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

When forecasting the outcomes of last week's Southeastern Conference contests, I put you on notice that my abilities as a prognosticator are completely unreliable and no stock should be put in my predictions.

Some of you may interpret that statement as false humility, in light of the fact that I went 9-1 in last week's S.E.C. picks---10-1, if you count my call on the Georgia game (which I don't count, by the way)---but I can assure you that Labor Day weekend merely confirmed that even a broken clock is right twice a day. If anything, my success in my season-opening picks ought to make you even more wary than usual, as it probably means that I have gotten all of my sensible prognostications out of my system already.

Please bear that in mind when considering this coming weekend's forecasts and, as always, whatever you do . . . Don't Bet On It!

Texas State at Kentucky---The Wildcats are bad. They're really bad. The season is young, but already Kentucky ranks dead last in scoring defense and total defense among S.E.C. squads. The 'Cats, however, have one significant advantage over Texas State: Kentucky is an actual football team, while Texas State is a make-believe squad from a movie. When the other team doesn't really exist, Kentucky will win.

Let the "Necessary Roughness" jokes begin!

Utah State at Arkansas---The Aggies must have a soft spot for S.E.C. squads, as they regularly schedule road trips to take on a team from the league, absorbing drubbings from Georgia in 1999, L.S.U. in 2001, and Alabama in 2004 and 2005. Now the team from the W.A.C. will take a whack at facing Arkansas in the Natural State, where life for visiting teams oftentimes is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. The home team will be in Hog Heaven as the Razorbacks register their first victory of the season.

Air Force at Tennessee---How is it that the school located in a mountain range in Colorado isn't the one that adopted a fight song called "Rocky Top"? Fisher DeBerry is going to find out the hard way that the Tennessee Volunteers can run very, very well as Phil Fulmer's resurgent Big Orange squad steamrolls the hapless Falcons.

Central Florida at Florida---Except where certain universities named for cities (e.g., Auburn, Miami) are concerned, the general rule is this: "When University of State takes on University of Portion of Said State, pick University of State to win." Michigan beats Central Michigan, Georgia beats Georgia Southern, Tennessee beats Middle Tennessee, and Florida beats Central Florida.

George O'Leary will not be using U.C.F.'s game against the Gators to pad his resume . . . so to speak. (Photograph from The (Carlisle, Pa.) Sentinel.)

Vanderbilt at Alabama---This ought to be a great game . . . if it's being played in 1919. Otherwise, there's not much comparison, unless you count the fact that both teams lost their starting quarterbacks from last year. Given the talent differential separating these two squads, particularly on defense, the Crimson Tide are better able to compensate for Brodie Croyle's departure than the Commodores are capable of overcoming Jay Cutler's absence. I don't expect 'Bama to put up huge offensive numbers, but the Tide should roll to a convincing, if not overwhelming, victory at home.

Arizona at Louisiana State---Is there life in the Wildcats? It's hard to believe that a team coached by a Stoops could be kept down for long and Arizona's last-second win over B.Y.U. is bound to give the squad a lift. Unfortunately for 'Zona, no S.E.C. team has owned the Pac-10 like L.S.U. in recent years. In the last three seasons, the Fighting Tigers have claimed wins over Arizona in 2003, Oregon State in 2004, and Arizona State in 2005, with two of those three wins coming on the road. That trend continues as the Bayou Bengals come out on top in this battle of ferocious felines.

Auburn at Mississippi State---Believe it or not, the squad from Starkville defeated the squad from the so-called Loveliest Village four straight times between 1997 and 2000 . . . but the Bulldogs haven't beaten the Plainsmen in the 21st century and their last four losses to the Tigers have come by margins of 42-14, 45-13, 35-14, and 28-0, respectively. What part of last Thursday's performance by M.S.U. could lead anyone to believe this year's meeting will be any different? Auburn wins the Functional Illiteracy Bowl by a comfortable margin.


Unfortunately, we don't live in a world in which character and class beat big ears, better talent, and a century of cheating.

Mississippi at Missouri---This intersectional matchup could be the start of a new trend . . . every Division I-A team from a flagship state university goes on the road to play the next team after it alphabetically. Michigan travels to Minnesota, Minnesota travels to Mississippi, Mississippi travels to Missouri, Missouri travels to Nebraska, Nebraska travels to Nevada . . . hey, wait a minute; some of those games happen already, don't they? Nevermind. I'm proud of the Rebels for gutting out a win over Memphis and Ole Miss certainly looked better on Sunday than they have looked in a long time. Considering the way the Tigers have underachieved historically, given the strengths that ought to accompany Missouri's location, population, and league affiliation, this should be a golden opportunity for Mississippi to claim a big win . . . but, honestly, how much faith can we realistically place in the Rebels to be victorious on the road in a non-conference game against a B.C.S. league opponent? Ole Miss hasn't won such an outing in the regular season since beating then-Southwest Conference opponent Arkansas at Little Rock in 1990. Missouri loves company as the Tigers win at home.

Take those predictions for what they're worth---which isn't much---and, lest you feel tempted to place a wager or two based upon my forecasts, let me caution you, as always: Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!