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Don't Bet On It!: Around the SEC

For the first time in what feels like 6,842 months---all right, that’s an exaggeration; it only feels like 6,842 weeks---we find ourselves on the verge of actual real non-exhibition football. Accordingly, it is time to take a look at this week’s intercollegiate gridiron action, beginning, of course, with the Southeastern Conference.

For anyone who is new to the site, here’s how it works: I pick every game involving an SEC team, as well as a few key national games. I do not use the point spread when predicting the outcomes because, frankly, I stink at it, and, if I used the spread, I’d be even worse. The cardinal rule for you to bear in mind, therefore, is that, no matter how tempting it may be for you to put stock in my forecasts, you must always remember . . . Don’t Bet On It!

Here are this week’s SEC games (excluding Georgia-Oklahoma State, obviously, since that contest will receive its own separate posting later in the week):

Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Florida Gators: I had to look up Charleston Southern’s mascot. All right, new rule; if I have to look up your mascot, you’re not beating Florida in Gainesville. (In a related rule, if I don’t have to look up your mascot, you’re still not beating the Gators in Gainesville.) Florida takes this one by a score similar to that by which T. Boone Pickens thinks the Pokes will take Georgia. The over/under on number of quarters Tim Tebow plays is 3.5.

Missouri St. Bears at Arkansas Razorbacks: An actual bear fighting a real live razorback hog? That I’d pay to see, especially if Dave, Dave, and Dave made up the broadcasting crew for the battle of the animals. Even better, they could put Paul Maguire in charge of interviewing the winner, because either Paul Maguire would have to match wits with a savage beast or Paul Maguire would be mauled on live television, either of which would be cool with me. No, wait: Lou Holtz, Craig James, and the winner of the bear/pig duel could debate which teams will make it to the BCS national championship game. I’d put cash money on the ursine/porcine survivor to make the most cogent case of the three commentators, because even wild grizzlies and crazed ridge-spined hogs know Notre Dame is so 1956. Darn, now I’m disappointed that this is just a football game. Anyway, Arkansas will win, and no announcers from the ESPN family of networks will be harmed in the course of this contest . . . not even Erin Andrews, with respect to whom some commentators are feeling an inexplicable awkwardness because some pervert made a video of her. This, apparently, has rocked the blogosphere and left us all obliged to view Erin as a delicate flower in need of protecting rather than an adult and a professional who voluntarily made a video that has been made public with her consent in the interim. Yeah, somebody’s going to have to walk me through the math on that one. It’s football, and there’s a pretty girl on the sideline. Cope.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Tennessee Volunteers: Please please please please please let this happen. It won’t---the Big Orange will win handily---but, oh, man, would I love to see Lane Kiffin fall flat on his face straight out of the gate. Hopefully, there at least will be some footage of Coach Kiffin on the sidelines, looking like a deer in headlights and searching frantically for his father. I’m telling you, the guy combines Mike Shula’s resume with Steve Spurrier’s mouth.

Western Carolina Catamounts at Vanderbilt Commodores: Didn’t Bobby Johnson leave Furman so he could quit playing Division I-AA teams from the Carolinas? The Commodores won’t make it back to a bowl this season, but they’ll beat this lower-tier team with a mascot of indeterminate phylum.

LSU Tigers at Washington Huskies: In the early ‘90s, when Curley Hallman was leading the Bayou Bengals to four straight losing seasons (including a 2-9 mark in 1992) and Don James was leading the Purple and Gold to three straight Rose Bowls (and a 12-0 campaign in 1991), this would have been an absolute beatdown. It still will be, only, this time, Louisiana State will be smashing the Malamutes instead of the other way around. I’m just bringing up the way things used to be to remind everyone that even dynasties are not permanent and the mighty may be brought low, just like everyone else. Carry on, then.

Mississippi Rebels at Memphis Tigers (Sept. 6): There are many good reasons for visiting Memphis. You may want to tour Graceland. You may want to go to that hotel with the ducks. You may be changing planes on a flight from Birmingham to Oklahoma City. If you are a William Faulkner character, you might be going there to find a prostitute or an unregistered firearm. If you’re an SEC football team, though, you’d better be going there because you received a Liberty Bowl bid. Otherwise, shame on you. Southeastern Conference contenders do not play at Memphis. The Rebels will win the game but lose points in my estimation.

Kentucky Wildcats v. Miami (Ohio) RedHawks: I had a joke I was going to make here, but I understand that Wildcats fans are now taking their football seriously, too, so I’m just going to pick Kentucky (Kentucky) and be done with it.

Jackson St. Tigers at Mississippi St. Bulldogs: For SB Nation team tagging purposes, I have taken to abbreviating certain portions of a school’s nomenclature, so I should clarify that the Western Division Bulldogs are playing Jackson State, not Jackson Street. Of course, I’m not entirely convinced that a used book store in downtown Athens would present markedly less of a challenge to Mississippi State at this stage of the game, but, even so, I’m going with the Bulldogs, though not by much.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Auburn Tigers: I should know better than to do this. Really, I should. This is just wishful thinking on my part. Truly, it is. I am fully aware of the fact that La Tech is just a run-of-the-mill WAC team . . . yet I can’t help noticing that, last year, the Bulldogs won by eight points against a Mississippi State team that was beaten by the Plainsmen by only one point. I also can’t help noticing that Vince Dooley, who finished below .500 against his alma mater over the course of his career, had a winning record in the so-called Loveliest Village. Might Derek Vincent Dooley follow in his famous father’s footsteps? I’m going to go out on a limb and say, yeah, he will. There will be no updating the Gene Chizik Victory Watch this week, as the Bulldogs edge the Tigers on the Plains. I hate Auburn.

South Carolina Gamecocks at N.C. State Wolfpack (Sept. 3): I can’t tell you how glad I’ll be when Steve Spurrier retires, ESPN loses interest in the Palmetto State Poultry, and our neighbors in Columbia can go back to opening the season on a Saturday like everyone else, so the East Coast USC quits getting an extra two days to prepare for the ‘Dawgs. In the meantime, though, this is another one of those annoying Thursday night season openers for the Big Chickens, in which South Carolina will monkey around for three quarters, playing just poorly enough to make me hope the Gamecocks will lose, only to eke out a win in the end, probably by a margin that makes it look less close than it really was. South Carolina will win, Steve Spurrier will be angrier in victory than Tom O’Brien is in defeat, and the Gamecock faithful will move back out in front of Georgia Tech boosters as the fan base most desperately in need of getting over themselves after one dadgum victory.

Alabama Crimson Tide v. Virginia Tech Hokies: I know defense wins championships, but dang. There may not be 450 yards of total offense in this whole game. I’d be surprised to see as many offensive touchdowns as defensive and special teams touchdowns. We’re looking at a low-scoring slugfest here, not because both squads field grind-it-out offenses---they’ll both break out that newfangled forward pass we’ve been hearing so much about, in fact---but because neither team figures to be particularly adept at moving the chains, particularly against the other’s defense. In the end, the Tide will finish out in front in what is apt to be an ugly affair.

There they are, boys and girls . . . the first round of SEC picks for the looming 2009 campaign. As always, feel free to praise, chide, or raise questions about the underlying sanity of these predictions, but, in any event, don’t forget: Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Games of Interest.

Go ‘Dawgs!