Well, finally. It's that time of the year again! How can you tell? Hurricanes, floods, Islam, wars, ticket price increases, gas price explosions, and stupid people like me picking football games for smart people like you who know better than to listen too carefully. Beginning to sound familiar? Remember, past performance does not guarantee future success. Ask Alabama.
It all starts again on Thursday night.
Granny's gone, but she's not forgotten. Ask new Cock coach Steve Spurrier just how much of an impression the bespectacled Lou Holtz left behind in Columbia, and he'll likely disavow a former friendship. Maybe they really do cheat more down South than they do in the North. Holtz himself said it best, "If you burn your neighbor's house down, it doesn't make your house look any better." Guess there was more to the picture than met the eye.
Well, such is the dawn of a new day in the SEC. Fraught with violent change and near-impossible expectation. Half of Holtz's team remains, many at other positions, and the other half are playing in other places, including prison yards and junior colleges. One of the good ones even plays for Tommy Tuberville's Auburn Tigers.
As for grandma, she's been hired as a madame at college football's journalistic Chicken Ranch, and will share paychecks with such notable broadcast luminaries as Lee "it's me they want" Corso and Kirk, "no, it's me they'd rather have" Herbstreit. Gee, with talent like this, the speeding spread of aural STD's on ESPN should rival the propaganda pumped out of a civil trial in a Tuscaloosa courtroom. In any event, wear tight pants and tennis shoes into the den just in case. And keep your finger on the remote control.
Safely back at Williams-Brice, Spurrier and his sophomore signal caller, Blake Mitchell from LaGrange, Ga., figure to be puttin' it up early and often Thursday night against George O'Leary's Golden Knights of Central Florida. O'Leary, who, for all we know, might have worked with Al Gore when the internet was first envisioned, didn't win a game last year and currently has the program who gave us Duante Culpepper mired in a nation-leading 15-game losing streak. On the bright side, the Knights return 16 starters, including senior QB Steven Moffett who should play well, easily improving on his team's 113th ranking in scoring offense in 2004.
Sooner or later, the ole ball Coach should have the Gamecocks flying, even if converted QB Syvelle Newton has to play the role of departed superstar wideout Troy Williamson. It doesn't really matter who runs the ball.
Despite the low numbers and inexperience, Spurrier knows first impressions matter. Still, it might not be such a cinch. South Carolina 35, Central Florida 20.
Van De Velde University once again dances out a hopeful new team in a hopeful new season, and things must either get better sooner or Commodore Coach Bobby Johnson gets the later. Same old losing start to a losing season? Well, maybe. But maybe not.
Vandy QB Jay Cutler
On closer inspection, this Vandy team is older and wiser than many before it. Its best player, preseason All- SEC QB Jay Cutler, plays a position that can matter in the win-loss column, and, by all accounts, he and his comrades are still burning over last year's flat-on-your- face start against South Carolina. Hold me back, Andy!
Jim Grobe leads the Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest, suddenly quite resurgent under Jim Grobe, lost seven games last year, but six of them by seven points or less. They played tough against both Virgina Tech and Florida State and beat Boston College. Better athletes. Better coaching. First team All-ACC RB Chris Barclay (1,010 yards last year) has been suspended for the Vandy opener, and that could hurt an offense that relies on the run (206 yards per game in '04!), as could the loss of reliable receiver Jason Anderson.
The Dore secondary is shaky at best, but so might be that of the not-so-defensive Deacons. This could be a high scoring affair, with VU actually threatening to upset the home team--something that seems to be a trend in this series down through the years. Who would dare go out on a limb with Vandy? Oh, heck, why not? Vandy 31, WAKE FOREST 30. (Don't bet on it!)