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!!!

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!

Falling Leaves and Footballese

I was taking my daily walk, a week or so ago, when I felt a small rush of wind that was not summer like. This minor gust was a tinge cool and dry. It was then that a few dying leaves floated gently to the ground.

I immediately went into my shotgun stance, took the imaginary snap, and bolted toward right end on a zone read. I faked a pitch to my trailing tailback, tucked the pigskin, and dashed for 15 yards before I was knocked out of bounds.

First down!

It’s that time of year! For those of us who are rabid college football fans, excitement is abound. Every team is 0-0. No one has yet to lose a game. Anticipation is off the charts.

From “the loveliest village of the plains” to the bluegrass that surrounds Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky to the sprawling acreage of College Station, Texas. I can feel it, I can sense it, and I can almost smell the tantalizing scents of tailgate fare wafting on the breeze across the terrain of the sites where I will attend college football games this autumn.IMG_1037

“We’re on the cusp of a big year! Maybe we’ll make a New Year’s Day bowl. Can we win it all?”

But alas, the reality is those hopes, those 0-0’s will transform into 6 & 6’s, 5 & 7’s and, gulp, 4 & 8’s, for a great number of teams, by the conclusion of Thanksgiving weekend. There will not be many, if any, 12 & 0’s this fall.

Speculation. That is ALL we have right now.

Prediction. That is theme of the day.

Consternation. That is the mood of the pessimist and many a realist.

Exaltation. That is final word for all too few when the dust settles in January of 2016.

And that is a shame.

Everyone wants to know what lucky teams will make the College Football Playoff. What four teams will make it to Dallas and Miami? And the biggest question of all: What TWO teams will make the triumphant march to Glendale ?

It will be from that great Arizona desert that the players, alumni and fans of only ONE institution will hoist index fingers high above their heads and proclaim, “We’re number one!”

What happened to teams two through four who did, indeed, make the second installment of the College Football Playoff?

Many will leave the arenas of those great host cities with their heads hung low and their middle fingers raised high, or at least in their hearts and minds.

Again, that is a shame.

For all too often it is just about who is number one.

I have found myself in both of the above mentioned scenarios.

I reveled in the euphoria of victory on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, AZ.
DSC02793

I wallowed in the dejection of defeat on January 6, 2014 in Pasadena, CA.

But you know what? With a bit of time and perspective I was able to put both of those experiences in their proper place. The result in Glendale was grand and glorious. The experience in Pasadena, and the greater LA area, was blissful.

My dear wife, Melodye, and I enjoyed both of these experiences immensely. Sure! We wanted ever so badly to win BOTH of those ball games, but we did not. But what we did, in each case, was revel in the moment.

Now please bear with me as I, ever the sentimentalist and nostalgist, savor and share a few small slices of those grand times…

High five-ing security, as they encouraged us to “bring it back home”, at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport when we boarded our plane to Phoenix.

Singing, in my mind, Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Coming Into Los Angeles’ as we descended into LAX.

Dining on sugar-cured duck breast at The Roaring Fork restaurant in Scottsdale. Being questioned by our server, with a laugh, if that is what we Auburn fans would be having, seeing as how our opponent was Oregon. 😉

Securing our room in Redondo Beach, CA and discovering, much to our delight, that it was number 116. Our street number, in Acworth, GA, is 116. We took this as a good sign. It typically is just that.

Chatting with the staff at Los Olivos restaurant and laughing at their descriptions of Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, who had dined there just a couple of nights prior.

And driving from our beach motel, picking up a close friend in north LA, and following her directions to the the hallowed grounds of the Rose Bowl. I could hear Keith Jackson doing his intro to “the grandaddy of them all.” I was awestruck at the beauty of the San Gabriel mountains. And as we strolled those grounds, talking and gawking and exchanging “War Eagles”, our ‘little buddy'(a nickname I gave her many years ago) remarked, “You guys are family!”IMG_1292

We are. We are indeed.

It is this family, in times of victory or defeat, that helps make every college game day experience special.

From the pen of David Housel, an Auburn man…

“What Is Auburn?

Far be it from me to try to answer that question. There are as many definitions of Auburn as there are Auburn men and women.

It would be safe to say, however, that Auburn is much more than a football game. It is much more than winning and losing.

It is a spirit. It is an attitude. It is a way of looking at life and at one another. It is, almost, a way of living. Unless you have experienced it, you will never know what it is; you will never understand it. Once you have experienced it, you will never be the same. A part of you will, forevermore, be an Auburn man or an Auburn woman.”

As we kick off OUR season here at Campus Pressbox, I want to wish each and every one of you, and your respective teams, good luck. I hope that your seasons are filled with magical moments that will last a lifetime.

Now let’s all go make some memories (and win a few football games as well)!