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Don't Bet On It: Around the S.E.C.

Earlier this week, I predicted the results of the national games of interest and identified the national game of disinterest, so, at long last, it is time to go around the S.E.C.

No, we're not going around the Securities and Exchange Commission, wiseacre.

(I hope you will pardon me if I sound a bit addled-minded in this week's picks, but I have written this as I watched the Central Florida-Marshall game and, while listening to Lou Holtz interview Matthew McConaughey as no one was providing play-by-play for the first five minutes of the second half, I could literally feel myself getting dumber.)

I went 5-1 in last week's picks---blast your hide, Chippewas!---and thereby brought my prognosticating record to 34-6 in S.E.C. picks and 64-16 overall. Despite enjoying a modicum of success in forecasting outcomes, however, I must caution you, as always, that, when it comes to my predictions . . . Don't Bet On It!

Here are this week's Southeastern Conference picks. Each of these games is slated to be played on Saturday, October 7:

Duke at Alabama---At last, the Crimson Tide will be given the opportunity to exact vengeance on the Blue Devils for stealing Wallace Wade away from Tuscaloosa after the 1930 season. The Red Elephants' non-conference slate isn't casting the S.E.C. in a very good light, but at least it makes it easy to predict the outcomes of their non-league games. 'Bama wins handily.

West Virginia at Mississippi State---It's the Banjo Bowl! Everybody in the stadium will bring a date but no one will be paired with anyone who isn't a blood relative. If you have small children in your home, please send them out of the room while this game is on the air. The Mountaineers, coming off of an open date and recognizing the need to make a statement in a road game at an S.E.C. venue, will roll into Starkville to face an M.S.U. team that gives up almost 350 yards per game. This one is going to get completely out of hand very early and it will stay that way until the bitter end. The Mountaineers love the smell of smoldering sofas in the morning . . . they smell like victory!

This guy will be playing the halftime show.

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss---Since the advent of divisional play in the conference in 1992, this has developed into one of the more competitive series in the S.E.C., as half of the last dozen games between the Commodores and the Rebels have been decided by a touchdown or less and only one has been settled by as many as 13 points. While we're on the subject of history, it should also be noted (much to the Commodores' chagrin) that seafaring military men haven't enjoyed much success against Rebels in the Magnolia State since David Farragut was stationed there. Although I expect a tight ballgame, I look for Mississippi to win at home.

South Carolina at Kentucky---Believe it or not, this one actually matters . . . not just for these two teams, but for the whole conference. Both the Gamecocks and the Wildcats are sitting at 3-2 and, after this Saturday's outing, each squad has three winnable games in its last six scheduled contests. The winner will remain in bowl contention while the loser's postseason prospects will be in serious jeopardy. Kentucky is decent enough when the 'Cats have the ball, scoring over 30 points per game and matching Florida for the league's most passing T.D.s, but U.K. is atrocious on D, occupying last place in the conference in scoring defense, pass defense, rush defense, and total defense. With Syvelle Newton adding some spark to the Gamecocks' offense, I believe South Carolina will win on the road.

Regrettably, a Gamecock victory will deprive me of the opportunity to make a "Kentucky Fried Chicken" joke at the expense of the Palmetto State Poultry.

Arkansas at Auburn---The Razorbacks travel to the Plains for this clash of marauding mascots. This game presents a study in contrasts from a coaching standpoint, as Tommy Tuberville is a buttoned-down corporate C.E.O. who learned organizational skills and hair care tips from Jimmy Johnson and Houston Nutt is a crazed snake oil salesman performing Twyla Tharp interpretive dance routines on the sidelines while gibbering incoherently like Humphrey Bogart testifying about strawberries and yellow dye markers in "The Caine Mutiny." The teams display divergent styles, as well: Auburn is good and Arkansas isn't. I'll be rooting for the Hogs, but, being realistic about it, I have to conclude that the Plainsmen will win.

Louisiana State at Florida---The Fighting Tigers have looked virtually invincible on the Bayou, but how will they fare in the Swamp? L.S.U. and U.F. field two of the S.E.C.'s top four scoring offenses and two of the league's top four scoring defenses, so something will have to give. In light of the Gators' tendency towards starting slowly in this season's games, I believe that something will be the home team as Louisiana State wins a slugfest in Gainesville.

The only real question is whether this goober can manage to foul it up for his team. (Photograph from

Those are my picks for this weekend's Southeastern Conference contests. Do with them what you will, but, no matter what, please, for everyone's sake . . . Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!