For Week One, we're sticking with the basic interview format, showcasing the expertise and prognostication of Jay Williams! Jay's an '04 alum and was president of the Spirit of Gold Marching Band as a senior, which more than qualifies him to make bold, haphazard guesses about the upcoming SEC season. Without further adieu…
MO: With seven teams in the AP Top 26 (counting the "Also Receiving Votes" also-ran Gamecocks), the SEC is heartily lauded and fully loaded once again. With so many teams with a legitimate shot at winning in Atlanta, who will be the champion of SEC this year?
JW: I'm not on board the Georgia hype train just yet. Maybe I'm still bitter over their players stomping on the V after their narrow victory last season. Would the Dawgs be ranked as highly this season had Brandon Coutu missed that final field goal, or if we hadn't fumbled on the Georgia 10? Sure, they're good, but I don't think they're *that* good. That's why I'm going with the ol' tried and true Florida pick. Tim Tebow's back, and last I checked, Urban Meyer was a pretty good coach. Expect the World's Largest Cocktail Party to be an instant classic. Watch the Gators contend for another SEC and national title this year. Sure, I'd love to pick Vanderbilt here....but let's take things a step at a time and be reasonable (besides, they're going to win the SEC NEXT season).
MO: Coaching turnaround isn't rare in college football, and this season is no exception within the SEC. Which new coach makes the biggest splash in the conference?
JW: Maybe these are my Mississippi roots showing through, but I'm going with Houston Nutt. Sure, if you ask some Rebel fans, they're already contending for the SEC this year (didn't we hear that every year Coach O was there?), but I think they actually will have a fairly impressive turnaround this season. They said Coach O could recruit, but he just couldn't coach. If that's the case, Houston Nutt should have a fairly stocked team, and love him or hate him, he's a pretty decent coach. Look for the Rebs to surprise a few this season....of course, that's not too hard to do considering last season's 3-9 record. But watch Nutt continue to find ways to annoy his more "highly regarded" colleagues in the SEC.
MO: We all know that you'll agree with me in saying that the Southeastern Conference is without peer in terms of football success. With that in mind, outside of the SEC, which conference will have the best season?
JW: Wait, you're telling me there are conferences other than the SEC? Well, let's see here. I just can't ever take the PAC-10 seriously - sure, USC will do well, but it will be against....the rest of the PAC-10. The Big 10 has some strengths, but after OSU it's rather weak. I think ultimately the Big 12 is going to have a solid season. Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas, and I wouldn't be surprised if A&M, Nebraska, or Colorado comes out of nowhere to put a scare into some of the big boys. It's just a pretty scary-looking conference, and I think the Big 12 as a whole is going to have a great season.
MO: Finally, to the game that we're all wondering about. Miami came into Dudley last year looking for an upset and walked out a 13-24 loser. A lot of folks think that Miami has the team this year that can pull of the big win against an SEC team, but I don't know. I'll be there Thursday night expecting to leave Ohio with my head held high after a win, but we're not talking about me this week. How do you think Vandy does against Miami this week?
JW: It won't be pretty, but I'm convinced we'll come out of Ohio with the win. We didn't look great last year against the Redhawks, and still we were able to get our fifth victory.... Let's just not talk about the games after that, ok? Sure, Miami got their six wins last year, but they got them in the Mid-American Conference. Weak. Chris Nickson will do what needs to be done (again, it won't be pretty), and the defense will once again lock down the Redhawks, making Nickson and Company's job a little bit easier. I'm never comfortable with our opening game no matter who the opponent, and especially when it's on the road, but as usual I'm letting my excitement for another hopeful season of Vanderbilt football take over, and I'm as optimistic as all get out. I'll just save any lingering worry I might have for the South Carolina game next week.
NC State v. South Carolina:
JW: Gamecocks by 10. MO: Gamecocks by 4.
Georgia Southern @ Georgia
JW: Georgia by eleventy billion. (ok, fine. 40.) MO: Georgia by 17.
Hawaii @ Florida
JW: Florida by 13. MO: Florida by 27.
Appalachian St. @ LSU
JW: Tigers by 28. MO: Tigers by 10.
Miss. St. @ La. Tech
JW: Miss. St. by 20. MO: I'll take Tech in a big upset, by 3.
LA-Monroe @ Auburn
JW: Auburn by 38. MO: Auburn by 40.
Western Ill. @ Arkansas
JW: Hawgs by 21. MO: Hawgs by 13.
Memphis @ Ole Miss
JW: Rebs by 10. MO: Tigers by 13.
Bama @ Clemson
JW: Tigers (not of Auburn) by 3. MO: Bama by 10. Ugh.
UK @ Louisville
JW: Cats by 6. MO: Cards by 13.
Tennessee @ UCLA
JW: Orange by 17. MO: Tennessee by 13. Double Ugh.
VU @ Miami (OH)
JW: Dores by 12. MO: Dores by 9.