Looking For A Glass Nearly Full?

This is the time of year when I get a few requests to make football picks. Where do I pick Alabama? How do I pick the Southeastern Conference? I take this responsibility seriously, but am handicapped by being an optimist.

When it comes to Alabama football, I'm tempted to see the glass at least three-quarters full.

Fortunately, I am able to make reasonably educated predictions because I am locking at a lot of facts. This is a time when I have to do considerable work looking ahead at the Crimson Tide and at the Bama season and at Alabama opponents. There are some things I cannot know, such as how injuries (or illness) might affect Alabama or the teams Alabama is playing. Also in the category of the unknowns: attrition from the effects of academics (returnees and newcomers), rules transgressions that result in suspensions or dismissals, and quitting–again, both for and against the Tide.

I do look at the players a team has returning and the players a team lost (Alabama and opponents). This involves more than just counting the number of starters or lettermen returning and lost. A senior quarterback may be more valuable than a junior safety.

I take a close look at when games fall on the schedule. Who is the week-before opponent? Where do open dates figure in? I don't put as much stock in home field advantage as some do, which probably comes from having seen big road wins and disappointing home losses.

Does the coach usually have a team that gets stronger as the season goes along? Is the coaching staff better or worse than it was last year? I believe that college football is a coach's game and put a lot of stock in a team having a good head coach and good, cohesive staff.

Obviously, it helps to have good players and a lot of them, but sometimes the squad with the best players isn't the best team. That's one area where coaching matters.

Who has the best fight song? (Just kidding.)

When the summer issue of 'BAMA Magazine comes out in a few weeks, readers will see a section in which Scout Media "experts" (including yours truly) predict the upcoming SEC football season. You may note that Alabama received one vote to win the championship.

That vote did NOT come from me. Repeat: I did NOT predict Alabama to win the SEC Championship. For the record, I picked Georgia to win the championship. I picked LSU to win the SEC Western Division and Alabama to finish third in the SEC West. And that pedestrian selection was the way it panned out when all the "experts" had voted.

Since then I've done a little more studying and my selections have changed somewhat.

I still pick Georgia to win the SEC Eastern Division. But after careful consideration, I now believe the West title will come down to the game on November 29 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. And I believe Alabama will win that final game of the regular season and go to the SEC Championship Game for a rematch with the Bulldogs.

I have picked Georgia to win the regular season meeting against Alabama in Athens. For years I have heard that it is hard for a team to beat the same opponent twice in one season. I believe that the best team usually wins and so the team that won in the regular season is likely to win if the two teams meet again in post-season play.

I mean, really: Mike DuBose and Alabama beat Coach Superior and the Mighty Gators twice in one season, first in Gainesville before a major beat-down in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

I have Georgia going 12-0 (8-0 in the SEC) in regular season play, one game better than Florida. To finish the East, I have Tennessee and South Carolina both 7-5/4-4, Kentucky 5-7/1-6, and Vanderbilt 4-8/0-8.

But it's the West you care most about. I have Alabama losing to Georgia and LSU and finishing 10-2/6-2. That includes a win over Clemson in the opener that doesn't affect the SEC record, but which I believe is a necessary victory to give the Tide the boost it needs to be a contender. I'm not real confident of a victory over Clemson in Atlanta, but it's something like playing bridge. If you need a certain opponent to hold a certain card in order to make your contract, you play for that opponent to have that card.

I have Auburn also at 6-2 in SEC play (9-3 overall) and losing the West crown on the head-to-head result with Bama. (As long as I'm predicting, I predict the Troy State Spread has been toned down considerably by Coach Tommy Tuberville by the time the Tigers get to Tuscaloosa.)

The rest of the West is LSU 9-3/5-3, Arkansas 6-6/3-5, Ole Miss 7-5/2-6, and Mississippi State 5-7/2-6.

There you have it.

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