First came the odor and then the vision. Sawdust everywhere. And then the sound, saws and hammers. What now?
I had come into the office early Monday and recognized that something was going on in the Almost Perfect Predictions Department part of the building. I had seen no sign of the Nerds since they disappeared for their annual six-month vacation following bowl games. It seemed they had elected to take off a few more weeks as the Southeastern Conference football season had been delayed by the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease.
I was a little surprised to spot the Grand Geek emerging from the APP war room and crossing over into the break room. He was ordinarily dressed in jacket and bowtie, but today he was wearing carpenter’s overalls and painter’s hat.
He seemed surprised to see me, too, but took a few moments to explain that they were remodeling the war room to provide social distancing protection for the Nerds. “Some of them are a little frail,” he confided.
He gave assurances that their mental work would not suffer and that they had been doing virtual football study for several weeks. He had a bit of worried look, perhaps thinking about the all-SEC schedule, no real cupcakes this year.
He’d deliver predictions later.
And today he showed up, the picks on a sheet of paper that he left on a book case a good six feet from my desk.
“These should be good,” he said, adding as he departed, “By the way, we came up a little short on room in our remodeling. We noticed you weren’t using that closet, so we’ve put one of the boys in there. So, thanks.”
The record of the Geek Gang for the 2019 season was 90-27 in selecting winners, 51-41 vs. the line, and 43-41 on the over-under.
Here are Week 1 Southeastern Conference games with points spreads and over-under (based on predicted total points by both teams):
Kentucky at Auburn, 11 a.m. CDT on SEC Network. Auburn favored by 8 points (-8) and the over-under 49 1/2. This is the only game in the conference and one of only three in the nation matching ranked teams, Auburn No. 8 and Kentucky No. 23. If this was basketball over the past few seasons, it might be prime time. Instead… Early on this looked like a tough opener for the Tigers. The Wildcats have their starting quarterback, Terry Wilson, back (though his injury last year allowed former wide receiver Lynn Bowden to shine as a running QB) and a lot of other pieces. Auburn is counting on soph quarterback Bo Nix being improved and mostly new offensive and defensive lines up to the task. It might be a little nervous for the AU faithful, but in the end, Auburn 24, Kentucky 17.
Florida at Ole Miss, 11 a.m. CDT on ESPN. Florida –14, o-u 57. This is the second time around for Lane Kiffin as a head coach in the SEC (and Dan Mullen at Florida is also on his second go-around). We pretty much know that Florida is counting on Kyle Trask to take advantage of a Rebels secondary that wasn’t too good last year. Not much news has escaped from Oxford, even as to which QB Kiffin plans to use, but the Gators should be strong enough on defense to take care of this one and get tongues wagging about Florida winning the SEC East. Gators 31, Ole Miss 13.
Mississippi State at LSU, 2:30 p.m. CDT on CBS. LSU -16 ½, o-u 56. The Bulldogs are thinking “Maybe this time” and the Tigers partisans believing “Coach O can do it again,” but neither is likely to happen. Mississippi State, of course, has new perceived Xs and Os wizard Mike Leach as head coach, but Ed Orgeron despite huge losses from last year’s national championship team (notably Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow) still has more Jimmys and Joes. LSU 38, Mississippi State 21.
Georgia at Arkansas, 3 p.m. CDT on SEC Network. Georgia -26, o-u 52 ½. Sam Pittman, Arkansas native, gets his first head coaching job after a stint as Georgia’s offensive line coach, and the first thing the conference office does is assign Pittman the job of taking on his old team. With friends like that… Georgia is expected by most to win the SEC East, and with nothing but conference games this year the Razorbacks are expected to come up along the lines of 0-10. But you can’t be 0-10 without being 0-1. Georgia 45, Arkansas 13.
Tennessee at South Carolina, 7:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 central time) on SEC Network. Tennessee -3 1/2, o-u 43 1/2. Two former Nick Saban assistants in what at the end of the year may seem to be a big game, perhaps determining to bowl or not to bowl. Last year Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols started very slow, but after a midseason loss to Alabama, UT roared through a weak last half of the season for a winning record. Will Muschamp has been something of a disappointment for the Gamecocks and may need some success before checking out moving companies. This will be a popular upset pick, but…Tennessee 21, South Carolina 20.
Vanderbilt at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m. CDT on SEC Network Alternate. Texas A&M -30 1/2, o-u 46. For the past few years the Aggies have gotten not much for their money from Coach Jimbo Fisher and not much consistency from quarterback Kellen Mond. Vandy Coach Derek Mason is always rumored to be on the hot seat, but the Commodores athletics administration never seems that interested in athletics. Mason cares and the Vandy players care, but that won’t be enough. Texas A&M 37, Vanderbilt 10.
Alabama at Missouri, 6 p.m. CDT on ESPN. Alabama -27, o-u 56. Mizzou surprisingly pulled the plug early (after four years) on Coach Barry Odom and replaced him with Eliah Drinkwitz, whose introduction as a major college head football coach comes against the dean (and most successful) of league coaches in Nick Saban. There are a few secrets, including who will quarterback the Tigers. Mizzou will almost certainly attempt to take advantage of a rebuilt Bama secondary, but the Tide has too many offensive weapons and will dominate time of possession and numbers on the scoreboard. Alabama 38, Missouri 10.