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

The mood in Bulldog Nation is not pretty, so I am pleased to be able to report the good news that, as badly as everything else went this past weekend, I still succeeded in posting a 7-0 record in last week's S.E.C. forecasts, bringing my conference mark for the season to 36-9.

That, though, is merely proof that even a blind hog finds the occasional truffle, so please do not mistake my random success for actual ability. As always, you are encouraged to heed my regular advice: Don't Bet On It!

Really, would you want to be placing wagers in the most topsy-turvy college football season since 1990?

Here are my prognostications in October 13's Southeastern Conference contests:

Alabama at Mississippi: Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer. Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. What rough beast, its hour come 'round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? That rough beast would be Ed Orgeron, although his slouching was in the direction of Oxford rather than Bethlehem, and Coach O considers it a good thing that the center cannot hold, because that would draw a ten-yard penalty against an Ole Miss offense already ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in scoring. Enter the Armani Bear: Nick Saban was slated for sainthood after a 3-0 start, but two losses and an underwhelming performance against Houston in Alabama's last three outings have caused the rising Tide---or, at least, the fans' expectations of the Red Elephants---to subside somewhat. Fortunately for Coach Saban, in coaching, as in the poetry of William Butler Yeats, the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity, so 'Bama should have little trouble taking care of the Rebels.

South Carolina at North Carolina: Finally, the unification bout for which all of us have been waiting! The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 led to East Germany's re-absorption into West Germany; perhaps now Americans will catch the wave begun in Europe nearly two decades ago. If this title fight to reunite the Carolinas succeeds, who knows where it might lead? Virginia might make a bid to reclaim West Virginia and North Dakota might take a stab at hooking up with its neighbor to the south and getting in on a little of that Mount Rushmore action. The Gamecocks and the Tar Heels are led by successful college coaches who fell far short of expectations in the N.F.L. before coming back to campus and both squads are coming off of huge conference wins. There, however, the similarities end: North Carolina is no more comparable to South Carolina as a football team than South Carolina is comparable to North Carolina as an educational institution. Unless TH gives himself alcohol poisoning, I look for the Palmetto State Poultry to win handily in Chapel Hill and hasten the U.N.C. faithful's countdown to basketball season.

Don't worry. This sort of thing will be back in . . . what? A week? A month? I really don't keep up with basketball. Help me out here, MaconDawg. . . .

Tennessee at Mississippi State: Frankly, I don't want to think about the Volunteers for a while, if you don't mind, so just let me pick the Big Orange to win and move on, thank you very much.

Auburn at Arkansas: As if the juxtaposition of Nick Saban and Ed Orgeron did not present sufficient contrast between the smoothly polished and the distressingly rough extremes on display in the S.E.C. West, the schedule-makers have given us a confrontation between Tommy Tuberville, who carefully crafted the league's most painstaking hair care regimen based upon knowledge he gleaned from Jimmy Johnson, and Houston Nutt, whose utter unconcern regarding his public image allows him the freedom to appear so crazed and disheveled on the sidelines that, at times, he seems to be impersonating either William Windom in his climactic scene in the "Star Trek" episode "The Doomsday Machine" or Chevy Chase in the "Ha! Ha! Ha! I like it!" sequence of "Modern Problems." In any case, it could not be more clear that the Plainsmen are on the rise and the Razorbacks are in decline, so I'm going with the Tigers to take a bite out of the Hogs in the Natural State. I hate Auburn.

You don't get enough William Windom references any more.

Louisiana State at Kentucky: The L.S.U. faithful are stoked. The Michigan faithful are sold on Les Miles . . . in a big way. The Bayou Bengals are sitting on top of the world after registering their biggest win over the Big Lizards since the Fighting Tigers upset consensus No. 1 Florida in 1997 and recording perhaps their most memorable victory since Billy Cannon's punt return against Ole Miss in 1959. Hey . . . you know what just occurred to me? After pulling off that huge win over the Gators ten years ago, Louisiana State turned right around and lost to Mississippi the next week. Hang on a minute . . . seven days after that Halloween classic in '59, L.S.U. went on the road and lost to Tennessee in Knoxville, thereby snapping a 19-game winning streak. You don't suppose that the Wildcats are feeling disrespected and angry after their nationally-televised loss to South Carolina? . . . or that, after nine days' rest, they might be a little fresher and more focused than a top-ranked Tiger team that has spent the week celebrating, being told how great it is, and making plans for the national championship game? . . . or that Kentucky might still be smarting from L.S.U.'s last visit to the Commonwealth in 2002, when the visitors pulled off a little thing called "The Bluegrass Miracle"? I know it's crazy, but it's certainly not any crazier than, say, Syracuse beating Louisville, Stanford beating Southern California, or Appalachian State beating Michigan, so what the heck; I'm pulling the trigger: Kentucky will upset the Bayou Bengals on Saturday.

Obviously, such a batty prediction as that one renders effectively superfluous my usual disclaimer, but, just to be on the safe side, I will reiterate it once again: Don't Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Games of Interest. . . .

Go 'Dawgs!