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Don't Bet On It!: Around the SEC

My 5-0 record in last week’s conference picks brought my season-long ledger to 15-1, which might be taken as a sign of skill on my part. The more likely explanation is that league teams have been playing patsies and even a broken clock is right twice a day, so I would caution you, as always: Don’t Bet On It!

Here are this week’s SEC games:

North Texas Mean Green at Alabama Crimson Tide: Typically, I start each week’s set of conference prognostications with the weakest game involving a league team, and this one certainly qualifies. Yes, Ole Miss is playing a Division I-AA opponent, but the Red Elephants apparently are taking on the fictitious team from "Necessary Roughness," and I’m pretty sure both Sinbad and Scott Bakula have exhausted their eligibility by now. Unless Kathy Ireland is going to boot more field goals this week than Spencer Lanning, I think ’Bama is the way to go here.

Southeastern Louisiana Lions at Mississippi Rebels: Walk me through the math on this one, folks. Ole Miss opens the season on a Sunday with a September 6 road trip to Memphis, takes the following week off, hosts a team that is a second-tier wannabe even by Pelican State standards (which is saying something) following said open date, then travels to South Carolina for a Thursday night date in Columbia on September 24. The fellow in charge of the Rebs’ scheduling is doing his job approximately as well as Kyle MacLachlan’s agent was when he committed his client to appear in "Showgirls." Mississippi will win but will be unable to justify having played this game in the first place.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns at LSU Tigers: This weekend, Baton Rouge will play host to the Ragin’ Cajuns. How is that statement not redundant? I have been increasingly less impressed with the Bayou Bengals, but do you believe ULaLa is going to beat BCS conference opponents on back-to-back weekends? Me, neither. Louisiana State may win ugly, but win the Fighting Tigers will. (I don’t know what it is with me lately. First, I sounded like Bilbo Baggins at his birthday party; then, in the last sentence prior to this parenthetical aside, sounded like Yoda I did.)

Florida Atlantic Owls at South Carolina Gamecocks: If Mike Slive agreed to host a black-tie fundraiser for the Sun Belt Conference, would that enable SEC teams to get out of scheduling crummy games like this one? Even the name of their conference recalls images from the ‘70s of leisure suits and wide white belts and wider neckties and collars the size and shape of Ginsu knives, of retirees boasting leathery tans hitting the highways in RVs while inspiring some of Tom Wolfe’s most prescient essays and some of Walker Percy’s most dated ones. I’m for booting every last sad sack one of them right back down to Division I-AA where they belong and declaring a league-wide moratorium on scheduling any of them. Until that great day arrives, though, games like this battle of the birds are going to continue, alas, and this particular avian affray will go to the team whose mascot has razor-sharp spurs on his heels as the Gamecocks demonstrate that the Owls are not what they seem.

Mississippi St. Bulldogs at Vanderbilt Commodores: The gap between these two teams is huge. I am, of course, referring to SAT scores; athletically, this should be a pretty competitive game. As reclamation projects go, Vandy is farther along under Bobby Johnson than MSU is under Dan Mullen, so I’m giving the edge to the home team as the ’Dores host the ‘Dogs.

Louisville Cardinals at Kentucky Wildcats: These in-state rivals took a 70-year break from playing one another between 1924 and 1994. Really, wasn’t that for the best for all concerned? Honestly, it’s all right with the rest of us if both of these fan bases stop pretending they care about football. Still, if they insist upon playing this game (if only to distract themselves from Rick Pitino’s and John Calipari’s various ways of getting caught cheating), you should be forewarned that Kentucky is going to emerge victorious.

West Virginia Mountaineers at Auburn Tigers: As I understand it, this game was arranged as part of a promotional campaign. The first 25,000 fans to show up with a marriage license and a pair of birth certificates to prove they’re married to their cousins get in free. The last time this many inbred hillbillies got together in one place, Burt Reynolds and Ronny Cox had to save Ned Beatty’s behind . . . literally. Although both teams are shadows of their former selves, the game is being played in the so-called Loveliest Village (which, to be fair, probably looks lovely to someone from Morgantown), so I’m going with the Plainsmen.

Tennessee Volunteers at Florida Gators: If you’re reading this, I’m pretty sure you’ve already read this, but, if you haven’t, go read it, because it’s all the reason you would ever need to know that the Sunshine State Saurians are going to win this game and cover the point spread. I have enough faith in the fundamental order of the universe to believe that, in the end, Good will triumph over Evil, but, in the meantime, Evil will triumph over Dumbass.

These, at any rate, are the outcomes that seem probable to me, so I should hasten to add that, my early season success notwithstanding, I am bad at forecasting football games, which is why I invariably add a disclaimer which I would urge you to heed: Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Games of Interest.

Go ‘Dawgs!