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

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As observant readers have noted already, I forecast nothing but upsets in the S.E.C. last week . . . and my 4-2 record came this close to being a 6-0 mark in conference predictions for the second straight week.

Instead, I am now 58-10 in my S.E.C. prognostications this season, but, however nearly prescient they turned out to be, last week's crazed forecasts should have scared you out of assigning any weight to anything I had to say, so it scarcely needs to be noted that, when it comes to my November 11 conference predictions . . . Don't Bet On It!

This picture isn't relevant yet, so just think of it as foreshadowing.

Alabama at Louisiana State---How did this get to be the least compelling conference game of the weekend? The Crimson Tide winning in Baton Rouge used to be the surest bet in big-time sports, but that was before Ray Perkins's ex-quarterback was put in charge of restoring the Bear's legacy. Anyone who observes Mike Shula's postgame handshake with Les Miles will find it impossible to shake the conviction that there has not been this much Southeastern Conference sideline incompetence gathered in a single place since Bill Curry coached alone. The Red Elephants' 6-4 season has been eerily reminiscent of Georgia's similar campaign, which does not bode well for 'Bama as the Tide rolls into Tiger Stadium to face a Bayou Bengal squad on the upswing. Yes, L.S.U. is in for a letdown . . . but not that big a letdown. The Tigers have big fun on the bayou.

Vanderbilt at Kentucky---The only reason I didn't declare this one the national game of disinterest is that my alma mater lost to both of these teams. Actually, though, the Commodores and the Wildcats are better than you think. Bobby Johnson's 4-6 squad came up short by three points at Alabama, two points against Arkansas, seven points at Ole Miss, and six points against Florida and bowl-eligibility, while unlikely, is not out of the question. Rich Brooks's 5-4 team played Louisville and Florida tougher on the road than the final score indicated, lost to South Carolina by a touchdown, and almost certainly will make it into postseason play. In Lexington, a two-game winning streak is big news and I like the Wildcats to make it three in a row.

Kentucky is +9 in turnover margin this season, so, after the game is over and the Wildcats have won, Barry Manilow will be brought out to sing to the Commodores, "You came and you gave without taking and we sent you away, oh, Vandy."

Tennessee at Arkansas---The Vols are reeling, the Hogs are peaking, and, somewhere, Clint Stoerner is getting ready to sneak into his seat in the upper deck of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium like Kid Lester showing up at the football game at the end of "The Best of Times." I expect to see Phillip Fulmer standing on the sideline looking like a frustrated, befuddled, and perplexed Great Pumpkin while, across the field from him, an ecstatic Houston Nutt gyrates and gesticulates in random fits and starts like a belly dancer on P.C.P. at the Pentecost as Arkansas keeps it rolling in the Natural State, where life will prove to be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short for the visiting Volunteers.

South Carolina at Florida---A year ago, this seemed to me to be the surest call in all of college football. The Evil Genius could not more clearly have been inside the Urban Legend's head and it showed. Reasonable Georgia fans may differ over the significance of last year's game between the two S.E.C. East teams Steve Spurrier has coached, but that was then and this is now. For all his bluster and bravado, Darth Visor is still 25-30 in his last 55 games as a head football coach and, for all his unimpressive offensive output, the Urban Myth has managed to find a way to win with defense. (Who knew? Oh, that's right . . . like every other sensible football fan, I did.) You don't dangle a chicken in front of an alligator twice and come back with a whole bird. Florida gets its revenge in the Swamp.

Do age and guile beat youth, innocence, and a bad haircut? Not this year, they don't.

Those are this week's picks, which may seem only mildly daffy after last week's lunacy, but don't let the return to semi-sensibility fool you . . . my prognostications are not to be trusted, so, regardless of the circumstances, Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!