Tramel college football predictions: Parity comes even to the SEC
The Southeastern Conference has played only three weeks of football thus far, but just two teams remain unbeaten. Alabama and Georgia.
They play Saturday night in Tuscaloosa for early-season national supremacy, and the matchup is indeed fabulous.
But also interesting is the parity that seems to have even developed in the SEC, outside of Georgia and Alabama.
More amazing than just two unbeatens left in the SEC is this nugget: only Vanderbilt is winless so far.
The 11 teams between Alabama/Georgia at the top and Vanderbilt at the bottom seem quite competitive. It’s possible that Florida and Texas A&M could rise out of the pack, or Mississippi State and Arkansas could fall out of such status.
But for now, parity seems more widespread than usual in the SEC, and we can credit the 10-game conference schedule. The SEC has played eight-game league schedules since expanding past 10 schools in 1992. Before that, the SEC played six-game schedules for what seemed like forever.
The more conference games you play, the more the possibility exists for defeat.
We’ve seen the same thing in the Big 12 over the years of the nine-game schedules. Since that format was adopted in 2011, only the 2016 Sooners went unbeaten in league play. Before that, it was semi-common -- Texas 2009, Texas 2005, OU 2004, OU 2003, OU 2000, Kansas State 1998, Nebraska 1997, Nebraska 1996.
So credit the pandemic-induced scheduling change with bringing a little more parity to college football, at least below the Alabama-Georgia threshold.
Let’s get to the predictions:
Kansas at West Virginia: Mountaineers 44-10. This is Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” game. The Big Ten can’t get here fast enough for Fox.
Georgia at Alabama: Crimson Tide 38-24. The last two Bama-Georgia games have been classics -- 35-28 in the 2018 SEC Championship Game (the Jalen Hurts game) and 26-23 in the 2017 national title game (the Tua Tagovailoa game).
LSU at Florida: Gators 41-21. A losing season is not out of the question for the reigning national champion. The Tigers still have Florida, (at) Auburn, Alabama, (at) Texas A&M. Plus assorted SEC middleweights.
Texas A&M at Mississippi State: Aggies 41-21. Man, Mike Leach is a rollercoaster. His Bulldogs scored 44 on LSU, then two on Kentucky.
Kentucky at Tennessee: Volunteers 31-20. These old rivals have played before November only once since World War II, and that was October 28, 2017.
Auburn at South Carolina: Tigers 27-14. Auburn is living large. Questionable officiating helped the Tigers beat both Kentucky and Arkansas.
Ole Miss at Arkansas: Rebels 39-31. Man, that Mississippi offense was great against Alabama. Lane Kiffin has 90 lives.
Louisville at Notre Dame: Fighting Irish 40-24. Notre Dame had no idea its temporary immersion into the Atlantic Coast Conference was a walk through mediocrity. Duke, South Florida, the ghost of Florida State. Now comes the ‘Ville, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. Clemson, on November 7, can’t get here fast enough.
Clemson at Georgia Tech: Tigers 49-14. The Yellow Jackets beat Florida State and Louisville. Time was, that meant a good season. Not necessarily so for the 2-2 Rambling Wreck.
North Carolina at Florida State: Tar Heels 35-15. In December 2017, the Seminoles hired then-Oregon coach Willie Taggart. FSU fired Taggart after 21 games. Wonder if anyone in Tallahassee wishes the Seminoles had gone after Mack Brown?
Duke at North Carolina State: Wolfpack 38-32. N.C. State is 3-1 in the ACC. Getting to 4-1 seems quite likely. And know this -- the ‘Pack doesn’t play Clemson or Notre Dame.
Pittsburgh at Miami: Hurricanes 28-21. Turns out, Miami is among the great unwashed of the ACC, not nipping at the heels of Clemson.
Boston College at Virginia Tech: Hokies 30-24. The Eagles are 3-1 with a penchant for playing close games -- including scaring North Carolina.
Virginia at Wake Forest: Demon Deacons 27-22. Wake is better than we think. The Deacons played Clemson tough and lost narrowly to N.C. State.
Liberty at Syracuse: Flames 29-24. Liberty is favored on the road, at an ACC school. That seems wild.
Cincinnati at Tulsa: Bearcats 28-24. Cincy is ranked eighth. Pull the upset here, and the Golden Hurricane becomes a serious contender in the American Conference.
Brigham Young at Houston: UofH 31-30. The battle of the Cougars. The winner will be unbeaten and ranked quite high.
Central Florida at Memphis: Tigers 42-32. The loser has two defeats in American Conference play and generally falls out of contention in a league that this year has no divisions.
SMU at Tulane: Mustangs 51-27. Sonny Dykes has SMU rolling.
Navy at East Carolina: Midshipmen 31-21. Navy is a tough team to figure out. So I’m just guessing.
South Florida at Temple: Owls 26-7. The start for new USF coach Jeff Scott has been quite shaky.
Coastal Carolina at Louisiana-Lafayette: Ragin’ Cajuns 28-26. A battle of unbeatens. Both have beaten Big 12 teams.
Georgia State at Arkansas State: Red Wolves 42-40. Maybe I should rethink whether ASU is the best team in the state of Arkansas.
Texas State at South Alabama: Bobcats 44-27. Some teams have had trouble getting games off the ground. Not Texas State. This is the Bobcats’ sixth game. Just up I-35, Baylor has played two.
Massachusetts at Georgia Southern: Eagles 39-3. UMass joins the 2020 season. I’m not optimistic.
Eastern Kentucky at Troy: Trojans 42-13. The Colonels whacked the Citadel much worse than did Army. But still.
Marshall at Louisiana Tech: Thundering Herd 30-28. The number of unbeaten mid-majors will grow thin really soon, but Marshall could last awhile.
Army at Texas-San Antonio: Black Knights 26-21. The Cadets play everyone tough -- including opponents that ought to be overmatched.
Western Kentucky at Alabama-Birmingham: Blazers 31-21. Two schools that made their name in basketball.
North Texas at Middle Tennessee: Mean Green 27-21. Ouch. Seth Littrell’s UNT team is struggling, at 1-3. Beating the Blue Raiders seems quite necessary.
Southern Mississippi at Texas-El Paso: Golden Eagles 23-17. I could do this every week, but it never gets old. Hattiesburg, Mississippi is closer to Philadelphia than it is to El Paso, and I don’t mean Philadelphia, Mississippi.
Florida International at Charlotte: 49ers 38-14. Every Florida major-college team that played last week lost. UF, FSU, Miami, South Florida, FIU.
Last week: 20-9. Season: 103-36.