FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Thank goodness the season is finally here … sorta. Western Carolina, despite attempts all week about their improvement in the off-season and everything else, may be the weakest opening opponent they’ve had in a number of years.
Unlike Pete Morgan, I’m not even going to act like this game has any shot of being remotely contested. Nobody else will say it for bad luck or whatever but let’s just get this out of the way: Western Carolina hasn’t got a chance.
Oh, it’s not because the coach has done a bad job or their team couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie, but even a Chad Morris-coached team probably would beat this team by at least five or six touchdowns. They simply don’t have the quality depth to compete for 60 minutes with the Razorbacks. They probably scheduled this game as a development tool.
With several people dinged up and Hogs coach Sam Pittman now in trying to save as much energy and wear and tear as possible and not get anybody else hurt. Unless the offense just misfires everywhere, the starters shouldn’t even have to hit the field in the second half with the exception of kickers and punters. If they are still playing then, something is seriously gone haywire or Pittman and the coaches just want some more video to made decisions.
This is the first attempt at solving the offensive line that’s been a continuing question since spring practice and injuries in fall camp haven’t helped sort things out an awful lot for a rotation to be anywhere close to being set.
There are too many possibilities for any type of rotation guess on the defensive side of things with new coaches and faces everywhere. It probably couldn’t be any worse than last year, but after a couple of seasons in recent memory, I vowed to never use that phrase again.
You can listen to the game that kicks off at noon on HitThatLine.com and on the air at ESPN Arkansas 99.5 in Fayetteville, 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home. The pregame show begins at 9 a.m. and join ESPN Arkansas after the game for the reaction call-in show. The only TV to watch will be on ESPN+.
My prediction is we won’t know exactly what it will be in four games right now, but Saturday will be a first step in the process. Razorback 52, Western Carolina 6
It’s a week with a full slate of games. Pete Morgan decided to ignore most of them for whatever reason (but I did follow him back on that X thing, although nobody told me about it like he suggested, but I figure next time I talk to him I’ll ask him what happened that blue bird thing they used to have).
There are only about 1.5 league games that should really be competitive. We’ll move quickly through most of the picks because they will probably be blowouts. Vanderbilt did get a win to open the season and Florida played a pretty good team in a loss to Utah that probably landed Gators coach Billy Napier on a hot seat to start the season in Gainesville. Missouri and Eli Drinkwitz are still figuring things out, but did get a 35-10 win over South Dakota State (an FCS team that would probably be favored by three touchdowns over Western Carolina).
View this at your own risk and if you wager money based on our picks, you deserve whatever happens. Blowouts with a team under 10 is because picking shutouts is bad manners, but it could be anywhere around that.
Virginia at Tennessee (-27.5)
Blowout. The only question is when Josh Heupel calls off the dogs in this one. Vols 49, Virginia 7
Ball State at Kentucky (-26.5)
Another walk in the park. The Wildcats should have an easy time picking the score. Wildcats 42, Ball State 14
Mercer at Ole Miss (NL)
This is another example of why the SEC should go to a 9 or 10-game league schedule because this is ridiculous. Either you’re ready to start playing games or not because you can’t practice forever. Rebel 63, Mercer 17
UMass at Auburn (-35)
This is an example why the Tigers hired Hugh Freeze. Auburn has the feature slot Saturday afternoon at 2:30 on ESPN in a game where they are a five-touchdown favorite. Just because it’s the opener and it’s Freeze. Auburn 56, UMass 21
SE Louisiana at Mississippi State (NL)
The Bulldogs have blown openers against teams they should beaten handily (Louisiana Tech in 2008). But not this year. This is almost as bad as the Hogs’ opener. Bulldogs 52, SE Louisiana 3
UT-Martin at Georgia (NL)
For a defending two-time champion to open a new season with this matchup almost defies comprehension. Again, more conference games will eliminate the need for games like this. Bulldogs 63, UT-Martin 6
New Mexico at Texas A&M (NL)
Don’t expect a lot of answers to figuring out if Jimbo Fisher and Bobby Petrino can co-exist in this game. Really, though, it’s going to be almost impossible for anybody to sort out with Petrino in the pressbox and Fisher on the sidelines. Aggies 56, New Mexico 7
Alabama A&M at Vanderbilt (NL)
When you see the Commodores not even having a line on a game that should be proof positive nearly all of these are replacements for NFL preseason games that don’t really count. Commodores 42, Alabama A&M 10
Middle Tennessee at Alabama (-39)
Nick Saban may have insisted on a line being published for this game to give the Crimson Tide faithful something to argue about, but that’s about the only reason. Tide 45, Middle Tennessee 6
North Carolina (-2.5) at South Carolina
I’ve heard nothing about anything except the Gamecocks handling the Tar Heels in this one. Okay, most of that is from Zach Arns on the Ruscin & Zach show but my instinct is to agree with him on this one. I like what Shane Beamer is doing and they quietly may have one of the best quarterbacks in the league (he has gotten consistently better after getting a ton put on his shoulders early in his career). Gamecocks 35, North Carolina 31
LSU (-2) at Florida State
This one is going to be a gamble I’m willing to take. Besides, it may be the only realistic possibility I have of getting an unsurmountable lead over Pete (pretty sure I told him not picking is a forfeit on games). A lot of the talking heads in this state hate the Tigers for some reason, but I don’t and they are going to have a big game against Alabama and that will likely determine the SEC West in the final year of that existence … for now. Tigers 31, Florida State 28