The SEC has won the last five BCS championships. You know this.
Can the league make it six? Yes, but it will be difficult if for no other reason than it will be a chore to get through this year's SEC relatively unscathed. Eight of the league's 12 teams are in the preseason Top 25, and the SEC West alone has more ranked teams (five) than any other conference. Ouch.
With that in mind, it makes sense to give the SEC the benefit of the doubt in the season's opening weekend. So here's a look at the picks, and remember, the lines are for entertainment purposes only. All times are Eastern.
Utah State at Auburn
Noon, Jordan-Hare Stadium
• TV: ESPN2
• Breakdown: Auburn coach Gene Chizik said as many as 30 Tigers could make their college debuts today. That number could escalate, too, considering the defending BCS champion Tigers may run away and hide from the visiting Aggies. Utah State, which is 1-54 all-time against ranked foes, has a nice player in linebacker Bobby Wagner, but this young Auburn team has a lot of speed and could turn this one into a track meet quickly.
• The line: Auburn minus-23
• The pick: Auburn, 52-20
Kent State at Alabama
12:21 p.m., Bryant-Denny Stadium
• TV/Radio: WDSI/97.3 FM & 99.3 FM
• Breakdown: Alabama coach Nick Saban played at Kent State. A lot of the current Kent State players came to Tuscaloosa to help after the April tornados. You can almost feel the love all the way up here in Chattanooga. Then the game will be played, and it could get out of hand quickly -- no matter how much Saban and the Tide try to avoid it.
• The line: Alabama minus-38
• The pick: Alabama, 55-7
BYU at Ole Miss
4:45 p.m., Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
• TV: ESPN
• Breakdown: If you think, "Hey, that's a strange starting time," you're not alone. Who kicks off at 4:45 p.m.? Hey, you do as you see fit, Houston Nutt, since this could very well be your last season in Oxford. Remember the Rebels finished 4-8 last year and lost the opener to Jacksonville State, which as a program is the complete opposite of BYU. Here's saying come Sunday BYU and JSU will have at least one thing in common (and it won't be the number of Mormon missionaries on their rosters).
• The line: BYU minus-3
• The pick: BYU, 34-24
Montana at Tennessee
6 p.m., Neyland Stadium
• TV/Radio: Pay-per view/106.5 FM
• Breakdown: Montana is an elite FCS program. That and $10 gets you a ticket to Glacier National Park. UT's youth -- heck, there are JV teams that start fewer freshmen and sophomores -- makes the line seem a little scary at first glance. Those fears will be washed away rather quickly tonight.
• The line: Tennessee minus-28.5
• The pick: Tennessee, 56-17
South Carolina vs. East Carolina
7 p.m., Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte
• TV: FoxSS
• Breakdown: Forget the quarterback sideshow that the Ol' Ball Coach is trying to orchestrate. Let's see what Jadeveon Clowney can do. Clowney, the nation's No. 1 ranked high school player last year, has been a warrior in preseason practice -- apparently the USC coaches have told him to slow down so the offense can work on some drills. Yikes. That either means Clowney is a freakish combination of LT, Jevon Kearse and the Green Lantern or the Gamecocks' offensive line stinks. We're leaning toward the former, but we need to see Clowney play an actual game before the legend reaches Paul Bunyan levels. (Although if Clowney shows up with a big blue ox, East Carolina probably should go ahead and forfeit.)
• The line: South Carolina minus-20.5
• The pick: South Carolina, 45-10
Missouri State at Arkansas
7 p.m., Razorback Stadium
• TV: Pay-per view
• Breakdown: These teams first met 100 years ago in a game Arkansas won 100-0. Seriously. This one won't get that bad, but it won't be close, either -- especially since Missouri State starting quarterback Trevor Wooden has been suspended for tonight's opener.
• The line: Arkansas minus-42.5
• The pick: Arkansas, 63-7
Florida Atlantic at Florida
7 p.m., Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
• TV: ESPN
• Breakdown: Welcome to the Will Muschamp era. Boom. And how that era unfolds in Year 1 depends greatly on how the offense adjusts to switching from the spread to a traditional approach. Against FAU, the Gators could switch to decaf and still roll. Boom indeed.
• The line: Florida minus-35
• The pick: Florida, 63-13
Elon at Vanderbilt
7:30 p.m., Vanderbilt Stadium
• TV/Radio: ESPN/1370 AM
• Breakdown: Another new coach starts his SEC career when James Franklin and the Commodores welcome Elon into the library known as Commodores Stadium. (Shhhhh.) While Franklin's spirit has been infectious, Vandy's offense has been infested with an overwhelming case of bad for the last two years. OK, we'll bite, Coach. You had us at hello. (Shhhhhh.)
• The line: Vanderbilt minus-13.5
• The pick: Vanderbilt, 28-10
Oregon vs. LSU
8 p.m., Cowboys Stadium in Dallas
• TV: ABC
• Breakdown: The weekend's most high-profile game -- this is the first time two top-five ranked teams have met on a neutral field since 1984 when No. 4 Miami beat No. 1 Auburn in the Meadowlands -- features two teams with real national title hopes. The winner becomes a front-runner for a BCS bid and to be this year's fixture in the NCAA's crosshairs. Offseason and preseason headlines have hounded each team, from the stories of recruiting services to recent run-ins with the law. Let's just suffice it to say that each team is ready to talk about scampers rather than scandals and "Will" linebackers rather than Willie Lyles.
• The line: Oregon minus-3.5
• The pick: LSU, 30-28
Boise State vs. Georgia
8 p.m., Georgia Dome in Atlanta
• TV/Radio: ESPN/102.3 FM
• Breakdown: It's put up or shut up time for the Broncos, who have won 38 of quarterback Kellen Moore's 40 career starts. A win here puts Boise State on the path toward busting the BCS bubble; a loss puts it out of the picture one weekend into the season. Even though the Broncos will be without three players -- including starting wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn and starting safety Cedric Febis -- this one could be a shootout.
• The line: Boise State minus-3.5
• The pick: Georgia, 34-30
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 ...