Oddballs 

Two weeks in, the season's a mess

Two weeks in, the season's a mess

By Randy Horick

Football season is nary two weeks old, and already we’ve seen as much swooning and carrying-on as at an Elvis Fan Club vigil on the King’s death day.

SEC rooters in general, and Vols fans in particular, are confused and aflitter. One week, Tennessee looks like a contender for the Mythical National Championship, Peyton Manning looks like a mortal lock for the Heisman, and Florida’s offense is floundering around in what coach Steve Spurrier, with his characteristic reserve, termed “dead-ass last.”

Then, just one game later—actually, one-half of one game later—the Vols suddenly appear as vulnerable as baby possums. Peyton Manning suddenly plays as if someone had lined his helmet with kryptonite. And UT fans suddenly are wondering what fresh hell awaits them at Florida, the team that slapped 12 touchdowns on some poor, bewildered Michiganders who only wanted to earn a little money for their athletic department.

On top of everything else, Vanderbilt—Vanderbilt!—rolls up nearly 30 points without the aid of a single defensive score, and Central Florida—Central Florida!—sashays into two SEC chateaux and almost walks off with the silverware.

So before fans’ nerves become any janglier, perhaps it’s time we attempted to answer a few of the questions that have been gnawed on and picked over at the Scene Sports Desk, a.k.a. McCabe’s Pub.

Does Tennessee have a chance against Florida? Sure—at least as much chance as any eight-point underdog.

Perhaps the more interesting question might be: Would Homer Simpson have a chance against Einstein in the GE Quiz Bowl? At least, that’s how many folks (including many Vols fans) view a matchup of Phil Fulmer and Steve Spurrier—with Guess Who, looking perpetually flummoxed, cast as Homer.

Phil, runs this line of thought, will never whup the Gators as long as Einstein—er, Spurrier—coaches them.

We may as well spill the big secret: As a strategist, Fulmer falls a lee-tle bit short of Stevie Superior. Of course, so do 99 percent of the other coaches in America. Besides—stop me if you’ve heard this one before—it’s the players who actually play the games.

If the Vols lose to Florida again, should they look for a new coach? No. (See above.)

Instead, you folks need to sober up and get a grip. Success may breed success in college football, but mostly it breeds ludicrously severe pressure. The way some Vol fans figure it, nine wins, with a loss to Florida, is an unsuccessful season. It’s the same hyperaccelerated, meth-freak scene at Alabama and Auburn, the same at Michigan and Ohio State, same at Nebraska and Florida State. Pressure, pressure, pressure.

Allow me to suggest a detox program. Y’all sit through two or three losing seasons, then let’s talk.

Will Peyton still win the Heisman? He’s already been anointed by your East Coast Media Types (whose votes count double), and Randy Moss, the other player who might lay claim to the mantle as college football’s best, plays for Marshall (which means he’ll be noticed only by the pro scouts). What’s more, as a coach, Spurrier isn’t allowed to win again. Take all this as a yes.

Why can’t Georgia and Arkansas regain their old dominance? You really need to direct that inquiry to Vince Dooley and Frank Broyles, the athletic directors at those two institutions. Ever since they retired from being Gridiron Coaching Legends themselves, Vince and Frank have kibitzed, vexed, and worrywarted their successors incessantly—making the coaching job even more stressful. The smart ones, such as Lou Holtz at Arkansas, escaped. Our money says that the Hogs and Dogs will never win championships regularly again until Broyles and Dooley are safely off campus.

Will Ken Griffey Jr. break Roger Maris’ home run record? Who cares? The fans don’t seem to, based on the flat-line interest in baseball these days.

But, not to dodge the question: Griffey, unlike previous questers, will hit 62 homers, and here’s why. Nike, his shoe sponsor, and baseball’s overlords will ensure it. They’ll temporarily move outfield fences in. They’ll juice the baseballs for Junior. They’ll load up his bats with flubber. Whatever it takes. Team owners are so convinced that the National Pastime requires emergency treatment that they’ll consider anything short of allowing outfielders to fly with jet-packs. And, of course, Nike could use a few extra million in shoe sales.

How it looks from the La-Z-Boy

After some fast ciphering, our official statistician tells us that the Crimson Tide’s average margin of victory over four of the past five Nashville confabs with Vanderbilt was a relatively skinny eight points. So there’s no reason this week to snort at the “Expect to Win” premise of Woodyball. Of course, the genius of this premise is its loophole; it promises merely a winning attitude, not actual W’s.

For all the improvement they showed in their opener, don’t expect the Dores to break the skein this year. Vandy’s offensive line is probably too green to hold back the Crimson rush. What’s more, under new coach Mike DuBose, Alabama seems to have stumbled onto a revolutionary concept: A little imagination on offense translates into more points, wider margins of victory, and fewer gnawed fingernails.

Arkansas 26, SMU 13

By scheduling Northeast Louisiana last week, and now Southern Methodist, Arkansas’ Danny Ford will be able to make it through two whole games without having to wish a tore-up knee on some superior opponent.

Auburn 40, Ole Miss 13

With all due respect to our Col. Reb friends and their ubiquitous banners from the War of Nawthuhn Aggression, Mississippi ranks—and rank is the word for it—as the raggliest 2-0 team in America. Our crystal ball foretells much ugliness under the magnolias on Satuhday.

Georgia 24, South Carolina 17

After a narrow, sweaty escape against Central Florida, the new scourge of the SEC, the Gamecocks have up and landed between the hedges in Athens, where guests can expect roughly the same hospitality that greeted another well-known Georgia tour group in Deliverance. That squealing-like-a-pig sound, by the way, will be coming from the South Carolina sideline.

LSU 28, Mississippi State 17

Seeing as how State coach Jackie Sherrill had a young bull castrated to motivate his team before playing Texas several years ago, all Cajuns will tread carefully in Starkville this week. Still, the Faulk-less (and whatever-else-less) Tigers should be at least 10 points superior to the feckless Bulldogs.

After a narrow, sweaty escape against Central Florida, the new scourge of the SEC, the Gamecocks have up and landed between the hedges in Athens, where guests can expect roughly the same hospitality that greeted another well-known Georgia tour group in Deliverance. That squealing-like-a-pig sound, by the way, will be coming from the South Carolina sideline.

LSU 28, Mississippi State 17

Seeing as how State coach Jackie Sherrill had a young bull castrated to motivate his team before playing Texas several years ago, all Cajuns will tread carefully in Starkville this week. Still, the Faulk-less (and whatever-else-less) Tigers should be at least 10 points superior to the feckless Bulldogs.

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