It seems like just yesterday we started the SEC picks with the bold call that LSU would thump Oregon in that season-opening showdown. After last week's success, the numbers have become pretty one-sided picking these games, hitting 84.7 percent of all the SEC games this season and hitting a touch better than 63 percent against the spread. That's not too shabby.
That's a preface to the tip of the ol' ball-calling visor to the fact that this is rivalry week, and we all know what that means. Whatever barometer or stats or nickname preference or inside intel you use to pick college football games becomes far less valuable during rivalry week.
There are only two certainties as the Thanksgiving week that was dominated by calories and bulging bellies gives way to consumers and busy shoppers: Tennessee will beat Kentucky -- it's happened every year since Reagan was in the White House -- and the best time to get your Walmart shopping done in Alabama will be between 2:30 and 5 p.m. Central time today, when the Iron Bowl is on nearly every TV in the state.
Other than those two, expect the unexpected in rivalry week, when anything can happen and usually does. Take the Alabama-Auburn game. If these Tide players were playing these Tigers players in street clothes or in green and yellow jerseys, then Alabama's superior talent would roll. But these kids will be carrying the banners of each fan base and wearing the colors of each university. The passion and the pressure and the power of rivalry week have a way of either magnifying gaps in talent or erasing them.
So pick wisely or carelessly this week and the results are anyone's guess. It's rivalry week.
Last week's SEC guesses: 8-0 overall, 6-2 against the spread
Season's SEC guesses: 72-13 overall, 52-30-3 against the spread
Georgia at Georgia Tech
Noon, Grant Field at Bobby Dodd Stadium
TV/Radio: ESPN/102.3 FM
Breakdown: Getting a grip on this Georgia Tech team has been like catching falling leaves. Sometimes it seems easy, but rarely is it. That breakdown was brought to you by "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handy. Here's another one: Georgia's defense has been outstanding against the run, and Georgia Tech has to run to be successful.
The line: Georgia minus-6
The pick: Georgia, 31-21
Tennessee at Kentucky
12:21 p.m., Commonwealth Stadium
TV/Radio: WDSI/106.5 FM
Breakdown: There are somethings you just know. You know the hot girl in high school is going to like the guy who ignores her. You know if Ben Stiller is in a movie, he's going to be playing Ben Stiller (he's the William Shatner of his generation). You know that if Jimmy Chitwood says, "I'll make it," he dang well is going to make it. And we know that Tennessee beats Kentucky in football. It may actually be in the SEC rule book.
The line: Tennessee minus-7.5
The pick: Tennessee, 28-13
Alabama at Auburn
3:30 p.m., Jordan-Hare Stadium
TV/Radio: CBS/97.3 & 99.3 FM
Breakdown: When Alabama jumps out to a big early lead -- and it will -- think there will any thoughts and/or mentions of Auburn's historic comeback in this game last year? Of Course there will be, but thoughts and mentions by coaches, fans and announcers will not make it happen. Cam Newton is not walking through that door.
The line: Alabama minus-21
The pick: Alabama, 37-10
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest
3:30 p.m., BB&T Field
TV/Radio: ESPNU/1370 AM
Breakdown: Wake Forest already has six wins and a spot in a bowl game. Vandy needs this one today to get to six wins and a spot in a bowl game. Somewhere in there is an advantage. But don't discount the raucous Wake Forest crowd: If more than 26,788 show up today, Wake will surpass its season attendance record of 222,537. For the season. Want to know why SEC football is better? Wake's attendance mark is a month in most SEC locales.
The line: Vanderbilt minus-1.5
The pick: Vandy, 31-27
Florida State at Florida
7 p.m., Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Breakdown: Florida State has not lived up to some lofty preseason expectations. Florida has not been good. FSU struggled with some injuries to quarterback E.J. Manuel; Florida struggled to move the ball against just about everyone. This game may not have the national splash it used to, but there will be at least a dozen NFL defensive players on the field tonight in the Swamp, including most of Florida's defensive line. (Too bad they can't score points for the Gators, however.)
The line: Florida State minus-2
The pick: Florida State, 20-14
Mississippi State at Ole Miss
7 p.m., Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Breakdown: Instead of a breakdown, let's go with a little breakfast. Can we call this the Scrambled Egg Bowl? Will Ole Miss view the last four years as a whole lot of Nutt-n, Honey? The Mississippi State offense has been as exciting as a week-old doughnut. The Ole Miss secondary has been burnt toast all season. I could go on. Seriously, but like this game -- and lame-duck Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt's tenure -- it's only going to get worse and it would not end well.
The line: MSU minus-17
The pick: MSU, 33-12
Clemson at South Carolina
7:45 p.m., Williams-Brice Stadium
Breakdown: Clemson was a trendy pick as a dark horse BCS contender before losing to Georgia Tech; South Carolina was a trendy pick as a dark horse SEC title contender before losing Marcus Lattimore. Clemson has more offensive playmakers; South Carolina has the better defense. Here's saying that national freshman of the year front-runner Sammie Watkins makes yet another big play for the Tigers.
The line: South Carolina minus-4
The pick: Clemson, 24-20
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...
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