The newest issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, citing Florida State’s beefed-up schedule and returning Heisman winner Jameis Winston, has picked the Seminoles as the team to beat this fall after the college season starts in less than two weeks. The annual College Football Preview listed Alabama – some 309 miles to the north – as the No. 2 team while Oklahoma, Ohio State and UCLA made the Top Five.
Then came Michigan State, Auburn, Oregon, Stanford and Baylor to round out the Top 10 but then the picking got dicey; No. 11 South Carolina and No. 12 Georgia play in Columbia on Sept. 13, this one week after Georgia hosts the magazine’s No. 16 pick, Clemson, in the season opener in Athens). Notre Dame was No. 13 but then there was more early-season trouble – No. 14 LSU and No. 15 Wisconsin will face each other in Houston on August 30 -- and clearly SI’s predictions will be in tatters.
Southern Cal is No. 17 while Ole Miss was next, despite the worry that comes with the Reb’s August 28 showdown against very potent Boise State in the opener in Atlanta. Arizona State was picked at No. 19, and No. 20 was Texas A&M, a team that will open at No. 11 South Carolina on the same Thursday night Ole Miss meets Boise. See what I mean when I predict the SI ratings will resemble scrambled eggs just two weeks into the season?
No. 21 is Kansas State, Missouri is No. 22 with four breathers early and Oregon State is No. 23. Nebraska and Marshall round out the Top 25. According to the magazine writers, both the program at Florida and embattled Louisville coach Bobby Petrino will rebound. Do you realize when Florida opens with Idaho on August 30, it will have been a maddening 329 days since the once-dazzling Gators won a football game?
* * *
Despite the Sports Illustrated predictions, Alabama is tops on the preseason Sagarin ratings. This is a scientific method where Jeff Sagarin, a 1970 graduate of MIT, pours all kinds of facts into a giant computer and rewards teams that play the best versus “good opponents.”
This year’s Top 10 on the Sagarin Ratings – which are published each week by USA Today -- are Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, LSU, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Other teams of note are 11th Texas A&M, No. 13 Missouri, No. 16 Georgia, No. 24 Auburn, No. 25 Florida, No. 33 Mississippi State, No. 37 Georgia Tech, No. 43 Ole Miss, No. 45 Vanderbilt (Penn State is 44), No. 49 Tennessee, No. 80 Kentucky, No. 115 Middle Tennessee, and No. 131 Chattanooga.
* * *
Jeremy Fowler, a writer for CBS Sports, makes a strong argument that Mississippi State quarterback Rayne Dakota Prescott, whose roots go back to the Choctaw Apache tribe in Ebarb, La., may be the SEC’s “Secret Weapon” this fall.
“Dak,” who has a colorful tattoo running down the shoulder of his throwing arm of feathers, smoke, wind and a pair of turtles (it’s a “Dreamcatcher” thing) has already proven he’s a winner with his heart-stopping fourth-quarter drive that beat Ole Miss last year. Prescott was only cleared to play minutes before the game.
At 6-2, 235 pounds, the Bulldog quarterback has great strength (he can bench press 450) but with a veteran cast that includes 25 guys who have actually started in games for the Bullies, Senior Bowl president Phil Savage says Prescott may open some eyes when “The Secret” plays at LSU Sept. 20.
* * *
If you don’t think the new SEC Sports Network is going to fly, let me remind you the University of Tennessee athletic department is hurrying to build a $10 million studio in order to get the Vol teams as much air time as possible.
* * *
A quick golf story: Two guys playing at the Springdale Golf Course in Uniontown, Pa., got in an argument about the game’s “casual water” rule after a rain on August 3 and the melee quickly escalated to the point that one struck the other with a 3-wood.
Yet at a Wednesday hearing, neither golfer would testify in front of the judge, both repentant and sorry the incident ever happened. As Judge Robert Breakiron (really, his real name!) dismissed charges, he sternly told both men, “I don’t want you back in this courtroom … or I’m going to assess you two penalty strokes.”