Friday, September 25, 2009

tinkering with Friday: picks (and webb, also)

Editor's note: At the beginning of football season, I started writing a prognosticator's column for my old co-workers on the sports desk at . I'm replicating that here below, and will probably keep doing it every Friday (since they run it inside for Saturday's paper, it never sees the Web site). Also, at the bottom there's this week's Derek Webb video: "I Wanna Marry You All Over Again." And I do!

I'm no stranger to the rain
But there'll always be tomorrow
And I'll beg, steal, or borrow a little sunshine
And I'll put this cloud behind me
That's how the Man designed me
To ride the wind and dance in a hurricane
I'm no stranger to the rain

You're right. It's a hokey way to start a column. I can't help myself, though.

In a typical football season, a few things start taking shape after the first three weeks. We understand a little more about the season as a whole.

This isn't a typical season. I?m not sure, in the SEC, if we even really know anything just yet.

Here's what we DO know, so far as I can tell:
• Florida is not invincible.
• Auburn's offense is dangerous.
• Vanderbilt has gone back to being Vanderbilt.

That's about it, really. Every team in the conference has shown a few flashes, and every team in the conference looks eminently beatable. Prepare yourself.

It certainly makes picking your average college football weekend tougher. We rebounded from the debacle of two weeks ago with a 4-2 week last Saturday, which brings us to a very mediocre 6-9 against the spread so far this season.

Things don't look any easier this week — at this point I might as well ask my hound dog for help with these things.
(Home teams in caps.)

AUBURN (-31) over Ball State: The Tigers deserve a break after last week, a tense affair that featured a ton of different emotional swings. The good news: Ball State is terrible.
(Hound dog's thoughts: Confused cocking of the head, tilted slightly to the side. I think that means he agrees.)

Arizona St. (+12.5) over GEORGIA: When it comes to Georgia so far this year, there's no way to accurately predict anything. They lowered everyone's expectations by barely showing up for their opener, then followed that with outbursts of 41 and 52 points against SEC foes.
I have no idea what to make of this team. I really don't.
So whatever — take the points this week. The line's too high, anyway.
(Hound dog's thoughts: Jumping up and licking me on the face.)

LSU (-14) over MISSISSIPPI ST.: It may take the Bengal Tigers longer than people realize to cover this line: they're not quite as good as some people think, and State isn't quite as bad. Plus, the weird early start time has thrown some people for a loop so far this season.
Even with all that, I still can't reasonably expect this State team to stay within 14 points of them.
(Hound dog's thoughts: Rolling over on his back and asking for a belly rub.)

Florida (-22.5) over KENTUCKY: Everyone's down on the Gators after last week's failure to score 100 against Tennessee. So I?ll take the opposite tack and bet they turn in a big showing under the lights against UK.
This is the last time, though — if they slop around again like they did last week, I'm going to the mattresses.
(Hound dog's thoughts: Snoring uproariously.)

ALABAMA (-15.5) over Arkansas: Any Tide fan who says he?s not a little worried about this one is either lying or drunk (or both). The Hawgs' 41-point outburst against Georgia had nearly everyone making some version of the "track meet/basketball team" joke by the time it was over.
But it also exposed a terrible weakness: namely, Arkansas' defense, which had two weeks to prepare for Georgia and still gave up 52 points at home. There's also the tiny matter of Alabama's defense, which is miles ahead of Georgia's in terms of talent and coaching.
This one looks like one you're worried about until sometime in the second quarter, when Mark Ingram bangs his way in for a 35-10 lead.
(Hound dog's thoughts: Handshake. Glad to see you're on board, boy.)

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