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

You know how I always tell you Don't Bet On It!? Well, really, seriously, no kidding around, Don't Bet On It!

I mean, I was 2-3 in my S.E.C. predictions last weekend, which dropped me to 57-20 for the season in conference forecasts and provided as strong a cautionary tale as you could ever want, so I am dispensing with additional disclaimers for the moment and moving straight into this week's equally suspect picks.

My luck with making prognostications has been heading downhill ever since I predicted that the Van Halen reunion would work out well.

All games are being played on Saturday, November 24, unless otherwise indicated. These are the Southeastern Conference contests not involving the Red and Black:

Wake Forest at Vanderbilt: What ought to be the championship round of quiz bowl actually has the potential to be a football game of some consequence. The defending A.C.C. champion Demon Deacons are struggling to retain their respectability and hoping in vain to demonstrate that last year's conference title was no fluke, while the Commodores are down to their last chance to qualify for their first postseason berth in a quarter of a century. Although I share MaconDawg's aggravation with Vandy field goal kicker Bryant Hahnfeldt, I'm still pulling for the Commies to get the win that gets them to bowl eligibility. Maybe I'm letting sentimentality get the better of me, but I'm taking the Commodores to get the victory and reap their hard-earned reward. Wouldn't it be great to see Vanderbilt's players pack their bags, board a bus, and take a road trip to Nashville for the Music City Bowl? Hey, wait a minute. . . .

Is it just me, or does the phrase "defending A.C.C. champion Demon Deacons" still seem as bizarre as the phrase "Oscar winner Marisa Tomei"?

Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Friday, November 23): They call this the Egg Bowl, but, really, it ought to be called the Egg Platter, since both teams have a penchant for making every effort to hand the game to the other squad on a silver salver. (By the way, I love that the Egg Bowl is being played on the day after Thanksgiving, as the term "Egg Bowl" always reminds me of the holiday gathering at which there were two bowls of deviled eggs and no one in the family was willing to be impolite enough to eat the last deviled egg in either bowl, until my uncle wisely put both deviled eggs into the same bowl so that one of them would not go to waste and whichever relative wound up eating it would not appear rude . . . but I digress.) Sylvester Croom and Ed Orgeron (neither of whom, despite their names, is a character from The Lord of the Rings) seemed to enter this season on equally thin ice, but Sly shrewdly improved his situation with wins over Alabama, Auburn, and Kentucky, whereas the Ogre has persisted in giving that whole "losing consistently" thing a go, presumably to lower expectations for future seasons. While I believe the Rebels will make a game of it, in the end, I have to think home pasture field advantage and postseason positioning will enable the Bulldogs to defeat their in-state rival. Oh, man, are there going to be some cowbells rung on Friday night!

Clemson at South Carolina: The biggest question concerning this game is whether either team will be focused fully on its local opponent. After all, the Gamecocks will be looking ahead to their rematch with L.S.U. in the Georgia Dome as the S.E.C. East representative and the Tigers will be concentrating on their upcoming date in Jacksonville with the winner of the Virginia-Virginia Tech game . . . oh, wait. My bad. It turns out that the victor in this contest ought to be awarded the Heimlich Trophy for winning the annual Battle of the Big-Time Choke Artists. The Palmetto State Poultry appear to have nothing left in the tank and the Fort Hill Felines have the special incentive of wanting to keep their head coach gainfully employed, so I'm going with Clemson to corral the Fighting Fowl in Columbia.


The following prediction is brought to you by the Georgia Bulldogs, who are man enough to black out any team from the state to the immediate left.

Alabama at Auburn: As alluded to in the caption above, this year's Iron Bowl settles second place in the Yellowhammer State and not much else. When last seen, the Tigers cleverly gave up 45 points in a successful effort to end all outside attempts to hire Will Muschamp away from the Plains and Brandon Cox proved that he was the second-best quarterback named "Cox" to take the field in Sanford Stadium on that particular Saturday only because Courteney had a torn A.C.L. and was attending a Hollywood premiere with David Arquette. That, however, makes Auburn much the more accomplished of the S.E.C. squads in Alabama, as the Armani Bear found a unique way to help the Crimson Tide faithful appreciate the fact that losing to Mississippi State really wasn't all that bad, now, was it? The question before the house, then, is whether I think a rested Auburn team playing at home can beat a team that just lost to Louisiana-Monroe. Uh, yeah. I hate Auburn, but the Plainsmen are going to create a market for T-shirts reading "Fear the Index Finger of the Other Hand!" 'Bama had better reverse the trend in this rivalry soon, because we are getting dangerously close to the highest number of consecutive series victories to which Tiger fans can count.

Florida State at Florida: The Seminoles may not be favored in the Swamp, but they can say something the Gators can't: Florida State has beaten an S.E.C. team in Jacksonville this season. F.S.U.'s offseason coaching moves, much like Alabama's, appear to have made little difference where the rubber meets the road, so I have no more faith in the Seminoles' ability to end their skid against their season-ending rival than I do in the Crimson Tide's. Besides, I have a hard time believing that Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos are going to deny the Worldwide Leader the telegenic matchup of Ron Zook and Urban Meyer in a Sunshine State bowl game awash in orange and blue, so I'm going with Florida to take a bite out of the 'Noles.

Remember how much fun this rivalry used to be back when Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier were coaching? What's that? Bobby Bowden is still at Florida State . . . and Steve Spurrier is coaching at South Carolina? That can't be right, can it?

Arkansas at Louisiana State (Friday, November 23): Every time I think about this game, it makes me sad, for it represents the end of an era. This almost certainly will be Houston Nutt's final regular-season game with the Razorbacks and Les Miles's final regular-season game with the Bayou Bengals, as the former's firing and the latter's departure for Michigan appear to be as foregone as conclusions can be. No more will I have the pleasure of comparing Houston Nutt's sideline demeanor to that of a Pentecostal minister preaching a tent revival with a rattlesnake in each hand while high on crystal meth and being jabbed in the rear end with a cattle prod; no longer will I be afforded the opportunity to mock Les Miles for being the Chance the Gardener of college coaching or for his many failures along the way in his ongoing quest to find a cap that doesn't make him look like an eleven-year-old and a headset that doesn't make him look like a Time-Life operator standing by to receive your magazine subscription by telephone. Once these two bastions of zaniness and cluelessness, respectively, have left the building, what will we be left with in the S.E.C.? The league will have only the likes of Phillip Fulmer, Urban Meyer, Mark Richt, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, and Tommy Tuberville to represent it. The conference will be hallmarked by quality and competence, and where's the fun in that? I implore you, therefore, to take the time to watch this game, as the final battle of the Lunatic with the Idiot will be a sight to see. Enjoy it while you can as L.S.U. outduels Arkansas before both head coaches shake hands for the final time.

Tennessee at Kentucky: Please. Please. Please. Please please please please please. Please please please please please. Pretty please with sugar (which you can't spell without . . . oh, nevermind; you know) on top. Please, please, and please again. Please times a million. Please! Go Wildcats!

Honestly, I mostly just want to see anybody wearing this much orange lose; the fact that a Volunteer loss would give Georgia a shot at an S.E.C. championship is just gravy.

If I'm wrong about half of those picks, I'll be surprised (especially since there was an odd number of games being forecast). In any case, though, my predictions this season have been sufficiently ill-fated that, even before we get to my atrocious national prognostications, you ought to know better than to take a word of the foregoing the least bit seriously. Whatever you do, therefore, please . . . Don't Bet On It!

Go 'Dawgs!