Spring-like weather was enjoyed this weekend as we TET editors descended upon the Plains to take in the Auburn-Vandy basketball game and commiserate over the poisoning of the Toomer’s Oaks. While the crowds outside weren’t as large as predicted, most everyone must have decided to do lunch at Mama Goldberg’s, hence the line that wrapped around Donahue almost to Glenn, foiling our plans to eat there and forcing a march up to Toomer’s in search of other fare.
I must admit that I was disappointed with the crowd inside the new Auburn Arena. I know with the other functions going on–a baseball game and the tree hug–that basketball wouldn’t necessarily to the top choice of the day, but when they announce a sell-out at the door, you kinda expect the place to be more than just half-full. My memory fails me when I compare my basketball attendance to football games, but I believe this is the first Tiger round-ball contest I’ve seen live since my last quarter in school 21 years ago.
Now that we’ve gotten NSD out of the way and even waited for that straggler Clowney to announce his destination (thank God he didn’t choose Bama), we’re in that lull period before spring practices begin and pundits across the land begin to size up the teams for the upcoming fall. Other than the Toomer’s travesty last week and the continued desperate attempts of Cam Newton detractors still trying to pin the Lindbergh baby kidnapping on him in an attempt to void Auburn’s national championship, our sport has been quite quiet lately–maybe too quiet. Maybe I’ll head to Thibodaux, LA for spring break or something.
Or maybe it’s time to shake things up with my list of picks of the winners and losers for the upcoming season. And just as peremptory in the title suggests, I have no need to show any cause for my picks. With simply no basis in fact other than my own intuition and an uncanny historic (by my own accounts) guessing average of .355 for such lavish predictions, I give you basic banter to discuss and to perhaps prompt your own long-shot prognostications for 2011, justified or not.
1) LOSER: Mark Richt or Les Miles. I’m calling it now. One of these guys is out of a job by the end of the year and it doesn’t much matter which. Fan bases are still quietly steaming at both after last year, although Miles did win back some critics by year’s end, even though a sweep of Arkansas along with the Alabama game would have precluded any trouble this year. Richt’s institutional grip on his program has worn thin and the last strings could be pulled before the season even starts. Reason would dictate that there is absolutely no basis for either coach getting the hook this year, but we’re not talking about rational people with CFB fans. Miles’ new contract is certainly no deterrent to being fired or pushed out, as witnessed with Tuberville’s departure from Auburn in 2008.
2) WINNER: South Carolina. The Gamecocks will win the east again in 2011, in another weak year for that division, but will falter down the line in Atlanta and/or their bowl game due to Spurrier continuing to be outcoached in most big games. While loaded with talent, Spurrier isn’t the Evil Genius of old, and the tatters on his cape are starting to show. The October 1st meeting in Columbia with Auburn will decide if SC has the pluck to win the SEC. Circle that date on your calendar. Auburn is the only school the Gamecocks haven’t beaten since joining the conference in 1992. Very quietly, we have become their gadfly.
3) LOSER: Mack Brown. 2011 will usher Mack-Daddy into the rocking chair for sure. A complete house-cleaning with coaches this past winter (and the big defection of Will Muschamp) will prove to be nothing more than deck-chair rearrangement on the Texas Titanic. Even with loads of Texas-sized talent still in house, Mack will reveal as he did last year that the game has passed him by and the eyes of Texas will be looking for the administration to make the transition. Texas is in dire need of repairing their image as college football’s biggest money whore, with their tramp-like conduct last year shopping all around the country for the biggest sugar-daddy conference. They are single-handily to blame for the breakup of the Big 12 and that brand on their bovine hind quarters will serve as a warning to would-be conference rustlers for many years to come.
4) WINNER: Auburn. I’m so sick of Auburn getting the one-trick pony label and treatment for the last month that I’m tempted to throw this prediction out for pure spite, but I truly do believe it. Auburn will at least tie to win the west again in what will actually be a five-horse race in yet another lopsided and top-heavy division that will see Miss State challenging as well. The 2010 teamwas more than a two-man show and that notion will provide more than enough ammo for the new crop of starters to carry quite a chip on their shoulder. Anyone poo-pooing their chances probably follows their statement with a little nervous laughter. You won’t hear me laughing, however.
5) WINNER: Oregon. My favorite to win the national championship in 2011, this team reloads with roughly the same talent they had last year. The kickoff game at Jerryworld in Dallas against LSU to start the season will be the bellweather to see if they can acquire the mental acumen necessary to beat the big, bad boogey-man SEC team. The PAC-12 goes to divisional play this year, and barring Lane Kiffin coaching above and beyond his pay grade at USC, the Ducks should walk waddle away with the conference crown and into the BCS again.
Now time for your F I V E…