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Don't Bet On It!: Labor Day Weekend College Football Predictions Around the SEC

September is almost upon us, and with its arrival comes the start of college football season, which means the time has come for me to begin offering you my prognostications concerning the outcomes of actual games. I do this each week of the season in three increments, beginning with every game involving an SEC team, continuing with the national games of interest, and concluding with what we here call the national game of disinterest, which will be explained later in the week, for those not now in the know.

Before we get to that point, though, I have a disclaimer I simply must add: I am bad at predicting the outcomes of college football games. No, seriously, I’m not just being self-deprecating or engaging in false modesty; I genuinely, sincerely, stink at this. Consequently, we refer to this feature by a nomenclature that is intended to serve as a warning: Don’t Bet On It!

Each of the following games will be played on Saturday, September 3, unless otherwise noted:

Missouri St. Bears at Arkansas Razorbacks: The Hogs had a breakthrough year in 2010, finding their way into a BCS bowl game and actually seeing their final record improve during the offseason when Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas was vacated by the NCAA. Presumably as a reward for those achievements, the Razorbacks were given first choice for the weakest opening game opponent in the SEC, and they chose Missouri State. Dude, I don’t take Missouri seriously as an opponent for SEC teams, and you’re trying to sell me Missouri State? I had to Google Missouri State to find out the team’s mascot, and, if I have to Google your school to find out what your mascot is, you ain’t beating an SEC team, even a late arrival to the league like Arkansas.

Montana Grizzlies at Tennessee Volunteers: I’m glad Holly Anderson, who is a Big Orange fan, now works for Sports Illustrated, because that puts her in a good position to explain to her idiot co-worker, Stewart Mandel, that, believe it or not, Montana fans would’ve known who the Vols were, even without the checkerboard end zones. Maybe even a few of them will be able to identify the state directly to the south of Tennessee after the Volunteers kill them some Grizzlies in true Davy Crockett fashion.

Kent St. Golden Flashes at Alabama Crimson Tide: There are a couple of interesting parallels here. First of all, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban is a Kent State alumnus. Secondly, whereas Kent State was at the center of a national firestorm when anti-Vietnam War protesters were shot and killed on the Ohio campus in the ‘60s, no such controversy arose in Tuscaloosa, because, if Bear Bryant had shot a bunch of draft card-burning hippies on the University of Alabama campus, he’d have been an even bigger hero in the Yellowhammer State than he was already. The Tide will roll, leaving in their wake 425 yards of total offense, 49 points, and four dead.

Elon Phoenix at Vanderbilt Commodores: Is it quiz bowl season already? The Music City Mariners welcome a small snooty private school with a football team so sorry, even the Commies consider them a patsy. James Franklin secures 50 per cent of all the wins he’s going to get in 2011 on opening day as Vandy emerges victorious.

Florida Atlantic Owls at Florida Gators: I’d love to tell you that Howard Schnellenberger is going to school Will Muschamp, but, honestly, I can’t remember whether FAU or FIU is the one with Coach Schnellenberger. Either way, this is a typical season-opening tune-up game for the Sunshine State Saurians, who are going to romp in the Swamp. The Gators won’t beat the Owls nearly badly enough to satisfy the Florida faithful, mind you, but the home team will win comfortably.

Utah St. Aggies at Auburn Tigers: If you’re wondering how this game found its way onto the Plainsmen’s slate, it’s simply an instance of Southern hospitality in action. When Auburn found out the Aggies were joining the SEC, the friendly folks in the so-called Loveliest Village decided the neighborly thing to do would be to invite the Aggies to come play a game at Jordan-Hare Stadium, as sort of a get-acquainted kind of thing. If we don’t bother telling the Tigers they’ve beaten a completely different set of Aggies, they’ll never know any differently, and, really, given the stuff about which the Auburn faithful are burying their heads in the sand already, why should this be the one thing about which we enlighten them as to the truth?

Kentucky Wildcats v. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Nashville, Tenn. (Thurs., Sept. 1): My, but I do love a season-opening showdown with in-state bragging rights on the line! You know it’s going to be a barn-burner when Kentucky squares off with perennial Bluegrass State foe . . . no, wait, that’s Louisville, isn’t it? Who are these guys, then? They’re only barely a Division I-A team? Oh, for crying out loud, this is ridiculous! Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Wildcats are going to win. So what. The Georgia Bulldogs aren’t playing football against a real opponent too loudly for any of you posers, are we? Bunch of pansies. . . .

Mississippi St. Bulldogs at Memphis Tigers (Thurs., Sept. 1): Dan Mullen has turned this program around completely. The Western Division Bulldogs have gone from a forgettable also-ran to a legitimate contender in the toughest division in college football. After capping off a solid season with a dominant bowl win, Mississippi State is ready to underscore the team’s resurgence and cement its place in the college football firmament by . . . opening the season with a road game against a Conference USA team on a Thursday night? Weak! The Bulldogs will win, but they should be ashamed of themselves for playing this game.

East Carolina Pirates v. South Carolina Gamecocks at Charlotte, N.C.: The storylines underlying this coaching battle are intriguing, as ECU’s Skip Holtz matches wits with his wily father, USC’s Lou Holtz. Wait, what? Skip is at South Florida now, and Lou is embarrassing himself and mangling the English language on ESPN these days? You don’t say! Typically, the Palmetto State Poultry schedule these middling mid-major openers, monkey around with the other team for 40 minutes, and make it look like a bigger beating than it really was in the final quarter and change, but, this time, I think the defending SEC East champions are going to bring it for four quarters. I like South Carolina to win big and dominate from the opening kickoff.

BYU Cougars at Mississippi Rebels: Folks who use the word "diversity" solely for the purpose of differentiating between people of different ethnic origins ought to make a beeline for the Magnolia State this weekend, because Oxford is going to exhibit just how much variety truly exists even in the midst of a gaggle of white people. When an Ole Miss fan offers a Brigham Young fan a bourbon and Coke, and is turned down on the basis of both ingredients, a little culture shock is bound to ensue, and that gap is only apt to widen when a visiting fan makes mention of the third Biblical testament written in North America and one of the locals asks to which Faulkner novel he is referring. The Rebels ought to be better this season than they were last year, but they aren’t yet good enough to upset the Cougars, even at home.

LSU Tigers v. Oregon Ducks at Arlington, Tex.: It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Bayou Bengals, and I would feel bad for Louisiana State heading into its high-profile neutral-site opener against a team from another AQ conference, were it not for the fact that the Tigers caught exactly the same break against the North Carolina Tar Heels a year ago that the Ducks are catching against LSU this weekend. While I anticipate a relatively low-scoring close game, I expect Oregon to prevail against an SEC Tiger team one game too late.

Yeah, that lineup was topheavy with gimmes, and I’m going to have blown the call on at least a couple of them, guaranteed. How do I know that? Because I’m lousy at this, which is why you should heed my weekly warning; whatever you do . . . Don’t Bet On It!

Coming Soon: National Games of Interest.

Go ‘Dawgs!