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.