You can’t say I didn’t warn you. When offering my initial set of Southeastern Conference picks for the season, I issued my usual disclaimer, informing you that I was an awful prognosticator and that you should heed my advice: Don’t Bet On It!
Well, now you know why. I went 8-4 straight up, and that was with a slate chock full of Division I-AA and Sun Belt gimmes, plus my prediction straight out of left field that "Dooley’s Dogs"---that would be Derek Dooley’s Louisiana Tech Bulldogs---would upend the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Ruston. In my defense, though, how could I have foreseen Tennessee coming up short on the West Coast or Clemson choking in a big game? Oh . . . right.
In any case, here are this week’s S.E.C. picks. The Georgia game will be the subject of a separate posting and will not count toward the overall standings (for me, I mean, not for, like, the team). Each of the following games will be played on Saturday, September 6, unless otherwise indicated:
Norfolk State at Kentucky: Let us not mince words here. The Wildcats looked positively awful against Louisville, a reality which was only mildly ameliorated by the fact that the Cardinals looked absolutely atrocious. (I mean that literally. What U. of L. did on that football field was an atrocity. If that Bluegrass battle had occurred between the Hutus and the Tutsis, it would have constituted a war crime.) Out of the suppurating putrescent mass of that game occasionally oozed a defense-like substance which seeped intermittently from the ‘Cats, but the truth of the matter is that Louisville lost a football game and Kentucky merely happened to be on the opposite side of the field when it happened. Even so, though, the Wildcats will win because the general rule applies to Norfolk State: if a team is named "_______ State" and the word in the blank is not, in fact, a state, that team will lose to a B.C.S. conference team, no matter how bad.
Arkansas at Louisiana-Monroe: Arkansas at Louisiana-Monroe? Did I read that correctly? What could possibly justify allowing the Warhawks to host the Razorbacks? I mean, aside from the fact that the Hogs needed to score two touchdowns in the final eight minutes to avoid being upset at home by Western Illinois in week one and the fact that U.L.M. beat Alabama last year. Yeah, O.K., I guess the ‘Hawks are entitled to have Arkansas visit their place, where the home team will give the visitors a run for their money before coming up short against the Razorbacks. (Hey, wait a minute . . . I just checked again and it says "@ Louisiana-Monroe" with an asterisk that notes "at Little Rock." Since when is Little Rock at Louisiana-Monroe? Arkansas doesn’t get to count a home game as a road game! What is this . . . the Iron Bowl?)
Tulane at Alabama: Well, this should be a nailbiter . . . in 1937! During the period of history in which we refer to the armed conflict of the late 1910s as "World War I," however, there is little question that the superior maritime motion is the Crimson Tide rather than the Green Wave.
Troy at Louisiana State: With all due respect to the sister states to our immediate left, we here in Georgia like to tell an old joke about the man from Alabama who moved to Mississippi and raised the I.Q. of both states. Well, Tony Franklin may be that guy in reverse, as Auburn’s new offensive coordinator moved from the Trojans to the Plainsmen and worsened the offenses of both teams. Not that the Bayou Bengals needed the help, but the Fighting Tigers will hold Troy fairly well in check. I mean, Troy is just one guy, right?
Well, how do you like that? I made a joke about stupidity when picking an L.S.U. game and I didn’t take a cheap shot at Les Miles. Who ever would have thought it?
Southeastern Louisiana at Mississippi State: I have a theory that, if you were lost in the Pelican State, it would be a waste of time and money for you to purchase a map or stop to ask which way is which. All you have to do is drive until you run into a college and the name of the post-secondary institution will serve as your guide, as the Louisiana university system incorporates into its nomenclature every directional point on the compass. Had Alfred Hitchcock set a thriller in Cajun country, it would have been called "North by Natchitoches." As for the student-athletes from Hammond, they represent the last, best hope for the Western Division Bulldogs to claim victory over a team from Louisiana this season, so M.S.U. will make the most---well, O.K., not quite "the most"; more like "just enough"---of its opportunity.
U.A.B. at Tennessee: The bad news for the Volunteers is that former Big Orange offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe is in Durham. The good news for the Vols is that former Georgia offensive coordinator Neil Callaway is in Birmingham. Although the Blazers played U.T. within a touchdown in 2005, Phillip Fulmer’s crew came back from the Golden State madder than a brood of wet hens---yes, an arrangement of a multitude of hens is a brood---and the only thing for which U.A.B. Volunteered is a whooping.
South Carolina at Vanderbilt (Thursday, September 4): I doubt that you will ever see a worse performance by a team in a 34-0 victory over a B.C.S. conference opponent than that which was given to us as a cruel mockery of football in last Thursday night’s opening outing in Williams-Brice Stadium. I would be tempted to take the Commodores on the basis of home field advantage, were it not for the fact that Vandy has no home field advantage. All they actually have in the Music City is Clemson alumnus Bobby Johnson, who is 89 days away from being named the head coach at his alma mater, where he will succeed Tommy Bowden, who is 88 days away from being fired. Coach Johnson certainly wouldn’t hurt his cause with a second straight win over the Gamecocks, but, for the depleted ‘Dores, that simply isn’t going to happen. The victory will belong to South Carolina as Spurrier’s ‘Cocks beat Vanderbilt’s Johnson. (Sorry. You were thinking it, too.)
Of course, it’s not like they’re some great team or something. They’ve lost four straight games against S.E.C. competition.
Southern Mississippi at Auburn: Only two things cause me hesitation in picking this game. The first is the fact that the Tigers were less than overwhelming in their opener---which, to be fair, LSU Jonno warned me would be the case---and the second is that I heard Brett Favre unretired. If he went back to quarterbacking the Golden Eagles, I’d definitely have to think about picking U.S.M. to register the upset, even if Favre is, like, Chris Weinke old. (Actually, Favre is eleven months younger than me, which is way too old to be playing quarterback anywhere outside your back yard.) Anyway, the War Eagle will win. I hate Auburn.
Ole Miss at Wake Forest: From the bottom all the way up to the top upper portion of the bottom, the Atlantic Coast Conference stinks. Unfortunately, at least for the short term, so do the Rebels. The Demon Deacons represent a step up in weight class for Mississippi from last week’s opponent and I don’t like the Rebs’ chances away from Oxford this early in the season. I can only hope the game is televised in New York, so Rebel Craig can go through the stages of game day, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross-style, while chanting, "Hotty totty, gosh a mighty, is it already fall? Why the heck are we playing the A.C.C.? Is this basketball?" Regrettably, Wake Forest will win.
Miami (Florida) at Florida: The corollary to the rule that you never pick a team called "State" if the other part of its name isn’t actually a state is this: you typically don’t want to pick the part to get the better of the whole. Where the game is between Team X and Team Lesser Included Segment of X, go with Team X. Thus, you choose Georgia over Georgia Southern, Texas over North Texas, and Florida over Miami (Florida).
If you disagree with those prognostications---and, surely, you do---you may take comfort from the knowledge that even I know I have no idea what I’m talking about a good 50 per cent of the time, so feel free to discount the foregoing, which is offered for your entertainment and not your edification. In other words . . . Don’t Bet On It!
Coming soon: National Games of Interest.