We could spend a day on Alabama's trip to Texas A&M, but there's a full Saturday to discuss.
1) Here's Johnny!
Johnny Football spent the entire offseason embracing the star/brat-pack culture that is the sexy siren of instant fame. Well, now, facing an Alabama team that helped catapult him to that lofty perch among the sports royalty of the now, can he repeat that performance and remind us how he was a star before he was a brat? Are you ready for your close-up, Mr. Manziel? You better be. It's impossible to overstate this game for Johnny Merchandize. If he wins, he's a big-game guy with charisma; if he loses, he's a one-hit wonder who fell victim to the pressure.
2) Directional game in Auburn
Auburn is 2-0 and has reason to believe that last season's debacle was an apparition. The offense has three legit running-back threats. The defense has not allowed a TD in 19 possessions -- last year it was tough to remember 19 consecutive plays in which the Tigers did not surrender a touchdown. Auburn welcomes Mississippi State to Jordan-Hare, and this is one of those games that each team expects to win. Well, expectations are one thing; results are another. The winner of this one moves north in the standings; the loser will have a much tougher trek in the always tough SEC West.
3) UT has the need, the need for speed
OK, we'll say it -- "Top Gun" was way cooler then than now. Some movies just don't hold up. You know what does hold up through time? "Die Hard." And "Hoosiers." Make it a good one, Strap. You know what Johnny Vols Fans need to hold up Saturday? Tennessee's resurgent defense. Force turnovers. Tackle in space. Make Oregon kick it a few times -- punts are perfect and field goals are fine. While time of possession does not mean a hill of beans in this one -- Oregon has scored an average of 62.5 points per game with less than 20 minutes possession per game -- Tennessee's ability to run the football will be paramount, because you can't ask Justin Worley to win a shootout with his pop gun.
4) What channel is the Longhorn Network?
Ole Miss fans will be wondering this for most of Saturday night, since the Rebels go to Austin and will play Texas on its own TV station. Say what you will about Notre Dame: At least we know the location of its personal network -- NBC is pretty common. The Longhorn Network? Not so much. We do know that those lovable Longhorns are super cute when they try to tackle people, God bless 'em. If the over/under on this game was 100, would that be too much?
5) How hung over will South Carolina be?
The aftereffects of the Gamecocks' SEC-East altering loss to Georgia last week will be present, but will they be there for a possession, a half or an afternoon? We all know that you can't sleepwalk past James Franklin's Vanderbilt teams, and South Carolina has the better roster. Still, a sluggish performance against the Commodores could be flirting with real disaster.
Last week we went 4-1 against the spread, which is quite excellent even if it was not as good as our perfect opening weekend.
We feel the need -- no, not the need for speed -- to share the disclaimer that past performance does not ensure future gains. And remember, kids, these picks are against the spread and for entertainment purposes only. And risk only the entertainment with which you can afford to lose.
Here's this week's picking tip. If you feel good about picking winners, great. But you can have the same success picking losers. Follow along as we make picks on four games as much because of the badness of one of the teams involved.
West Virginia minus-38 over Georgia State: The Panthers are bad. Like Sex Panther bad. There are bits of real Panthers in there. Sixty percent of the time, they lose every time. You stay classy, Morgantown. 72-10. We talk about riding hot teams, well, we're going to ride the stone-cold Georgia Staters for a while, too.
Arkansas State minus-7 over Troy: Troy needed overtime to beat UAB at home. Arkansas State moved the ball against Auburn. We think Arkansas State is the class of the Sun Belt. We think Troy is the best football program between Montgomery and Panama City. Get you some, Spinnaker.
Louisville minus-13 over Kentucky: The Wildcats subbed out quarterbacks 17 times last week. The Cardinals have Teddy Bridgewater. Any questions?
Western Kentucky minus-10 at South Alabama: Every Tennessee fan everywhere knows the Vols beat Western Kentucky by the tightest 32-point margin in history. South Alabama? It has a home loss to Southern Utah.
Maryland minus-6 at UConn: You may want to buy the half here to be safe, but UConn lost to Towson State. We didn't even know Towson had applied to become a state, but there you go. This one feels like this week's 31-10; don't turn your neck and cash the check. For entertainment purposes only of course.
Last week against the spread: 4-1
This year against the spread: 9-1
Let's start with a decent Friday night game that will have the attention of Keeling Kennedy, a fine youngster who is the biggest BSU Broncos fan we know. The TV schedule moves into a weekend that is as clogged as Atlanta traffic or a fat man's arteries.
Air Force at Boise State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Hey, get off to a quick start, right? Plus, the blue turf lets you know how balanced the colors are on your TV. We're kind of pulling for Boise State, but speaking of Air Force from earlier, if Pete Mitchell, aka Maverick from "Top Gun" played football, what position would he play. Kicker? A cornerback like Stef in "All the Right Moves" maybe?
Louisville at Kentucky, noon (ESPN) -- and -- UCLA at Nebraska, noon (ABC)
Louisville's Cardinals have only a few chances to impress the judges in the beauty pageant that is the college football polls. This is one of those chances since it's against an SEC team -- the worst SEC team is still an SEC team. As for the game in Lincoln, Neb., imagine being a Bruins player and this game kicks off at 9 a.m. according to your body clock. Here's saying the Bruins are legit, but this game screams trouble.
CLICKER ALERT, PART II
Alabama at Texas A&M, 3:30 (CBS) -- and -- Tennessee at Oregon, 3:30 (ABC)
There's a real chance that each game turns one-sided with the top-ranked Tide and the No. 2-ranked Oregon Ducks looking every bit as good as advertised. For Mr. Football, the crazy-cool-outlandish-unpredictable Aggies Heisman hero, this game gives him the chance to prove his theatrics are more charisma than criminal. It's not unlike what Crash Davis tells Nuke in the locker room in "Bull Durham": "Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You'll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you'll be classy. If you win 20 in the Show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press'll think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the Show, however, it means you are a slob." This is Johnny's shower-shoes moment.
CLICKER ALERT, PART III
Mississippi State at Auburn, 7 (ESPN2) -- and -- Vanderbilt at South Carolina, 7 (ESPN)
Auburn's new/old offense under Gus Malzahn has fired quickly and often through two games, and it has produced two 100-yard rushers -- neither of whom is Tre Mason, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards for an inept Tigers offense last year. MSU senior quarterback Tyler Russell is battling back from injury. As for the Vandy, at some point South Carolina freak Jadeveon Clowney is going to respond with a monster game. Is that monster the Commodores' monster headache. Trick or treat?
Wisconsin at Arizona State, 10:30 (ESPN)
The visiting Badgers are ranked and getting points. It figures to be 100 degrees at kickoff in the Valley of the Sun. A great way to close the day, regardless of the victor.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...