My 5-3 ledger in last week’s SEC forecasts dropped my record for the season in conference predictions to 22-6, while my 4-2 mark in last week’s national picks stranded me at 12-5 in such games for the autumn.
This week’s prognostications will be a bit different. In the midst of all the conference expansion hullabaloo, and on a weekend that offers very few noteworthy games outside of the Southeastern United States, I’m declaring all but nine contests (including the Georgia-Ole Miss tilt in Oxford, of course) the national games of disinterest, and I’m picking the outcomes only of games involving current or future SEC squads. (See what I did there?) These are they:
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Mississippi St. Bulldogs: I’m definitely going with the Bulldogs. Everything about this game is breaking in favor of Dan Mullen’s team: MSU will have had nine days to stew over their loss to Louisiana State; Louisiana Tech is reeling after losing to Houston in a game in which the Bulldogs held a 34-7 lead; and the Starkville squad managed to land a rare home game against a mid-major. For those reasons, I’m picking Mississippi State to take care of business.
Florida Atlantic Owls at Auburn Tigers: This game poses a bit of a problem for me; I try to be a relatively family-friendly sports blogger, but that’s something of a challenge when I am confronted with the necessity of using the abbreviation "FAU" in a posting involving Auburn University. Now that the Plainsmen’s winning streak is over, will the Owls be in a position to execute the great Utah State upset successfully? I tend to think it will go the opposite way: Auburn, angry over the setback suffered in Death Valley, will trounce Florida Atlantic.
Florida Gators at Kentucky Wildcats: This should be a seesaw battle between two strong squads, though you would have to give the edge to the ‘Cats in Lexington. Wait, these aren’t the teams coached by Billy Donovan and John Calipari? They’re the teams coached by Will Muschamp and Joker Phillips? Oh, yeah, the Gators are going to annihilate Kentucky.
Vanderbilt Commodores at South Carolina Gamecocks: The way things are going this season, this game really could decide the SEC East. Don’t think about that for very long, or you’ll give yourself a headache or convince yourself that the end of the world is nigh. The Commies certainly got everyone’s attention by thumping Ole Miss, but that probably only means the ’Cocks will be especially focused in Columbia.
Florida St. Seminoles at Clemson Tigers: So there’s no way I can convince the Florida fans and the South Carolina fans they’d be better off if the Tribe and the Country Gentlemen joined the SEC, because it would mean their in-state rivalries would now be conference games, freeing up a spot on the schedule for an extra patsy, while Georgia would be forced to play a full league slate and a non-conference game against Georgia Tech? No? Yeah, all right, fair point. Still, this ought to be a good game, though I expect the wounded and angry ’Noles to edge the resurgent and ebullient Tigers.
LSU Tigers at West Virginia Mountaineers: I don’t know whether it’s true that West Virginia was rejected by the SEC, but the reports that the Mountaineers were spurned mean the Bayou Bengals are going to find Morgantown more rowdy than usual, which is saying something. If Louisiana State hadn’t looked so dominant defensively last week, in a Thursday night game that gave LSU two additional days to prepare, I’d probably pick WVU in the upset, but, as it stands, I’m taking the Tigers to prevail.
Arkansas Razorbacks at Alabama Crimson Tide: These two Western Division heavyweights finally are ready actually to begin the autumn after negotiating three-game preseason slates. To the Tide’s credit, though, Nick Saban’s crew tried to schedule one legitimate early-season opponent, and it isn’t their fault Penn State turned out to be awful. With all due respect to the Hogs, I’m not picking against ’Bama in Tuscaloosa.
Oklahoma St. Cowboys at Texas A&M Aggies: The Big 12 farewell tour continues with this clash between two top eight teams. When it was a true showdown between conference rivals, this one was a toss-up, but, now that it’s a confrontation between a pot-smoking, tree-hugging, hippie Pac-16 team and a gun-wielding, Bible-toting, meat-eating SEC team, there’s no doubt in my mind the Aggies will win.
Those are the predictions you’re getting this week, because there simply aren’t any quality contests that don’t involve teams that now are, or soon should be, in the Southeastern Conference. Accuse me of being a league homer if you must, but, whatever you do, . . . Don’t Bet On It!