This year, for instance ...
I kept a copy of Rocky Top News' 2007 Tennessee Football Preview, so I thumbed through it to see how accurate my August projections of the Southeastern Conference Eastern and Western Division races proved to be. Obviously, they proved to be pretty accurate. (If they'd sucked, I wouldn't be reminding you of them, now would I?)
The skeptics among you are no doubt muttering, "Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then." The cynics among you are no doubt looking to verify my picks. You may do so by perusing the preseason issue of RTN that featured Erik Ainge on the cover with the wording: "Can Ainge lead Vols to the Promised Land?"
My crowning achievement: I was one of the few journalists who went out on a limb and picked Tennessee to win the Eastern Division. The vast majority of media sheep took the safe course and picked national champ Florida to repeat as East champ. I saw 10 starters missing from the Gators' 2006 defense and said, "No way." I pegged the Gators to go 5-3 in the SEC, which is precisely how they finished.
Are you dazzled yet? OK. Read on:
I picked Tennessee and Georgia to finish 6-2 in conference play, with the Vols earning the division title by virtue of a head-to-head defeat of the Bulldogs. (If I'm lying, I'm dying ... you can look it up.)
I pegged South Carolina 5-3, and the Gamecocks finished 3-5. This was a mild surprise to me and a big surprise to Steve Spurrier, who vowed in August that his team was ready to challenge for the league title.
I knew Kentucky and Vanderbilt were improved but I didn't think their records would reflect it competing in the rugged Eastern Division. I pegged the Big Blue 2-6 and it went 3-5. I pegged the Commodores 1-7 and they went 2-6. My crystal ball was a little cloudy, I admit, but both picks were in the ballpark.
Turning to the Western Division ...
I'm not going to gloat about picking LSU to win the West because, quite frankly, everyone with an active brain cell figured the talented Tigers would win their division. I picked Les Miles' club to go 8-0, and it would've done so except for two triple-overtime losses. The Tigers will be playing Ohio State for the 2007 national championship, so I think my preseason praise of LSU was justified.
Like 2006 SEC East champ Florida, I thought 2006 West champ Arkansas was overrated heading into 2007. I projected a 4-4 league mark for the strife-torn Razorbacks. If not for a stunning late-season upset of an injury-plagued LSU team, I would've hit that pick on the nose. Instead, the Hogs finished 5-3 in league play.
I also thought Auburn was overrated heading into '07. Many of the so-called "experts" thought Tommy Tuberville's team might challenge LSU for the division crown. Not me. I pegged Auburn to go 4-4. Close, but no cigar. The Tigers were fortunate to finish 5-3 – beating Arkansas by two points, Florida by three and Bama by seven.
Like the rest of the free world, I was eager to see how the $4 Million Dollar Man would fare in Year One at Alabama. I figured Nick Saban would have some difficulties because of the Tide's shortcomings on defense. I pegged Bama for 5-3 and it finished 4-4.
Because I respect people who value honor above victory, I was hoping Sylvester Croom would have a good season at Mississippi State. Still, I never dreamed he'd go 4-4 in league play with upset wins against Auburn, Kentucky and Alabama. I pegged the Bulldogs to finish 1-7 in SEC play and, honestly, I'm glad I was wrong. The college football world needs a lot more Sylvester Crooms.
Noting that Ole Miss was signing a goodly number of celebrated recruits, many observers saw the 2007 Rebels as an improving team. What I saw was a program in disarray. I predicted an 0-8 league record for Ed Orgeron's crew, and that pick turned out to be prophetic.
That's all for now. All of this patting myself on the back has left me exhausted.