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!

 

Ramblin’ 7/25/16

Fall camp begins next week for all but one or two SEC teams.

Another political convention begins tonight. It will, mercifully, be over before the weekend, just like the nightmare that was last week’s circus. Deliver us, God.

I miss Hunter S. Thompson. I would truly love to read his scathing takes on these events. Fear and loathing, no doubt.

The Braves continue to hobble along.

A few of the songs on the Apple music setlist playing now. Sundown – Gordon Lightfoot, Shotgun Willie – Willie Nelson, Slow Rollin’ Low – Waylon Jennings, and 300 Pounds of Hongry – Tony Joe White.

A quick Tony Joe story. He and Tom Kimmel, a friend of mine and many of you, had been put together by the record label they shared, years ago. They hung out, did some riding around, shared ideas, and so forth. I suppose the label expected some big collaboration. One day they were eating lunch at a place famous for fried chicken in Franklin, TN. Tony Joe leans over Tom’s plate and, in his deep slow drawl, says, “I don’t see how anybody can eat that dark meat.”

Later he asked Tom when he did his best songwriting. I don’t remember what Tom’s response was but Tony Joe said that he, “…Did his best songwriting when he was driving to Arkansas.” You really need to hear Tom tell it. He has a gift for such.

Poke… salad, UNH!

I haven’t been to a movie, at the theater, in quite some time. I don’t tend to like summer blockbusters, action, popcorn movies, etc. Woooo!!! That blowed up REAL good! I do love popcorn though. Had some last night.

Bob Dylan is now serenading me with a song entitled Isis. Nope, not that ISIS.

Auburn’s first five games will be played in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium this fall.

I love Kroger fuel points.

I wonder how One-A-Day Multivitamins are holding up against the onslaught of vitamins and supplements we have today.

Supplements? I take Fish oil, folic acid (My how my taste in acid has changed! Gettin’ old!), probiotics, Co-Q 10, cinnamon,  B-6, and B-12. That’s in addition to the meds which my myocardial infarctions have necessitated. Yes, I have one of those damn trays that you load this stuff into by days of the week.

New setlist time. I’ll go with Rodney Crowell Essentials. Rodney wrote one of my favorite songs of all-time, Till I Gain Control Again. The first time I heard it was Willie’s cover on the ‘Willie and Family Live’ album. That was 1978. Goodness! What a great song!

There was, actually, an Apple Music option for me called ‘Songs With Parental Advice’.

Have y’all been getting some good home grown tomatoes?

We’re gonna get the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls pretty soon. Look for Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, Florida State, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Baylor, Stanford, and Notre Dame to jockey for the top ten spots.

Google or Yahoo?

Fallon or Colbert?

How about Kimmel and Conan?

Two different Kimmels in one short blog.

Burnt Siena is a good name but the crayon used to make me nervous, as did Periwinkle.

I really would like a couple of more days at the beach before school starts, but it ain’t happening.

What’s your favorite Beatles song? Stones? Those are really tough calls.

It’s been 41 years since the summer of Jaws. Yep, gettin’ old.

Speaking of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones and gettin’ old, Paperback Writer and Paint It Black were big summer hits 50 years ago, as were When A Man Loves a Woman, Hanky Panky, and Wild Thing.

Chip Taylor wrote Wild Thing. He also wrote Angel of the Morning. If you want a tip on a great record, Chip and Carrie Rodriguez did an album by the name of Red Dog Tracks. That and/or their ‘live’ record are must haves, IMHO.

Well, my daily walk ain’t gonna take itself.

Grace and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Auburn: Road Trips, Part One – Austin

Road Trip! We’ve all been there. Whether it’s impromptu or somewhere in the more distant future when further planning is required, road trips are fun, a lot of fun.

Seeing as how spring football practice is in full swing, Auburn will have their first ‘for real’ scrimmage Saturday, our thoughts may be turning to the upcoming 2016 regular season and planning for any road trips we might take this fall.

The only visit to an opponent’s venue for the LeCroy’s, this autumn, will be Oxford, Mississippi for a game with the Ole Miss Rebels. This will be our ninth Auburn versus Ole Miss road test and one of those, 1990, was in Jackson. Auburn, as did many other SEC schools, used to play both Ole Miss and Mississippi State in Jackson’s Memorial Stadium. The facility held more people and was better suited for large crowds than either Starkville (Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium) or Oxford (Davis Wade Stadium). That has changed. The two rivalries are now played on the school’s campuses and have since 1992 when Auburn went into Oxford and got pummeled by the Black Bears, uhhhh Rebels.

It was my son, Luke, and I who attended that ’92 game as it was in 1990, ’96, ’98 and 2000. The remainder of the Ole Miss games were me and Paul (my nickname for my wife, Melodye) except for one. Her moniker stems from the Willie Nelson tune, Me and Paul.

Another note before we move on. Since 2002 our trips to Ole Miss games have landed us in Memphis and we commute to Oxford. Ah yes! The land of BBQ and blues, Elvis, Stax and Sun Records.

Ok, road trips. All this talk caused me to reflect on these excursions and I began to question myself as to which trips have been my favorites. Well, that’s tough because so many of them have been quite memorable. I tried to narrow it down to my three most enjoyable.

And here we go! In chronological order and this does not include bowl games. We’ve been down that road.

Texas 1991

We were living in Sumner County, Tennessee at the time and Austin was over 900 miles from our home which was about twenty minutes from NashVegas. It was, approximately, a fourteen-hour drive.

This was one of those father and son trips.

Luke and I left Tennessee on a Thursday night after school and work. We spent the night in West Memphis, Arkansas and West Memphis is not an overly desirable destination for travelers. Suffice it to say we were out of there early and headed for the Lone Star State. We ate lunch at a KFC and Luke squirted hot sauce, from one of those plastic packets you tear open, in his eye. So sorry, buddy. We did the best we could to flush his eye out and we pressed on down I-35 south which would take us on in to the state capital of Texas.

Just north of Waco lies the sleepy little community of Abbot, TX. Does anybody know the significance of Abbott? Raise your hands! I don’t see any hands so I’ll fill you in. It’s the place where the aforementioned Willie Nelson was raised by his grandparents. Abbott has a population of around three-hundred. Not a great deal to see there, but if you are a huge Willie fan, which I obviously am, then it warrants a run through.

Somewhere between Waco and Austin we began to see advertisements for what appeared to be an interesting little place. The key to getting us off the road and into their establishment was homemade beef jerky. I don’t remember the name of the place but I do remember sitting on their front porch with my, then, thirteen-year-old son and gnawing on the best jerky I had ever eaten. It was a warm and windy afternoon there among the mesquite and Texas live oaks. It also was one of those special times you look back on wistfully as a tear forms in your eye.

We finally arrived at the DoubleTree Hotel on the north side of Austin in the very late afternoon. If you’ve never been to Austin, and you should make a point to go there, everything is accessed by frontage roads. I blew by the DoubleTree, on first take, and had to navigate the frontage road on the east side of I-35, but we did it without much of a struggle.

As Luke and I stood there, waiting to check-in, we noticed some very large young men garbed in Texas Longhorn warm-up suits. It turns out that the Texas football team was lodging at the same hotel as we were. Well how about that? David McWilliams was the Longhorn coach in ’91. I spotted him, cigar in tow, as he exited his ride which dropped him off in the portico in front of the hotel.

My heart began to beat a bit more rapidly. Big time intersectional college football was only about twenty-four hours away. War Damn Eagle!

Pappdeaux Seafood Kitchen was next door to the hotel. Neither of us had ever eaten at one. The hotel staff gave it a strong recommendation and we had dessert there that evening after some BBQ brisket at The County Line restaurant. We went back to Pappadeaux’s the following night after the ball game. Great recommendation DoubleTree staff!

Saturday! It’s now countdown to kickoff!

After coffee and pastries, it’s off on a driving tour of the metro area, the mall, and some Tex-Mex fare. There were some really brightly-colored, interesting low rider trucks at the mall. The food was good and the ride around the outskirts of the city was a most pleasant one. We ran into some fellow Auburn fans at the Tex-Mex restaurant and one of them stated that he would become a Texas fan if he wasn’t committed to the Tigers. The hospitality was excellent out there.

Before long it was time to get back to the hotel for some “tailgating” at the outdoors bar and then catch a shuttle to Texas Memorial Stadium.

Fifteenth-ranked Auburn brought a 2-0 record into the game against a Texas team that was 0-1. A sellout crowd of 77,809 was in attendance and the game was televised by ESPN. Luke and I were seated with the Auburn contingent in the north end zone. We were set back a back a ways from the field as there was a large track that circled the artificial surface.

One of the highlights of the weekend was when the Texas fans and players stood and sang “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You”. Chills, even today. Wow! To say we were primed for the kickoff would be an understatement.

Auburn took the opening kickoff and almost ran it back all the way. Stan White hit Victor Hall on a 25-yard touchdown pass and the Tigers were up 7-0 with only 49 seconds elapsed on the clock. Corey Barlow returned a pass interception for a touchdown with 3:07 still remaining in the first quarter and AU fans were giddy. Unfortunately, that would be all the points the Tigers would score that evening. Fortunately, they hung on with some great defense, and won the game, 14-10.

The play that sticks out most to me was an absolutely brutal hit Auburn defensive back Fred Smith put on one of the Longhorns. Mercy!

Auburn was ranked number 13 after the game. They went to Knoxville the next week and were beaten by the Tennessee Vols, 30-21. It was the first of six losses and their nine-year steak of winning seasons came to a close. It was a disappointing year.

The one thing that stays with me from that night in Knoxville was a drunk Tennessee coed making a point to walk up to our post-game tailgate and telling a tired old joke. “What did the Auburn graduate say to the Tennessee graduate? Do you want fries with that?” The wound was quite fresh and I was not able to hold my tongue. I won’t repeat here what I said but I remain embarrassed by it to this day. Moral of the story? Watch your tongue. What’s said is said. You cannot take it back. Sigh.

Well folks, that is it for part one of this three-part series on road trips. Next up, in April, we’ll take a spin to Baton Rouge and the Auburn-LSU game of 1997.

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!