SEC Week One: Shower Discipline, Suspensions and League Openers
Trust me, you can double your mortgage in one game!
Of course if you don't win, then you can tell your wife that the fix was in. Just don't mention me as the cause of your defeat or her anger. Because I want you continue to read the column. And I want your wife to still love and read me as well. Which she does. Don't come between us. Just take the over, it's my gift to you.
And I've got more gifts for you this season, since I know everyone who isn't presently in college is busy. I know you college kids think you're busy, but you're full of crap. You don't really have anything to do. You'll see that in a few years. For instance, as I write this, my nine-month pregnant wife could go into labor at any moment. That makes planning for college football games difficult. In particular, it becomes difficult once the SEC season debuts and you have to juggle multiple games that you want to see with travel considerations, family obligations, hangover-related issues and that nagging tidbit of the traffic ticket that you may or may not have paid in the state of Georgia that could lead to your arrest in the event you are pulled over. So, trust me, I know.
That's why every Thursday this fall, I'm going to give you a handy guide, a run-down of every game featuring an SEC team and, more importantly, a ranking of how important that game is in the grand scheme of ManifeSECt Destiny. You probably can't watch all these games -- unless you're unemployed, unmarried, childless and lacking in any social outlet whatsoever -- but you can try and set your DVR or your schedule to catch the games that matter the most.
So without further ado, the SEC games ranked in order of week one significance:
1. Georgia at South Carolina -3.5
You know how coaches always say a season isn't won or lost in one game? Sometimes they're lying when they say this. Such is the case with the best game featuring SEC teams this weekend. The loser of this game is eliminated from SEC East contention. You can argue with me about this fact, but you'll be wrong. Whichever team loses this game won't be going to Atlanta, period.
The best SEC game of the week kicks off at 11 in the morning central time, so be careful. I know some of you aren't going to wake up in time because you think of this as the Big Ten timeslot. You're expecting this game to be on later in the day, and even despite my warning, a huge number of SEC fans are going to miss this game. That's inexcusable.
Especially because the game is filled with subplots. Among them, will South Carolina native A.J. Green show up in Columbia and sell his autographed jersey at a table next to the caramel apple stand in the midst of the South Carolina state fair? Would it be an NCAA violation if Green teamed up with the caramel apple stand and sold his jersey alongside the caramel apples for $100? Especially if the caramel apples were advertised as the "world's best?"
On the South Carolina front: Will Stephen Garcia manage to avoid arrest on Thursday night in Five Points? This is going to be a question for every South Carolina game this fall. Look deep within your soul, Gamecocks fans, you know this is true as well. If an unproven Stephen Garcia at quarterback is keying professor's cars, what's a proven Stephen Garcia at quarterback capable of?
I'll tell you: whipping the Bulldogs.
South Carolina's the pick.
2. Auburn (-1.5) at Mississippi State
I think Auburn will win, but I'm more convinced the over is the real play here.
Florida fans should watch this game so they can remember what it was like when they had a competent offensive coordinator. Fans of teams with really bad head coaches -- I'm looking at you LSU fans -- can watch this game and dream of what Gus Malzahn could do with their offense if he was the head coach. Or what Dan Mullen could do at LSU if Will Muschamp doesn't want the job when you fire Les Miles at the end of the season.
3. Penn State at Alabama (-12)
Look, Penn State is going to get boat-raced in this game. Especially because Joe Paterno mixed up his gameplan handout and gave every player the 1979 Alabama-Penn State gameplan instead. This time, Major Ogilvie is getting nothing.
But Greg McElroy and Trent Richardson are getting a ton.
'Bama in a laugher.
4. Oregon (-12) at Tennessee
Derek Dooley on his team's showering technique that has led to a rash of staph infections (Note that unlike the Randall Cobb quote later in this column, this is an actual quote that I am not making up): "We had, I told them, the worst shower discipline of any team I've ever been around."
Now I can't stop picturing Derek Dooley in the Kramer role from Seinfeld taking notes on how other teams are cleaning themselves. Of course, Kramer ended up with a black eye.
Meanwhile, Oregon's Chip Kelly, whose team showers with great discipline, has been focused on figuring out how to hang 72 on an SEC team. This game boils down to a pretty simple question: Can Tennessee consistently run the football? If the answer is yes, the Vols will keep it close. If the answer is no, Oregon will win easily.
Here's a wavering vote for yes. I think the Vols giving 12 points is just too many points to walk away from, so take the Vols, but expect Oregon to win by a touchdown.
5. LSU -10 at Vanderbilt
I would pay $1,000 to attend a two-hour dinner with Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell and LSU's Les Miles. You know that would be well worth the money. I get giddy just thinking about what direction this conversation might take. Can anyone even predict? From turkey insemination to Miles on the sincerity of the ocean, there's really no telling. Somehow, I expect both men to have strong positions on the current Mid-East peace process.
But I'm not sure what to expect from this game. On the one hand, LSU will not be prepared for the defensive wrinkles that Vanderbilt throws at them. On the other hand, LSU's players are much better than anyone Vanderbilt has. So this is the quintessential talent vs. coaching matchup. Last year Vanderbilt and Bobby Johnson kept the game close despite only putting up 210 yards of total offense.
It was 16-9 at the end of the third quarter and LSU went on to win 23-9.
I think Vandy will do the same again this season with one caveat: Larry Smith is much improved at quarterback. So I think Vandy covers the spread, and if I had to pick one double-digit underdog to win a game this week, Vanderbilt would be my pick. I really think the Commodores might pull this one off. Take Vandy giving the points.
6. South Florida at Florida -15
I hate to gloat over my correct prediction that the Florida Gators' 2010 offense was going to be awful, but ... well, I'm right. Which is always the best reward.
Granted, South Florida is in the Big East and the Big East looks weaker than Angelina's friendship bond with Sammi on Jersey Shore, but I'm not sure a Steve Addazio-coached offense could beat Ole Miss by 15 right now. So you've got to roll with South Florida and the points.
Speaking of which, who would have believed that a crazy preacher in Gainesville was going to overshadow this game by burning the Koran? For all those Gators fans who like to make fun of other SEC schools for their perceived backwoods status, look where crazy came home to roost.
Right in your backyard.
7. Ole Miss -21 at Tulane
Has a team ever lost a home game to an FCS team one weekend and then been favored by 21 over an FBS team the next weekend? How is this possible? Is Anne Rice the starting quarterback for Tulane this year?
The biggest benefit for Ole Miss fans? They can get drunk in the French Quarter and pretend the Jacksonville State game didn't happen. Hell, get drunk enough and some of them might even believe that Archie Manning is still quarterback and that the south is about to rise again.
You've got to take Tulane and the points here, absolutely have to.
8. Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas -34
I'll be honest, I don't know where Monroe, La., is. Or where Lafayette, La., is for that matter, either. If you told me they weren't cities, I would buy that too. I do know this game is being played in Little Rock, which is a really cool city if you've never been. I also know that Louisiana-Monroe needs to fire its schedule-maker because it had a bye week the opening week of college football and now plays 12 consecutive weeks..
Seriously, how does it happen that you have a bye the first week?
Anyway, this is Arkansas's second game and La-Monroe's first game. Generally a team makes the most improvement in the season between week one and week two. So one team will improve, one team won't.
It's unfortunate for Louisiana-Monroe that it was already the worst team in this game.
Take Arkansas here because you know Bobby Petrino wants 50-plus to get his team confident for back-to-back season-defining games against Georgia and Alabama.
9. Western Kentucky at Kentucky -24.5
Kentucky's Randall Cobb, upon being told that the Wildcats game against Western Kentucky was scheduled at the same time as Alabama-Penn State and Tennessee-Oregon: "Man, can we reschedule ours? No one cares about our game. Not even my mom. She's watching UT." (Note: this is a made up quote).
But if Cobb was being honest, he would have said this when asked about playing Western Kentucky the week after playing Louisville. Evidently, Kentucky's September goal is to the unquestioned top football program in its state. Which, given the fact that its Kentucky and football, means that Kentucky would be, roughly, the 48th best football team in the state of Alabama.
Take the Wildcats to win big if you care. Which you don't.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail returning for the football season, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com