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

As the always understanding Gator faithful were kind enough to point out, I completely blew the call on the Florida-L.S.U. game in last week’s S.E.C. picks. Fortunately, my bold forecast of a Mississippi State upset over Vanderbilt enabled me to escape the weekend with a 2-2 record in the conference picks to leave my league ledger for the year sitting at 39-9.

Clearly, the inevitable collapse is imminent, if not already underway, so bear my incompetence as a prognosticator in mind when evaluating my selections in October 18’s slate of Southeastern Conference games, with respect to which I offer as emphatically as always my typical disclaimer: Don’t Bet On It!

Mississippi State at Tennessee: Does anybody else remember what life was like a little over a year ago, back when Phillip Fulmer had more job security than Sylvester Croom and both head coaches were glad David Cutcliffe no longer had an Oxford mailing address? My, how times have changed. Now, the guillotining of Tony Franklin and Tommy Bowden at other orange-drenched programs has the Volunteer Navy smelling blood in the water as the faithful head down the Tennessee River to Knoxville, where the wagons are being circled---I mean that metaphorically, but they probably could do it literally if pressed---and the buzzards soon will follow suit. I expect that a good 50 per cent of what comes though Coach Fulmer’s headset this weekend will be Dave Clawson saying, "Boy, firing their offensive coordinator at midseason sure didn’t work out well for Auburn, did it? Say, did you know I went 29-29 as the head coach at Fordham? Pretty cool, huh? I don’t think I ever told you this, but I actually played defensive back in college, but here I am coaching offense! Wild, huh? I went to Williams College, you know. Yeah, the Ephs play Division III football, but don’t let that New England Small College Athletic Conference affiliation fool you; Williams participates in Division I skiing and squash, mister! Yeah, I am so fired, aren’t I?" However, even in Tennessee’s present state of disarray, there’s just too much talent on hand in Knoxville for me to believe that the Volunteers will lose to the lesser breed of Bulldog.

One way or the other, the November 22 showdown between Tennessee and Vanderbilt is likely to feature the last meeting between these two men, which is too bad, because I loved them in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"!

Arkansas at Kentucky: I figured at first that Rich Brooks and Bobby Petrino likely saw each other pretty regularly, until it occurred to me that Coach Petrino, unlike Coach Brooks, probably didn’t get invited back to the annual reunion of former Atlanta Falcons head coaches. I’m hoping the crusty Coach Brooks has enough of a sense of humor to begin turning away after the postgame handshake before turning back and saying, "Hey! What happened to my wristwatch?" No, I don’t really think Bobby Petrino would swipe Rich Brooks’s wristwatch, but, come on . . . there’s enough reasonable suspicion that he would that the state troopers would have to pat him down, right? Probably, though, Coach Brooks won’t try to be a comedian---everybody knows it’s U.K.’s offensive coordinator who’s the real joker---and, fortunately, he won’t have to be, since he’ll have a Wildcat victory with which to content himself. Well, that, along with oatmeal and Scotch.

Louisiana State at South Carolina: Let the long-awaited Stephen Garcia era begin! For the uninitiated, Garcia is Steve Taneyhill with a marginally better haircut and a much better mug shot. I find it exceedingly difficult to believe that Garcia will turn out to be worth all the trouble---you know; four-day suspensions that do not include Saturdays and such---but he is likely to be the closest thing to a quarterback-like substance fielded by either team on Saturday. Here, however, is where the Evil Genius will prove to be a bit of a liability: L.S.U. undoubtedly will be looking to take out some frustrations from the Bayou Bengals’ embarrassing loss to Florida, and who better to use for a punching bag than the greatest Gator of ‘em all, Steve Spurrier? It isn’t too tough to figure out who wins a street fight between a Tiger and a chicken.

Yeah, I know it’s a chicken with spurs, but still . . .

Ole Miss at Alabama: I don’t mean to bore you with technical details of site administration, but, after a record-setting September, site traffic is down this month (even though Dawg Sports, like David Hasselhoff, is huge in Europe!), which means MaconDawg and I could use a boost, so here goes: Ole Miss got robbed on the replay call last year! (O.K., relax; that claim has been addressed already and I don’t have a ‘Dawg in that fight. Still, if someone would like to post this to a ‘Bama message board and spike our visits and page views for the next 48 hours, please, be my guest.) Besides, the truly interesting play from last year’s clash between the Crimson Tide and the Rebels was the failed fake field goal that made the later controversial call matter, as detailed in Outside the Sidelines’s really well-written piece in Yea Alabama 2008. Mississippi is better coached than it was a year ago, but Alabama is executing better than it did a year ago, and the game is being played in Tuscaloosa. The eventual upending of the Tide is coming---no team is getting through the S.E.C. gauntlet undefeated this year---but I don’t think the Rebels have two big road upsets in them. It might not probably won’t be pretty, but the Tide will roll.

Those are my S.E.C. predictions for this coming Saturday, but, since the smart money is on me being wrong a good 50 per cent of the time, I feel it incumbent upon me to reiterate that I have no earthly idea what the heck I’m doing, so, please, whatever you do . . . Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Games of Interest.

Go ‘Dawgs!