Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday extra promotion: picks column

Editor's Note: My regular "shameless self-promotion" column didn't appear yesterday because, um, I didn't write an SCT column this week. To make up for it, here's the football forecast column I write every Saturday for The Daily Home. I meant to post these every week, and maybe now I will. Whatever: I get paid the same for this, anyway.
What's Past is Prologue

I don’t know why, but the movie “JFK” ropes me in every time. It’s shoddy history — Kevin Costner’s lousy New Orleans accent uncovered a massive government conspiracy? — and I’m fairly certain it contains subliminal messages (I watched it once around bedtime and had some very suspect nightmares).

Anyway, the point — wait, here it is! — is that, at the end of the film, as Kevin Costner’s lousy New Orleans accent is walking away, the screen flashes up the following words: “WHAT’S PAST IS PROLOGUE.”

Really, that’s what Week 1 was for most college football fans: prologue. With the exception of Kentucky and Vanderbilt, nobody in the SEC played a game in which it should’ve reasonably expected much of a challenge. Of course, as Ole Miss showed, those cupcakes don’t always go down so well.

That won’t be the case this week. Auburn has already proven its worth as a challenger in the SEC West, and by the end of today, we’ll know who else belongs in that “worthy” category, as well.

Which is where this column comes in. In an effort to be more inventive last week, I picked a number of teams to either beat the spread or pull outright upsets, and suffered as a result: a disappointing 3-4 in Week 1.

Blame Gary Crowton, Jack Crowe, Jeremiah Masoli … whatever. This week looks much more challenging. So let’s get to it.

SOUTH CAROLINA (-3) over Georgia: Everything the Gamecocks think they can accomplish in 2010 — challenging for the division, a big bowl game, etc. — begins and ends with this game. If Carolina loses today, they’re suddenly a game down and looking at an October that includes Auburn and ‘Bama in back-to-back weeks, with a trip to Florida looming in November. Win, and they can relax, if only for a few minutes.

(And yes, I know I said I love Georgia this season. But a freshman quarterback? On the road? Against a team with this kind of urgency and purpose?)

FLORIDA (-16) over South Florida: Please remember for a moment that the Bulls are the same team that helped precipitate Bobby Bowden’s departure from Florida State a year ago when they whipped the ‘Noles 17-7. This isn’t a gimme. I remain convinced the state of Florida could secede from the “union” of NCAA football, form its own conference and immediately qualify for BCS inclusion.

VANDERBILT (+10) over LSU: Tell me if this sounds familiar: Les Miles’ sublimely talented squad screws around for four quarters and lets an inferior team hang around, then nearly chokes away a 20-point lead before pulling a win out of thin air.

(LSU fans all just gave me the face-palm collectively.)

TENNESSEE (+12.5) over Oregon: I just can’t stomach the thought of a team from the West Coast coming to Neyland Stadium, at night, and winning by two touchdowns. I just can’t.

ALABAMA (-12) over Penn State: Little things about this game make it cool. Like seeing Joe Paterno giving one of his famous grouchy press conferences, then realizing he was talking about Alabama; seeing those uniforms together again on the gridiron and thinking about Barry Krauss and Bobby Humphrey and Derrick Thomas; hearing the band play “Fight On” in your building. That kind of thing.

As for the game itself, whenever a road ‘dog like this hopes to pull an upset, it usually comes down to this: is there one thing we do well that the home favorite does not? For example, in 2008, Alabama thumped third-ranked Georgia in Athens for one very simple reason: it controlled both lines of scrimmage from the jump. If there is one thing Penn State does, and Alabama doesn’t have an answer, you’ve got the makings of an upset.

Reviewing the matchups, though, I don’t see it. Assuming Alabama does what it always does — limit turnovers, control the lines and make sure tackles — Penn State will hang tough, but won’t win. The helmets should still be cool, though.

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