SEC Picks, Week 1

The leaves are turning. The nights are getting cooler. The students are cruising The Strip. Fall is in the air. That can mean only one thing: InsideTennessee.com's resident experts are ready for another season of Southeastern Conference football picks.

Following stellar seasons in 2005 "you can look it up" Jeffery Stewart and Randy Moore are working like heck to be even better prognosticators in 2006. What follows are their picks for Week 1:

Randy's picks:

SOUTH CAROLINA AT MISSISSIPPI STATE (THURSDAY): The Bulldogs should be very good on defense this year, just not quite good enough to offset a weak offense. South Carolina 20, Mississippi State 10

HAWAII AT ALABAMA: Hawaii is known for its pineapples but I look for the Crimson Tide to Dole out the punishment in this game. (Hey, you can't expect midseason puns in Week 1.) Bama 27, Hawaii 10

SOUTHERN CAL AT ARKANSAS: The Trojans won 70-17 last time, and I just don't think the Hogs' home-field advantage is worth 53 points. USC 31, Arkansas 21

WASHINGTON STATE AT AUBURN: I'm picking Auburn to go 12-0 this year, so I guess I have to pick the Tigers to win the opener, huh? Auburn 34, Washington State 14

SOUTHERN MISS AT FLORIDA: I keep hearing that Urban Meyer's teams always play much better in Year 2. Well, this is Year 2 in Gainesville, so show me something. Florida 35, Southern Miss 17

WESTERN KENTUCKY AT GEORGIA: The Bulldogs are unsettled at quarterback and they might be looking ahead to next week's game at South Carolina. Still... Georgia 27, Western Kentucky 7

KENTUCKY AT LOUISVILLE: Randy Sanders' debut as UK's quarterbacks coach may not be particularly memorable, except for the Cardinals. Louisville 34, Kentucky 17

LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE AT LSU: LaMarcus Randall will start at QB but backup Matt Flynn will get to play by the third quarter of this mismatch. LSU 49, Louisiana-Lafayette 14

MEMPHIS AT OLE MISS: Ex-Vol Brent Schaeffer will make the Rebels more exciting to watch but he won't make them appreciably better than they were last year. Ole Miss 24, Memphis 17

VANDERBILT AT MICHIGAN: Ever watch those film clips of the lion chasing down and devouring a wounded antelope? Well, the Commodores are playing the part of the antelope. Michigan 35, Vandy 14

CALIFORNIA AT TENNESSEE: I hate to be a wet blanket but I think the Golden Bears are every bit as good as their preseason hype says they are. California 27, Tennessee 20.

Jeffery's picks: Picking games before you've seen teams play is a little like selecting a blind date from an old high school annual. In other words: it's risky business based on little more than a vague idea of what the school looked like the last time you saw it play.

Be that as it may, never let it be said our crack staff is ever afraid of, or unaccustomed to, a little public humiliation. (A reminder not to use these predictions for betting purposes, unless: you're on trial for your life and are planning an insanity defense, or you just happen to hate money. With those qualifiers out of the way here we go.

SOUTH CAROLINA AT MISSISSIPPI STATE (THURSDAY): In their third year under Sylvester Croom, the Bulldogs are reportedly ready to take a big step toward respectability. There is more talent than three years ago, but the memory of a home loss to Maine early in 2004 remains strong enough that I won't be picking the underDogs in this season opener. South Carolina isn't a powerhouse, but Steve Spurrier can do a lot with smoke and mirrors, and coming off a solid first season, S.C. should be game, if not cocky. South Carolina 24, Mississippi State 20

HAWAII AT ALABAMA: This on is not being played in the Islands, but facing the Rainbow Warriors on the mainland can be like a day at the beach. The Crimson Tide should be able to break in a new quarterback without breaking much of a sweat. Alabama 30, Hawaii 13.

SOUTHERN CAL AT ARKANSAS: After slaughtering the Hogs, 70-17, last season in the Rose Bowl, will the Men of Troy get a little taste of revenge Ozark style? (Cue the banjos.) Well if star tailback Darren McFadden is able to go full boar for Arkansas — he's been upgraded to questionable— Pete Carroll might just squeal like a pig. Probably not, but an amusing visual none the less. USC has lost a lot of talent but it has fresh horses in reserve. USC 28, Arkansas 20.

WASHINGTON STATE AT AUBURN: The last time a Pac 10 team came calling at the Loveliest Village on the Plains, Tommy Tuberville ended up looking like the Village idiot, as USC manhandled a Tiger squad that was picked to win the national championship by a count of 23-0. Tuberville nearly lost his job that year but a botched attempt to hire Louisville's Bobby Petrino saved his job. And the rest, as they say, is history. Don't expect a repeat of that 2003 season opener, although the Cougars could be dangerous if the Tigers aren't prepared. Auburn 34, Washington State 17.

SOUTHERN MISS AT FLORIDA: Urban renewal is fully underway in Gainesville, as the Gators are coming off a solid 9-3 season followed by a big recruiting campaign. Florida has won 16 straight season openers and this should go down as No. 17. Florida 37, Southern Miss 14.

WESTERN KENTUCKY AT GEORGIA: The Bulldogs like to have dessert before the main course and that's why they've won nine straight season openers by a combined score of 363 to 110. This cupcake should go down as smooth as Kentucky bourbon. Georgia 42, Western Kentucky 7.

KENTUCKY AT LOUISVILLE: The problem with playing an in-state rival to open the season is that no matter if you win or lose you're bound to have a letdown the next week. That just increases the stakes in this annual Blue Grass State showdown. The Wildcats are supposed to be new and improved but they're not improved enough to beat a strong Cardinal squad in Louisville. Louisville 33, Kentucky 19.

LOUISIANA LAFAYETTE AT LSU: This is what you call easing into the season. But will this yawner be worth getting out of bed for? Probably not. However the tailgate parties in Tiger Town are definitely an eye-opening experience, and a great opportunity for LSU fans to talk about upcoming games against Arizona and Auburn. LSU 45, La-Lafayette 3.

MEMPHIS AT OLE MISS: This is the third straight year these teams have opened against each other and the other two were close with each team winning one. The Rebels got a big infusion of junior college talent, including former Vol signal caller Brent Schaeffer, that should swing the advantage their way in this Sunday special in Oxford. Ole Miss 21, Memphis 13.

VANDERBILT AT MICHIGAN: When last seen the Dores were knocking off the Volunteers in Knoxville to end a losing streak that stretched back to 1982. Now they venture to the Big House in Ann Arbor, but with no Jay Cutler at QB they have no chance. Michigan 38, Vanderbilt 10.

CALIFORNIA AT TENNESSEE: It doesn't get much more dangerous that this in season openers for the Vols. An athletic opponent with solid depth, good speed and excellent coaching. The last time the Vols lost a season opener was 1994 to UCLA, another Pac 10 squad. Fortunately, this one is being played before a hungry home crowd with the Golden Bears forced to travel three time zones and endure uncommon humidity. The Vols will need to turn this one into a street fight, win the kicking game and force more turnovers than they make. Tennessee 24, California 23.


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