Can you believe that real, honest-to-god SEC football is less than 50 hours away? That means it's time for us to get down to the business of picking college football games against the spread. Before we do, I'm contractually obligated to offer you the following disclaimer: Don't Bet on It! It isn't just the name of the column; it's sound advice. No one knows anything about how good any of these teams will actually be, least of all me.
No. 9 South Carolina (-7) at Vanderbilt (Thursday)
The first SEC game of the season is also somehow a meteor game for the bulldog nation. James Franklin may be a good coach, but he did not endear himself to us in his first year. And Steve Spurrier is, well, Steve Spurrier. Since none of the sportsbooks have set odds on a massive sinkhole opening at Dudley Field and swallowing both teams, I'll just have to take the Cocks to cover.
Texas A&M (-7.5) v Louisiana Tech (Thursday)
The WAC Bulldogs may be the favorites to win their conference's final season, but the Aggies have SEC speed now. New coach Kevin Sumlin gets things off to a solid start as Texas A&M covers.
Tennessee (-4) v NC State (Friday)
"Rocky Top" is a double entendre for Derek Dooley entering his third season as the top man at Tennessee. The recent suspension of Da'Rick Rogers isn't going to make his life any easier. Fortunately for Precious, he gets to open the season against a team that that lost to Wake Forest and Boston College last year. The Vols cover, and Double D keeps his job for at leat another week.
Central Arkasansas at Ole Miss (N/A)
Jackson State at Mississippi State (N/A)
SE Louisiana at Missouri (N/A)
Jacksonville State at Arkansas (N/A)
Vegas can't be bothered to set a spread on any of these cupcake games, so let's just assume that our conference brethren take care of business in week 1.
Bowling Green State at Florida (-29)
Even with Charlie Weiss running the offense, Florida still managed to win their out-of-conference games by an average of 33 points last year. New OC Brent Pease is bringing the Boise State playbook to the Swamp, and he actually has a history of turning out solid college offenses. The Gators cover. (vineyarddawg hates Florida.)
North Texas at LSU (-43)
The Bayou Bengals may have lost Tyrann Mathieu for the season, but former Bulldog Zach Mettenberger is a huge improvement at quarterback. With a spread like this, normally I'd take the points, but I'm guessing that LSU will take out some aggression from their long offseason on the Mean Green.
Michigan v Alabama (-12.5) (In the Jerry Dome)
The reigning national champions lost 11 starters, but they might be bringing back the best offensive line in the country. Year 2 is usually the time when new coaches hit their stride, but I'm thinking Brady Hoke is going to have a sophomore slump, especially since the Wolverines' starting RB has been suspended indefinitely for an offseason DUI. (Mark Richt has lost control of the Ann Arbor PD!) Denard Robinson won't be able to work his magic against the best defense he's ever seen. The Tide roll through their opener.
Clemson v Auburn (+3) (At the Georgia Dome)
From the prognosticator's point-of-view, this is both the most interesting and the most frustrating contest of the week. Betting on Clemson is almost always a losing proposition, and they're rebuilding both lines. But Auburn is replacing both its offensive and defensive coordinators. But replacing Ted Roof with Brian Van Gorder is obviously an improvement. But replacing Gus Malzahn with Scott Loefler could be a step down. When in doubt, take the SEC team with talent in the trenches over the inconsistent ACC team. Like Cassanova McKinzy, I'm taking Auburn and the points. (Kyle hates Auburn.)
Kentucky at Louisville (-14) (sunday)
I've had this game circled on my calendar for months. Two of the most successful programs in the country are facing off in... wait, you mean basketball season doesn't start for another three months? Then I'm taking Louisville to cover. Charlie Strong has a solid, young team coming back this year, led by promising sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater. Joker Phillips, on the other hand, has no real playmakers with whom to work. This in-state showdown could get ugly.