is a shrewd one. He knew he would be facing Bobby Bowden one week after facing Mark Richt. He knew Coach Richt knows how to win on the road. He knew Coach Richt was a protégé of Coach Bowden. He therefore had to know that, if the Crimson Tide lost to the Bulldogs, there would be a phone call from Tallahassee to Athens seeking advice on how to beat 'Bama. So what did Coach Saban do? Yep . . . he arranged to have the Tide's showdown with the Seminoles take place in Jacksonville, Florida, the one venue in which Coach Richt has proven powerless to prevail. The Armani Bear craftily came up with a glowing green hunk of kryptonite to ward off any possibility of a second straight setback against a Mark Richt-prepared game plan and that sly strategy will serve Alabama well. I believe it is agreed by Georgia fans and Alabama fans alike that Nick Saban is a capable coach who is taking the Crimson Tide in the right direction and an overtime loss to one of the top coaches and arguably the top program in the Southeastern Conference does not change that fact. Coach Saban will stay the course, right the ship, and satisfy numerous other seafaring metaphors by the St. John's River when the Tide comes in and swamps the Seminoles.

Do you suppose Bobby Bowden keeps up with what Britney Spears is doing with her life by listening to eBay?

Those are my hopelessly nonsensical forecasts, to which you should attribute no validity whatsoever. By no means should you ascribe to my predictions sufficient credit to use them as a basis for wagering on the outcomes I have anticipated, so, whatever you do, please . . . Don't Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Games of Interest. . . .

Go 'Dawgs!

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