5 SEC items of interest
1) Leaguewide coming-out party. There is a ton of talented newcomers. Seven of the top nine teams in the Rivals.com recruiting rankings last February were in the SEC, and a host of those five-star stud ducks are making their debuts this weekend. Tennessee coach Butch Jones said as many as 28 to 30 true freshmen could play this weekend, and he was speaking only about his team. Who will steal the show on the opening weekend? Here's one vote for Leonard Fournette, the LSU tailback, and potentially Alabama tackle Cam Robinson.
2) Auburn's encore should be fun. Yes, Nick Marshall will not start after the potential Heisman Trophy candidate was caught on the pot spot during the offseason. Still, the fact that Tigers offensive maestro Gus Malzahn will have a starting QB back for the first time in his college coaching career offers a real chance to venture deep within the play-calling crevices of his visor-strapped head. That in and of itself equals intrigue.
3) Todd Gurley. Enough said. OK, we'll expound. Gurley in this view is the best non-quarterback offensive player in the country. Dude is big and fast and elusive. Dude is healthy. Dude is a bad dude. In fact, when the only thing you are worried about when discussing a player's Heisman hopes is the fact that he has too much talent around him, well, that's a good thing, right? Plus, Gurley gets the nation's biggest launching pad this weekend when the Bulldogs host the Clemson Tigers. 5-4-3-2-1 ...
4) Who will take the first snap for Alabama? Nick Saban has bristled (DUH!) at every question about almost everything this preseason. He hates the fact that the media anoints his five-star recruits as five-star players before they make five-star plays. OK. He really hates when the questions turn to his quarterback, though, and he has remained answerless about who will be QB1 for play one for the Crimson Tide. It's anyone's guess who will be on the field first, but it appears Blake Sims and Jacob Coker will each get a shot to run the team. Heck, here's hoping T.J. Yeldon takes the first snap in a wildcat formation. Little Debbies for everyone.
5) Are the baby Volunteers ready? Is anyone else getting a little Utah State fatigue? Yes, we know they are sneaky good. So. Also, we need a nickname for the fresh-faced freshmen who are going to dot the Neyland Stadium turf Sunday. Maybe the Youthful UT perhaps. Either way, the lack of experience could be the best of things for a program that has been perplexed by some historically bad vibes for the last five years. See, that lack of experience also brings new perspective and a certain belief that better times are ahead. It's a new beginning, and goodness knows Johnny Vols Fans everywhere are eager for it.
Fab 4 plus 1 picks
Our final prediction of the 2013 college football season was Auburn plus the points and the over. Each hit. Yea. We finished the bowl season 24-17 and 74-57-1 against the number last year. Not too shabby.
Not up to previous seasons -- we went 85-36-2 in 2012 and 52-27-2 in 2011 -- but still not too bad. All told, in three years picking games against the number we are 211-110-5.
Two things to remember: These stats are the Interweb, so they have to be true, and all picks are for ENTERTAINMENT purposes only. So take each with a grain of salt.
Ohio State -15 over Navy: The Buckeyes were loaded for a run into the four-team playoff before preseason Heisman candidate Braxton Miller was lost for the season with a shoulder injury. While a title chase may have taken a ding with Miller's injury, the fact that the supremely talented Buckeyes are giving only a smidge over two touchdowns to Navy is crazy.
Miami +3.5 at Louisville: For the folks that follow these picks, you know we take about 10 underdogs a season. This one screamed off the sheet for a few reasons. First, the best player on the field is Duke Johnson, the Miami running back who, when healthy, makes the Hurricanes a formidable offense. Second, the off-the-field drama among the Cardinals coaching staff screams dysfunction. Yes, we are citing dysfunction as a reason to PICK Miami. That has to mean something, right?
Georgia -6.5 over Clemson: One team lost college football's most explosive playmaker in the man you know better as Joe the Policeman on the "What's Going Down" episode of "That's My Mama" -- Mr. Sammy Watkins. The other team has arguably college football's most explosive playmaker. This game is in Athens and it may be close, but we like the host Bulldogs. A lot.
Tennessee -6.5 over Utah State: Should UT be worried? Yes. Should UT be worried about Chuckie Keeton? Absolutely. Should UT fans be patient with the youth movement (Butch Jones said as many as 30 true freshmen could play Sunday night)? Of course. Still, UT has more talent and more at stake and should be playing in front of a full house. That's good enough for us.
LSU -5 over Wisconsin: Wisconsin's Badgers have pieces back. The Tigers have newcomers. The Badgers have a running back who could win a Heisman. The Tigers have a running back who will win a Heisman. The Badgers have big-time hopes. The Tigers have big-time talent. We prefer talent.
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 ...