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Week 1 in the SEC

September 4, 2009

Joe can’t think of a better way to kick off the annual rite of weekly picks than attending Tiger Talk live last night at Ariccia’s. Coach Chizik seemed almost as excited as the crowd did. He fielded questions well and although he didn’t work the crowd before putting on the headset, he stayed for quite some time afterwards for autographs and photos. My own picture attempt didn’t turn out so well, so this morning Joe has nothing to make this post more visually appealing.

After Tiger Talk, most of the crowd that stuck around watched Spurrier’s squad against NorthCarolina State. Joe mentions this only because that game set the tone for a lot of what we’ll probably see all weekend: sloppy play. It was good to see the ‘Cocks finish the night with a “W,” but I didn’t see much that indicated the East will be saved from the Gator nation.

La. Tech vs. Auburn. Questions abound for this one. La. Tech enters their third year withhead coach Derek Dooley, which traditionally means the biggest payoff in terms of talent, executing the coaches’ playbook and just plain ole swagger. The Bulldogs bring all this to Pat Dye Field withsome excellent returning talent. Our Auburn Tigers counter withall new coaches, shaky depth, a new playbook on bothsides of the ball and the foundation for what we hope will be swagger by the end of the month.

On offense, Auburn will have to establish the run early. La. Tech has a better than average defense against the run, and last year showed weakness against the pass. I have to believe Gus will want to run the ball early and often to set up play action and a vertical passing game later. I even expect several “trick” plays of the run variety to help keep the Bulldogs scattered on D. If the O-line isn’t drastically improved this game could take a turn for the worse in a hurry. I hope we get to see glimpses of multiple backs and wild cats and non-blocking tight ends and yes, a Chris Todd who takes major steps towards muffling a few critics and naysayers.

On defense, Auburn just needs to be ready to play straight ahead. La Tech isn’t going to win any awards for offensive creativity. They are physical, hard nosed and downhill. They have the skill players to challenge Auburn and if the Bulldogs run the ball early our D could be gassed by the 4th quarter.

Special teams. We’ve all no doubt read by now how hands on Coach Chizikhas been withthis during Spring and Summer camps. However, La Tech has a burner at kick returner and a Coach with a similar emphasis on the role of special teams. I’d call this one a toss up and hope after tomorrow night, all Auburn fans know a little bit more about what to expect from our kicking game and how we fare against the same.

Overall, Auburn should win this game. Were it not for all the “newness” in God’s country this Fall, I’d even go so far as to say Auburn runs wild. However, La Tech has proven dangerous to Auburn in the past when they’ve had skill players, namely at QB and RB like they do this year. Coach Dooley was rumored to have been considered for the job at Auburn early in the process, another sign that Auburn can’t overlook this first game. I don’t think Coach Chizikand his staff are going to do that, and I’m sure they have a plan in place. The real question tomorrow, and I believe all season long is going to be how do the players respond to being behind, turnovers, dropped passes and big plays. Then, based on the players response, how do our new coaches respond? Again with the questions Joe!

I look for this one to be painfully close at the half, or even for La Tech to go into the locker room with the lead. I don’t even know that it will be a high scoring game, but both teams should find the end zone early and then the defenses settle in. By the gun, Auburn should pull away for our first victory with plenty of lessons learned for the following weeks.

La Tech 21, Auburn 28.

And now, on with the rest of the SEC predictions!

The West.

UATvs. Virginia Tech. It pains me to write this almost as much as it has pained me to think about this game. This time last year, UAT was an underdog against a highly ranked, preseason darling Clemson. The absolute destruction the Tide wreaked on the Tigers set the tone for the rest of the year for both teams. As you know, UAT went on to run through the regular schedule and Clemson once again, was Clemson. Virginia Tech always hangs around the Top 10, deserving or not, and they enter this season at #7. The Tide is of course #5. I really don’t think the Hokies have much to caw about, and after tomorrow night, neither will the rest of the nation. UAT’s defense will stymie what’s left of VT’s running game and put too much pressure on the Hokie QB for this to be competitive. VT will probably look solid in the first half, but UAT pulls away in the second. Final score: UAT 27, VT 13.

Missiouri State vs. Arkansas. Please, *yawn* try and contain yourself for this one. Mizzou State 9, Arkansas 34.

LSU vs. Washington. While no one expects the Huskies to be as bad this year as they were last, it isn’t going to stop the Bayou Bengals from introducing the pacific northwest to the SEC style beat down that is coming. Sure, the Pac 10 has feasted on dog meat for a couple of years, but all the barking in the world isn’t going to keep the Tigers from climbing the trees to destroy the last person with a “W” on their helmet. This one could get so ugly, the fans will pray for a fog bank to roll in and hide their retreat. LSU 35, Washington 3.

Ole Miss vs. Memphis. This may actually be a good game and much closer than any of the red dixie cup sporting, boat shoe wearing, dressed up hayseeds from Mississippi care for. This game may be the epitome of sloppy play previously referenced, but Ole Miss should come out on top of the heap. Then again, Jevon Snead may light up Beale Street and fill the highlight reels to capacity. Joe says Ole Miss wins in the end, Ole Miss 28, Memphis 21.

Jackson State vs. Mississippi State. The Bulldogs will probably look really good in this game. So good, we’ll all wonder if Jackson State was that bad, or Dan the Man from Florida is really on to something. Auburn fans will groan and wonder if we find ourselves on the wrong end of 3-2 the next week. However, Joe says the Bulldog nation is all bark and no bite, but looks the part against on over-matched Jackson State. JS 10, Miss. State 24.

The East.

Charleston Southern vs. THE FLORIDA. Shame on you UF for scheduling this game. Shame on you NCAA for counting it when the carnage is over. The only other defeat that will look worse by year end will be when THE FLORIDA emaciates the Volunteers. CS 6, THE FLORIDA (a gazillion?).

Georgia at Oklahoma State. This is a tough game to read. On one hand, Georgia should be better than last year and on the other hand, so should Oklahoma State. However, I don’t know if the SEC has enough karma for two teams to go on the road in marquee match-ups and both win. Since I’ve already picked LSU to win, I have to say Georgia gets beaten by the narrowest of margins. UGA 17, Oklahoma State 20.

Miami, Ohio vs. Kentucky. This could very well be the only win UK has before coming to the Plains in mid October. A lot of folks think UK is on the rise, Joe says save it for the balloons. Miami, OH 13, Kentucky 24.

Western Kentucky vs. Tennessee. Please see Arkansas and Missouri State note. *Yawn*, WKU 7, UT 21.

Western Carolina vs. Vanderbilt. Enough with the directional schools already! WCU 13, Vandy 21.

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