Week Five SEC Picks: Time to Bully the Dogs

There are only six games, on the slate, involving teams from the Southeastern Conference in Week Five. The marquee game, again, finds our Auburn Tigers as a participant. The Tigers take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Jordan-Hare Stadium, on Pat Dye Field, at 7 PM Eastern time and will be televised on ESPN (No U, no 2, etc). We will make our pick on that game as the final one of the column, per usual.

Your fearless forecaster got seven out of nine in Week Four. Our season total now stands at 38-8. That translates to a winning percentage of .826. Hold your applause until the completion of this blog, please!

One more quick piece of housekeeping before we delve into the predictions. Some of you have noticed that I have been using some “Leonardisms” in my posts this season. For those of you who are in the dark on the word I coined, “Leonardisms”, it is taken from the enormously popular Leonard’s Losers syndicated radio program from many years ago. I, for one, couldn’t wait to listen the the show every Friday afternoon before Saturday’s big games. I just wanted to pay tribute to Leonard by using a little bit of his terminology in sharing my predictions with you.

Speaking of predictions, let us proceed!

Alabama vs. Ole Miss

Nick Saban’s Pachyderms (Leonardism!) host Matt Luke’s Rebels/Black Bears/Land Sharks as the CBS feature game of the week. This is another day game, much to the chagrin of the powers that be, in T-Town. The visitors lost a real heartbreaker to Cal, on a controversial play, at the end of the game last week in Oxford. There won’t be any controversy as to who wins this one. The home team will continue to maul and mangle much inferior competition once again. Alabama 48, Ole Miss 14.

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M

The Aggies might still be smarting from the whippin’ perpetrated on them by the Auburn Tigers last Saturday. This game, to be played at Jerry World in Arlington, TX, might find Jimbo’s troops fishing for points early on, but Chad Morris’s Piggies (San Jose State!? Really!?) will ultimately be gigged by the crew from College Station. Texas A&M 38, Arkansas 17.

Florida vs. Towson????

Who dat???? Well, it’s the mighty Towson (Maryland) Tigers of the Colonial Athletic Association, which boasts perennial powers such as Rhode Island, Bill & Mary, New Hampshire and the vaunted Delaware Blue Hens! And Dan Mullen’s Water Lizards are not favored (-36.5) by as much as Alabama (-37.5) is over an SEC opponent! Say what? I’ll say what. The most interesting aspect of this mismatch will be if Towson can score and the Gators keep everyone healthy for the huge game with Auburn next Satday. Florida 45, Towson 0.

Kentucky vs. South Carolina

Both squads have struggled, as of late, and somebody has to lose. The game is in Columbia. The Cocks are a three point favorite. They “sport” a 1-3 record. Is Will Muschamp’s fanny heating up? It will be if he loses to the Fightin’ Felines,  who are 2-2 on the season, and South Carolina goes to 1-4. The Cats rebound while the Roosters continue to reel. A tight one, in OT. Kentucky 30, South Carolina 27.

Vanderbilt vs. NIU

The Huskies of Northern Illinois will mush their way down into Nashville Saturday for what is expected to be quite a close clash. Derrick Mason’s Commodores hope to get into the winning column for the first time in 2019. The visitors have been there only once. There really is not much of a home field advantage in Music City but it will be enough to help Vandy experience victory for the first time this season. Vanderbilt 28, NIU 24.  

And we conclude with the all important ESPN feature game of the week!

Auburn vs. Mississippi State

The Bullies feel that they should be undefeated just like the 4-0 hosts of East Alabama. Its lone loss was a heartbreaking seven point defeat to another group of Felines from Manhattan, KS. The Wildcats of Kansas State. The Tigers are 10.5 point favorites and ranked seventh in the country, but the Pups will not be intimidated. They always play a very physical style of football and this week will not be an exception.

State lost a lot of good ball players off its defense, as well as quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who rushed for the majority of his teams 300 plus yards in a beatdown of Auburn at Starkville last season. Auburn’s wide receivers are getting healthy, the tight end is being utilized, and the running backs are asserting themselves. The O line looks better each week. The D? Lights out! From the front seven through the secondary. They are flat nasty. And Gus is coaching like never before. This all adds up to a team that should improve a little from week to week.

State has actually won three of the last five with Auburn and that will not do. The Tigers have also blown them out two of the last three. I like Auburn somewhere between the minus 10.5 and a blowout. Auburn 34, Miss State 16.

Georgia, LSU, Missouri, and Tennessee have the week off.

There you have it, folks. Take care out there and be sure to love your neighbor!

 

Week Four SEC Picks: The Dawgs and the Dame; Aggies and Auburn, and MORE!

Yessiree bobby! There will be two games, involving SEC teams, in which both teams are ranked. Number three Georgia will host number seven Notre Dame and number eight Auburn travels to College Station to battle Texas A&M. I will get to those two picks later on. Let me update you on how proceedings have gone through three weeks of the 2019 college football season. Last week I correctly assessed nine games while whiffing on two, Colorado State-Arkansas and Mississippi State-Kansas State. My season record goes to 31-6, for an .837 winning percentage. Good enough!

Onward!

Alabama vs. Southern Miss

Let’s get the Bama weekly scrimmage behind us. The Golden Eagles downed my alma mater, Troy, last week. That’s too bad. What will be too bad this week is the whipping the hometown Tide will will administer to the unlucky guests from Hattiesburg, MS. Alabama (-38.5) 49, Southern Miss 17.

Arkansas vs. San Jose State

The Piggies have been truffling up the points thus far in 2019. 55 of ’em last week in that pasting of the boys from Fort Collins, CO. Chad Morris’s Hawgs will smoke the Spartans bee-hinds. Arkansas 52, San Jose (I know the way) State 20.

Florida vs. Tennessee

The Water Lizards are back in The Swamp in what one would think will be a serious chomping of the Vowels. I think it could get more interesting than most folks believe. The 14 point underdogs will make it fun for a bit, but Dapper Dan Mullen’s crew will find a way. Florida 34, Tennessee 23. 

Mississippi State vs. Kentucky

Mark Stoops’ Fightin’ Felines have to be smarting after another brutal loss to the aforementioned Gators. I had it 28-21 and the final tally was 29-21. Purty close! Now, the K State Wildcats taking a “W” back to Manhattan from Starkville was a surprise, at least in this part of the woods. One team is about to lose 2 in-a-row. I’m thinking it will be the visitors. In another barnburner. Mississippi State 27, Kentucky 24.

LSU vs. Vanderbilt

Have y’all been watching the 150 Year Anniversary of the SEC special on the telly? (No, I’m not coming to you from ‘across the pond, I just like the word Telly). Speaking of Kojak, I sure could use a Tootsie Roll Pop. I handed them out after the Children’s Sermon in church last week and the little boogers took them all. Oh! Football! 150 years and all that! On that show we have learned a great many things, one of which is that Vanderbilt used to be the standard bearer in SEC football. I think that was during my daddy’s childhood. Great town for music and food, but a terrible town for football now. LSU (-24) 38, Vanderbilt 7.

South Carolina vs. Missouri

In Columbia. Oops! You need mo info. Columbia, MISSOURI! Muschamp’s Roosters exposed some vulnerabilities in the number two team in country last week in Columbia, SOUTH CAROLINA. (Follow the bouncing ball, boys and girls). Can they win a big SEC East road game with their newly found true freshman quarterback, Ryan Hilinski? Great, touching storyline there involving Hilinski and his brother. It seems to me Barry Odom’s troops have found their sea legs. Missouri 35, South Carolina 24.

Ole Miss vs. Cal

Bet the overwhelming majority of y’all didn’t know I spent a good deal of time on the Berkeley campus in ’86-’87 as a campus minister/chaplain. Yep! Bet even fewer didn’t know I spent time, out there, at San Quentin prison. No no! Not as an inmate, but recruiting people to come visit inmates at the prison. M-2, Match two, a caring community member with a forgotten inmate. Charlie Manson was housed there at the time, and he applied for participation in the program, but he was on 23 hour lockdown and not a part of the mainline population, thus, he was not eligible to participate in M-2. I really enjoyed the job and chatting with the inmates. Some with tales of Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Ok ok, football. The Golden Bears make the LONG trek to Oxford. Tailgating at the Cal-Stanford game is quite different from that in The Grove. More on that some other time. The Black Bears are a shade darker than their counterparts and a tad of a favorite in this game. I’ll take it. Ole Miss 28, Cal 27. 

And NOW! Back to those clashes which feature two ranked teams!

First, the game in Athens.

Georgia vs. Notre Dame

I also spent three years as a campus minister/chaplain at The State University of New York-Albany. That was just prior to the time I did (wink) in California. Point being, there were a boatload of Catholics students there at SUNY. Not many had never seen a Baptist, much less had the chance to interact with one, and, especially, one from the Deep South. I told them that Baptists outnumbered Catholics in the South about like Catholics outnumbered Baptists in the North and that you couldn’t sling a dead cat without hitting a Baptist in the South or a Catholic in the North. My priest friends up there still use that illustration to this day. One of my colleagues, an Episcopalian priest,  was greatly amused when we had to leave the home we were renting and into an apartment in Presidential Estates, near the campus. Our address became 7 Grant Court, Guilderland, NY. Yes, THAT Grant! The one-time chief exec. He said it could only be more hilarious if we had been on Sherman Street! It was a great time. Never had three better years in our lives! Football! Football! Catholics. Bulldoggies. I love Pope Francis but the Irish don’t stand a chance Between the Hedges. Georgia 34, Notre Dame 17.

And…

Auburn vs. Texas A&M

Our favorite regular season road trip, ever, was the 2013 game at Aggieland in 2013. Back when Johnny Football was king. I’m sure you remember that HUGE game. Two highly ranked teams doing battle at Kyle Field. Dee Ford sacks Manziel. Nick Marshall, Tre Mason, etc. Auburn’s coming out party on the way to a shot at the Natty, and we won’t go there. The situation is not dissimilar in 2019. Other than we won’t be there to experience that wonderful hospitality and the victory steak in Houston. I really like how Auburn is progressing. Kent State provided the much needed format to hone/polish our game. If Auburn can attack the perimeter successfully, and open up the zone read and the inside power game it will be huge. The main focus in this one, IMHO, is Auburn’s O line. They absolutely must keep pulling those guards and run the ball well. That will open it up for Bo Nix, who went 12 for 16 (two drops, two misses) against the Golden Flashes. The D will do its job and keep it close, and somewhat low scoring, giving the Tigers a chance to win in the fourth quarter. And win they will! Auburn 23, Texas A&M 20.

Alright people! Hitch up! Take care out there and be SURE to love thy neighbor!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week Three SEC Football Picks

Last week I was dang near perfect. The lone miss was my upset pick of Vandy over IMG_3292.jpgPurdue. That’s ok. You gotta pick upsets. My season total now stands at 22-4. That computes to an .846 percentage. I’ll take it and let’s rock! No time to tarry as Week Three is up-on us! But, first of all, this… AT&T/Direct TV/Uverse is making noise about not carrying all the ESPN channels tomorrow, that includes the SEC Network, unless some agreement isn’t met with Disney or whoever. I can tell you one thing, if some Mouse wants to attempt to come between Southerners and their football, GOOD LUCK! You will have stepped in it then, Mickey! Tread there at your own peril!

Alright! FOOTBALL!

Arkansas vs. Colorado State

This rumble presents somewhat of a dilemma. Both teams are really bad! The Hawgs are a 9.5 point favorite. It’s a home game. Can the Rams actually be that inept? A good-sized road dog to the worst team in the SEC? I don’t think so. Not only do they cover, they win. Colorado State 27, Arkansas 23.

Florida vs. Kentucky

At Kroger field in Lexington. The Swamp Lizards will find out what they are made of this weekend. The Wildcats will push them to the limit, but Mullen, Franks, and company will find a path to escape the upset. Florida 28, Kentucky 21.

Georgia vs. Arkansas State

Another wax job for the Pups. Blah blah, yak yak, the Red Wolves won’t get cut no slack. Georgia 45, Arkansas State 10.

LSU vs. Northwestern State

I looked it up. The visiting Demons hail from Natchitoches, LA and they are an FCS squad. And these poor boys have to play in Tiger Stadium at night. On top of that, they are a 51 point underdog. They won’t cover. YayHeee! The Red Stick Felines in a Mass-a-creeee. LSU 66, Demons 0.

Mississippi State vs. Kansas State

The Bullies traveled out to The Little Apple (Manhattan, KS) in 2018 and came away victors. It will be more of the same in 2019. The Wildcats are dangerous, to be sure, but Joe Moorhead will have his troops ready and awaitin’! Mississippi State 31, Kansas State 23

Missouri vs. Southeast Missouri State

The Red Hawks may not be in any condition to fly back to Cape Girardeau after they are mangled by the hometown Tigers. Notable alumni of the visiting school include Rush Limbaugh, Cedric the Entertainer, and Roy Thomas, comic book writer and former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics. The things one learns here, huh? Missouri 48, SEMO 17.

Ole Miss vs. Southeastern Louisiana

I’m truly having to brush up on my geography as I languish through this litany of laughers. That’s enough! Bring on SEC league play! Ok, the guests are the Lions, they make their den in Hammond, LA and play their games in Strawberry Stadium. “Let me take you down cause I’m going to…” Come on! Sing along! Anyway, where’s Daniel when you need him? Probably out frolicking around with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo. A long way from Oxford, I hope, for this one  could get ugly. Ole Miss 35, SELA 6

Tennessee vs. Chattanooga

I just don’t see any way the Vols can muck this one up. Do you think? The Rocky Toppers are a 28 point favorite, but they were lined as -25 over Georgia State. And you know what occurred in Neyland Stadium back on September 1, don’t you? The old upset tick bit Smoky square on his fanny. Not this time. Tennessee will finally experience the sweet taste of victory! Tennessee 31, Chattanooga 16

Texas A&M vs. Lamar

Lamar Young was our school bus driver back when I was but a wee lad at Camden Elementary School in LA. That’s all I got. Lamar (not Mr. Young) is in the same state as the Aggies. That is where the similarities end. What a god awful set of matchups for Saturday. I want to finish this column and go get a beverage to wash the taste out of my mouth. Texas A&M 56, Lamar 3.

Vanderbilt Open

No, not a golf tournament. The Commodores will be off and licking its wounds Satday.

Home staters!

Alabama vs. South Carolina

The Mighty Tidey doesn’t want to play at noon, or during the day, or whatever. Don’t cry for them, Argentina. Columbia, SC will be the site of the Crimpsun Tide’s next victim. Cocks, Gamecocks that is. Will Muschamp’s corps will be clobbered by Saban’s soldiers. Will Bama cover the minus 25.5? Hmmmmm… Alabama 38, USC East 13.

Aaaaaaand!

Auburn vs. Kent State

The Golden Flashes will make its way to the Loveliest Village of the Plains Saturday evening as a 36 point underdog to Gus Malzahn’s Tigers. Can Auburn score 36? Will the O line get some push and open holes for Boobee and others? Please! Others! Like Cam Martin, Shaun Shivers, Malik Miller, and DJ Williams (Seth Williams will not play). Will Hastings will see action in spite of that brutal, vicious low-belly hit he took last week. Eli Stove is ok, too, we hear. Give Bo some protection and dial him up a few zone reads so he can use his fleet feet. Yes, he is faster than Gatewood. And speaking of Joey, let’s see some more of him. Boom ’em high Arryn, and cover ’em special teams. One more tune up before the journey to College Station and another night in Tejas! Auburn 42, Kent State 3.

That’s a wrap, folks! Peace, love, and football! Take care out there and be sure to love your neighbor!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week Two SEC Football Picks

I was 9-3 in Week One Picks last week. That’s 75% but not great for what is, typically, a 85% to 90% week, as there are always more than a few mismatches on opening weekend. Tennessee-Georgia State (that powerhouse from downtown Atlanta which has only been playing football for about 10 years) was, on paper, was one of those games. The mighty Panthers threw a monkey wrench into those predictions and defeated the 25 point favorite Volunteers. Poor old Rocky Top. Wow! Also South Carolina got popped by North Carolina, but that was really no big surprise. I did pick Ole Miss as the only SEC loss and, yes, they were toppled buy the favored Memphis Tigers.

So much for the past. Let us press on into Week Two of Southeastern Conference football!

Arkansas vs. Ole Miss

The wounded Rebels (-6) are back in Oxford and will be “Grove-in’ on a sunny afternoon.” The home team showed some improvement on defense, as compared to the 2018 edition of Land Sharks. Arkansas did win last Saturday, but it was an escape over FCS opponent Portland State, 20-13. From here, it appears Matt Luke’s boys are primed to garner its first win of the 2019 season while roasting some piggies in the process. Ole Miss 20, Arkansas 13.

Florida vs. UT Martin

I spent one night in Martin, TN back in the 90’s. I stayed at an Econo Lodge and ate at the Huddle House. It was slim pickins then and it will be more of the same for the visiting Skyhawks down in The Swamp on Saturday. The Gators are a 44.5 favorite, by the way. Whether or nor they cover will be the biggest mystery involved in this mismatch. Florida 48, UT Martin 6

Georgia vs. Murray State

The mismatches continue as Kirby Smart’s pups host the Racers of Murray, KY (Yes, I spent one night there, as well), and the most exciting event to take place, for all the fans, will be the naming of the field which resides Between the Hedges. Vince Dooley is the honoree, and I would like to congratulate the former head coach, athletic director, and Auburn quarterback! As for the game… what “game”? The slaughter will play to the tune of something like… Georgia 56, Murray State 3.

Kentucky vs. Eastern Michigan

Surprise! This one is not considered to be a mismatch. Mark Stoops and his Fightin’ Felines are only a 15.5 favorite over the Visiting Eagles. The Cats disposed of another MAC team last weekend, Toledo. (I keep wanting to refer to them as the Mud Hens. $1 to Maxwell Q. Klinger of M*A*S*H fame). That contest was a bit of a scrap. This one could be, yet I do expect the home team to prevail. Kentucky 30, Eastern Michigan 14.

Mississippi State vs. Southern Miss

Another set of Eagles are set to fly up against an SEC team Saturday. This group hails form inside the Magnolia State in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles could prove as sticky as syrup to the the Bulldoggies. Southern Miss will give State all it can handle, but the Starkville crew will win as predicted. Mississippi State 31, Southern Miss 17.

Missouri vs. West Virginia

Dana Holgorsen has departed as head coach of the Mountaineers and now prowls the sideline of the Houston Cougars. Troy’s Neal Brown, losers to James Madison in Week One, now leads the visiting squad which will make the jaunt to Columbia, MO. I think the Tigers (-13.5) will show us last week’s surprising upset, at the hands of the the Wyoming Cowboys, was an aberration. If not, it’s going to be a very long year for Barry Odom’s gang. Missouri 38, West Virginia 20.

South Carolina vs. Charleston Southern

I have spent time in both Charleston and Columbia and fared much much better than in Martin, TN and Murray, KY. Charleston is a beautiful place with great food, drink, and sights to see, but its football team is also a 40.5 underdog to the wounded Cocks of Carolina. Will Muschamp will have the hosts ready to rebound after the disheartening loss to the Tar Heels. South Carolina 42, Charleston Southern 10.

Tennessee vs. BYU

What does one have to say about the Vols and their total embarrassment at the hands of Georgia State? Questions abound, like WTF? and WTH? and Really? SMH. Rocky was not just topped, but also smothered, covered, and chunked. SMH again. The Cougars bring a better team to Knoxville than the one that bested Jeremy Pruitt’s timid Tennessee (-4) on August 31. More questions. Can the Ole Smokies turn it around? Will they get more effort this week? No and yes. In a smaller upset… BYU 24, Tennessee 23. 

Vanderbilt vs. Purdue

The Commodores will drop anchor in West Lafayette, IN (never stayed there) Saturday for what should be a boiler in the making. Purdue is a seven point favorite, but I expect Derrick Mason’s Music City boys to pick apart the hometown hosts and come home with its first victory of the 2019 season. Vanderbilt 23, Purdue 21.

And now on to the Monster Games of the Week.

Texas A&M vs. Clemson

Hoo Hoooo, MEERCY! (A call I remember from an Ole Miss announcer back in the 60’s). The biggest game of the week and one the very few regular season’s true challenges, in 2019, for Auburn With a Lake. The defending National Champions (-16.5) will have its hands full, for awhile, with Jimbo Fisher’s aggregation from Aggieland. In the end, the Tigers will be too much for the College Station crowd, and will come out on top after it all is said and done. Clemson 34, Texas A&M 20.

LSU vs. Texas

I have also stayed over a handful of times in Baton Rouge and spent a few weeks in Austin. I absolutely love these two lovely college towns! The eyes of Texas will be glaring down on the Bayou Bengals (the pregame singing of that Texas tune is one of college football’s great traditions as is Mike’s entry into Tiger Stadium) Satday night and this one should be a humdinger indeed. When the clock ticks down to zero, I predict visiting Louisiana State (-6.5) will squeak by the Longhorns. LeCroy’s Loser… Texas! LSU 27, Texas 24.

And now we shall conclude with my home state’s games of Week Two.

Alabama (not much versus at all) New Mexico State

Another traveling team of Aggies, these from Las Cruces, NM, will make its way eastward. New Mexico is truly the Land of Enchantment. I have wonderful friends and family out there and I long for the day we can return and enjoy more time to spend in that wondrous state. The New Mexico State team will have a LONG trip back home after it is completely and totally annihilated. The Red Elephants have a 0.1% chance to lose. Just where is that minuscule of hope supposed to come from? From this angle, there is a zero percent chance of Alabama (-55.5) losing. Green chiles. Red chiles. No matter. The Tide will ROLL and Doug Martin’s (no relation to UT Martin) gents will be the worse for wear at the hands of Nick Saban’s not so gentle men. Alabama 63, New Mexico State 0.

Auburn vs. Tulane

The team closest to my heart returned home triumphant from deep in the heart of Texas! It was a glorious time with good friends and the Auburn Family out in the Lone Star State! And a quick run through Cowtown with my bride was so sweet and emotional, as we spent the first three years of our marriage there. Our son, Auburn Luke, was born there. And a big pieces of our hearts will always remain Ft. Worth. Thank you, Lord, for the time spent there back in ’77-’80 and our two nights, last weekend, near Arlington!

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. That happens when you age and memories become ever so much more precious. I digress.

Football!

The first thing I would like to say about Saturday night’s game in Jordan-Hare Stadium, is do not overlook the Green Wave! Yes, Auburn is a 17 point favorite, but Tulane is a very well-coached football team. Willie Fritz has them rolling as they have won six of its last seven games dating back to the 2018 season. The Greenies know it will be an uphill battle, but I assure you that they won’t back down ($1 to Tom Petty). The Wave rushed for 350 yards in a 42-14 victory, over Florida International, in a game in which it was favored by only three. And quarterback Justin (two Justin QB’s in a row) McMillan, an LSU transfer and a dang good one, has been the field general in that 6-1 run. Its beginning was his first start.

You are all well-versed on what transpired at Jerry World last Saturday night. Bo Nix was successful in his debut and he should only continue to improve. But, there will still be lapses with the true freshman signal caller. Also, the Tigers O line looked far too much like the O line of 2018. And what happened in the kicking game? Siposs can boom ’em, but someone has got to learn to cover punts! The same goes for kickoff coverage.

And Gus doesn’t need to get cute when you have the ball first and goal from the three!

Here’s hoping the Tigers will make great strides from game one to game two, as is typical in college football. Get that running back rotation fluid and not put too much on Boobee. Get some separation from the wide receivers and hope Anthony Schwartz doesn’t have to continue as a decoy for much longer.

I was very impressed with the new set of linebackers, particularly KJ Britt and Owen Pappoe. Studs, the both of them. The D line and D backs are both very good groups, as well, and the overall D should be one of the best, if not THE best, in the country as the season progresses.

I think the potential for a special season still remains a strong possibility but progress has to continue occur, this week with Tulane and next week with Kent State. This is a perfect opportunity to fine tune things for the trip to College Station on September 21.

The game shouldn’t be a runaway, but I foresee the Tigers getting to where they should be and taking care of business on Pay Dye Field Saturday night. Auburn 38, Tulane 14.

So, until next time, take care out there and be sure to love your neighbor!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week One SEC Football Picks

We got a little taste of SEC football last weekend when Florida squeaked past Miami in one of the YOU-gliest football games I have ever seen. It actually hurt my eyes to watch that debacle. One team won, Florida, and one team lost, Miami, and that was about all you can say about it. The final tally was, Gators 24, Miami 20. I had the Gators 24-21, so I was about as close as you can get on it. It rarely happens that one picks the exact score, or that close to it, because picking college football games is a highly inexact science. Now, let’s wipe the dust off our collective feet and move away from Week Zero to what will actually be dubbed Week One of the 2019 NCAA Football Season. And, specifically, the Southeastern Conference.

Texas A&M vs. Texas State.

My bride and I will, be making our way to the Lone Star State this weekend, but certainly not for this mismatch. The Aggies will bother with nothing more than tuning up for next week’s monster game at Clemson. Jimbo & Co. won’t show much of anything and this one could easily eclipse the -33.5 line if they so desire. I think they will.
Texas A&M 45, Texas State 7

Arkansas vs. Portland State

Don’t chuckle just yet. North Texas State walloped the Razorbacks by a score of 44-17 last year, but that is where the similarities end regarding this particular game. Chad Morris is slowly building a competitive team out thar in them Ozarks and Arkansas should not struggle too very much with the visiting Vikings.
Arkansas 38, Portland State 16

Tennessee vs. Georgia State

The home team Vols are a heavy favorite, as are the great majority of conference teams, this weekend. Jeremy Pruitt’s Rocky Toppers, much like the aforementioned Hawgs, are a little bit better in 2019 and should readily dispose of the Panthers from downtown Hotlanta. LeCroy’s loser… Georgia State!
Tennessee 40, Georgia State 14

Miss State vs. Louisiana Lafayette

This is one that will be tougher for the Cowbellers than one would think, at first glance. They ‘ll tee it up in the Big Easy, but nothing will be easy for State down on Poydras Street..The Rajin’ Cajuns will be ready and it’ll be hotter than that sauce they make down there in NOLA, but the Bulldoggies should eventually outdistance the home team away after an early struggle.
Miss State 31, Louisiana Lafayette 20

LSU vs. Georgia Southern

We’ll keep it down on the bayou with the next contest. Coach Ed “Yaw Yaw Yaw football!” Orgeron has the makings of a fine team this year in Red Stick. The Bengal Tigers appear to have the potential to challenge Alabama in the SEC West. Things will begin to take shape along that line Saturday as the boys from Statesboro will return home with a case of the blues.
LSU 42, Georgia Southern 10

Kentucky vs. Toledo

The Rockets finished first in the MAC in 2018 and should bring a talented and well-prepared team to Kroger Field in Lexington. And even though the Cats lost some heavyweights off its 10 win, 2018,  team, it will have too much talent in its arsenal to allow for the upset.
Kentucky 34, Toledo 23

Missouri vs. Wyoming

This game will take place in Laramie. The Cowboys will be ropin’ and wranglin’ on its home sod. But Mizzou will be up for this rodeo with grad transfer Kelly Bryant, formerly of Clemson, leading the way. He knows a thing or two about winning. Couple that with a solid running game and a salty defense and the visiting Tigers escape the noose with a victory.
Missouri 35, Wyoming 17

Ole Miss vs. Memphis

This could very well be one of the most exciting games played, Saturday, with an SEC team involved. Mike Norvell picked right up where Justin Fuente left off with the Beale Street Bengals. Matt Luke epitomizes the ferocity, tenacity, and passion typical of one who is fortunate enough to coach his alma mater. In the end they’ll be toasting the home team at Rendezvous, Corky’s, and the like on the shores of the mighty Mississipp! The home field advantage will be just enough to put the Tigers over the top. In a close one that could easily go the other way.
Memphis 34, Ole Miss 33

South Carolina vs. North Carolina
Another of the early season “bowl” games. Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks take on the Tar Heels in Mack Brown’s return to Chapel Hill. This game, in Charlotte, holds the possibility of turning out to be a very close clash. I like South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley’s skill, leadership, skill, and experience to be enough for the edge here.
South Carolina 28, North Carolina 24

Georgia vs. Vanderbilt

The game is to be played in Nashville, but look for the visiting Bulldogs to provide more fans and make more noise than the hometown Commodores. Country music will be ubiquitous down on Broadway when all is said and done on Saturday night. And the Georgia fans will be howling at the moon as they take the first (two) step toward another SEC East title.
Georgia 37, Vanderbilt 16

Alabama vs. Duke

The Crimson Tide has been rolling in suspensions and injuries in the preseason. But don’t cry for Nick Saban and his reloaded gang of future NFLers. Alabama will win and it will probably win going away. David Cutcliffe is one of the the best in the business. No matter. Saban is the best in the business. The Devils will, indeed, be blue (and black) when this one is completed.
Alabama 41, Duke 13

And on to the marquee game of Week One…ESPN’s College Football Gameday…

Auburn vs. Oregon
Deux. Outside of Ole Miss, this is the game where the SEC has the best chance to come up short on Saturday night. From Jerry World in Arlington, TX, it’s the number 11 Ducks and the number 16 Tigers. Mario Cristobal has a most talented assemblage he is bringing to the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, especially on the offensive side of the football where he sports, arguably, the top O line in college football.

Gus Malzahn, whose seat is not as hot as the average football fan would like to think, has three potential first round NFL selections on his D line. And Kevin Steele has had that group in the top 15 in scoring defense in each of his three seasons on The Plains. This is a matchup made in heaven for we fans who are now salivating for some seriously scintillating football.

That gives me pause to consider that an equally important matchup will be Auburn’s O line vs. Oregon’s D line. Gus himself has said that that gang of big uglies was one of the strong points of preseason camp. Hmmmm…

Oregon’s wide receivers and secondary could be chinks in its armor. Auburn has some stud horses in its wide receivers and secondary aggregations, and it is deep in those areas, as well.

Ok, Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert is a bona fide Heisman candidate and potential NUMBER ONE NFL draft pick. Bo Nix, and backup Joey Gatewood are freshmen. The former a true freshman and the latter a redshirt freshman. And one thing I would like to remind people of, is, that Nix was the NUMERO UNO dual threat quarterback in the country coming out of the 2019 class. He is also one of the most “football ready” QB’s to come along the pike in some time.

Oregon has a solid ground game. Auburn has a talented stable of SIX (Boobee Whitlow, Kam Martin, Shaun Shivers, Malik Miller, DJ Williams, and Harold Joiner who is someone to keep your eye on Saturday night).

Also watch for Jay Jay Wilson, an Arizona State transfer. He is said to be a great weapon, both blocking and receiving, at the H-Back position.

Although the Ducks have a good front seven, Auburn’s is quite talented and should be extremely stingy on the defensive side of the ball.

Arryn Siposs is, purportedly, on the verge of a breakout season. And our Aussie mate wasn’t too shabby in 2018. Anders Carlson should be rounding into the form his older brother took during his record breaking four years at Auburn.

When the dust finally settles, it will, most probably, come down to turnovers, penalties, and whichever team wants it most. I think Auburn is the biggest, fastest and most athletic of the two teams, and I think it’s extremely hungry to do something special for the Auburn family in 2019. This game will be the first step in that journey.

Look for the game to be very hard fought with the Tigers holding a one score lead entering the fourth quarter. And look for Carlson to salt it away with a late field goal.
Auburn 27, Oregon 17

So, that’s it for my Week One forecast in Week One in the SEC! Take care out there and be sure to love your neighbor!

And War Eagle!!!

SEC MEDIA DAYS – RANDOM TAKES

SEC Media Days have now come and gone. I listened to all 14 coaches, their spiel and the questions they answered, and I was impressed with every coach and what he had to say about his team. They all seemed to have a vision and a master plan for their respective squads. And the league’s coaching fraternity appears to be a very strong group, top to bottom.  That being said, most of the hullabaloo and hype at the event is much ado about nothing.

Same Old Same Old

Georgia and Alabama are the favorites to win the East and West, and they should be. Both are, once again, loaded to the gills and both are stacked deep with premier level talent chomping at the bit to get to “The League.” That’s is THE goal for today’s kids. They are kids, by and large, and we should keep that in mind when tempted to speak, not so flatteringly, of their real or perceived failings and errors.

Up and Coming

I came away truly impressed with Barry Odom and his Missouri Tigers. Kelly Bryant should give Mizzou some great talent and leadership at the quarterback position. I like who it has returning, across the board, and the schedule is quite manageable.

Quick Takes

In the West. Chad Morris will be getting Arkansas rebuilt in time. You’ll se a LOT of improvement from the Razorbacks this fall.

You just gotta love Coach “O” at LSU. “Yaw yaw yaw FOOTBALL.”

Joe Moorhead has State headed in the right direction but they Bullies lost a lot to graduation.

I also love Matt Luke at Ole miss but they’re fighting an uphill battle in the West.

I believe Jimbo will do a good job in College Station, but I don’t get all the love for the Aggies.

In the East. Dan Mullen has restored the passion at Florida. I do not believe they’re ready to overtake Georgia.

Mark Stoops has really done well at Kentucky as has Will Muschamp at South Carolina. The fact is, though, these teams are not going to win the East. Ever? I don’t know.

And Tennessee. Jeremy Pruitt has a monumental task rebuilding Tennesse. Will the Vols ever return to its former glory? Probably not any time soon. You will see this team fight and claw and scratch each week. ($1 to Pat Dye).

AND! I was hoping this was not going to happen, but it did. I wanted to keep my expectations low and make as little noise as possible going into the 2019 campaign, but Auburn, IMHO, is locked and loaded. There is great talent and experience in the two sets of trenches. The D line could be the best in the country. The linebackers could wind up being better than last year’s senior laden group  and the secondary is also very talented and pretty darn deep with great experience returning.

The offense returns ALL seniors on the line and that group was healthy and vastly improved by the time the bowl game rolled around. They should be a strength. Also, they more than held their own against the D line in the spring.

Boobee Whitlow should be poised to have a breakout season at running back and the stable is deep there. Kam Martin, is back for his senior season and provides excellent leadership. Malik Miller is a solid role player. Shaun Shivers has blazing speed. And DJ Williams could be a future star.

The wideouts are excellent. Eli Stove and Will Hastings return from injuries. Anthony Schwartz had an incredible freshman season and should onlyget better. Sal Cannela is formidable. Seth Williams is a beast. Matthew Hill had an eye-popping spring and A Day game. Marquis McClain is also due to breakout, and Shedrick Jackson will hopefully continue to come along nicely.

The tight end position is moving toward being a strength. John Samuel Shenker leads to pack at this point and is following closely by Tyler Fromm (Jake’s brother. UGA QB) and Luke Deal.

Ah! Quarterback. Bo or Joey? Joey or Bo? One is a true freshman and the other a redshirt freshman. I asked Arryn Siposs which the team preferred. He said it didn’t matter which one started. Either would do very well. (As an aside, I also asked him how many games AU would win this fall. He, unhesitatingly replied, “Undefeated!” I love his passion, confidence, and enthusiasm.)

Speaking of Siposs and special teams. Top notch. Siposs is going to turned loose to kick 70 yard spirals and Anders Carlson provides great strength at the placekicker position.

I also feel very, very good about the intangibles and hunger this team seems to be blessed with. They want it badly and the eight guys who opted to return, led by Derrick Brown, form a tremendous nucleus on which to build. And, I do think Gus calling the plays and taking control of the team, in a big way, again will work out extremely well.

Okay! I let my newly found hope and optimism  get the best of me. But I’m really “feeling it” here in late July.

On to my picks for the divisions order of finish and who should win it all.

EAST

  1. Georgia (a lock)
  2. Missouri
  3. Florida
  4. South Carolina
  5. Kentucky
  6. Tennessee
  7. Vanderbilt

WEST

  1. Alabama
  2. Auburn
  3. LSU
  4. Texas A&M
  5. Mississippi State
  6. Arkansas
  7. Ole Miss

SEC Champion

All together now…

Alabama!!!

The Tide is an easy pick to win the West, but I do think Auburn and LSU have a chance. A real chance. I do not think anyone will unseat Georgia in the East. The Dawgs WILL WIN THE EAST.

Ok folks, buckle up! Football season is, unofficially, HERE!!!

Take care out there and be sure to love your neighbor!

 

The March To Tampa: Let The Hype Begin

It’s that time of year. On Monday, three major college football publications, Lindy’s, Athlon, and The Sporting News, released their Preseason College Football rankings for the 2016 season. Ever since I was a kid, waiting for Street and Smith’s to publish their preseason magazine, this has been a much-anticipated time for me.

Where is Auburn? Alabama! Again? That refrain rings true once more as Auburn is nowhere to be found in any of the three polls and Alabama resides in the top spot in all of them. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

There are a great many of the usual suspects, from years past, that also find themselves in the hunt. Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas, and USC would count among those teams. There are also a few teams that would not have been rated back in my younger days. They would include Baylor, TCU, Louisville, Clemson, Houston, Oklahoma State and Oregon.

And here they are with links:

Lindy’s Athlon The Sporting News
1. Alabama 1. Alabama 1. Alabama
2. Clemson 2. Florida State 2. Clemson
3. Oklahoma 3. Ohio State 3. Oklahoma
4. Ohio State 4. Clemson 4. Ohio State
5. Baylor 5. Michigan 5. Baylor
6. Tennessee 6. Oklahoma 6. Florida State
7. Michigan 7. Tennessee 7. Ole Miss
8. Florida State 8. Notre Dame 8. Michigan
9. LSU 9. LSU 9. Stanford
10. Stanford 10. Ole Miss 10. Notre Dame
11. Notre Dame 11. Washington 11. Michigan State
12. Houston 12. Stanford 12. LSU
13. Ole Miss 13. Michigan State 13. Tennessee
14. Louisville 14. Baylor 14. Houston
15. Iowa 15. UCLA 15. USC
16. Oklahoma State 16. Houston 16. Oklahoma State
17. USC 17. Georgia 17. Iowa
18. Georgia 18. TCU 18. North Carolina
19. San Diego State 19. Louisville 19. Oregon
20. TCU 20. Iowa 20. Georgia
21. Washington 21. Florida 21. Washington
22. Michigan State 22. North Carolina 22. Louisville
23. UCLA 23. USC 23. Arkansas
24. Oregon 24. Oregon 24. Texas
25. North Carolina 25. Oklahoma State 25. TCU
In the SEC, we have Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas. That’s half of the league in and half of the league out. Auburn would be the most prominent exception. Now, lets take a look at all of the SEC teams that made their way in and what the average ranking of each, between the three magazines, would be. We will divide the total of each team’s ranking by three, thus, Alabama 3 divided by 3 = 1. I was hell in arithmetic.

Alabama – 1.0

Tennessee – 8.67

Ole Miss – 10

LSU – 10
( A tie. Interesting.)

Georgia – 18.3

Florida was ranked just once, at 21 by Athlon. Arkansas was also ranked only once and that was at 23 by the Sporting News. I suppose they would both fall into the “others receiving votes” in our combined poll.

And so, that leaves only four teams, Alabama, Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU as being unanimously ranked. That is not what the SEC is accustomed to. Does that mean it will be a down year for the SEC? I don’t know. I could see Auburn making it in when all is said and done. But Missouri, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M? No.

The way I’m looking at it, there would be a maximum of seven SEC teams being ranked when the final poll results are in. A maximum, but there, obviously, could be fewer than that.

I mentioned only four teams that are unanimously ranked in the three publications, and they all fall within the top ten. There is certainly a chance that some of those four teams do not meet expectations.

Will Alabama, truly, be as good as they were last year or in years before? Danny Sheridan, oddsmaker and Bama grad, thinks the Tide could lose a couple of games and finish behind LSU. Alabama also lost Kirby Smart to Georgia. How about them Dawgs? There is an entire new coaching staff, and system, that the Bulldogs have to adjust to.

What about LSU? And Tennessee? There are pundits who are beginning to surmise that these teams are overrated. I disagree. In fact, the more I think about these two, the more I like them.

Tennessee, and Butch Jones, have been steadily building this program and those freshmen that were talented, but green, back in 2013 are bigger, stronger, and experienced. The Vols are also deep. I fully expect them to win the East and play for the SEC Championship.

LSU? Same thing with Brandon Harris, Leonard Fournette and their fellow Tigers. I’m beginning to see Danny Sheridan’s point of view and I understand why he thinks the Bayou Bengals will win the SEC West. It could happen.

Hype! Hype! Hype! That’s all we’ve got until September 1 when South Carolina and Vanderbilt open SEC play. And that, my friends, is only 98 days away!

SEC Football Previews and Picks

Hello, I’m Bird and I’ll be your SEC Blogger! I really hate it when servers greet you that way at a restaurant. So why not begin this, new, weekly column in such a manner? Does that make sense? No, but neither does picking SEC football at this juncture. Being that this is my initial SEC blog, I thought I would divulge my spring divisional picks and crown a winner of the SEC Championship Game. I will also take a look at the most intriguing intersectional match-ups involving teams in the Southeastern Conference for the 2016 season. I love predictions and speculation on what lies ahead for us college football fanatics.

So here we go! Mind you, this is only April and the landscape can change, sometimes dramatically, by September. We will take another look at it when the season draws much closer and freshmen arrive on campus. Injuries, suspensions, and unforeseen events can also alter our perceptions over the next five months.

East

Tennessee (No surprise here. Most forecasters will probably lean in this direction.)
Georgia (I’m basing this on the winner of the World’s Largest…, no we can’t say that. Ok, the Jacksonville Drunk Fest).
Florida (Will lose to both the Vols and Dawgs and they need a quarterback.)
Missouri (A very good defense, per usual, and new head Coach, Barry Odom, will pull an upset or two out of his pocket.)
Kentucky (The Wildcats continue to improve and will make a bowl.)
Vanderbilt (Derek Mason will also see improvement in the monumental task he finds himself in.)
South Carolina (Will Muschamp wasn’t very good at Florida or Auburn and will not be at USC East either.)
West

Alabama (Sigh. As long as Nick Saban is at the helm in Tuscaloosa, it’s foolish to call it any other way.)
Ole Miss (Hugh Freeze is doing a remarkable job in Oxford. Two-in-a-row against Saban. Also remarkable. Chad Kelly returns.)
LSU ( Leave Les alone! He’s 112 and 32!!!)
Auburn (The Tigers will be much improved but I don’t know how this will reflect in their overall record. They absolutely must find a quarterback.)
Arkansas (Bret Bielema fields another good team but the loss of Brandon Allen, Alex Collins and others will hurt.)
Texas A&M (The turmoil in College Station mounts.)
Mississippi State (Dak Prescott is long gone. Dan Mullen has built the Bulldogs into a good program but they’re in the SEC West.)
Who will win the SEC Championship Game on December 3? The University of Tennessee will upset the University of Alabama… in Knoxville on what actually will be the Third Saturday in October in 2016. The Crimson Tide will defeat the Vols in the Georgia Dome to, once again, capture the SEC crown.

And now, the intersectional match-ups:

Alabama vs. USC West (Sept. 3)
This one has fans all over the country chomping-at-the-bit for some foot-damn-ball and the Lane Kiffin storyline makes it even more compelling. It will be played in Jerry World. Does Bama play a game there every season, or is it just me?

Auburn vs. Clemson (Sept. 3)
An enormous opportunity for Gus Malzahn’s felines to take a quantum leap in the eyes of the football world with what is, possibly, the number one team in the country coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Georgia vs. North Carolina (Sept. 3)
Larry Fedora had this thing rolling until undermanned Baylor rushed for a new bowl record of 645 yards in the Russell Athletic tilt. The Bears won 49-38 but it wasn’t that close. This is the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game in Hotlanta.

LSU vs. Wisconsin (Sept. 3)
From Lambeau Field in Green Bay! How much fun will that be? Should be a donnybrook! You need this, Les. The critics could be howling if you lose. But it’s not a conference game.

Missouri vs. West Virginia (Sept. 3)
In Morgantown. Great chance for Odom to get some positive press and whet the appetite of the Tiger faithful.

Texas A&M vs. UCLA (Sept. 3)
Jim Mora, Jr. brings his Bruins into College Station. Kevin Sumlin could, at least temporarily, quell the storm in Aggieland with a victory.

Ole Miss vs. Florida State (Sept. 5)
The Labor Day special. A huge game with far-reaching national implications and two highly-ranked teams. It will be played in Orlando. I smell a wide-open affair.

Arkansas vs. TCU (Sept. 10)
The Hawgs will be traveling to Ft. Worth for a monster showdown in Cowtown. They will win their opener, the previous week, against LA Tech. This one will be just a bit more demanding. It’s hard to see them coming away with a win.

Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (Sept. 10)
At the Bristol Motor Speedway in the tri-city area of Eastern Tennessee. The place holds 160,000. It will be strange to not see Frank Beamer patrolling the sideline of the Hokies. Maybe Butch Jones can get people’s minds off the off-the-field issues surrounding the program.

Vanderbilt vs. Georgia Tech (Sept. 17)
The Dores will make the trip to Atlanta in a game both schools have to think they can win. This could result in a very good ball game.

Mississippi State vs. Brigham Young (Oct. 15)
The Bulldogs travel to Provo, Utah for a mid-season clash with the Cougars. They play Auburn the prior week in StarkVegas and could be beat up both physically and emotionally.

Now I’ve gotten myself revved up for some SEC Football! Hey, it’s only 150 days until Vanderbilt and South Carolina tee it up in Nashville!

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

40 Years Ago: The 1974 Auburn Tigers

It was September 14, 1974 and the unranked Auburn Tigers opened the season at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. The Tigers were led by Ralph “Shug” Jordan who was entering his 24th campaign as head coach. The opponent was the Louisville Cardinals who were coached by, then unknown, Lee Corso. Auburn came out on top that night, 16-3, in a game that didn’t give fans any reason to expect the run the Tigers were about to embark on.

I was sitting on the end of a bleacher seat in Troy, AL, with my ear glued to a transistor radio, listening to Gary Sanders call the Auburn game. It was incidental that the Trojans were embroiled in a hard fought game with Northeast Louisiana, a game which they won 20-19. I trudged back to my fraternity house, Lambda Chi Alpha, happy that Auburn had won but wondering what the remainder of the season held in store.

The Chattanooga Moccasins, not named for the snake but the moccasin shape of the river near their home, were next up and did not create much anxiety or apprehension in the week leading up to the game. Auburn summarily disposed of the visitors 52-7. Many of of us who attended the game left at halftime to get a head start on that evening’s festivities.

The following Saturday on The Plains was an entirely different story. The 14th ranked Tennessee Volunteers were coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time EVER and all in attendance would rarely even take a seat during this highly anticipated contest.

The previous year UT had beaten AU 21-0 in a driving rainstorm in Knoxville. Adding insult to injury, Tennessee punted on first down more than once knowing the combination of the downpour and the inept Auburn offense were probably not a threat to score that afternoon. They did not. The Vols came out on top 21-0.

The 1974 game was shaping up as a doozy. Neither team had lost and the Vols had been installed as a four point favorite. I told anyone who would listen to take Auburn and the points. This was a true “lock.” There was no way Auburn was going to lose this one… and they didn’t. The Tiger defense, led by linebacker Ken Bernich and bookends Rusty Deen and Liston Eddins, gave Vol All-American quarterback Condredge Holloway and his entire offense fits. The visitors would not score. They almost failed to cross the fifty yard line even once.

Auburn reserve fullback Kenny Burks scored three touchdowns in leading the Tigers to a most impressive 21-0 win. Yes, 21-zip. The same score the Vols had won by in ’73. People were beginning to take notice.

Visiting, and eleventh ranked, Auburn pulled out a squeaker in the rain against the Miami Hurricanes the following week. The Tigers vaunted defense was number one in the country. Miami had a stout group of defenders themselves. Auburn 3, Miami 0.

The Tigers were now on a roll as they mowed down their next three opponents. Their veer offense had come on strong to complement the stifling defense. Quarterback Phil Gargis along with running backs Secedrick McIntyre and Mitzi Jackson were putting up big rushing numbers. Gargis was also teaming up with wide receiver Thomas Gossom for some big plays through the air. The scores of said trifecta… Auburn 31, Kentucky 13, Auburn 31, Georgia Tech 22 and Auburn 38, Florida State 6.

On November 2, the undefeated Tigers went into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL ranked number five in the country. The Florida Gators were ranked at number eleven. The game was nationally televised. Hopes were high. Those hopes were dashed as the home team came away with a 25-14 victory.

Regroup and press on. In week nine Auburn got by a very tough Mississippi State Bulldog squad 24-20 in Jackson, MS. Even over the radio, the home team’s cowbells were deafening. This prompted Shug Jordan to complain loudly to the SEC office and the artificial noisemaker ban was spawned.

The Georgia Bulldogs were next up in Auburn. They came up on the short end of a real nail-biter, 17-13.

Now the stage was set for a showdown between seventh ranked Auburn and the number two Alabama Crimson Tide. Sitting with friends in the Auburn student section, I saw the Tigers come ever so close to pulling off the upset on a classic autumn day back in Legion Field.

Bama managed to go to the locker room with a 10-7 lead over the Tigers. They stretched their lead to 17-7 in the third stanza on a 13-yard run by Calvin Culliver. Late in that quarter Phil Gargis hit what appeared to be a 41-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Gossom. The points were put on the scoreboard, and then they were taken down. An official, who was far removed from the play, said Gossom had stepped on the boundary line and the score was called back. This same official had not even thrown a flag.

Gargis scored late in the fourth quarter on a two-yard run. Auburn missed on the two-point conversion attempt. They got the ball again with time running out and moved into Tide territory. In a bit of trickery, the Tigers ran a reverse to end Dan Nugent. He was met near the line of scrimmage by linebacker, and future head coach on the Capstone, Mike DuBose and was jarred loose from the ball. Bama recovered the fumble and went on to win, 17-13.

Auburn regrouped after the Iron Bowl and played the Texas Longhorns in the Gator Bowl. The Tigers were underdogs to Coach Darrell Royal’s team. They were having none of that. They dominated their Southwest Conference foes in a 27-3 walloping.

Auburn wound up the 1974 season 10-2. Their final rankings were number eight in the AP poll and number six in the UPI poll.

1974 was a great year for the Auburn Tigers as they far exceeded everyone’s expectations. It is now forty years later and expectations are sky high. Will they meet or exceed those expectations? The answer from here is a resounding YES!

Georgia vs. Miami: Who Got The Best Deal?

If you follow college football at all, by now you know that the University of Georgia has hired Alabama defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart to be their head football coach. You also know that the University of Miami has hired, recently deposed, GEORGIA head coach, Mark Richt as their CEO.

Welcome to this edition of “As the Coaching Carousel Turns: Dawgs and Canes”, or “Sanford or South Beach?”, or “Hedges or Hialeah?”.

At any rate, we could all join ole George Jones in singing his classic, “The Race Is On”.

The race IS on for NCAA football coaches all across this great land. It’s kind of like a Whack-A-Mole game. And for those of us who eat, breathe, and sleep college football, particularly FBS football, we’re dang near giddy.

Now back to the business at hand. I’ll pose a question to you. Who do you think got the best deal, the Dawgs or the U?

Hmmmmmm… right? Or no?

For me, the immediate answer to that was, The U!

That was my initial, gut response. And my first response, if asked, as to why I thought that Miami was getting the best deal is this… Mark Richt is a PROVEN winner as a HEAD coach in the SEC.

His record is 145-51 for a .7397 winning percentage. That’ll round right up to 74%. I was a bad ass in arithmetic. Now I’m not too shabby with calculators.

That’s for starters. More at 10 PM!

Richt is also, by all accounts, a great guy. And a good Christian. That DO help, maybe, but give me a Wiccan who wins football games and I’ll be just fine.

Ahem, Richt has won two SEC Championships and five SEC East titles. He was named SEC Coach of the Year twice and was a finalist for the Bear Bryant National Coach of the Year in 2002.

Richt is one of only five men in NCAA Division 1A history to record 132 or more wins in his first 14 seasons as head coach. Other guys on that short list? “Big Game” Bob Stoops, Tom Osborne, and Gary Patterson.

The only coaches to win two SEC titles in their first five years? Frank Thomas at Alabama, 1933-’34. Bernie Moore at LSU, 1935-’36, Vince Dooley at Georgia, 1966-‘68 and Mark Richt 2002-’05.

Now that’s just a smattering of info from his days at UGA.

You can go to the University of Georgia Official Athletic Site, as well, and read much, MUCH more. Thank you GEORGIADOGS.COM.

See! I did all the heavy lifting!

Now, how about Bainbridge, GA native son and first team all-SEC defensive back, Kirby Smart? A Georgia grad.

Do you think that defense at the University of Alabama is pretty darn good? Well, Smart has been defensive coordinator there for for the past seven years. He has been on the staff there for nine years.

Smart was named the 2012 AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year and he took home the 2009 Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country.

His defense, in 2011, led the nation in total defense (183.6 ypg), scoring defense (8.2 ppg), rushing defense (72.2 ypg), passing defense (111.5 ypg) and passing efficiency defense (83.69 rating).

That’s JUST the 2011 season!

Nick Marshall completed 27 of 43 passes for 456 yards and 3 touchdowns as Auburn amassed 630 total yards and 44 points against Smart’s defense in the 2014 Iron Bowl.

Oops!

NOOOOOO! I kid! Just funnin’ with ya’!

Smart has also been an integral part of 3 SEC Championships and 3 BCS National Championships, to date.

Suffice it to say, Kirby can coach him some D!

And that info above? You can traipse over to the University of Alabama Official Athletic Site, at ROLLTIDE.COM (OUCH), and complete your, already begun by me, search for info on the new Head Coach in Athens, GA.

AND… I don’t care if Kirby Smart is an atheist or a Buddhist. He is a defensive mastermind.

So there you have it!

Once again, I’m going with Miami as getting the best deal. Could I be wrong? Time will tell.

What say ye????