Saturday, July 28, 2007

THE SEASON AHEAD: MID-MAJORS


It strikes C&F that he has yet to preview any of the conferences in the country for the 2007 season. Seeing as how it is now late July, this could put him on pace for an all-night posting session August 29, something he has no intention of doing.


Not following the Harry Reid theory of blogging.

So returning to an aspect of previewing that has gone neglected, C&F presents his preview of the mid-major conferences. All of them. In one post. Hopefully not a mammoth one, all things considered.


Tolstoy will not be writing C&F's previews.

A quick tour around the mid-major world:

WAC

The Diagnosis

Yeah, yeah, everybody knows about Boise State and its amazing victory over Oklahoma. But that was last year, and now Zabransky and much of his cast of characters are gone from the Broncos. In fact, just five starters return on offense -- four of those along the line. The only returning skill-position starter would be Ian Johnson, who could be distracted by the whole marriage thing and only rush for 1,500 yards this year.

All of which opens the door for the Hawaii Warriors, who return uber-quarterback and Heisman candidate Colt Brennan, he of the excellent name and single-season TD passing record, along with 75 percent of his starting wideouts. They stand to loosen Boise State's five-year stranglehold on the WAC championship.


But can he run the Statue of Liberty?

The Ranks

1. Hawaii
2. Nevada
3. Boise State
4. Fresno State
5. San Jose State
6. New Mexico State
7. Louisiana Tech
8. Idaho
9. Utah State


CONFERENCE USA

The Diagnosis

In the East, it's all about the gold -- the Golden Eagles and the Golden Knights. But mostly the Golden Eagles, with Southern Miss widely seen as the hands-down favorites to win the division and the conference.

The West is trickier, with defending conference champion Houston losing quarterback and centerpiece Kevin Kolb. Tulsa picks up Arkansas castoff OC Gus Malzahn, who will team up with co-coordinator Herb Hand -- one of many great names in a conference that features Southern Miss P Britt Barefoot and Marshall WR Darius Passmore. But I digress. SMU, still returning from its stint on the death penalty, could also play a role.

The Ranks

East
1. Southern Miss*
2. Central Florida
3. Marshall
4. ECU
5. Memphis
6. UAB

West
1. Tulsa
2. SMU
3. Houston
4. Rice
5. UTEP
6. Tulane

*Conference champion


MOUNTAIN WEST

The Diagnosis

Staking your reputation on picking the winner of the Mountain West has recently turned into a fool's errand. So no reputation is staked here, even though C&F's picks are binding and will be reviewed at the end of the season, unlike some pundits C&F could point to.


Not that C&F would mention names.

The two teams mostly seen as the contenders to beat in the MWC -- TCU and BYU -- are both thin on returning players on offense, though both have a good crop of returning players on defense, particularly TCU. The mental dartboard throws things to BYU as far as C&F is concerned, with the Cougars getting TCU at home.

The Ranks

1. BYU
2. TCU
3. New Mexico
4. Wyoming
5. Utah
6. San Diego State
7. Air Force
8. Colorado State
9. UNLV


MAC

The Diagnosis

Ah, the MAC, one of the originators of the increased interest in mid-major football, from Marshall's run in the early part of the decade to Northern Illinois' 10-2 campaign in 2003 to Miami OH's 13-1 season the same year. One of those teams, Marshall, is gone, and Northern Illinois has fallen on hard times.

But there is reason for hope for Miami to win the East this year, with returning senior QB Mike Kokal looking for another solid season and RB Brandon Murphy healthy again. The toughest conference road tests come during the first week of the season at Ball State and last week of the season, when the Redhawks play Ohio.

As with C-USA, things get messier in the West, where Western Michigan, Ball State, Central Michigan all could plausibly lay claim to at least a shot at the division title.

The Ranks

East
1. Miami OH*
2. Ohio
3. Bowling Green
4. Akron
5. Temple
6. Kent State
7. Buffalo

West
1. Western Michigan
2. Central Michigan
3. Ball State
4. Northern Illinois
5. Toledo
6. Eastern Michigan

*Conference champion


SUN BELT

The Diagnosis

Every SEC athletic director's favorite mid-major conference has seen six teams win at least a share of the conference crown in the last five years, including 5-6 Louisiana-Monroe in 2005. Does Troy's 41-17 waxing of Rice mean the conference is on the rise? Who knows? Schedulers in the SEC obviously don't think so -- the Sun Belt has a dozen games slated against the likes of Florida, Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama and even Kentucky. (Oklahoma State could almost join the conference, while Oklahoma, Louisville, Virginia, Clemson, Texas A&M, Penn State, Maryland, Miami and Kansas will also feast on at least some Sun Belt puffery in 2007.)


Mmmmm, Sun Bel..I mean, cupcakes.

The Ranks

1. Troy
2. Middle Tennessee State
3. Louisiana-Monroe
4. Louisiana-Lafayette
5. Arkansas State
6. Florida Atlantic
7. North Texas
8. Florida International

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Friday, July 27, 2007

SEC MEDIA DAYS: THE CONCLUSION

Les goes the extra mile. Attempting to soothe any wounds he might have caused by a bizarre series of off-season statements slamming "f-ing Alabama," several major football conferences and perhaps Desmond Tutu (C&F is looking into those allegations), Les Miles was downright conciliatory Friday as SEC Media Days wrapped up.

"At the end of a recruiting season where there was a lot of hearsay and innuendo, there were some heated exchanges," Miles said. "I can tell you that I did have emotion, and I certainly regret any choice of words that you described that I made.
"No, I am not in any way derogatory towards Alabama. I look forward to competing with them and their coach."

By the way, if you're looking for Nick Saban's name in that statement, you won't find it. You also won't find it in any other account of Miles' comments.

Not that all is well between Miles and ... that other guy.

Wednesday, Saban threw a grenade asserting that a member of his staff at Alabama, C.C. Thompson, had her tires slashed when she went back to Baton Rouge to attend a wedding (Thompson worked for Saban at LSU and in Miami). LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette disputed the story, saying he called Thompson and she told him that she initially thought her tires had been slashed but that someone had merely let the air out of them.

Well. That makes all the difference in the world.


Really. Of his many transgressions...

We're No. 4! We're No. 4! After listening to Steve Spurrier say his team could go to Atlanta, the assembled media paid South Carolina a little more respect. No, they didn't go crazy and put the Gamecocks in first place in the East. Or second. Or third, for that matter.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Gamecocks were picked to finish fourth in the Eastern Division in media voting announced Friday. But USC earned 11 first-place votes, by far the most it has received since division play began in 1992. USC received four first-place votes last year.
Three voters picked South Carolina to be the SEC champion, the most to ever do that. Previously, USC had received four such votes total.

The previous high for championship votes was two, in 2002, one of the seasons of which C&F chooses not to speak.

In other media voting news, Ryan Succop and J-Brink made first-team All-SEC.

The Booming O. Those looking for a soul-shaking vocal performance from Ed Orgeron weren't disappointed. But C&F can't help but wonder if, in posting a story about O's search for a quarterback, the Clarion-Ledger's Web site wasn't trying to send a message.


Freudian slip?

Fulmer: Ainge like a woman. In trying to draw a comparison between his team and the Lady Vols, Phil Fulmer might very well have said his quarterback is woman-like.

"You have to have a Candace Parker-type player in your program to be able to do that."
Fulmer says senior quarterback Erik Ainge, named the media’s second-team All-SEC quarterback Friday, has the ability to be an impact player in the mold of Parker. ...
"I think Erik Ainge can be that kind of football player that our team rallies around, that takes the bull by the horns and makes the plays that help you win a championship," Fulmer said.

The pressure might getting to Phil. Have a donut or ten, Phil.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

SEC MEDIA DAYS, PART II

Nicktator or St. Nick? Was he abrasive, brusque or angelic? It depends on who you talk to. Rapoport tried to crack a joke and Saban's emotionless side took over.

I began one question to Nick Saban like this: "Nick, you may not have noticed, but everything you have done in the offseason has made news..." He did not laugh. I guess things like that aren't funny, because Saban was serious about it.

Saban also apparently makes a concerted effort not to smile while giving his John Hancock to Bammers and others who had nothing else to do but gather outside a hotel for a glimpse of the second coming of Bear Bryant. If you take out the whole integrity and accomplishment at Alabama part of it.


I only smile when puppies die.

Dennis Pillion sees Saban trying to make up with the press types. Unless, of course, you talk about the whole I'm-not-going-to-be-the-next-Bama-coach-except-that-I-am thing.

Fans seem to have their answer.

"We're absolutely excited," Alabama fan Casey Carlisle, 26, of Birmingham, said. "This is a step up from previous coaches. We understood that we were on probation and all of that, so there weren't a lot of big coaches looking to come here. Mike Shula, we appreciated the job he did, but we knew he wasn't a long-term answer. This is the kind of hiring that shows we're back."

Remember: This is a man who has yet to coach a single down for the Crimson Tide. I can show you some Lou Holtz/South Carolina quotes circa 1998 if you want to see them.

Oh, and the media guide C&F mentioned in his Day One wrap-up, with Saban on the cover? He's actually on both covers.

Spin session. Apparently, Mississippi State is afraid its players might do something like leak the name of an undercover CIA operative, because it feels the need to coach players on talking with the media. The article notes the Bulldogs are not alone in the idea.

The cornerback strolled to the table first and Karem advised him, and the other half-dozen players in this hour-long session, to pause before answering every question, starting with the first. "That way, when the questions get more difficult, it doesn't look like you're panicking when you pause," he said. ... "One thing I want to stress is the importance of understanding how the players need to manage their personal brands and their personal image and how that becomes a very important part of football or whatever sport they're representing," he said.

Brand? Are we talking football or Right Guard?


Are you ready to step up? And do you have to be coached to do it?

Cox rocks? Phillip Marshall of The Huntsville Times sees reason for optimism about Brandon Cox this season. He points out that all but two of the last nine senior starters for Auburn went to the SEC championship game, won the conference title or went undefeated, and one of the exceptions had "record-breaking offensive production." No pressure or anything.

Vanderbilt Dreamin'. Bobby Johnson sees a big year for Vandy this season. How big a year? Maybe not the same level as WR Earl Bennett is thinking.

We are thinking BCS bowl. That's what we've been talking about. We are working hard to do that. We believe we can do that.

Good luck with that.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

SEC MEDIA DAYS, PART I

Ah, the preseason has officially begun in the SEC.

Why does C&F say that? Because Media Days are here.

Mostly a gabfest, yes. But they bring some scraps of news, a couple of amusing comments and no end to gossip and speculation. Look at Day One's goodies.

Spurrier speak. HBC is once again causing a stir with his comments, his best dinger coming against Clemson ... or Kentucky ... or both.

We thought we had done something good beating Clemson. And then Kentucky beat 'em also. And Clemson was a real good team. At one point in the year they were a dang good team. I don't know what exactly what happened to them.


He happened, Steve.

Spurrier also repeated his goal of winning the SEC -- something Cory Boyd said left the team "giggling like a bunch of little kids" -- and said he would coach "at least five more years."

(Outside the meetings, freshman TE Mat Williams is looking at leaving the team, according to The State. Not a huge loss, but yet another example of the sometimes-odd attrition that has hit the highly-touted recruiting class.)

Cartoon image fulfilled. For anyone who things of Nick Saban as the Nicktator ... well, his debut on the Alabama media guide actually sounds like Soviet propaganda.

Loved the caption below a full-body shot of Saban superimposed over Bryant-Denny Stadium: "The Process Begins."

The Process? That sounds almost painful.


Follow my Five Year Plan or you will go to the salt mines!

Groves a tad bit obsessed. Speaking of Saban, his comments about dominating Auburn seem to have riled up the Tigers' Quentin Groves. Perhaps a bit more than is healthy.

We have it in our weightroom, I have it my locker. I have it over my bed at home. I have it in my bathroom when I wake up in the middle of the night. ... They are a great team, but to say you work 365 to dominate one team, you have 11 other games. You go 1-11, hey, where is the $4 million?

Heisman campaign underway. Arkansas is already starting to politick for Darren McFadden to get the most coveted award in college football. The school plans to set up a Web site to support the effort, and Houston Nutt has offered to text message the voters many, many times.


Are any of those voters women?

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

BOYD'S TURN


This could be one of the shortest of the "Gamecocks 2007" previews. Why? Because this is one of the most locked-down positions on the field.

Cory Boyd will be the feature running back this season. Period.

The question is whether he can develop into the kind of consistent running threat that South Carolina needs, particularly with the questions that continue to hover over Blake Mitchell and the offensive line.

Boyd was solid in 2006, running for 823 yards and averaging five yards a pop while grabbing 35 passes for another 406 yards. In all, he scored 10 TDs.

But Boyd ran for 100 yards only three times last season -- against Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Clemson. He got to 94 yards against Houston and 93 against Mississippi State, but never got above 80 in any other game.

Nonetheless, expectations are high. Rivals.com pegs Boyd as the best player on the Gamecocks offense.

In fairness, part of Boyd's problem reaching 100 yards a game came in the form of Mike Davis, who carried the ball 100 times last year. Davis got more carries and yards against Florida and Auburn. Look for Davis to be used more as a breather for Boyd this year than a secondary back.

Boyd's biggest positive is his absolute refusal to go to the ground. He's not exactly Jerome Bettis, but you would still probably have more luck bringing a caffienated bison to the ground than trying to put Boyd on the turf.

Boyd has seen his share of setbacks. His first two years were spent under Lou Holtz, when running plays were largely confined to the quarterback running into the nearest defender. Boyd missed 2005 due to discipline problems.

This is his year to step up. If he does, it could ease some of the pressure on the passing game and make Boyd an offensive force in his own right. If he doesn't, Spurrier's goal of an SEC title looks even more far-fetched.

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FOOTNOTE ON WEIS

C&F hates to leave any thread untied, so he will return to the story of Charlie Weis and his now-rejected claim of malpractice against Massachusetts docs.

The doctors were cleared Tuesday by a jury.

The jury deliberated almost three hours before finding Massachusetts General Hospital surgeons Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin were not negligent.
Weis, 51, who won three Super Bowls as offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, accused the surgeons of negligence for allowing him to bleed internally for 30 hours before performing a second surgery to correct the complication. ...
Mone told The Boston Globe he doubted Weis, who he said was flying back to Indiana and could not be reached for comment, would appeal.
"Obviously, Mr. Weis and I are disappointed. We recognize these cases are very difficult. They involve very complicated medical facts, and the jury listens to very different views on complicated medical facts. Medical malpractice cases are very difficult," Mone told the newspaper.

The decision not to appeal is probably the best for the Notre Dame program, which doesn't need a distraction, and the stomaches of college football fans.

College Football Live is bad enough without Corso talking about internal bleeding.

Meanwhile, Danny Nutt got good news from his doctor.

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SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE

In a year where we've celebrated Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron (though C&F wishes that were under better circumstances), it's hard to deal with the fact that racism and sports still mix.

You'll remember Ian Johnson. You'll remember his part in the dramatic Boise State triumph over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. You'll remember his proposal to fiance Chrissy Popadics. You'll remember how everyone was thrilled when she said yes.

Well, almost everyone.

BOISE (AP) — A Boise State University running back who scored the winning points in the Fiesta Bowl, then proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend on national television, has hired security for his weekend wedding because of racial threats, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
Ian Johnson, who is black, and his fiance, Chrissy Popadics, who is white, are due to be married Saturday in Boise. ...
"You take it for what it is — the less educated, the less willing to change," Johnson told the Statesman. "But we're not acting like we're naive to all the stuff that's going on. We know what's been said. We're going to make sure we're safe at all times. It's an amazing day for us, and we'd hate to have it ruined by someone."
He didn't describe the threats — or the heightened security measures the couple have planned — in detail.
"It's unfortunate that it involves a certain protocol being followed to ensure that nothing happens," Johnson said. "It's really sad because a lot of people that are probably doing it are the same people who were cheering me on."

Sad. Just sad.


You hate this? Racism is just one of your problems.

In some ways, Johnson's reaction shows he's worthy to be put near the names C&F wrote of at the top of the post: Classy, down-to-earth, more mature than any human being should have to be. It's exactly the kind of reaction C&F likely wouldn't have if he was threatened because his fiance was of another race.

C&F wishes Mr. and soon-to-be-Mrs. Johnson the best on their wedding day.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

COLLEGE FOOTBALL LIVE: THE REVIEW

Every once in a while, there is a seminal moment in a sport, an incident or innovation that changes the game forever.

With any luck, the premiere of College Football Live will not be one of those moments.

The show opens -- bizarrely -- with the Grambling State University band, bedecked in their gameday uniforms for no apparent reason other than being a set piece for the first episode of an ESPN news/talk show.

Lee Corso, for his part, seems to be confused by the whole concept. "What are we doing here? Can you tell me?" So Corso is already in midseason form.


Where am I? Connecticut? What game is going on there? Does this hat work?

And now it's time to speed through the ESPN storylines du jour. Corso returns to "Ohio State lost because of the 51-day layoff"; Herbstreit notes curiously that Southern Cal's spot at No. 1 is "almost a foregone conclusion," though he seems to blissfully forget ESPN's complicity in that; and less than five minutes in, we've already got our first look at the Virginia Tech story, which will be touching until ESPN tries to tie it together with, say, Branden Ore's sore hamstring in Week 7. ("Another tragedy has struck the Hokies...")

Did they mention that the show is INTERACTIVE? Well, that's the second time they've done so. And as evidence of this interaction, they present ... a poll. Ooooh. Shiny. "We've got much more than that for you," Rece Davis notes, helpfully, after pointing out that many ESPN shows offer online polls.

The highlight of the program, in a freak show sort of way, was the Les Miles interview. It doesn't take long for Rece to make his way to the bizarre hit job Les did on every major football conference outside the SEC.

"This is a bad news time. That's all there can be," Miles says, in a response that would defy the most valiant effort at diagramming its sentences.


Ah, screw it.

Davis quickly moves on, as if dealing with a mildly delirious patient who is best handled by simply agreeing with or ignoring everything he says.

Asked about Saban taking over at Alabama, Miles refers to "the team that he'll coach," then responds to a question about whether he's avoiding mentioning the Crimson Tide's name by talking about how he doesn't like "those teams in red."

It's as if he's thinking, "I can't say 'f-ing Alabama' on TV, can I?"

And the show is INTERACTIVE. Did they mention that? Look, Rece is being handed e-mails with questions for Corso and Herbstreit RIGHT NOW! Nothing notable in this segment -- which is INTERACTIVE. Corso sticks by his Spurrier won't win the SEC at South Carolina line, which simply means he's still bitter over the Holtz firing, and the viewer who suggests that Kentucky could defeat Southern Cal is rightly dismissed.

Rece promises they'll be back every weekday.

Oh, goody.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

SKETCHY, OPTIMISTIC, NONBINDING PREDICTIONS


A break from the nuts and bolts look at the Gamecocks for a look from the 50,000 foot level.

Namely, what can be expected from the schedule South Carolina faces this year.

More specifics -- and more binding selections -- will come later, including in team-by-team breakdowns of the schedule. This is just where C&F sees things standing right now.

A few caveats: There are no locks in the "LOSS" column on the principle that no games should be written off at the beginning of a season. And C&F will admit up front that some of the predictions are on the optimistic side. Don't worry. It's late August; there's plenty of time for pessimism in the weeks ahead.

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE. The Ragin' Cajuns are expected to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the pungently horrific Sun Belt conference, which is only Division I-A thanks to the dent of history. La-La is in rebuilding mode on offense. A trap game? Hardly. WIN

AT GEORGIA. Always a difficult game to call, because most of the teams' matchups have turned into Georgia wins, but only after bizarre or heartbreaking moments in what is a blossoming SEC East rivalry. The spelling-challenged Dawgs are a trendy pick to at least do well in the East -- and maybe win it -- though that is largely because of QB Matthew Stafford, RB Kregg Lumpkin and the reputation of head coach Mark Richt. UGA has been decimated by the loss of starters and could be stung by a home upset at the hands of Oklahoma State. TOSS UP

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE. Barring a catastrophe, this shouldn't turn into another version of last season's game against Wofford. Shouldn't. If it does, a rough season could be ahead. WIN

AT LSU. The Bayou Bengals return to the schedule in what should be the most difficult game on a difficult slate. JaMarcus Russell is gone, but the Tigers are expected to be fine with starter-in-waiting Matt Flynn. And LSU consumes talent the way Phil Fulmer consumes Twinkies. Barring a Les-splosion, this is is not a good game for the Gamecocks. The one hope South Carolina has? It's fairly early in the season, and the Tigers could still be working through some kinks. PROBABLE LOSS


Did somebody say Twinkies?

MISSISSIPPI STATE. Playing in Starkville last year, the offense was startlingly sluggish -- a precursor, perhaps, of the trouble ahead. But Sylvester Croom has yet to show that he can post anything close to a .500 record at Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs are expected to end up in the SEC West cellar again next year. And the game is in Columbia this season. PROBABLE WIN

KENTUCKY. A Thursday showdown between two schools that could be the surprise stories of the East this year. If the magic happens, odds say it will only happen to one or the other, since a South Carolina-Kentucky one-two punch would almost certainly come days before President Bush admits he has made mistakes graver than sending Sammy Sosa to Chicago. QB Andre Woodson is scary good. WR Dicky Lyons and RB Rafael Little have the potential to be gamebreakers. A defense that got gashed in 2006 -- a lot -- returns more experienced. Could be a fun battle for the team that wins, a heartbreaker for the loser. Give South Carolina the slightest of edges with the battle set in Columbia. TOSS UP

AT NORTH CAROLINA. Butch Davis is expected to turn around the Tarheels -- in a few years. John Bunting left little behind for Davis to pin his hopes on, and UNC is expected to do poorly in the middling ACC. The next matchup between the teams, in 2010, could be an interesting one. This should be an easy victory for South Carolina on the road. PROBABLE WIN

VANDERBILT. Pity Bobby Johnson. He's seen as a great coach for Vanderbilt, and he's 15-43. The 2005 season promised a shot at the postseason until a disastrous implosion against Middle Tennessee State. He again has one of the most talented squads in Vanderbilt history, but it is Vanderbilt history. All that said, if there is a good chance for the Gamecocks to be shocked at home, this is the game. LIKELY WIN

AT TENNESSEE. Figure out Tennessee. Please. And let me know if you do. The program seems to have slipped since 1998, and became particularly stagnant over the past two seasons. Evil Erik Ainge showed up in 2005, followed by Good Erik in 2006. Vols fans are hoping that '05 was a sophomore slump and they can avenge that season's loss at the hands of the hated Spurrier at Neyland. But Ainge has little experience around him, and this will be the third game against a likely bowl team in four weeks, following a home game against Georgia and road trips to Mississippi State and Alabama. TOSS UP

AT ARKANSAS. An even tougher Nutt to crack. (Rim shot, please) No, Darren McFadden has not gone anywhere. Nor have Marcus Monk and Felix Jones. But the defense has been hit by a loss of experience and the program itself has been rocked by a series of "scandals" that, let's face it, could only happen in Arkansas. TOSS UP


I need to teach Houston how to start a real scandal.

FLORIDA. If LSU is the hardest game on the schedule, this is easily the second-toughest. Despite a defense that will lose almost every starter it had and the departure of the puzzling QB Chris Leak, the Gators are still a favorite in many corners (including this one) to reclaim the SEC East crown. South Carolina's structural engineers are already working to make sure that Williams-Brice can withstand any damage QB Tim Tebow might cause, while WR Percy Harvin should be one of the most frightening players (to opponents) in the SEC. If South Carolina somehow manages to get by Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas, this one could be for the SEC East title. LIKELY LOSS

CLEMSON. If the Gamecocks are still standing during the final week of the Orange Crush, they take on the Tiggers at the WB. Spurrier vowed after the 2005 loss that he would never be defeated by Clemson again, and has so far made good on the threat after a 31-28 squeaker at Death Valley. History isn't on South Carolina's side; Clemson has gone 4-for-5 during each of the last two half-decades. The future of Tommy Bowden could play a key role in this game: A perceived or real threat to his job -- or an early firing -- could motivate the Tiggers. Meanwhile, Clemson will have run its own gauntlet leading into the game, with games against perennial heartburn Wake Forest and Boston College leading up to the Palmetto State showdown. There's always the DaviSpiller monster. TOSS UP

That would give the team five wins with two likely losses and five toss-ups. If a gun were put to C&F's head, he would move Kentucky and Clemson into the win column and push Tennessee into the loss category without making any commitment on Georgia or Arkansas -- two games that have been historically volatile. That sets up anything from a 7-5 to a 9-3 season, which seems about right.

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