OK, I’m back for more after tearing up the SEC last season with a blistering 87-20 record (.813).
The glistening record aside, I also got it done in the big games. Some of my key picks from a year ago included Florida over LSU, Arkansas over Auburn, South Carolina over Clemson, Ole Miss over LSU, Georgia over Auburn, Tennessee over Georgia and Georgia over South Carolina.
And, oh yeah, I nailed Alabama over Florida in the SEC championship game and Alabama over Texas in the BCS National Championship Game.
But like coach Nick Saban says, there’s not a single thing I did last year that can help me this year. Every season stands on its own, and I have to prove myself all over again.
Unlike Coach Saban, though, I’m going to be more results-oriented than process-oriented.
I like bragging too much when I get on a roll.
Here goes with my Week 1 picks:
South Carolina 27, Southern Miss 10: The Golden Eagles catch the Gamecocks at a good time with all of the off-the-field stuff swirling. Southern Miss also has enough talent to make this a fourth-quarter game if South Carolina doesn’t jump out quickly and force the Golden Eagles to play catch-up. Some players are likely to be missing for the Gamecocks, but their focus and energy won’t be. One of their young guns -- Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore or Marcus Lattimore -- will break it open in the second half with a big play.
LSU 24, North Carolina 13: The wait is on to see whether or not the Tar Heels will be playing with their “B” team. If so, the Tigers won’t feel sorry for them. This game is too important to Les Miles’ club, and it wouldn’t matter if Michael Jordan showed up in baby blue. Oops, wrong sport.
Kentucky 28, Louisville 24: It’s billed as the Governor’s Cup, and Kentucky has won the last three. The Wildcats already seem to be winning most of the recruiting battles in the state under Joker Phillips. Winning this game should only help matters.
Vanderbilt 21, Northwestern 17: This battle of academic heavyweights has a chance to be one of the better games of the weekend. Northwestern’s strength is spreading it out and throwing the football. Vanderbilt’s strength is defending the pass. The edge goes to Jamie Bryant’s Vanderbilt defense.
Mississippi State 34, Memphis 14: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has pretty well locked it down this past week or so. Information has been hard to come by about his Bulldogs, and he likes it that way. He also likes the way this team has progressed. The Tigers will get an up-close view of just how much the Bulldogs have progressed on Saturday in Starkville.
Alabama 42, San Jose State 6: Who gets the most carries in this one: Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy or another back? The only other drama will be how many true freshmen play for the Crimson Tide, who will be breaking in the newly expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Georgia 38, Louisiana-Lafayette 13: For a guy who’s never played, it sure seems like we’ve been talking about Georgia redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray for a while. Georgia fans are clamoring to see him, but they also want to see what this new-look 3-4 defense is all about under first-year coordinator Todd Grantham.
Florida 45, Miami (Ohio) 3: Boy, does this game have one of those name-your-score feels to it. Then again, when’s the last time the Gators have played an opener that didn’t have one of those feels? They scored 62 last season against Charleston Southern and 56 against Hawaii the year before that.
Ole Miss 24, Jacksonville State 7: The Rebels were already going to lean pretty hard on their defense this season. Now that it looks like quarterback Jeremiah Masoli won’t be eligible, they’ll lean even harder on Tyrone Nix’s guys. It's a good group to lean on.
Auburn 48, Arkansas State 13: Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn wants to play even faster, and he thinks he has the personnel to do so this season. It won’t take quarterback Cameron Newton long to endear himself to the folks on the Plains with his ability both run and pass.
Tennessee 34, Tennessee-Martin 10: Not since John Majors’ first season in 1977 have the expectations been this low for a Tennessee football team. The Vols are young and inexperienced and have a brutal schedule. Derek Dooley, though, likes the young talent in the program, and most of those guys will be on display right from the start.
Arkansas 45, Tennessee Tech 14: Don’t tell Arkansas defensive coordinator Willy Robinson that this is a tune-up game. The truth is that all coaches wince when they hear that. We’ve heard about the Hogs’ improvement on defense all preseason. We get to see for ourselves this Saturday.