It’s game week here at Dawg Sports, which means MaconDawg and I get to resume our usual autumn routine. I’ve already provided you with conference championship forecasts and general college football predictions, so now it is time to predict the outcomes of this weekend’s games, starting with those taking place in the SEC.
Two points should be borne in mind. First of all, I pick the games straight up rather than against the spread. Secondly, I’m really, really bad at this. Accordingly, each round of prognostications is accompanied by a disclaimer reminding you that these picks are for your entertainment, not your edification, so, please, whatever you do . . . Don’t Bet On It!
Here are this weekend’s games involving SEC teams not located in Clarke County, Georgia, all of which will be played on Saturday, September 4, unless otherwise indicated:
Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at Arkansas Razorbacks: I probably know a little more about Tennessee Tech than the average SEC fan, so I feel safe in saying that this is the lone pertinent datum regarding the Golden Eagles: Georgia shut them out last year while fielding the worst defense ever in the whole history of ever. The Hogs may break triple-digits in this one.
Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks at Tennessee Volunteers: I love beginning the season with traditional in-state rivalry matchups. Colorado opens with Colorado State, Kentucky opens with Louisville, and, of course, the competing campuses of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Martin annually square off in a battle for local bragging rights . . . oh, wait. Tennessee-Martin is a patsy opponent from a lower division, isn’t it? In that case, I’m going with the Volunteers.
Jacksonville St. Gamecocks at Mississippi Rebels: Ole Miss fields a quarterback who has run out of second chances after a few too many run-ins with the law. Jacksonville State boasts a mascot that pays homage to the brutal practice of having animals fight one another to the death. Is this a football game or a writers’ meeting to fine-tune the script for "The Michael Vick Story"? Assuming it’s the former, I’m going with the Rebels in this clash of politically-incorrect mascots.
San Jose St. Spartans at Alabama Crimson Tide: Apparently, this game resulted from a miscommunication in the athletic offices in Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban told the assistant athletic director in charge of non-conference scheduling to arrange a game against the Spartans to help get the defending national champions in shape. Unfortunately, the assistant athletic director thought he meant San Jose State, when Coach Saban in fact meant the ruthless warriors of the militaristic Greek city-state that fought in the Peloponnesian War. Despite being disappointed in the caliber of the opposition, the Tide will roll.
Arkansas St. Red Wolves at Auburn Tigers: Here’s a fact I’ll bet you didn’t know: Arkansas State’s athletics teams were known by the nicknames "Aggies," "Farmers," "Gorillas," "Warriors," and "Indians" before adopting their current "Red Wolves" nomenclature a couple of years ago. Yes, that’s right: Auburn finally gets to face an opponent whose mascot inconsistencies the Plainsmen/War Eagle/Tigers get to mock. Also, Auburn will beat the Red Wolves senseless.
Memphis Tigers at Mississippi St. Bulldogs: Mississippi State pretty much had to schedule a game against Memphis, because playing in the SEC West didn’t give the Bulldogs enough chances to play teams nicknamed "Tigers." The visitors have a history of playing Magnolia State opponents tough, but Memphis is rebuilding and Mississippi State looks relatively solid, so I’m going with the home team.
Miami (Ohio) RedHawks at Florida Gators: Urban Meyer was born in Ohio, attended the University of Cincinnati, and coached at Bowling Green. Is there any chance we can talk him into leaving Florida and taking over the Miami (Ohio) program after the game? Hey, it’d be a much lower stress level than he encounters in the SEC, and I’m concerned about Coach Meyer’s health. We all are. He should take it easy, and ain’t noplace in college football where they take it easier than they do in the MAC. Forget New Orleans; Ohio is the real "Big Easy." They’re easy like Sunday morning. You know what they eat for supper in the Mid-American Conference? Kraft Easy Mac, that’s what. What’s that you say, Urban? You’re fit as a fiddle and ready for any challenge? Well, then what’re you doing at a Johnny-come-lately program like Florida, for crying out loud? They never won a conference championship they were allowed to keep until 1991! No, Miami (Ohio) is where the tradition is. The Gators? They have Steve Spurrier and, um, did we mention Steve Spurrier? Miami (Ohio), though, is the "Cradle of Coaches." Paul Brown? Weeb Ewbank? Ara Parseghian? Bo Schembechler? Woody Hayes? Seriously, Urb, leave Gainesville already, will you? Oh, just forget it; guide the Gators to victory on Saturday, and we’ll see you in October, darn your hide!
Kentucky Wildcats at Louisville Cardinals: There is no doubt in my mind that Charlie Strong will prove to be a better head coach than Joker Phillips over the long haul. However, Coach Phillips has only to maintain the stability of a program that has used soft scheduling and improved recruiting to become a perennial Music City Bowl contender, whereas Coach Strong has to rebuild a FEMA disaster area of a program about which the best that can be said is that it isn’t Syracuse. While I prefer Louisville’s future prospects, I’m picking Kentucky this weekend.
Northwestern Wildcats at Vanderbilt Commodores: I really get sick and tired of all the sanctimonious pontificating directed southward from Midwestern gridiron partisans, particularly since we all know that the SEC is the most underrated conference in college football, but I will concede one thing to the Big Ten: their highbrow private school that doesn’t really belong in the league fields a better football team than our highbrow private school that doesn’t really belong in the league, so I’m going with Northwestern to win this one.
Southern Miss. Golden Eagles at South Carolina Gamecocks (Thurs., Sept. 2): The school that produced the NFL’s most indecisive quarterback travels to take on the team led by the college football coach who is most indecisive about his quarterbacks. Fortunately, there is no need to waffle over this prediction, as we have seen this script play out the same way pretty much in every Thursday-night season-opener since Steve Spurrier took up residence in the Palmetto State: Southern Mississippi will hang with South Carolina through three low-scoring quarters, giving viewers just enough reason to believe the Golden Eagles can pull off the upset, but, at the end of the day, the Evil Genius will put the game away with a single long downfield pass that enables the Gamecocks to card a ten-point victory in a game that was closer than the final score indicated.
LSU Tigers v. North Carolina Tar Heels (at Atlanta, Ga.): I saved the best for last, because this is the marquee matchup in the SEC this weekend. Neutral site! Conference contenders! Teams looking for breakthroughs! Multiple starters relegated to the scout team in the wake of an ongoing scandal! Wait . . . what? Oh, yeah, the Bayou Bengals are going to roll them up and smoke them, aren’t they?
Those are my forecasts for (an admittedly lame) opening weekend of college football, but, no matter how much trust you feel inclined to repose in my judgment, I must caution you, as always, not to confuse me with anyone who has the slightest idea what in the Sam Hill he is saying; succinctly stated, the rule of thumb is as follows: Don’t Bet On It!
Coming Soon: National Games of Interest.