IT Picks SEC Games

The opening weekend of Southeastern Conference football offers a virtual smorgasbord, with 12 games spread across four days.

Two SEC teams take the early-bird route by playing non-league opponents on Thursday. Eight more conference teams open on Saturday, with one (Kentucky) debuting on Sunday and another (Tennessee) on Monday.

After months of analyzing rosters and crunching numbers, experts Jeffery Stewart and Randy Moore are ready once more to share their keen insights and their peerless predictions.

So, without further adieu, let the prognosticating begin:

Randy's picks:

NORTH CAROLINA STATE AT SOUTH CAROLINA (THURSDAY): As Steve Spurrier's starting QB, Tommy Beecher's job security ranks slightly above that of a suicide bomber. How long before Chris Smelley takes over? Not long, I'm guessing. South Carolina 24, N.C. State 13

VANDERBILT AT MIAMI OF OHIO (THURSDAY): The Commodores go into very few games with a chance to win. They go into even fewer ROAD games with a chance to win. That makes this game really special. Vandy 27, Miami 20

ALABAMA VS. CLEMSON (ATLANTA): Coming off a 7-6 disappointment in Year 1, Nick Saban needs a good start in Year 2 to justify that exorbitant $4 million salary ... assuming ANYTHING could justify a $4 million salary for a college coach. Bama 20, Clemson 17

WESTERN ILLINOIS AT ARKANSAS: Bobby Petrino didn't inherit great players from Houston Nutt but he inherited a great opening opponent. That should ensure a happy debut in HogLand. Arkansas 38, Western Illinois 7

HAWAII AT FLORIDA: Deja vu? The Rainbows ended the 2007 season getting waxed by an SEC East team (Georgia) and begin the 2008 season in precisely the same way. Florida 41, Hawaii 10

GEORGIA SOUTHERN AT GEORGIA: The Bulldogs may not be the best team in America but I'm pretty sure they're the best team in Georgia ... with the possible exception of the NFL's Falcons. Georgia 31, Georgia Southern 14

APPALACHIAN STATE AT LSU: Appy's speed was too much for ponderous Michigan in the 2007 opener. There is nothing ponderous about Les Miles' Tigers, which is why there will be no Cinderella story this time. LSU 31, Appalachian State 14

LOUISIANA-MONROE AT AUBURN: Bama coach Nick Saban compared losing to ULM last fall to the 9-11 terrorist attack. Maybe Tommy Tuberville can compare beating ULM to D-Day. Auburn 41, ULM 14

MEMPHIS AT OLE MISS: Houston Nutt's honeymoon with the Rebels will last until he loses. He's in little danger of that happening this weekend. Ole Miss 27, Memphis 10

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT LOUISIANA TECH: All I know about Louisiana Tech is that Terry Bradshaw went there and the women's basketball team is pretty good. That's why I'm going with the Bulldogs. Mississippi State 27, Louisiana Tech 14

KENTUCKY AT LOUISVILLE (SUNDAY): All of the Wildcats' 2007 weapons (Andre Woodson, Rafael Little, Jacob Tamme, Keenan Burton, Steve Johnson) are playing on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Big Blue, they aren't playing THIS Sunday. Louisville 34, Kentucky 24

TENNESSEE AT UCLA (MONDAY): The Bruins have the home-field advantage going for them but very little else. The Vols should win in a Tennessee Waltz. Tennessee 34, UCLA 17

Jeffery's picks:

NORTH CAROLINA STATE AT SOUTH CAROLINA (THURSDAY); Even at Columbia, where the theme to 2001 a Space Odyessy introduces the Roosters to their boosters, this is far from a walkover. However it might be a fly over if Spurrier is true to his Gator nature and decides to fling tater sooner rather than later. The Gamecocks have better QBs than they are generally credited with and Kenny McKinley is more productive than any receiver in the SEC. South Carolina 30, N.C. State 17.

VANDERBILT AT MIAMI OF OHIO (THURSDAY): Any Tennessee who recalls the Commodores last two visits to Neyland Stadium — a 28-24 upset in 2005 and a 25-24 setback in 2007 — will be hard to convince Vandy can't play on the road. Vanderbilt 24, Miami Ohio 21.

ALABAMA VS. CLEMSON (ATLANTA): Interesting clash between tradition rich programs led by high-pro life coaches and backed by energetic fan bases with lofty expectations. Nick Saban is closing the gap in the SEC but Tommy Bowden is opening the gap in the ACC. Clemson 27, Alabama 24.

WESTERN ILLINOIS AT ARKANSAS: Bobby Petrino begins his third job as head coach in as many seasons, after leaving Atlanta less than one season into his mega dollar, multiyear NFL contract to take over the Razorbacks football fortunes. He might not see Atlanta or the NFL again for a while, but his Hogs will prevail in this one. Arkansas 38. Western Illinois 17.

HAWAII AT FLORIDA: Have you ever wondered where Hawaiians vacation? Well certainly not Gainesville where the Gators grow so mean and The Swamp swallows visitors whole. Florida 45, Hawaii 17.

GEORGIA SOUTHERN AT GEORGIA: According to the experts this is the year of the Dawg. I'm ot sure I buy it but it will be a dog day afternoon in Athens where UGA-ly and beauty exist in perfect harmony. Georgia 45, Southern Georgia 10.

APPALACHIAN STATE AT LSU: After knocking off Michigan at the Big House to open the 2007 campaign, Appy will lose the element of surprise in Baton Rouge along with the football game. LSU 33, Appalachian State 13.

LOUISIANA-MONROE AT AUBURN: I understand ULM is very popular at SEC homecomings, home openers and kids' birthday parties, and since I've never heard of a Tiger chocking on a cupcake, I'll take Auburn in a cake walk. Auburn 37, Louisiana-Monroe 7.

MEMPHIS AT OLE MISS: After wearing out his cell phone along with his welcome in Fayetteville — you've got to watch those roaming charges coach — Houston Nutt tries to revive the football fortunes at Ole MIss. Like this contest against Memphis, it won't be easy. Ole Miss 23, Memphis 20.

MISSISSIPPI STATE AT LOUISIANA TECH: Despite last season's surprise success, which included eight wins and a Liberty Bowl appearance, Sylvester Croom is only 17-30 as head coach of the Bulldogs and he makes $1.7 million a year. And they say players are overpaid. This figures to be another costly but hard earned victory. Mississippi State 23, Louisiana Tech 17.

KENTUCKY AT LOUISVILLE (SUNDAY): For many football purists playing a college game on Sunday is a cardinal sin, but this one looks more like a Cardinal win. Louisville 31, Kentucky 27.

TENNESSEE AT UCLA (MONDAY): For the second consecutive year the Vols kickoff the football season in California, but with a much improved secondary and a new west coast offense UT should feel right at home this year. Tennessee 27, UCLA 17.

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