I was on a conference call with a guy in Chicago yesterday. We were the first two on the call and we were making chit-chat as we waited for a couple more people to join the call.
“There will be football on your television tonight,” I told him.
“Really? I don’t think the Bears play tonight. They aren’t very good anyway,” he answered. Well, he answered the first part. I made up the part in italics because I’m like that some times.
Anyway, based on Google Analytics, my readers probably don’t need to be reminded that college football starts this weekend. Most of you probably flipped from Tennessee and Appalachian State – you know you pulled for App State, just a little – to Vandy and South Carolina. Not really because you care about any of those teams, but all of you want to say that you were watching when Will Muschamp’s head exploded. I know that’s a little gruesome, but 50 years from now when television has moved to some transmission method that isn’t compatible with digital recording, you’ll want to tell your grandkids the story. “It was a pass interference call that went against him. I saw it coming, was waiting for it. His carotid artery turned bright red like a lit fuse and two seconds later his head just exploded. I mean, just BOOM. He stood there for a couple of seconds, headless, his body turned toward the offending ref, arms bowed out like the bulldog figure that he was. Then the strength coach came over with a towel and salt tablet. I don’t think that he really knew what to do. Craziest thing I ever saw on TV and, remember, I lived when shows like The Bachelor were popular. Anyway, South Carolina came back to win 16-10.”
I digress. Let’s play some pick ’em!
Game 1: Ole Miss at Florida State (Monday, 8E/7C)
Why do we care about this game? Because we still don’t like Florida State. We don’t like Ole Miss much either, but they’re an SEC school and Florida State ducked the entire conference to play in the ACC where they’d have just one game a year. You pull for the SEC when you can, which is to say, unless it’s your rival and you can give them grief for losing to Appalachian State. Florida State is a 4.5 point favorite in this game, being played at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
FSU returns 17 starters from last season, including ALL 11 OFFENSIVE starters. I mean, their entire offense came back. That’s pretty strong and hard to overlook. They should have the entire playbook available to them.
Ole Miss returns 10 starters, 5 on offensive – including perennial Heisman chatter subject Chad Kelly – and 5 on defense.
What will determine the outcome? Who can run the ball. Can Ole Miss’ SHARK defense stuff Dalvin Cook? Can Chad Kelly use his arm to open up Ole Miss’s running game?
ELEVEN STARTERS returning on offense is hard for me to fathom, let alone pick against. I think Florida State wins this one, and then they’re off until October 29th when Clemson rolls in to Tallahassee.
Game 2: Clemson at Auburn (Saturday, 8E/7C)
Auburn begins its season with the first of five straight home games, while Clemson tries to pick up where it left off last season. In the championship game last year, I watched Deshaun Watson make plays over and over and over and over. The kid can put a pass on a dime from a dead sprint, and he can flat out run. Now, he has what Gene Chizik would call a humbleness about him that I don’t particularly gravitate to, but there’s no denying his ability.
Auburn looks to answer its quarterback question again this season, and for Kevin Steele to revamp a defense that was a little too thin last season to make it through four quarters. You saw that against teams with big backs, like LSU and Alabama. At quarterback, a healthy Sean White gets the opportunity to prove himself again. Does he have the abilities to thrive in Malzahn’s offense? I think so, at least enough to keep Auburn in most of its games. As long as he doesn’t turn the ball over, I think he’ll be okay.
But he won’t be okay in this one. Clemson really is strong. They showed a lot of talent and tenacity last season, and I just think Auburn has some questions that they need to answer as a team before they compete at that level.
Game 3: Southern Cal at Alabama (Saturday, 8E/7C)
Two teams that met in Birmingham, Alabama in 1970 in a game that, many say, changed college football. A fully integrated USC squad, led by Sam Cunningham who rushed 12 times for 135 yards, doubled up the Tide at Legion Field 42-21 and, as Jon Voigt stated in the movie Woodlawn, showed southerners that “it was time.” It’s been said that Sam Cunningham did more for integration in 60 minutes than any single man in history. I’d like to think that’s not true, but I’m too much of a realist. Anyway, you’ll hear that story more than once this weekend.
As for the game itself, Alabama begins another season with a question mark at quarterback. Three of the four last year starters have won national championships, but this feels different. Those first-year starters had Heisman Trophy candidates at tailback and wide receiver, they just had to efficiently get the ball in to those hands.
For Alabama, I’m not sure that Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris are equivalent to Derrick Henry and Eddie Lacy, or if Calvin Ridley is up there with Amari Cooper and Julio Jones. That’s going to put more pressure on a starting quarterback that is a question mark.
Alabama’s defense lost three of the best (A’Shawn Robinson, Reggie Ragland, Jarran Reed), but with as many players as Alabama rotates in the game on defense, they shouldn’t fall back too far.
I don’t know a thing in this world about Southern California, except that Tee Martin is their Offensive Coordinator and that some lady that may or may not have been a booster may or may not have bought him some tires when he may or may not have had a flat. Wow, that was a long time ago. There are kids in college who weren’t even born when that story broke. I’m getting old.
Anyhoo, I’ll pick Alabama in this one, if for no other reason, because I’m a bammer. It’s hard to pick against Saban when he has this much time to prepare. It should be a good game.
That’s great weekend of college football. I hope y’all enjoy it!