As college football fans revel in what has now become one of the most tumultuous seasons anyone can remember, about the only thing that is crystal clear is that the Southeastern Conference is the toughest in the nation.
Going into the last weekend of October, the SEC has seven teams in the Top 25 and no other conference has more than four.
What adds to the allure is that the SEC’s East has turned into a Gunfight at the OK Corral with its perennial bottom-feeders now flexing such muscle absolutely anything can happen between now and the SEC title game Dec. 1.
Historically the SEC's Eastern Division has been a slugfest between Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, but now Kentucky and South Carolina are both ranked, and Vanderbilt is on the cusp. Trying to pick a winner each week is akin to herding cats.
I’m telling you, it’s nuts. Last night Virginia Tech was a 3 1/2-point favorite over Boston College, which was fine until BC’s Matt Ryan had a Heisman moment and threw a 24-yard strike with just 11 seconds remaining to win it for the Eagles.
When you couple BC’s 14-10 win with the Red Sox’ second straight over the Rockies (2-1), you have the biggest night in Beantown since those Indian impersonators tossed the tea in the harbor.
That said, here are my Top 10 picks for this week:
SOUTHERN CAL – I can’t remember the last time USC was the underdog, but the Trojans are getting 3 after Oregon scored 65 against Washington State last weekend. UO is fifth in the BCS, while USC is 12th despite the 38-0 shutout of Notre Dame. So you’ve got to believe the Los Angeles star factor will lend itself and that this one is almost a lock. My Pick? USC, 27-15.
SOUTH CAROLINA – The “other USC” is also getting 3 as Steve Spurrier brings his crowd into Neyland Stadium, and this one is huge for the Vols after last week’s debacle in Tuscaloosa. Carolina was also embarrassed, you must remember, in the 17-6 loss to Vandy, but the hunch is Steve is masterful when it comes to a critical crossroads – remember USC flogging then-unbeaten Kentucky earlier this month? My Pick? South Carolina, 26-18.
CLEMSON – The Tigers, 5-2 after scoring 70 against hapless Central Michigan, are catching the Terps when UM is down. The 4-point edge is nothing compared to the lone point in UM’s 18-17 loss to UVa and the Terps don’t seem to have the knockout punch they usually command. Both have two conference losses and the winner can’t catch BC in the league’s division. My Pick? Clemson, 32-21.
OHIO STATE – The Buckeyes are giving up 4 to Penn State and this one is tasty. Sure, PSU has won three straight, but to give up 31 points to a team like Indiana leaves doubt the Nittany’s defense can do much with unbeaten OSU’s game. Maybe Joe Pa can play the home-crowd card, but I’m thinking the Buckeyes have a sense of what a 9-0 record means going into November. My Pick? Ohio State, 37-13.
SOUTH FLORIDA – Oh, forget the Thursday night jinx and the 3-point loss to Rutgers – this bunch of Bulls is the truth! USF is giving 6 against UConn, but before you bet the ranch remember the northerners almost beat UVa before they knocked Louisville for a loop last week. Still, the only way they can possibly stop USF is for the Bulls’ running attack to freeze to death and it ain’t going to be that cold. My Pick? South Florida, 37-17.
FLORIDA – Two great education story-lines: Georgia, idle last Saturday, has had two weeks to prepare for this nationally-televised rivalry (3:30, CBS) while No. 9 Florida was “schooled” by Kentucky in that 45-37 brawl. Which learned more? The Gators are giving 10, but the Dogs had to rely on a last-minute field goal to beat Vandy and those Florida players have all seen the tapes of what those Georgia players did in the middle of VU’s field after the game. My Pick? Florida, 45-15.
VANDERBILT – My resident genius Oop Smith swears this is the biggest lock since Houdini slipped his chains, but Miami of Ohio (4-4) is worrisome. MofO beat Syracuse and scored 47 against Bowling Green, but Oop, knowing VU is giving 11, is the “Lock Smith” and I’m not so sure I wouldn’t give my Coach of the Year vote to VU’s Johnson after such a splendid turn-around. My Pick? Vanderbilt, 42-14.
KENTUCKY – Okay, we knew the murderers' row of South Carolina, LSU and Florida would flatten UK, but how big is the loser when the ‘Cats knock LSU out of No. 1 and then play like heroes before losing to Florida by 8? UK is giving Miss. State 14, but this one’s in the Commonwealth and there the fans are now so rabid the Governor is considering giving shots. UK’s Brooks is an inspiration, I tell you. My Pick? Kentucky, 38-16.
AUBURN – Between LSU’s early heroics, Saban’s return at Alabama and the South Florida humiliation, the Plainsmen have been almost forgotten, but when AU won four straight and then played LSU to the wire last week it’s right that the Tigers deserve to be in the Top 25. Tomorrow they can cover 17 against a sputtering Ole Miss, especially when Tuberville told ‘em after the 30-24 LSU game, “You guys didn’t lose this one, LSU just won it.” My Pick? Auburn, 35-10.
TEXAS – Only a fool gives 21 points in any game, but what if it’s Nebraska that’s getting the juice! The Texas star has lost its luster (19th in the BCS), but at UN the light has almost gone out. UT (6-2) has won twice since the 7-point loss to Oklahoma, but Nebraska’s 36-14 whipping by A&M was the ‘Huskers third defeat in a row and some in Lincoln wonder if UN (4-4) will even have a winning season. My Pick? Texas 45-10.
ONE MORE – UTC’s lovable Rodney Allison is even threatening to shave his head in order to snap his Mocs out of the doldrums. UTC dropped another heartbreaker to Furman last Saturday (the Paladins have now won 13 straight in the series) so the Mocs’ 1:30 p.m. game at small-but-feisty Elon tomorrow ain’t promising. Elon is 5-2 and eager, but here’s a hunch UTC will play another one like they did in Statesboro and Chattanooga will win by a hair. (I hope it won’t be as wild and wooly as Wofford’s 47-44 thriller at Western Carolina last night!) My Pick? UTC, 19-14.