Week three in the SEC and it’s shaping up to be a great one! A lot of exciting games on tap with the headliner being Auburn and Penn State from Happy Valley in State College, PA. Haw! My record now stands at 21-6 for 78 percent on the scorecard. I’m disappointed I didn’t pick the Hawgs upset of the Horns. All my radars were going off telling me to go with Arkansas and I paid no heed. That must change as we need to get our percentage to 80. Let’s go!
Weeks Zero (whatever that means) and One are in the books now and the bell has sounded for Round Two. Things went very much according to form, last week, except LSU and Vandy let us down. There’s a storm brewing in the Bayou and in Music City matters appear to be grim at best. We have some interesting matchups this week. And without further adieu, let’s get right down to it.
South Carolina (-2) at East Carolina
The Roosters dispatched of a bad Eastern Illinois team last Saturday but the Pirates of ECU won’t be so giving. The home team could most definitely pull this one out. Shane Beamer and his minions win in a thriller that would make Michael Jackson proud. South Carolina 31, East Carolina 28.
Pittsburgh at Tennessee (-3)
Both the Panthers and the Vowels posted resounding victories last weekend. The opponents were U Mass and Bowling Green, respectively. ACC vs. SEC. And from this angle we see the Atlantic Coast visitors escaping Rocky Top with a hard fought win. Pitt 31, Tennessee 27.
Alabama State at Auburn (-49)
Your faithful forecaster foresees a game much similar to the one played down on the Plains last Satday. You can stir that Hornets nest all you like, but it won’t get them angry enough to overtake the home team. Bo Nix, Tank Bigsby, Owen Pappoe and company were exceedingly well-prepared for the opener and that will be the case again in this Noon ET kickoff. The Tigers have their way with the gang from down I-85 in Montgomery. Auburn 62, Alabama State 6.
Florida (-28.5) at USF
The Water Lizards will actually travel down the road a piece to Tampa to take on the Bulls. Raymond James Stadium will be filled with snorting and chomping as the instate schools clash. NC State had its way with the soon to be Steers a week ago and it won’t be any different this time around. Florida 44, South Florida 17.
UAB at Georgia (-23.5)
The Dawgs eked by Clempson in an old fashioned slugfest that would have made Danny Ford and Vince Dooley proud. Old school defense won that contest. There was not an offensive touchdown scored in the entire afternoon. 10-3 UGA. That lone TD came on a pick six. Bill Clark’s flaming Blazers will come ready to pop leather but Buster Brown’s boys have far too much talent for an upset to occur. Georgia 34, UAB 7.
Texas A&M (-17) at Colorado
The road will be rocky in Boulder for the home town Buffalos (one of yours truly’s favorite mascots). The Grateful Dead played some epic music at Folsom Field many years ago. The visiting Aggies will be truckin’ back to College Station with win number two after this interesting brawl with the Bisons. Texas A&M 34, Colorado 17.
Mercer at Alabama (No line)
The Crimson Tide easily disposed of a Hurricane that was reduced to a mild rainstorm in Hotlanta on Labor Day Weekend. Any questions about Bryce Young and his Pachyderm pals were answered with a bold statement something like, “Yes! We back and we baaaaad to the bone.” Nickydemus has been grousing about one half of football and rat poison and so forth this week in preparation for the upcoming massacre. And that is exactly what it is to be for the Baptist Bears. Alabama 55, Mercer 0.
Texas (-7) at Arkansas
An old Southwest Conference rivalry is renewed. Hawgs ‘n Horns. Hooker ‘n Heat. (That was a fine album, by the way.) The Bevos will be dipping their feet into SEC waters in a little test run of what’s to come. I think this one will be, yes, a dandy! The visitors are expected to win but you can bet ol’ Sam Pittman’s bunch will have Pig fans rootin’ and a hollerin’ at maximum level. This a is a mighty tempting upset pick but the Austinites will come away from Fayetteville with a hard won win. Texas 30, Arkansas 24.
NC State (-1) at Mississippi State
A barn burner in StarkVegas is what we are expecting at Davis-Wade Stadium Saturday afternoon. The Wolfpack slaughtered the aforementioned USF squad in game one. That won’t happen this time. The Bullpups managed to overcome a 20 point fourth quarter deficit and block a chip shot field goal, against LA Tech, and prevailed by the hair of its chinny chin chin. Pirate Leach’s canines won’t be so lucky this time Saturday. NC State 28, Miss State 27.
Austin Peay at Ole Miss (-34.5)
The Lane Train is going to be steam engine stout versus the Governors, who will be reduced to Black Bear brittle. No chance. Just sign the check, please, and get your foot off our Peay pickin’ throats! Corral and Company continue to cruise. Ole Miss 59, Austin Peay 17.
Missouri at Kentucky (-5)
One of the better games this week. Two teams jockeying for position in the SEC East. Both pretty darn good. The Cats were anything but mild last week as they manhandled UL Monroe. Well who wouldn’t? But let’s not trivialize that wopsided win in pursuit of some humor. Mark Stoops’ troops ain’t no kitties. They are for real and will prove that when they play the Tigers. Kentucky 34, Missouri 28.
McNeese at LSU (-38.5)
Speaking of Kitties. That’s what Coach Yaw Yaw’s squad looked like against UCLA out there at the Rose Bowl in the opener. Chip Kelly finally has the Bruins looking more like his former Oregon team at this point. The Bayou Bengals are more like last year’s team by comparison. It might be about to get ugly in Baton Rouge. Ed O’s son will be the starting quarterback for the Cowboys. Son, this is going to hurt me more than it is you. LSU 42, McNeese 10.
Vanderbilt at Colorado State (-7)
The Rams of Fort Collins could impress ewe in a late one Saturday evening. They certainly did not in their first game with South Dakota State. The Dores are awful. the home team is not much better but they are good enough to hold off an upset bid by Vandy. Colorado State 26, Vanderbilt 21.
Last week I compiled a 12-3 record for an .800 pct. Let’s get to 90 or 100 percent this time. My lock of the week was Auburn minus the 37 against Akron. 60-10 did the trick! This week, let’s go with Pitt plus three at Tennessee.
Once again, love y’all! Take care out there and love your neighbor as yourself. Peace out!
Yes, the title of my first prediction column one year ago was SEC Football vs. The Corona Virus. Well, here we are again. Only this time, the 2021 season, stadiums will be allowed to fill to capacity. Reminds me of my favorite Delbert McClinton song, ‘Every Time I Roll The Dice’. And that is exactly what we are about to do, beginning tonight with Bowling Green vs. Tennessee.
We press on. We do love our football down here in the South. Let’s hope and pray that these massive crowds do not exacerbate the spread of the Delta variant even worse than what is raging across the geographical area that comprises the Southeastern Conference, as we speak.
This will be the beginning of my 61st season attending, and rabidly following, college football. That 1961 homecoming game against Clemson, yea those many decades ago, seems like yesterday in some respects. Auburn won that contest and I was taken like a fish on a hook.
Last season was the first time I missed attending a game since 1986 when we lived way out yonder in California, a few miles after you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, in San Rafael (pronounced rah-fell). You can read a bit about that experience right here on Bird’s Banter if you click back to the summer of 2014.
Hot diggity dank! Let’s do this thing once more with feeling! Onward to the week one SEC picks!
Bowling Green at Tennessee (-37)
Scott Loeffler (yes, that Scott Loeffler, who was Auburn’s offensive coordinator in 2012, Gene Chizik’s last season as Head Ball Coach at Auburn) leads his mighty Falcons into Neyland Stadium to face the Vols and new head man, Josh Heupel, he formerly of UCF. The Rocky Toppers will not be threatened as Tennessee will crush the visitors. The home team is not a great one but Bowling Green has been abysmal of late. Tennessee 49, Bowling Green 10.
UL Monroe at Kentucky (-31)
Our old bud, Terry Bowden, is now about to embark on his first season as coach of the Warhawks. I don’t know how they will fare in the remaining games on the schedule in 2021, but the Wildcats will pummel them in this Noon ET game Saturday. Mark Stoops has a very stout team on both sides of the ball and look for them to make a lot of noise in the SEC East this fall. Kentucky 45, UL Monroe 13.
Rice (hold the gravy) at Arkansas (-18.5)
Sam Pittman, now in his second season in Fayetteville, is building Arky back into respectability. Better watch out for the Hawgs. They will beat somebody that they’re not supposed to beat in 2021. They are supposed to fry Rice and they will certainly do just that. The fortune cookie says… Arkansas 38, Rice 14.
Alabama (-19.5) vs. Miami (in Atlanta)
Number one taking on number 14. You spell numbers one through ten and use numerals thereafter in sports writing. Although I very often stray from the AP Style Book. Traditional in some ways and marching to the beat of my own drummer in other ways. Sometimes Keith Moon and other times Charlie Watts (RIP). Beat the drum? Bama is the beat and Miami is the drum. Hurricane fans have been banging their gums a lot in the lead up to this clash. They will be silenced after keeping it relatively close in the first half. The Crimson Tide rolls to an impressive victory. Alabama 38, Miami 20.
Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State (-23)
The Pirate, Mike Leach, will have the other set of Bulldogs walking the plank in this 4PM ET game on the SEC Network. I don’t know who the head coach is at LA Tech and I’m too lazy to look it up. Don’t matter. That’s some homework for you fans to do. Miss State 42, Louisiana Tech 17.
Central Michigan at Missouri (-14)
Eliah (can I have a) Drinkwitz (you) enters his second campaign out there in Columbia, MO. I was very impressed with him at SEC Media Days. The Tigers are another team to beware of in 2021. It is conceivable that they, or Kentucky, could eke past Florida into second place in the East. Yes, Georgia should win the division. The Chippewas (Do I hear hear Gordon Lightfoot in the background?) will not roll over easily for Mizzou, which boasts a heap of firepower. Another win for the SEC (soon to add Oklahoma and Texas into the mix). Missouri 42, Central Michigan 24.
Eastern Illinois at South Carolina (No line)
Although I’ll bet there is a line in Vegas somewhere. I don’t intend to walk it though. Shane Beamer (another impressive coach from SEC Media Days) is Frank’s son. If he’s anywhere near as good a football coach as his dad, he will be a very good head coach one day. The Roosters won’t strut much this year, I don’t believe. Young Beamer has a whole bunch of work to do in this Columbia and he will get off to a good start, with his Graduate Assistant quarterback, in game one. If not, rut row. South Carolina 38, Eastern Illinois 7.
FAU at Florida (-23.5)
I do not think the Owls will roll over and play dead for the Water Lizards, yet I do expect them to lose. The Swamp will be rockin’ and this is not a good place to pick an upset. Dapper Dan will wear some fancy footwear (beads and Roman sandals won’t be seen). But maybe something “manly” like leather boots will be. Florida 40, Florida Atlantic 21.
Kent State at Texas A&M (-29)
Jamesbo should have his sixth ranked Aggies primed to play well Satday. October ninth can’t get here soon enough for A&M and Bama fans, but there is the matter of playing multiple other games before that eventful date. The Golden Flashes, what a great nickname, don’t have much of a chance. Another MAC team bites the dust. Texas A&M 49, Kent State 14.
ETSU at Vanderbilt (no line again)
The Buccaneers and the Dores (come on baby light my fire). From the West End of NashVegas.Neither team will strike the fear of God in you . I do expect the SEC gang to be much better than the visitors. The home team begins its quest for a bowl game with a victory under the lights. Vanderbilt 35, East Tennessee State 17.
LSU (-2.5) at UCLA
From the Rose Bowl in beautiful Pasadena, California with magnificent views of the San Gabriel mountains. Lord, I miss Keith Jackson. This one will be a sho nuff scrap. Or… a real dandy! With all the problems the Bayou Bengals had this week, I am tempted to pick the Bruins. Chip Kelly’s boys looked good against Hawaii last week. But it was Hawaii. Beast of a different ilk this week. Tigers prevail. LSU 31, UCLA 30.
Louisville vs. Ole Miss (-10) (in Atlanta)
Hotlanta gonna be hot on Labor Day at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Should be a good football game here too. I’m on the Lane Train. I expect some really good things out of the Rebels this season. If they can find a semblance of a defense, look out. The Cardinals have high hopes. The Black Bears have higher hopes. Ole Miss 45, Louisville 30.
Akron at Auburn (-37)
Mercy! I cannot wait to return to the Plains! The game will not be a good one from the point of view of being competitive. The Kangaroos, mascot, or Zips, nickname, will be demolished by our boys in blue. Terry Bowden, there he is again, coached this squad before he was canned and Tom Arth took the reins. Arth is 1-17 at the helm. The aforementioned Bowling Green is his lone victory in Rubberville. What the Tigers want to do is execute smoothly, run the ball downhill with ferocity, pass effectively and efficiently, and play some salty defense. If they are able to do that look for something in the vicinity of… Auburn 55, Akron Zip.
On to the Big One!
Georgia vs. Clemson (-3) (in Charlotte)
We have two top five teams facing each other in THE game of the week. Number three versus number five. Dabo and Kirby. Dawgs and Cats. Georgia is the only SEC team NOT favored in week one. I see this as a pick ’em. Both teams are loaded like a baked tater. Strong in the trenches. What should be two prolific quarterbacks. The Bullpups O line vs. the Clemmy D line ought to be a war for the ages. It should not be a wide open game. I don’t think either team will hit 30. Penalties and/or turnovers could decide it. I am leaning to the ACC on this monster clash. A shaky nod to… Clemson 27, Georgia 24.
There you have it folks! And oh! I am going to do a lock each week to assist you in hauling in some riches. Auburn minus the 37 this week.
Take care out there. I hope no one gets a blue gasket (see the 2019 season picks here at Bird’s Banter if you do not readily get the reference). And love your neighbor as yourself! Peace out.
The first USA Today 2021 coaches football poll was released today, Tuesday August 10th, and that means a couple of things. First of all, the chatter that has been picking up speed and intensity since SEC Media Days concluded back in the latter part of July will now move the needle toward warp speed. Secondly, this means that the kickoff for the first games of the coming season are within sniffing distance.
That’s right boys and girls! We have college football slated for THIS MONTH! Two of the five games scheduled on Saturday, August 28th involve Power Five squads. There’s Nebraska at Illinois (and its new coach, Bret Bielema) along with Hawaii and UCLA from the Rose Bowl in beautiful Pasadena, CA! Whoa Nellie! How bout dat!
Polls. It’s a love/hate thing. You love to see them hit the sports page (old guy here), but you can get aggravated as all get out when you feel that your team has been slighted. And they truly are useless this time of year other than providing fodder for conversation about the sport we hold so very dearly.
And this game of college football has been changing at a breakneck pace in these dog days of summer. Between NIL, the transfer portal and the addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, our collective heads are spinning like a top. I am not going to use this space, at this time, to address that three-headed monster. Maybe later. Maybe not. I want to give it all some time to marinate because we ain’t done. There’s news daily on all of it. A great many people have a whole lot of space to fill and I will leave them to it.
And now, the USA Today coaches poll. Here she is…
1. Alabama (Surprise surprise surprise! As Gomer Pyle was wont to blurt out on occasion.)
2. Clemson (Let’s see how a Trevorless Tiger team follows the now Jacksonville Jaguars rookie’s brilliant run.)
3. Oklahoma (OK!)
4. Ohio State (How’s that case of Deja Vu going thus far?)
5. Georgia (On Clemson’s mind.)
6. Texas A&M (Jimbo! Jimbo! Slow down! Lord, I thought I talked with great rapidity.)
7. Notre Dame (Pick a conference, any conference.)
8. Iowa State (Will the new darling maintain her lofty perch?)
9. North Carolina (Can Mack and his boys dethrone Dabo’s gang?)
10. Cincinnati (A new Big Red Machine in the making?)
11. Florida (Dapper Dan! Another fast talking man.)
12. Oregon (A whole heap of NIL money out there in Nikeville.)
13. LSU (Will the Bayou Bengals rebound after following its Natty with a plunge into mediocrity?)
14. USC (Clay Helton remains. We shall see.)
15. Wisconsin (Wisky River take my mind.)
16. Miami (We will find out quite quickly as it opens with Bama in Hotlanta.)
17. Indiana (Tom Allen has done a tremendous job In Bloomington. Can the Hoosiers sustain that momentum?)
18. Iowa (Kurt Ferentz jus keeps on winning at the helm of the Hawkeyes.)
19. Texas (The Horns better enjoy being ranked for as long as they can. Welcome to the SEC.)
20. Penn State (Better put on your big boy britches come September 18th!)
21. Washington (Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, etc.)
22. Oklahoma State (The Cowboys might be searching for a conference along with the seven dwarfs that are in the same boat with them.)
23. UL Lafayette (The Ragin’ Cajuns beat Top Ten Iowa State in 2020. Coach Billy Napier continues to build this program after flirting seriously with Auburn.)
24. Coastal Carolina (Good football team last year and were ranked. Do you think it would beat Auburn head to head?)
25. Ole Miss (I have to keep mentioning Auburn as it was not ranked in this poll. The winner of the game between the Rebels and the Tigers will finish third in the SEC West behind the Crimson Tide and Aggies, according to yours truly.)
Some gut reactions to the coaches 25. Lafayette, Coastal Carolina, Ole Miss? Auburn, Michigan and, yes, Kentucky all say hello. And to be honest, I am sweet on Lane Kiffin’s troops as well. I am also sweet on Kentucky. The Cats could finish second in the East.
I’m sure the AP poll is soon to follow. All the magazines have made their picks. The bottom line is that these polls mean absolutely nothing. They will mean nothing when the regular season concludes. Yes, the polls do give those of us with insatiable appetites for NCAA (soon to be a thing of the past?) football something to talk about, argue about, and cuss about. They can shape perception, possibly, but, they are meaningless. The only poll that counts is the College Football Playoff poll.
Peace, love, football. Be safe out there and love you neighbor. These things matter.
“Oh Mama, I’m excited, I’m almost out of breath
What I saw like t’made me run myself to death
I was on the mountain side when I looked down below
And glory be I thought I’d better come and let you know
That we got company comin’, company comin’, we got company comin’ up the road
They’re down the road about a mile they’ll be here in a little while
There’s company comin’ up the road.”
That is the way I feel after hanging with SEC Media Days this week. Football is upon us and practice begins in two weeks. This week was the unofficial beginning of the season and I can’t remember when I have been more excited about an upcoming autumn of college football, and in particular, SEC Football. It’s like what Porter Wagoner was trying to communicate in that great song of his. We got company comin’ mama and they’re almost here! As Jerry Clower used to say, “Haw!”
Eli Drinkwitz (MIssouri), Sam Pittman (Arkansas), and Bryan Harsin (Auburn) wrapped up the four days of coaches sharing the views and visions, Thursday afternoon, of their respective teams and it about is about time to put the foot to the pigskin. Haw, indeed!
Let’s get to it! I will finish up with my impressions of the coaches and follow it with predictions of how I think it will all shake down in the Southeastern Conference.
Eli Drinkwitz is yet another of these impressive “new” SEC coaches. He is entering his second year at Mizzou but this was his first Media Days appearance, with the the 2020 meeting being cancelled due to COVID. He has ties to Bryan Harsin, “owes him a debt”, and also Gus Malzahn. The former Tiger coach was a mentor to him when he spent time on the Auburn staff.
Drinkwitz is sharp, bright, articulate, and young. The youngest head coach in the SEC. And he is funny. A really incisive sense of humor is almost always a big plus. I will be surprised if Mizzou is not highly competitive and successful under his tutelage. He has a dynamic quarterback in Connor Bazelak, and appears to be assembling the other vital pieces together in order to win in the toughest conference in college football.
I really like Sam Pittman, of Arkansas as well. And I was happy to learn that he is a big music fan, primarily country music, and plays the piano and guitar. He comes off as tough, hard working and thorough. A good teacher. He is a very good recruiter also. He said that recruiting comes easy to him. You don’t hear or find that in every coach.
Arkansas has been at the bottom of the West for many years but under Pittman’s leadership, I think it has begun its ascension up the daunting ladder that is the SEC West. Arky will surprise a few people in 2021.
And then is the man that will lead my Auburn Tigers forward after an highly successful run at his alma mater, Boise State. I am more excited about this hire than any in my 60 years of following Auburn Football very, very closely, and I’m talking about when the hire was made. Harsin is a winner. Big time. And, IMHO, he has the tools to succeed like this anywhere chooses to hang his hat, regardless of the circumstances he might find himself in. He has the vision, work ethic, discipline, know how, and “sticktoitiveness.” He also has that keen eye for detail and the ability to pull people together and lead them to “win.” Even in drag racing, as you may know.
Coach Harsin is a family man. It was of the utmost importance that his family would find it comfortable and be happy living down on the Plains. Auburn has exceeded his expectations in that area.
I believe that the Auburn Family will be proud every time that their team sets foot on the field and that the team will leave everything out there on that turf. Wins and losses? I think this team is capable of going 8-4 or even 9-3 with a bit of luck. And in time, it will win championships.
Now on to how I think the chips will fall in the SEC.
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
- Miss State
My feeling is that this in finally Georgia’s year. Alabama Has to replace a lot in 2021. As I mentioned in a post on Facebook, and you have heard the term many times before (Fill in the blank) does not rebuild, it reloads. That is true of Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. But Georgia is loaded to the gills, as well. They have the experience and talent at quarterback and at most every other position on the field. think they will light it up on offense. They always play great “D”. It should be a monumental SEC Championship game. Bama could certainly win it, but in the end, the Georgia Bulldogs will weigh in as 2021 SEC Football Champions.
Take care out there and be sure to love your neighbor.
And War Damn Eagle!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, sports fans and members of the draft resistance! (And thanks for the patience with the 60’s stream-of-consciousness reference). That’s the way all columns are penned here at Bird’s Banter. Sit down. Face the computer. Type. Who knows what pithy profundities will avail themselves. I don’t, as I am only pawn in game of life. Break out the beans! Mongo is with us.
As you have, possibly, noted, the scribe has been low on inspiration here as of late, and the blogs have been few and far between (the devil and the deep blue sea). Apathy had begun to seep in and take hold. And then? Boom! The Christmas Spirit began to open avenues of joy, hope, peace and love and the Auburn Tigers made, IMHO, a home run hire in newly installed head football coach, Bryan Harsin.
And we are OFF!!!!!!
My beloved Tigers have found a winner. An intense, focused, driven, tough, humble man of passion and integrity. And win the Tigers will. Immediately. The cupboard is nowhere near bare. Everyone returns on the starting offense and the defense has many key components returning. Most assuredly, there are areas that need to be shored up in personnel. I trust that these concerns will be addressed and that the new head coach, and soon to be staff, will recruit with great agressiveness. I do not expect Auburn to win every game, but I can assure you that it will play with ferocity and purpose and make you proud every time they take the field.
War Damn Eagle!
Christmas. It has truly been a most blessed holiday season. I can feel a renewed sense of inspiration and purpose on a daily basis. 2020. What can one say? What a challenge! There is no need to reiterate the many pitfalls and disasters of the past year. They have been plentiful and often cruel. With the help of God and The Grateful Dead, I have survived a prostate scare/biopsy, an abnormal ECG and a positive echo stress test leading to a heart cath, recurring bladder infections, double hernia surgery and COVID-19. 2021 is in clear view and I can feel myself turning the corner and embracing her with open arms. I hope and pray that is the case with each and every one of you.
Peace on earth and good will to all men, women and children across the globe.
What’s been happening in the world of music, sports, politics, et al?
You know the Auburn story. Alabama is on the verge of playing for, yet another, National Championship, as is Clemson. I do think those two will meet in the title game. Kentucky has the worst record of all SEC teams in men’s basketball. Pitchers and catchers report in the not-too-distant future and things are looking good for the Atlanta Braves. The World Series? Finally? Who knows.
Bob Dylan sold his music catalog. Let that sink in a minute.
He has also gotten into the wine business. “Planet Waves 2002, a blend of Montepulciano and Merlot, pairs the legendary singer with Antonio Terri,” From Wine Spectator. Truth is stranger than fiction.
Hopefully, we will once again have live music in 2021. I feel strongly that we will. I could use a good “ass kicking” from Gov’t Mule and a dose of Dead and Company.
America will have a new president and a female VP. And I will leave it at that. We do not get into the black hole of politics on Bird’s Banter. We do touch on religion occasionally. There is a deep sense of spiritual hunger out there and, in here, from my point of view. One day at a time, an AA mantra, and a great way to live for all of us. As Ray Wylie Hubbard states, “And the days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well, I have really good days.”
Entertainment. We enjoyed both Flight Attendant, on HBO, and Hillbilly Elegy, on Netflix. The Undoing, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant was also very good and quite intense, as were the aforementioned titles. Something lighter, maybe? Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee is hilarious.
In books, I completed all of Michael Connelly’s catalog this year, after beginning it in 2019. I loved every one of them. His latest, The Law Of Innocence, was excellent. It was the sixth installment of the Lincoln Lawyer series. I also read the first three novels of the Tana French Dublin Murders series. Brilliant writing and true hand wringing, heart pounding thrillers. Read a couple of more books on The Grateful Dead. My hunger for all things Dead is insatiable. The Good Ol’ Grateful Deadcast if glorious if one is so inclined. The reissues of their classic albums, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty are sublime.
What else? Ah! 2021 begins with a feast of football games on New Years Day. It begins with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Cincinnati vs. Georgia), followed by the Citrus Bowl, pitting Auburn against Northwestern, more on that in a moment. Next come the College Football Playoff semifinals. First, Alabama plays Notre Dame. The last game of the day has Clemson and Ohio State locking horns. Oh yeah!
Back to the Citrus Bowl. Auburn needs to win this game. I do hope much of the enthusiasm and intensity of our new head coach wears off on the team. Kevin Steele will coach the team along with our 2020 staff, They will have to be hitting on all eight as Northwestern will be chomping at the bit to topple an SEC team and Pat Fitzgerald WILL have them rarin’ and ready. You can count on that. The Wildcats play excellent defense and I expect a low scoring game. Once more with feeling, Tigers. Auburn 23, Northwestern 21.
Y’all continue to have a wonderful holiday season! Be safe out there and be sure to always love your neighbor as yourself.
Here are some random thoughts and memories on the “Auburn-Alabama” game from my vantage point.
There’s nothing like the first time. You’ve often heard that phrase, I’m sure. But it does ring true. Thanksgiving Day 1964. Me and my daddy, my brother, Jerry, and my cousin, Richard in our 1963 Plymouth Fury headed for Legion Field. I doubt I slept that week. We stopped at the Twix and Tween BBQ joint, in Centreville, on the way to Birmingham.
It was the first season of the new upper deck on the east side of the stadium. Daddy and Jerry sat there. Richard and I sat in the north end zone. Alabama scored its first touchdown on a high punt snap in that end zone, right in front of us. David Ray missed the extra point. Tucker Frederickson went over the top for the only other TD of the first half. The extra point was good. AU 7-6 at the half.
Unfortunately Ray Ogden ran the opening kickoff of the second half 107 yards for a score. He came out of “our” end zone and took it southward. Bama converted the two point attempt. 14-7, Tide.
Later in the half, Joe Namath hit Ray Perkins, in stride, and he went untouched into “our” end zone. Alabama led 21-7. Auburn scored late in the game on a pass form Tom Bryan to Jimmy Sidle as he was playing wingback due to an injury on his throwing shoulder. 21-14 was the final score as the tigers failed to recover the onside kick.
I went down to the field, as was the custom of many a young boy in those days. It was allowed. But, at Legion Field, we were only allowed to encircle the fence. I waited at the gate where my beloved Tigers exited the field to their dressing room under the north end zone stands. I patted Frederickson as he strode through the gate with a somber look on his face. “Good game, Tucker!”, I told him. He looked at me and smiled.
I will never forget that day, nor any of the other Iron Bowl Saturdays I’ve experienced.
I have attended 41 Auburn-Alabama games over the years. My record is 19 wins and 22 losses. We will continue to gain in the win column as we don’t go to T-Town any longer. The last one was in ’08 and it was a nightmare. A 36-0 rout that broke Auburn’s 6 game winning streak. Just games at Jordan-Hare now. We hope to break even anywhere from 5 to 10 years from now. “Keep on the sunny side…”
Now that I think of it, we haven’t seen Auburn lose one, in person, since 2011. Another debacle. 42-14. We did not attend the 2015 game, in Auburn, which Alabama also won, 29-13.
The most memorable game in Iron Bowl history? That depends on which team you pull for. There are a long line of highly memorable games in which Auburn was the victor. There was “Punt, Bama, Punt” in ’72. “Bo over the top” in ’82. “Reverse to victory” in ’86. “11-0, Nix to Sanders” in ’93. The “Kick Six” in 2017 and last year’s 48-45 heart stopper.
But THE most memorable one, IMHO, was the first time Alabama played in Jordan-Hare in 1989. There has never been one like it, before or since, and I don’t know think any college football game EVER has seen such an electric atmosphere. Incredible. Monumental. Astounding. Choose any superlative you like. Nothings compares. The Tiger Walk? Merciful Lord! Grown men crying. Players hyperventilating. And Coach Dye’s pregame speech which I’ve heard about. Bill Curry was confident Alabama was going to win. it was 10-0 and ranked number two in the country. I don’t give a hoot if it had been 20-0 and beaten every opponent by no less than 28 points per game, NOBODY was going to beat Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium on December 2, 1989. It was not going to happen, I knew it as well as I knew my name. 30-20, and it wasn’t as close as the score indicated. I never thought I’d see the day, but danged if it didn’t happen. And both sides can thank Pat Dye for that. It was one of the best things ever to happen in the series, moving the game to each team’s campus. There were some great memories made at Legion Field, but it was no neutral site and the the only thing that made the atmosphere as good as it was, was the 50/50 ticket split. That was an awesome sight seeing half the stadium in burnt orange and navy blue and half in crimson and white. And the pom poms just a shakin’!
Now, we have to get this thing back around to 2020. It is truly strange this year. Auburn will play three more games, hopefully, after the Iron Bowl. Alabama could very well play more than that.
Nick Saban will not be on the sideline. He will be watching from his living room. Say what? NO communication with his team or coaches, per the rules. Oh well. I will miss seeing him on the sidelines and I love it when he pitches a fit. But, “the hay is in the barn” and Coach Sark will lead them well, I have no doubt.
Auburn is “extremely excited” about this one, so I’ve heard. I think they are ready and the Crimson Tide will get our best shot. I do expect Auburn to try to run the football and control the clock on offense. It will have to take at least 4-6 deep shots. If Tank Bigsby is limited or out then that will really hurt Auburn. Shivers and D.J. Williams are good but Tank is special. Bo will have to be at the top of his game and get the ball in the hands of his best playmakers ( Seth and Schwartz and Stove. Pegues, Fraser and Shenker at tight end.)
Defense? Pray I guess. I’m glad I’m not Kevin Steele having to prepare for this onslaught. I am very happy Auburn has Kevin Steele, though. Three man rush with eight back? Timely blitzes? You can’t get caught on an island with that ultra-talented receiving corps. Even if Waddle is out, that is an enormously gifted bunch. Najee? watch out!
There are enough sources for you to read about strategy. The game line. Stats and facts. We shoot the breeze here on SEC football at Bird’s Banter.
And so, a pick. I almost always pick Auburn to win because I never expect it to lose. Bama is a 24 point favorite and rightly so. The game is a home game for them. They are undefeated and even if they lose this one, the SEC Championship game with Florida remains. Alabama will move the football and score some points. No way around that. Can Auburn keep up like it did last year? I don’t know. I do know it will have to have help on special teams and on defense. Like those two pick sixes last year. Or a blocked punt. Ya’ think?
What I do think is that this will be a very close game into the second half, hopefully the fourth quarter. If it is, then Auburn has a chance. The visitors will leave everything on the field. They will have nothing to be shamed of. But, Alabama has a better football team and will prevail and pull away a bit at the end. Alabama 38, Auburn 24.
“Leonardish” columns are put to bed now. COVID threw us off the beam for a couple of Saturdays. Mild cases, though, and for that we are ever so thankful. Just me and Mel on Thanksgiving Day as we had our family deal this past Sunday. Here’s hoping you and yours have a glorious Thanksgiving and a great Iron Bowl.
War Eagle or Roll Tide. Whichever way your bread is buttered.
And, stay safe out there and be sure to love your neighbor as yourself!
BOOOOOO!!! Insert maniacal laugh here, . This week’s slate of SEC football games falls on October 31st. Halloween. I’m scared already! The horror of losing conference games is enough. Throw in a few witches, ghouls, ghosts, and goblins, and we have a bubbling cauldron of fear that could get one shaking in their shoes.
Tennessee and South Carolina do not take the field on Satday. That could work out to be an advantage. Don’t play. Can’t lose. Six squads will lose on Satday. Also, six squads will win. “Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side, keep on the sunny side of life.” If you go off into the shadows, you don’t know what’s lurking there and you could become another ingredient in said bubbling cauldron of turnovers, dropped passes, high snaps, and blew gaskets. Makes me shiver to think about it.
Now, I’m going to open my trunk of prognosticating treats for you. Guaranteed winners on every pick and a big sack of Dum Dums for the bone-headed mistakes and coaching guffaws that are bound to transpire Satday.
Georgia (-16.5) vs. Kentucky
The Mildcats return to the friendly confines of Kroger Field, (Price check on aisle four!) after being out-felined in Columbia, MO. The Bullies were, meanwhile, back in Clarke County Georgia being groomed and well fed for its trip to the bluegrass. There is a reason the Dawgs are heavy favorites. They have a much better football team. Mark Stoops certainly hopes the Kitties return to the back to back win form displayed before that loss out in the midwest. Return to that form or not, Kirby Smart has a passel of pups that will pound home team. Georgia 31, Kentucky 13.
Ole Miss (-16.5) vs. Vanderbilt
If any SEC team is a three score underdog to the Rebs then it must be woeful. Woeful, waffle, whatever, you’re bad. Really bad. The Land Sharks have many issues also. That defense is as porous as a colander. The quarterbacks seem to complete as many passes to the opponent as they do to their own players. And the coach has been told to go sit in the corner with a time out. I can’t say that I blame ol’ Lane (Joey Freshwater) Kiffin. I have a pathological aversion to authority myself. But I don’t have $25,000 to pay for running my trap. Yessir, Mr. Sankey! I promise to do better Mr. Sankey. Back to the good news for Old Mrs. The opponent is Vandy. I don’t care if the game is played in NashVegas of the North Pole. Automatic W! Ole Miss 45, Vanderbilt 21.
Mississippi State vs. Alabama (Name the spread. Hit don’t matter.)
These Bullies are going to get a bigger butt whuppin’, down in T-Town, than I did in first grade when I keep making trips to the cloak room, during one rest period in the winter, and emerging with a new coat, cloak and/or cap on each successive round. Yep! Made a “D” in conduct that six weeks. I wonder why I didn’t receive an “F” ? There’s that pathological aversion to authority! Oh well, I made an “A” under my second grade teacher, Miss Bunnie Dale, who I loved dearly, on every report card. My hippie ethic at work, as well. Peace and love to all my brothers and sisters, and stick it to the man every chance you get. Where did the football discussion get off to? This ain’t a football game. It’s a public execution. Name the score. Ok! I will. Yes, the Thundering Pachyderms are a 30.5 favorite. And yes, they will cover. And here’s some advice to the Pirate. Nickydemus is a comin’! YOU hade better RUN for cover! Alabama 52, Miss State 17.
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (-12)
Now, this one has the makings of a sho’ nuff contest. Kyle Field. College Station, TX, where the COVID rules are not enforced and no one is fined. Don’t you feel lonesome, Lane? Sam Pittman has his Hawgs playing with great ferocity and the 12th Man better have his chinstrap fastened tightly. The temptation is to pull the trigger on the upset of the week, but that is coming later. A certain scrap is in store in Tejas. I’ll go with Kellen Mond over Felipe (Beans And) Franks. Texas A&M 30, Arkansas 24.
Missouri vs. Florida (-12.5)
The Water Lizards haven’t played in two weeks and that could mean they will be a bit rusty on Satday. Meanwhile, The MOCats spent this past Satday puttin’ the wood to ol’ Kanetuck. The Swamp is a seriously tough place to pick up a “W”. The Alleygators have also been victim to quite a few cases of COVID and that lack of practice time could really exacerbate matters too. The home team will be chomping to get back in the win column, but Eli (I think I’ll have anutter Drinkwitz you) has his boys well oiled and on the same page. That defense has been quite stingy. Smilin’ Dan’s D has been giving up points in droves. Upset Special of the week! Missouri 34, Florida 30.
LSU (-3) vs. Auburn
The Gus Bus has had its blew gasket fixed and returns to the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium on Satday after a scintillating victory over in the Magnolia State. These Fighting Felines now have a Tank out in front of that bus and Bo Nix had his highest completion percentage, while on the Plains, and a superb QB rating last weekend. Coach Ed (Yaw Yaw Yaw Football) Orgeron got his Bayou Bengals back on the fast track down in Red Stick, last Satday, by plucking the Roosters that embarrassed Auburn two weeks ago. Comparative scores can get one in trouble if one is looking for an angle by which to come up with a winner. I learned that as a mere lad down in Lower Alabama. Each and every week comes with a clean slate in the Southeastern Conference. No doubt, the visitors lit it up and gained some confidence and momentum, but the defense is having some terrible troubles slowing down the opposition. The home team’s defense is the only one yet to have given up 30 points in the SEC. It won’t do that this week either. In a mild upset. Auburn 34, LSU 27.
I hope all y’all good folks survived Zeta in pretty good shape. We were lucky here at 116 Sundown Way. Just a lot of wind, rain, and fallen leaves.
And, once again, I remind you that every week’s picks are an homage to the late, great Leonard Post Toastie.
Take care out there and be sure to love your neighbor as yourself.
The Smart Pill Machine is back up and running! But! (and everybody’s got a big but) at only about 85%. Football, as we have known it in the past, is gone and it will never be the same. I don’t need a smart pill to understand that. The Corona Virus has wreaked havoc across our nation and our world and we’ve just got to make the doggone best of it.
At least we have football, and a World Series, which I don’t give a hoot about now that our Bravos have been eliminated. But Bravo for the Bravos! Well done in 2020! That is quite an accomplishment!
Now back to football, SEC style. There are only four games on the conference schedule this week as six teams have drawn a bye this round. It appears that all four contests, with the possible exception of Bama-Tennessee, could be very exciting clashes. The Vols and Crimpsons could be interesting if Coach Jeremy “Cornbread” Pruitt decides to fire someone again during the game. Coach Pat Dye used to fire at least one person most every week, but it never resulted in them having to leave the squad immediately.
So, without further adieu, here we go! Haw!
Alabama (-21.5) vs. Tennessee
In the arena named after General Neyland. CBS, along with Brad Nessler and everybody’s favorite, Gary Danielson, will be broadcasting this event. That is what this great rivalry used to be, an event that took place on the Third Saturday in October. It ain’t been an event in quite a few years and often it is not played on that third Satday any longer. What would Bear Bryant and Johnny Majors think about all that? Won’t be much suspense either as ol’ Rocky will be topped in a big way by Nick Saban’s Thundering Pachyderms. Alabama 44, Tennessee 20.
Kentucky (-5.5) vs. Missouri
Coach Mark Stoops’ troops have been on a tear here recently and one could easily expect the same out in the Show Me state this weekend. But as Coach Lee Corso is want to say, “Not so fast, my friend.” Coach Eliah, I think I’ll have anutter drinkwitz you, has his fold of Felines playing pretty darn salty. Don’t forget they whupped those Bayou Bengals on this fine plot of turf back earlier in the season. We expect a humdinger out in Columbia. It sho’ could be a minor upset, but I’m sticking with the hot hand and going with the Felines from the bluegrass. Kentucky 27, Missouri 21
South Carolina vs. LSU (-6)
Football fans, we all know what happened in another Columbia, the one in the Palmetto State, last weekend. Coach Will Muschamp’s angry Cocks put one on Coach Gus Malzahn’s Kindly Kitties. They actually had the help of three interruptions, some poor clock management, a perplexing early two point conversion, and the limited use of a first year Tank. Bigsby, that is. But, by golly, the home team took it to ’em and came out with a much need victory. Congratulations to Coach Boom and his Roosters! I don’t know if this gang of Kitties from Red Stick are any better. We’s about to find out. Feathers and fur should be flying down on the bayou Satday night. It might not be pretty, but Coach,Yaw Yaw Yaw, Orgeron’s Football Felines need this one desperately. In a stinger. LSU 28, South Carolina 24.
Auburn (-3) vs. Ole Miss
The Gus Bus seems to have a blew gasket. And his buttocks could be burning up if he doesn’t find a way for his Kitties to return to the status of Fierce Felines. And he “butter” get his young ‘uns to stop running their traps and play some dang football! He sho’ can’t be cutting no koners this week in Oxford. The Lane Train, after a great effort against the Crimson Tide, seems to be running low on coal. His defense couldn’t slow down molasses in the winter and the offense certainly can be slowed down. And the best way to do that is to turn loose the Tank and give Bo a little time to communicate and connect with his receivers. Chuck a timely one here and there, and play like the aforementioned Pat Dye will be waiting for you in the locker room when it’s said and done. The Grove won’t be hopping and the fields of Faulkner won’t be what they normally are on Satday. Two years ago, when I saw that Auburn was actually favored over Ole Miss, I laughed like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. Stidham’s Stallions were looking mighty poorly at that point in the season. I thought Matt Luke’s Land Sharks should pull out the upset. But! Lo and behold! While we were eating ribs and having a toddy in Memphis, our boys in blue took it to ’em! I initially thought Auburn would squeak by USCe and lose to Misissipp’ in a high scoring affair. I have now changed my tune, as has the Smart Pill Machine. Deja vu all over again! Auburn 38, Ole Miss 31.
Well slap the dog and spit in the fire! That brings to a close another version of the SEC cotton picking prognostications. We might have an occasional stumble, but we think a lot mo’ better days lie ahead. Hug your sweetie and call your mama. Life is short. Also, be safe out there and love your neighbor as yourself.
The smart pills weren’t working quite as well last week as they were for the first weekend of action in SEC football. Yours truly went 4-3 after going 6-1 in week number one. Our grand total now tallies at 10-4, back door, for a .714 pct. That is not where this prognosticator wants to be, but it is where he finds himself as we bear down on weekend three of football in the Southeastern Conference.
And! I have the feeling that the 2020 season could just get crazier and crazier as the days grow shorter and the leaves continue to transform into a brilliant array hues. If crazy equals fun then we just might be on the verge of having a whole heap of fun.
To wit. Mississippi State throttles defending National Champion, LSU, 44-34. The Bullies then travel to Fayetteville, AR where they are stymied, 21- 14. These are the same Pigs that were overpowered, although they did show some signs of promise, by the other set of SEC Bullies, Gawja, 37-10. And then, the same LSU traveled to NashVegas where they slammed the Dores, 41-7. The same Dores who gave Texas A&M all manner of fits. And the Aggies turn around and score more points on Alabama than they did on the Dores. And, after, seemingly, regrouping from a less than inspiring first half against Kentucky, Auburn is humiliated by Gawja, 27-6. Whipped! Pummeled! Walloped! Madness!
Also, the last time I saw Bo Nix, he was sprinting as fast as he could down I-85 with a pack of frothing Dawgs on his heels. Madness!
Y’all wit me?
Enough chewing the fat. Let us git down to it! Kick start us, Percy!
Florida (-6.5) vs. Texas A&M
Both squads should come out with guns a blazin’. In the games the Gators have played both teams lit up the scoreboard thus far in 2020. The Water Lizards defense has been porous, allowing 35 and 28 points to Ole Miss and South Carolina, respectively. And after giving up 12 points to Vandy, the College Station Cadets surrendered a whopping 52 points to Alabama. Smilin’ Dan Mullen do know his offense, but Jimbo’s boys have been pretty darn average since his arrival in Aggieland, where this contest is to be played. Will ex semi-hole, Mr. Fisher, pick up his first signature victory since being given the keys to the vault out in Texas? Short answer. Nope! Florida 42, Texas A&M 30.
Missouri vs. LSU (-14.5)
Cat fight! Two groups of ferocious Felines will claw it out down on the bayou in Red Stick, LA on Satday night. It seems as though Coach Ed (Yaw Yaw Yaw Football!) Oregon “encouraged” his team to pick up the tempo (Hats off to Willie Nelson) last week, and they responded splendidly up in Music City, as mentioned earlier. The Show Me Cats were, once again, punished in game two, 35-12, at the hands of the Tennessee Vowels. It ain’t lookin’ good for Eliah (I’ll have anutter Drinkwitz you) in 2020, and the forecast is not sunny for the Kitties this week either. LSU 35, Missouri 17.
South Carolina (-13) vs. Vanderbilt
Something’s got to give back in NashVegas Satday morning. Neither of these two squadrons have posted a “W”, yet, this season. The Roosters and Anchormen both have coaches whose collective backsides could set the woods ablaze. But even a win here might not pacify the restless natives in Columbia and Nashville. Or do Vandy fans even get restless, like my feet do some evenings? Muschamp and Mason. More like Abbott and Costello. Hit ain’t working in either state. Eenee Menee Minee… Muschamp! The Cocks gets its 12th win in a row over West End Warriors. South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 13.
Tennessee vs. Georgia (-12)
Haw! This one has the potential to torch a barn! Well, a Barn was set a fire last week in Shrubville. And the Dawgies are back at home Satday at 3:30 ET (phone home). CBS is carrying this scrap and I know all you Gary Danielson fans will be excited bout dat! Buster Brown vs. Jeremy “Cornbread” Pruitt. The Moonshiners will be motivated and the Pups will be woofing it up in wait. Hot da mighty! Could be a stemwinder! Guess who has the longest winning streak in college football? The Volunteers. Guess who will hold that distinction Satday night? I don’t know. The streak is snapped. Georgia 27, Tennessee 17.
Alabama (-24) vs. Ole Miss
“Grove-in’, on a Satday afternoon. Really couldn’t getaway too soon”, could be what little Nickydemus might be singing when this one is over. You know Lane Kiffin, the pupil, will have some tricks up his sleeve for Saban, the teacher. I do expect a lot of fireworks from the Rebs and Pachyderms, but the Land Sharks will have to show up and slow the Crimpsons down to have any chance whatsoever. The Tide is rolling and will continue to do just that in Oxford on Satday night. Alabama 51, Ole Miss 28.
Mississippi State vs. Kentucky (-2.5)
Dadgummit! ($1 to Bobby Bowden, to whom we wish a speedy and complete recovery from COVID-19). Mark Stoops’ Felines have had some really tough luck after just two games. three turnovers killed them at Auburn and a missed extra point and some shenanigans got them beat at Kroger Field, in Lexington, last week. The Cats will be back in the friendly? confines os Supermarket Stadium Satday, and they might need a little luck to help them with these other Bullies. I just have to think the home town hosts will finally get that break on through to the other side and slam the “Doors” on the Maroons. Kentucky 31, Miss State 26.
Return with me now to the “Loveliest Village of the Plains.” (If you, too, cannot keep your eyes off the train wreck).
Arkansas vs. Auburn (-14)
Man, that last one still hurts like hemorrhoids! (Just try spelling that without looking it up.) But now it’s the Pussycats and the Tusks. And here we go. Or do we? Bewitched, bothered and bewildered. (While I’m tossing out $$, here’s one to Richard Rogers). Speaking of Rogers, we’re going to need Roy, Dale, Trigger (bless his taxidermied heart), Gabby Hayes and the whole gang if Auburn hopes to turn it around, it seems. Another truism is brought to mind. “Nothing is as good as it seems, and nothing is as bad as it seems. Somewhere in between reality.” (Lou Holtz). And that spanking over is Athens was about as real as it gets. A lot of folks want to fire the coach when a debacle like this comes along. And every armchair coach in America is bloviating in full force. I prefer to wait and see what transpires in this, what oftentimes seems like a nightmare, year of COVID-19, 2020. Haw! It ain’t been one for the faint of heart!
Coach Sam Pittman is going to have a bunch of believers with him at Jordan-Hare Stadium Satday afternoon. Them Hawgs will be ready for SEC victory number two. Will Auburn be ready for victory number two? I will not swear to it, but I have seen the men in burnt orange and navy blue do it before. Don’t get me wrong, these Piggies are not the Kansas City Chiefs. They should, though, be prepared to bring a determined bunch to the 20% filled arena. (20% ‘Twixt the Shrubs? Ya think?) No matter. Buckle up and be ready. It’s time to do some growing up. Don’t let Georgia beat you twice. Here’s thinking that will not happen. Auburn 30, Arkansas 17.
Once again, a bow to Leonard’s Post Toastie and Leonard’s Losers. And to being thankful we are able to enjoy some college football in these turbulent times.
If you cut any koners, just don’t get caught. And hoping no one has any blew gaskets.
Stay safe out there and be sure to love your neighbor!
Next week! Batman vs. Mr. Freeze!