The 2013 season is here, the schedules are set and the Contempt Cannon is loaded for another year of Picks & Pans. This year’s opening weekend is rife with fierce matchups between farcical opponents. To kick off the season I will pick just four games this week, but I will make up for it in volume. That kind of volume of course will require you to shout the picks out loud as you read them, but you need to get your lungs in game shape for Saturday’s opener in The Swamp, so just thank me. And please remember that these weekly installments are not to be used as a betting guide. If you base any Vegas wagers on my picks, you are likely already the subject of an NSA investigation for criminal hypomania, paraphrenia and a number of other conditions that I just looked up on WebMD. Remember that these picks are for entertainment purposes only.
And even that is debatable.
Georgia at Clemson (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. – ABC)
While neither school is a church-affiliated institution, they are certainly scholars of their religious text (and it is nice for them to be scholars of something). Because they have the loaves and fishes concept down cold. No other team in the history of the sport has squeezed more hype and fallacious credibility out of a single national championship than these two posers. They chronologically held hands across the national title altar, winning their only national championships in the same consecutive years as the Wedding at Cana and the Pool of Bethesda. Yeah, that’s right; I’m dropping the New Testament card. And neither program has been relevant in the national title picture since then. Through seven straight seasons of SEC national titles, 8 (and virtually 9, counting Auburn in 2004) in the last 10 years, and 11 (virtually 12) in the last 20 seasons – all won amongst five different SEC programs, none of them named Georgia – the Dawgs are the annual runaway winners of the, “Hey, We’re Kind of Still Here” award. Woof. Then you have the Tigers, who don’t even have a conference to hide behind anymore, going from 3 league titles in 10 years during the ‘90s to zero in the last 13 years. Meow.
This game will feature a lot of scoring because both offenses are prolific and both defenses will bend and break faster than Charlie Weis’s waistband after Thanksgiving dinner. Georgia is retooling their decimated defense, while Clemson’s defense simply stinks since Dabo puts all his best athletes on offense and put Brent Venables in charge. To give you an idea of the Venables defensive philosophy, when preparing to face Georgia’s in-state rival Georgia Tech last year, the Tiger’s defensive coordinator said his main strategy was to not eat cheese: “Don’t eat the cheese. The cheese is dangerous. The cheese is a trap. There are a lot of guys eating the cheese.” You will think I made this up. I didn’t. But in the end, after missing out on a sure national title game win over Notre Dame last year because not a single member of the UGA program knew about spiking the ball to kill the clock (such an odd fate for the school that produced Matthew “Kegger” Stafford, an authority on spiking the ball, his hair and any punch bowl in the general vicinity), the Dawgs go back to what they do best: embarrassing the conference.
Blessed are the Cheese-makers (Clemson): 45
Hounds of Heck (Georgia): 41
North Carolina at South Carolina (Thurs, 6:00 p.m., ESPN)
To borrow from the great Bob Seger, Steve Spurrier is rock and roll; and rock and roll never forgets. Stevie never forgot about Bill Curry firing him at Georgia Tech, and took great pleasure in crushing him and his Kentucky Wildcats every year while the Duke of Drawl was their coach. Steve never forgot about the Georgia Bulldogs beating him in his senior season, denying him and Florida an SEC title shot and souring his Heisman Trophy campaign. He took immense joy in throttling them year in and year out as the Gators’ head coach, punctuating the beatings by calling an end-around to tack on a late touchdown and become the only visiting team to ever score 50-points or more between the hedges in the only game Florida would ever have to do it. Spurrier may or may not have called Georgia’s former coach Ray Goof, but when he coached at Duke, he regularly and sarcastically referred to then-North Carolina coach Mack Brown as “Mister Football,” as he took exception to his dirty recruiting tactics obscured by the phony façade of political flesh-pressing and media back-slapping.
Spurrier also never forgot how the staff and fans of UNC looked down their noses at the lowly Duke football program. So he always packs an extra punch for the Tar Heels. He swept them all three years he coached at Duke and beat them again a few years back with South Carolina. And in his final season as a Blue Devil, knowing he was on his way to Florida, he pulled out all the stops to run up the score, calling trick plays and “chunking it downfield” late in the game to drive home a 41-0 whitewash of Brown’s UNC charges. He even posed the team for a picture on the ‘Heels home field after the game, in front of what few fans were left, to rub it in.
Steve has a chance to win the SEC East, the conference andeven the national title this year. But you better believe that he has been very focused on tarring and feathering Carolina. Between the two mascots, he’ll have the both required ingredients. And in a matchup between Tar Heels and a fighting bird with spurs on its heels, you know spurs will be well-heeled to beat the tar out of them.
Come on, I didn’t even charge you for that joke.
Rooster Cogburn (South Carolina): 23
“Un-Lucky” Ned Pepper (North Carolina): 13
Look it up, whipper-snappers.
Alabama at Virginia Tech (4:30, ESPN)
These are two schools with very strange mascot issues. Neither school seems to know why or how their nicknames or mascots came to be. Both schools also wound up with conflicting combinations. Alabama is the Crimson Tide but their mascot is a grey elephant. Virginia Tech’s nickname is the Hokies, but their mascot is a turkey…I think. Or some sort of winged turkey-like creature. And what is a Hokie you ask? It’s nothing. It doesn’t have a definition. It’s just a made-up sound some student thought up in the 1800s in a cheer contest when the school changed its name from something that was somehow even less desirable than “Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.” The following is the winning entry, the “Old Hokie Cheer” that is still used today:
Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hy!
Tech, Tech, VPI
Poly Tech Vir-gin-ia
Ray rah VPI
Team! Team! Team!
Hey, here’s a fun game. Read that cheer again and see how many actual words you can find. That cheer was written (and performed) in 1896. The VPI program remained a relative unknown until they had their big breakthrough season, winning the South Atlantic conference crown with their first undefeated season in program history. That year the “Old Hokie” Cheer was heard across the nation for the first time. That was in 1918. In 1919, the United States ratified the 18th Amendment and passed the Volstead Act introducing prohibition to the United States. If you think the two are not related, you’re drunk right now.
Then you have Alabama, which has almost as many legends of its nickname as they have claims to national titles awarded by Ladies’ Home Journal and the Ted Knight Fan Club. Some say Crimson Tide was coined in a particularly muddy Iron Bowl in 1948; some say it was coined by a sports writer likening Alabama to red tide of the Alabama gulf waters that came in waves and decimated everything in its path, like the way coach Wallace Wade would rotate entire teams of depth at a time to wear down opponents. Some say that a group of elephants is called a tide, like a gaggle of geese or a pod of whales. That one is demonstrably false, as a group of elephants is called a herd. And they have more legends about the origin of elephants as their mascot. One legend says it comes from an unidentified fan in 1930 who shouted, “Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,” as the varsity took the field. Why they didn’t go with the Alabama Held Horses is anyone’s guess. Another one credits the mascot adoption to the little elephants on their luggage tags when they flew to Pasadena to play the 1927 Rose Bowl. They were THAT close to being named the Alabama Crimson Tourister Gorillas. Yet a third legend ties the origin of the elephant mascot to the University of Florida by way of India, but that tale is for another day.
It is appropriate to dig up all these ancient stories for this game because you’d have to dig into antediluvian history to remember when Virginia Tech was a good enough football team to make this game even remotely intriguing. Incidentally, a group of turkeys (and presumably a group of anthropomorphic turkey-like birds such as the VPI mascot) is called a rafter. Which is exactly from where the Hokies’ chances of winning will be hanging this Saturday.
Laughing like a cackle of hyenas (Alabama): 35
Almost the national bird (Virginia Tech): 17
Toledo at Florida (11:21 SEC Network)
Will Muschamp and staff plan to increase their on-field success this year by taking the lessons learned in 2012 and applying them to 2013. We already see this philosophy taking shape, as the team decided have all of their debilitating catastrophic injuries up front and get them out of the way before the season starts. No more waiting until mid-season to start shuffling the starting O-line with guys who aren’t ready to play. Gator fans who find it hard to keep up with a deep roster of receivers can rest easy, as the squad has started the injury process early and should soon have the depth chart down to a more manageable list of one or two. But there is more good news! By contracting the West Nile Virus (his diagnosis is unknown) during fall camp, Matt Jones has allowed the staff to get in advance work formulating a backfield rotation of five guys who have never done anything on the college level. This will prove invaluable experience for midseason, when Jones contracts the East Nile Bacterial Infection. And of course it will be old hat by the time he, Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor all miss the end of the season with the North-by-Northwest Congolese Lagoon Hiccups.
Matt Patchan today shattered his sternum in a tragic bumper pool accident. Though he transferred to Boston College last year, this will still negatively impact the depth of the Gator offensive line. Just because.
This week, star Toledo receiver Bernard Reedy has been running some smack that the Gators are vulnerable late in games because they play soft in the fourth quarter. Clearly homework is not a class requirement at Toledo, as the Gators owned the fourth quarter last year. And Bernard, people in glass houses should not throw stones. The Bottle Rockets took an 8-1 record into their season-ending stretch last year and lost three of their last four by being out-scored 41-26 in the fourth quarter and 72-29 in the second half. Utah State alone beat them 28-9 in the 4th quarter, while NIU clubbed them 21-0 in the 3rd quarter. And that glass house in which Reedy lives? The Rockets’ home stadium is called The Glass Bowl.
Some weeks it’s just too easy.
Klinger Killers (Florida): 42
Failure to Launch (Toledo): 12