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

They say there’s a lot of pressure associated with being a college football team expected to contend for a national championship. To that, I say, "Pressure? You want to know about pressure? I’ll show you pressure!" When Orson Swindle Spencer Hall writes this . . .

Home of a regular feature called "Too Much Information" and justly so: Dawg Sports, like Matthew Stafford, goes long and deep often. Unlike Georgia’s strapping, keg-lifting QB, Dawg Sports is accurate far more than half of the time, providing analysis, stats, pictures, diatribes, digression and a general stream of verbiage unsurpassed for sheer volume in the blogosphere. Essential reading leading up to Georgia’s first real game this season against South Carolina.

. . . I have come to a place where the only thing I feel are loaded guns in my face and I’ll have to deal with pressure. (Feel free to hum the next few bars. All done? Good. Let us continue.)

It’s that inflated accuracy rate Orson Spencer touts that has me feeling anxious. I mean, yeah, O.K., so my 7-1 record in those of last week’s S.E.C. picks which actually were played last Saturday brings my season ledger in conference contests to a spiffy 15-5, but, really, that’s misleading, because there were an awful lot of easy calls in there, along the lines of Georgia v. Georgia Southern, Kentucky v. Norfolk State, South Carolina v. Vanderbilt . . . uh, all right, scratch that last one.

Take that, Visor Boy.

Anyway, you know the drill. I run through every game involving an S.E.C. team, no matter how inconsequential, and I pick ‘em straight up because (a) I don’t condone gambling and (b) I’m truly, horribly bad at predicting the outcomes of football games before they happen. (Afterwards, though, I’m money.) That being the case, here are four helpful words of advice: Don’t Bet On It!

Each and every one of the following games will be played on September 13 because the Gamecocks finally have gotten with the program. (Had Spencer Orson followed Steve Spurrier into South Carolina fandom, his weblog would be called "Every Day Should Be Thursday.") Here we go:

Arkansas at Texas: Let’s jump right in with a good one right off the bat. The Hogs and the ‘Horns renew their storied Southwest Conference rivalry, which featured epic battles between Frank Broyles and Darrell Royal before being revived by Houston Nutt and Mack Brown. We all know how strong Texas has been in recent years, but now the Razorbacks have the high-flying coach to take them back to the top. Why, just look at Arkansas’s opening outing against Western Illinois, in which the Hogs . . . needed two touchdowns in the last eight minutes to avoid being upset? Well, those are just the first-game jitters. That could happen to anybody. Against Louisiana-Monroe, though, the Razorbacks . . . needed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to avoid being upset? Well, still, the Longhorns are breaking in a new defensive coordinator and . . . oh, he’s Will Muschamp? Yeah, but how excited could Coach Muschamp get over an Arkansas game? All right, this is going to be a bloodbath, isn’t it? Texas huge.

Rice at Vanderbilt: There’s actually a modicum of intrigue surrounding this game, and not just because the quiz bowl competition afterwards ought to be fierce. The Owls opened the autumn with a pair of conference wins over Southern Methodist and Memphis while the Commodores won a road game against Miami (Ohio) before beating the Gamecocks in the Music City. If Vandy gets by Rice, a 6-2 start suddenly appears within reach for the Commies. Unfortunately for the ‘Dores, most of their potentially winnable games after this one (Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Wake Forest) all occur on the road, so beating the Owls in Nashville is crucial to Vanderbilt’s bowl hopes. Bobby Johnson’s players want to give him a postseason invitation as a going-away gift before he heads home to Clemson to begin preparing for next year’s showdown with Skip Holtz’s South Carolina Gamecocks, which is why I believe Vanderbilt will win.

In your face, Steverino.

Western Kentucky at Alabama: I like this matchup to be competitive, as well. Sure, the game is being played in Tuscaloosa, but, after back-to-back Music City Bowl wins, I believe this is a team capable of going on the road and winning in the S.E.C. Granted, they lost a lot of firepower on offense, but Rich Brooks has molded this program into a serious squad capable of playing with anyone on any given Saturday, which is why . . . I’m sorry, what? Western Kentucky? Oh, yeah, the Tide will roll.

Middle Tennessee State at Kentucky: All those good things I said about the ‘Cats in the above paragraph? Every one of ‘em is true. That, though, isn’t why I’m calling this game for the team from the Commonwealth. I’m picking Kentucky because I have a strict rule that prohibits me from picking against an S.E.C. team taking on an opponent with a geographical or directional indicator and the word "State" in its name. One by itself is bad enough, but both? Not happening.

U.A.B. at Tennessee: I went through this a week ago, when I read the schedule incorrectly, but it applies equally as well this weekend. The bad news for the Volunteers is that former U.T. offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe now lives in Durham. The good news for the Volunteers is that former Georgia offensive coordinator Neil Callaway now lives in Birmingham. With an extra few days to get ready and a mountain of pent-up frustration from the U.C.L.A. game to unleash, Tennessee is going to open up a can on the Blazers. Here’s hoping the Big Orange starters remain in the game in the fourth quarter of a blowout so I can criticize the Volunteer head coach’s lack of class and Year2 will be forced to defend Phillip Fulmer. (I kid, I kid.)

Really, that was more a dig at Urban Meyer than at Steve Spurrier, but he pulled that garbage when he was with the Gators, too, so the Evil Genius Not a Very Good Coach Right Now can bite me.

Samford at Ole Miss: Here’s a datum you probably didn’t know: the all-time series standings between these two teams are tied. Samford (then known as Howard College) and Ole Miss (then known as the Mississippi Flood) split the two previous meetings in 1932 and 1934. I like the Rebels to prevail, what with their having had to wait 74 years to settle the score and all.

North Texas at Louisiana State: This is neither here nor there, but I will offer a word of warning to you all, just the same. In order to try to get something---anything---of interest on this game, I visited the Mean Green’s team website. I inadvertently had left my speakers on after listening to the YouTube video linked above, so, when I arrived at the North Texas homepage, I nearly leapt right out of my skin when I heard their weird eagle war cry. Dudes, you’re the Mean Green. You can’t call your women’s sports teams the "Lady Eagles" and have an eagle for your mascot and an eagle call for your war cry if you’re the Mean Green. Also, L.S.U. is going to grind you into a fine powder, roll you up, and smoke you.

Auburn at Mississippi State: This has all the earmarks of being the weekend’s best S.E.C. game not taking place in Columbia, S.C. Both teams have struggled offensively and the home team pulled off the upset on the Plains a year ago. Can the Western Division Bulldogs do it again? Naaaah . . . I’m going with the Tigers.

I hate Auburn. If, however, Steve Spurrier were the head coach at Auburn, I would hate the Plainsmen with the blazing hot hatred of a thousand hateful hating suns exploding simultaneously in a thousand supernovae of superheated hate. Times two.

That’s how it looks to me, at least, but, hey, what do I know? Despite Orson’s Spencer’s kind words at The Sporting News, my accuracy is highly suspect even on my best day, so, please, for the sake of your own financial security in these economically troubled times, whatever you do . . . Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Games of Interest.

Go ‘Dawgs!