Sports In Paradise By Dale Jones
Boom chakalaka!!! For the first time since I’ve been predicting football games in this sports column, I was perfect last week with all 15 selections, including my upset of the week. That puts me at 27-3 on this young season for a .900 winning percentage, and for two weeks in a row, I’ve nailed the upset of the week.
As is normally the case, however, the deeper we get into the season, the more difficult the picks become. There were some challenges last week with several Top 25’s going head-to-head, but what we are all finding out is that some teams that were suppose to be great are down right average, and others are, well, surprisingly good. With SEC teams scattered all over the Top 25, it makes the season even more enjoyable for the fans in these parts.
Let take a listen and see what the seashell tells us this week.
(#2) Ohio State vs. Ohio – Even though the Buckeyes are a solid No. 2 team, they still have room to improve, specifically on special teams. Last week against Miami they gave up an 88-yard kickoff return as well as a 79-yard punt return, both for TD’s and they rank 113 in the country in kickoff coverage. Even if they don’t improve and give up 2 more this Saturday, I’m pretty certain they will come away with a win. Ohio State 31 – Ohio 10
(#9) Iowa at (#24) Arizona – Both of these Top 25 teams are coming off huge wins from last week. Arizona destroyed The Citadel 52-6, and No. 9 Iowa manhandled Iowa State 35-7. The Wildcats have not defeated a Top 10, non-conference foe since they squeaked by No. 6 Oklahoma by a score of 6-3 way back in 1989. They would love to change that streak this Saturday, but it is unlikely to happen. Iowa 24 – Arizona 21
UAB vs. Troy – UAB is the worst football program in the state and I refuse to pick them to win a game until they give me some indication that they actually WANT to win a football game. Troy 38 – UAB 10
Southern Miss vs. Kansas – Freshman QB Jordan Webb threw three touchdown passes last week, helping lead Kansas past No. 15 Georgia Tech. They hope to do the same thing this week as they travel to the State of Mississippi for a football game, the first in the schools history. The Golden Eagles honestly looked bad in their opener to South Carolina, but bounced back with a big win over Prairie View A&M (if that can even be considered a big win). Playing at “The Rock” can be a challenge, but I’m feeling good about this Kansas team. Give it to the Jayhawks in a close one. Kansas 21 – Southern Miss 17
Vandy at Ole Miss – Ole Miss is still trying to bounce back from the embarrassing week 1 loss to Jacksonville State. The Rebs looked better last week with 281 yards of passing offense behind Jeremiah Masoli. Unfortunately, they had less than 100 yards on the ground, and when they get into the heart of SEC play, that is not going to get the job done. But this is Vandy, so give Ole Miss another “W”. Ole Miss 17 – Vandy 10
(#13) South Carolina vs Furman – Even before this season started, I was singing the praises of South Carolina. Now that Spurrier’s Gamecocks have discovered a running game in the form of freshman Marcus Lattimore, I like them even more. A two-dimensional Steve Spurrier team can be a very dangerous thing. Keep a close watch on these boys. South Carolina 34 – Furman 7
(#12) Arkansas at Georgia – The big question in this game is “Will Georgia be able to score points?” Sounds simple doesn’t it? You would have thought so last week against South Carolina. In last years’ meeting, Georgia won 52-41. That’s right, 93 points combined. We know Ryan Mallett will put points on the board, but can Georgia get their offense in gear? If not, this could be a long day and a longer season for Mark Richt. Arkansas 33 – Georgia 24
(#10) Florida at Tennessee – Interesting developments earlier this week when it was reported that Gator receiver Chris Rainey sent a threatening text to his girlfriend that allegedly said “Time to die.” Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio told reporters that Rainey is not a part of the team right now. This could just be a ploy to pull everyone’s attention to something other than the pathetic offense of the Gators. The Vols haven’t enjoyed a win against Florida since 2004, but despite their troubles out of the gate, I think Florida will likely keep their streak alive. Florida 30 – Tennessee 24
(#16) Auburn vs. Clemson – I have yet to decide if I want to go watch this game in person or if I want to stay home and watch it in 3D. College GameDay will be there and Kirk Herbstreit should receive a red-carpet welcome since he predicted Auburn to win the SEC West even before the season started. Clemson is unranked, mostly due to the fact that they have wins over North Texas and Presbyterian. Auburn survived a tough road game last week against a good Mississippi State team. If the Tigers from Auburn can keep their focus on this game rather than somewhere down the road, they should enjoy a big home victory. But it could be close. Auburn 27 – Clemson 17
(#1) Alabama at Duke – Even as I write this, additional seats are being added to Wallace Wade Stadium for what will amount to a Bama home game in Durham, N.C. Duke has shown the ability to score points, but there is no way on God’s green earth that they can stop the Tide’s explosive offense. The Blue Devils better keep the clock running and hope to score some points or this game could get out of hand in no time. Alabama 45 – Duke 21
(#4) TCU 21 – Baylor 7
(#6) Texas 35 – Texas Tech 24
(#5) Oregon 52 – Portland State 3
South Alabama 28 – Nicholls State 17
Upset of the Week:
(#15) LSU vs. Mississippi State – The Bulldogs are on the verge of a big win. Last year, they were one play away from beating LSU but were stopped on the goal line giving the Bengal Tigers a 30-26 win. Last week, State was one drive away from beating No. 16 Auburn, again losing by 4 points. LSU is favored by 8.5 points right now, but I truly believe this will be the turnaround game for the Bulldogs, right there in front of the home crowd at Tiger Stadium. This time, the Dawgs WIN by 4. Mississippi State 35 – LSU 31
—Dale Jones is a reporter / sports columnist for Gulf Coast Newspapers and a Member of the Alabama Sports Writers Association. You can reach Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org