College Football 2011: Predicting the Winner of Every SEC Non-Conference Game
One of the only ways to determine what conference has a leg up on any other conference is to compare head-to-head games. Unfortunately in college football, non-conference games don't occur as often as they do in other sports.
The SEC, like most other conferences, has four weeks available each season for non-conference games. The SEC fills those weeks with opponents from around the nation, but the trend as of late has been to “pad” the schedule, so to speak, with less-than-quality opponents.
While there are some meaningful games on the SEC's non-conference schedule in 2011, those games are the exception, not the rule.
Still, there's lots of football to be played. Here, we'll take a look at the SEC's non-conference lineup and predict a winner in each game.
Alabama Crimson Tide
The Crimson Tide will start the season near the top of virtually every preseason poll, and for very good reason.
The amount of talent returning to Alabama is staggering, and head coach Nick Saban has some very impressive underclassmen ready to make their marks in Tuscaloosa.
Sept. 3 vs. Kent State
In any game, the Crimson Tide will usually be favored. When the opponent is a MAC team, the only question is how big will the spread be? Kent State is the MAC team with the lowest win percentage since the middle of the last century, and things don't look to be changing any time soon for the Golden Flashes.
This game will be embarrassing for Kent State—and probably for Alabama, too. After all, how much can you win by without looking callous? If Alabama doesn't win by a staggering margin, will people doubt their abilities? Why these games ever get schedules will remain a mystery.
Sept. 10 at Penn State
When the 2010 and 2011 series between Alabama and Penn State was scheduled, both teams were at or near the top of the national rankings. Since then, Penn State has fallen off a bit, evidenced by last season's 24-3 loss to Alabama.
While some adjustments will be made, and both teams will have a slightly different look, Alabama should still win this game by a comfortable margin.
Penn State isn't the easiest place to play, but it's probably a safe bet the Crimson Tide will keep the 106,000 or so Nittany Lions fans fairly quiet for most of the afternoon.
Sept. 17 vs. North Texas
Like the game against Kent State, there is simply no upside to playing a bad team from a weak conference. All due respect to North Texas (which, admittedly, isn't much), but if North Texas football had a stock, it would be considered junk status.
Going 3-9, 2-10, 1-11, 2-10 and 3-9 over the past five seasons in the Sun Belt puts your program squarely in the category of junk.
Nov. 19 vs. Georgia Southern (FCS)
Not surprisingly, the Crimson Tide won't take the opportunity to showcase their late-season abilities against a quality BCS AQ opponent.
Rather, they'll schedule an FCS team to demolish. With all of the quality conference matchups around the nation in mid-November, this game will get the attention it deserves: not much.
Losing Ryan Mallett might seem like a staggering loss for the Razorbacks, but six offensive starters return, including every other skill position player.
With seven starters returning on defense, the Hogs should be in pretty decent shape for 2011, and their preseason Top 25 ranking shows that there are more than a few people who believe Arkansas will make some noise this season in the SEC.
Sept. 3 vs. Missouri State (FCS)
A pretty straight-forward warmup game scheduled by Arkansas to practice and by Missouri State to make money. The Hogs should win this SEC-obligatory game against an FCS opponent very, very easily.
Sept. 10 vs. New Mexico
New Mexico came out of the Mountain West last season with a record of 1-11. Arkansas came out of the SEC last season with a record of 10-3.
New Mexico is counted among the bottom 25 teams in the nation. Arkansas is counted among the Top 25 teams in the nation. You pick a winner.
Sept. 17 vs. Troy
The Trojans finished 2010 with a respectable 8-5 record, and finished the year with a thumping of Ohio in the New Orleans Bowl. Troy also had a close loss to Oklahoma State last season, but later lost to South Carolina by a staggering margin.
Suffice it to say that Troy is sometimes very difficult to predict. Less complicated is Arkansas. Troy is a competitor in the Sun Belt conference, but shouldn't pose a serious threat to Arkansas—as long as the Razorbacks don't fall asleep.
LSU almost learned that lesson the hard way in 2008.
Oct. 1 vs. Texas A&M (Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX)
This is a game that more than a few people will be eagerly awaiting. The Aggies finished last season 9-4, which included a Cotton Bowl loss to LSU.
Many people expect Texas A&M to be improved this season over last, and the jury is still out on Arkansas. This game could tell us a lot about each team and their chances for later in the season. Arkansas will have their hands full with an A&M squad that could begin the season in some top 10s.
The Aggies return every offensive stater, except center Matt Allen. Quarterback Ryan Tennehill is the real deal, and if Arkansas's defense doesn't play a perfect game, the Hogs will drop their first game of the season.
The Aggies will win this game in their home state.
Losing a player like Cam Newton would be a huge loss to any program. When you lose Newton and six other offensive starters, it's potentially devistating.
When Gene Chizik was hired, there were loads of people—Auburn fans included—who questioned the decision to pick a coach who had yet to show any signs of success. Indeed, Chizik was just 5-19 as a head coach before coming to Auburn.
After posting a 22-5 record over his two seasons at Auburn, it's time to see exactly what kind of program Chizik is going to build.
Sept. 3 vs. Utah State
As depleted as Auburn is, the Aggies from Utah State will be no match for the SEC talent that remains.
Sept. 17 at Clemson
Last season, Clemson gave Auburn its closest game of the year. This season, Auburn won't be nearly as talented, and Clemson is expected to improve upon their 6-7 finish. The Tigers from Clemson are returning 16 total starters—nearly twice as many as Auburn.
Still, this game isn't a foregone conclusion, and Auburn won't simply roll over. Expect Auburn to come out swinging, remembering how close Clemson came last season.
Auburn will win in 2011, and it won't take overtime to do it, either.
Sept. 24 vs. Florida Atlantic
The Owls aren't exactly the type of team one would expect to be able to challenge an SEC power like Auburn.
FAU probably isn't in the top 50 teams in the FBS, and their 4-8 finish last season won't be significantly different from their finish this season. One of their losses will come to Auburn.
Nov. 19 vs. Samford (FCS)
Don't misread the opponent. It's not Stanford. It says Samford. With an M. Samford finished the 2010 season with a 4-7 record in the Southern Conference. While the SoCon is one of the better conferences in the FCS, every conference needs its Vanderbilt.
Auburn has picked such a team to beat in their seemingly required SEC vs. FCS game.
A new era begins in Gainesville, and new head coach Will Muschamp is looking to make some instant improvements to the Gators 2010 record of 8-5.
Florida certainly has the talent, and with a new coaching staff, the time may be right for the Gators to start the climb back to national prominence.
Sept. 3 vs. Florida Atlantic
FAU was already discussed on the Auburn slide, and Florida should be at least as good as Auburn is this season. Chalk up another loss for the Owls.
Sept. 10 vs. Alabama-Birmingham
When Florida gets together with a team from Alabama, it's usually a pretty good game—unless that team calls Birmingham, Alabama home.
The Blazers aren't anything to write home about, and they're usually not enough to bother even going to their football games. A 4-8 squad from Conference USA shouldn't provide Florida with more than token resistance.
Nov. 19 vs. Furman (FCS)
Once again, we come to the FCS sacrifice to the SEC football diety. Furman is a team that hovers around .500 in the SoCon and hasn't seen the FCS playoffs since 2006.
There's not much to suggest they'll be making any leaps anytime soon, and Florida should dispatch the Paladins easily.
Nov. 26 vs. Florida State
After dominating their rivals from Tallahassee for the better part of the last decade, the Florida State Seminoles finally got a win against Florida last season, beating the Gators 31-7 at Doak.
This year, FSU returns to the Swamp, and this game could be a battle between a top team in the SEC and a top team in the ACC.
While the Gators will unquestionably be a very talented team, as they always are, Florida State is top-10 material, if all the hype is to be believed.
This season-ending game is usually a dandy, and this year could be a classic. Florida State wins their second-straight meeting, but by a much closer margin this year.
It's probably safe to admit now that Georgia was just plain awful over the first half of last year. Starting the season 1-4 wasn't on anyone's list, and it was pretty shocking, to say the least.
Just as shocking was the mutinous cries for head coach Mark Richt to be fired. Richt has been the head coach at Georgia since 2001 and prior to last season, had never posted a losing record. In fact, he never really came that close to posting a losing record.
The worst performance for the Bulldogs under Richt prior to 2010 was eight wins, in both 2001 and 2009. Over his tenure, Georgia has won two SEC titles, and finished in the top 10 six times. Why on Earth should that man be fired?
If Georgia performs to expectations this season, all of the “Fire Richt” talk will disappear—as it should.
Sept. 3 vs. Boise State (Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA)
All that talk may not disappear right away, however. Georgia has a monster of an opener in 2011, as they host the Boise State Broncos at the Georgia Dome in Week 1.
Boise State is one of the top programs in the nation, and they have a Heisman-caliber quarterback in Kellen Moore. Moore is a proven winner, and Boise State has been nearly unbeatable with him under center.
Georgia has their own budding QB star in Aaron Murray, but if you put Murray's talent with four years of experience, you still might not get a player like Kellen Moore.
Georgia will lose this game, but a loss shouldn't end the Bulldogs' season before it really gets started.
Sept. 17 vs. Coastal Carolina (FCS)
Coastal Carolina may have the very unenviable task of facing a very cranky Georgia squad. The Chanticleers were 6-6 last year in a pretty bad Big South conference. How bad is the Big South?
They just recently were granted an automatic FCS playoff berth for their champion—who just happened to be Coastal Carolina with a 6-6 record. Obviously, the Chanticleers didn't last long, and they'll last even less time against Georgia.
Nov. 5 vs New Mexico State
It's pretty hard to imagine a state in which football is more tragically terrible than New Mexico. Between New Mexico and New Mexico State, the state's record was 3-21 last season.
Georgia will face the better of the two, New Mexico State in 2011. “Better” is entirely relative here, of course, as it doesn't take a lot to be better than New Mexico's 1-11.
And the Aggies managed to do as little as possible to be better, finishing 2-10. Georgia should win easily.
Nov. 26 at Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech returns seven offensive starters, but just five defensive starters from a 2010 squad that posted a 6-7 record last season.
Georgia has won the last two meetings, and there's no reason the Bulldogs—who should be an improved team over 2010—shouldn't win their third-straight over the Yellow Jackets.
There aren't too many teams left in the SEC that haven't at least participated in the SEC Championship Game. Kentucky is one of them.
Kentucky hasn't won a SEC championship since 1976 under Fran Curci, and their only other conference title was in 1950, when Bear Bryant led them to a national championship.
Since then, Kentucky football has been, with a few exceptions, an exercise in futility. It's hard to see 2011 being much different, with only five offensive starters returning.
While the Wildcats do return their defense essentially intact (losing only one starter), you still need points to win games, and Kentucky will have a very hard time scoring points on SEC defenses this season with a young and inexperienced offense.
Sept. 1 vs. Western Kentucky (LP Field, Nashville, TN)
While Kentucky won't be winning any championships this season, they certainly aren't one of the worst teams in the FBS. Western Kentucky, on the other hand, is.
There's something to be said about all of the money to be made in the FBS, what with the TV contracts and bowl money available. But if you're so bad you never make a bowl game and no one ever wants to watch you on television, one must ask the question, “What was the point?”
The Wildcats will easily handle the Hilltoppers, and the season at least starts out on a high note for Kentucky.
Sept. 10 vs. Central Michigan
The Chippewas were one of the best teams the MAC has seen in quite some time, and they even had a bona fide Heisman candidate in Dan LeFevour. He was the only player to ever have 12,000 career passing yards combined with 2,500 rushing yards.
He was only the second player, after Vince Young, to ever throw for over 3,000 yards while rushing for more than 1,000 yards in a season. He did all of this under the guidance of a head coach named Brian Kelly.
Well, both LeFevour and Kelly are gone from Mt. Pleasant, and so too are the wins. A 2-0 start for Kentucky looks probable.
Sept. 17 vs. Louisville
This game is a bit harder to call that Kentucky's first two contests. Louisville is improving, and the Big East isn't exactly the MAC. Of course, it's not exactly the SEC, either.
While Kentucky does have an inexperienced offense, they should have some success under their belt by the third week in September, and they will be able to ride that to a hard-fought win over the Cardinals.
Oct. 22 vs. Jacksonville State (FCS)
At first glance, one would assume this game to be an easy win for Kentucky. Not so fast. Jacksonville State is a good FCS program from the Ohio Valley Conference, and last season, Mississippi found out the hard way that you ignore good FCS programs at your own peril.
While the Gamecocks were able to sneak a win past Ole Miss last season, don't expect it to happen again in 2011. JSU will have to deal with some talent drain due to graduation, and Kentucky will be more than prepared for this mid-season clash.
Wildcats won't fall prey to the Gamecocks the way Ole Miss did In the first week of last season.
Louisiana State Tigers
LSU is back, and they're ready to return to the BCS this season. They'll begin the season in the top five, and they'll have an instant chance to prove that they deserve such a lofty preseason ranking with the marquee game in Week 1 against fellow top five team Oregon.
Will Les Miles be able to lead the Tigers back to the SEC Championship Game and the BCS? Will he ba able to do it without relying on late game heroics and guile?
Sept. 3 vs. Oregon (Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX)
This game will be one of the most difficult to predict in the entire 2011 season. Both teams are highly ranked. Both teams are loaded with returning talent. Both teams have a few question marks. Both teams are hoping to build on last season's success.
So who do you possibly go with? LaMichael James and the Ducks or Jordan Jefferson and the Tigers?
It's going to be close, and in close games, a best guess is all that can be hoped for.
While LSU certainly has the talent, the experience, and the coaching to win the game, Oregon may be just a tiny touch more talented. After all, Oregon will have two legit Heisman contenders this season in LaMichael James and Darron Thomas.
While LSU will have a talented team, it's doubtful they even have one Heisman candidate.
Until teams are able to gel later in the season, single player performances have heightened importance. In a Week 1 game, a single player can make all the difference. Oregon has two players capable of taking over a game offensively.
For that reason, the Ducks get our pick to win a nail-biter.
Sept. 10 vs. Northwestern State (FCS)
After an upsetting and aggravating loss, the Northwestern State Demons will be squarely in LSU's cross hairs. Unfortunately for the Demons, even under the best of circumstances, the best they could hope for would be to not lose by 60.
This game won't be under the best of circumstances for the Demons. And they may lose by 60.
Sept. 24 at West Virginia
LSU will have their second crack at a BCS AQ program away from Baton Rouge on September 24 as they travel to Morgantown to take on West Virginia. The Mountaineers are under the direction of a new head coach and are hoping to finally put the post Rich Rodriguez hangover to rest, once and for all.
While WVU should be improved over previous seasons, they probably don't have much of a hope against LSU. The Tigers will probably be in a position where a second loss will likely eliminate them from BCS Championship Game consideration.
LSU will just be too good this season to allow that to happen so early. LSU wins and wins big.
Nov. 12 vs. Western Kentucky
LSU probably has the most difficult non-conference schedule in the SEC this season. You wouldn't know it to look at their Nov. 12th game against Western Kentucky. WKU, as previously mentioned, is one of the worst-performing teams in the FBS.
Ever since they made the jump from the FCS a few years ago, they've been nothing more than an afterthought. They won't be much more than that after Nov. 12, either.
The Rebels from Ole Miss stumbled through 2010, and limped in with a 4-8 record. Not exactly the type of record Ole Miss hoped for after a pair of nine-win seasons.
The opening week loss to FCS Jacksonville State certainly could sum up the Rebels' season. Still, with the exception of that one loss, Ole Miss was perfect against their admittedly weak non-conference opponents.
The same will probably hold true this season.
Sept. 3 vs. Brigham Young
BYU has left the Mountain West and is now an independent in football. Hopefully, that will mean a few more trips east for the Cougars each season. While BYU didn't quite live up to expectations last season, they still have a fair amount of talent on the roster.
This season, Ole Miss will face a quality opponent in week one, but the result will be the same as it was last season when they faced a non-quality opponent: a loss.
Sept. 10 vs. Southern Illinois (FCS)
After last season's debacle against Jacksonville State, don't expect the Rebels to take this game lightly. A second consecutive year with a loss to an FCS team would be absolutely humiliating, and the Rebels won't let that happen.
Expect a big win against a mediocre team from the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The MVFC is a quality FCS conference, and annually produces multiple playoff teams.
Southern Illinois wasn't one of those teams last season, and the Salukis finished 5-6. The Rebels will take the opportunity to beat up on an FCS team, if only to prove that they can.
Oct. 1 at Cal State-Fresno
Last season, Fresno State visited Ole Miss, and the Rebels claimed one of their rare wins on the season, 55-38. This year, the Rebels return the favor and travel to Fresno to take on the Bulldogs.
But regardless of where the game is played, the result should remain fairly similar. The Rebels will win, and it won't be very close.
Nov. 12 vs. Louisiana Tech
The aforementioned Bulldogs from Louisiana Tech aren't a very good football team. There are worse things than posting a 5-7 record, but when you only manage to beat the 1-12 San Jose State Spartans (whose only win came in a cliffhanger against a bad FCS program) by a single touchdown, there are some issues with which you must deal.
It's doubtful that Tech will be able to figure out their puzzle this season, and Ole Miss will be looking for every win possible to earn a bowl berth—and Nov. 12 may be just the date that happens.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs had their best season in 2010 since the 10-2 1999 campaign. The Bulldogs finished off a great season with a dominating win over Michigan in Rich Rodriguez's last game as a head coach for the Wolverines before being fired.
Mississippi State will now be faced with improving upon their 9-4 record, which looks fairly decent. But one must remember Mississippi State was just 4-4 in the SEC last season.
Obviously, non-conference games figure heavily in Mississippi State's success or failure in 2011. Luckily, the Bulldogs have a very, very weak non-conference schedule in 2011. Almost embarrassingly weak.
Sept. 1 at Memphis
The Bulldogs travel to Memphis to begin the season against the Tigers. The Tigers visited Mississippi State to begin last season, and the Bulldogs sent the Tigers home with a 49-7 loss.
Memphis limped through the rest of the season and finished 1-11. Don't expect the final score to be vastly different this season.
Sept. 24 vs Louisiana Tech
Louisiana has a pretty darned good football team In the state. Louisiana Tech isn't it. The Tech Bulldogs won't be able to give the Mississippi State Bulldogs much of a game, and this one should be a snooze from start to finish.
Oct. 8 at Alabama-Birmingham
Trips to the state of Alabama for any SEC team can be fraught with danger. But when the destination city is Birmingham, the ride home is usually a bit more light-hearted.
The previously mentioned UAB Blazers are a pretty bad football team and won't provide an SEC team of the caliber of Mississippi State with much of a challenge.
Nov. 5 vs. Tennessee-Martin (FCS)
The expected FCS opponent this season is UT-Martin. The Skyhawks from the Ohio Valley Conference were 6-5 last season.
The OVC isn't home to any current FCS powers, and a team that can barely hold its own in that conference doesn't have much to hope for against an SEC team like Mississippi State.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Last season was easily South Carolina's best season of football since joining the SEC in 1992. The Gamecocks claimed their first-ever divisional championship and participated in their first-ever SEC Championship Game.
The Gamecocks also found themselves bolstered by the great play from freshman running back Marcus Lattimore. Depending on how the Stephen Garcia saga plays itself out, South Carolina could be in store for another successful campaign in 2011.
Sept. 3 vs. East Carolina (Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC)
If there's anyone who believes that East Carolina has a chance of beating South Carolina in week one, they're probably dressed in ECU gear.
There's basically no one outside of the ECU fan base that believes the Pirates really have much of a shot against a South Carolina squad that may actually be better in 2011 that it was a season ago.
In fact, it's probably safe to bet that most people inside the ECU fan base don't believe the Pirates can beat the Gamecocks.
Sept. 17 vs. US Naval Academy
You know, Navy isn't all that bad of a team. They haven't had a losing season since 2002. They've beaten Army so many years in a row now that no one can really remember the last time the Midshipmen lost to Army.
They've even won three of the last four meetings with Notre Dame. But at the end of the day, Navy is still Navy, and South Carolina won't have any trouble sinking the Midshipmen's hopes of an upset.
Nov. 19 vs. The Citadel (FCS)
Another great military institution on South Carolina's schedule, The Citadel won't provide much more than a fascinating box score for most of the nation.
South Carolina should not only win this game, it should be so lopsided that no Vegas odd-maker will touch it.
Nov. 26 vs. Clemson
This annual season finale is one of those games that is just filled with utter disdain for the opponent. With the possible exception of Michigan-Ohio State or Alabama-Auburn, this game elicits some of the strongest emotions imaginable surrounding a football game.
One of the things that makes this, and any rivalry great is when both teams are fairly evenly matched. No one can deny the fact that Michigan-Ohio State has lost some national appeal over the past few seasons because of the hot mess Rich Rodriguez created in Ann Arbor.
The Battle for the Palmetto State risks going the same route. South Carolina has posted two fairly one-sided victories the past two seasons, and 2011 will make it three. Clemson just doesn't have the horses to keep up with USC, and the Gamecocks will be the undisputed kings of South Carolina once again.
The Tennessee Volunteers won the first-ever BCS championship at the conclusion of the 1998 season. That seems like a lifetime ago, and last season's 6-7 season capped by a loss to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl was the latest in the Vols three seasons of mediocrity.
Despite a confounding loss to LSU last season, Tennessee did finish the regular season with four consecutive wins. That, combined with 14 returning starters, will hopefully be something to build on for a team that hasn't been able to find any solid footing for quite some time now.
Sept. 3 vs. Montana (FCS)
Last season showed the nation that the SEC was not immune to losses to FCS programs. Montana is known as a quality program in the FCS and posted 51 wins to just six losses between 2006 and 2009.
Last season saw the Grizzlies drop off slightly as graduations took their toll, and the Grizz finished with a record of 7-4, and Montana failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
That didn't sit well with the Grizzlies, and what better way to begin their return to glory with a win over an SEC opponent? This game will be much closer than many people expect, but Tennessee should still be able to pull out a victory—provided they only have eleven players on the field at a time.
Sept. 10 vs. Cincinnati
Cincinnati was once a program on the verge of being canceled by the university. More recently, the Bearcats were winners of back-to-back Big East championships and earned the BCS berths that went along with that success.
But when Brian Kelly left the program for Notre Dame, it seemed to suck the life—and success—right out of the program. Cincy is now just another middle-of-the-road Big East team, and Tennessee should have little problem dispatching the Bearcats.
Oct. 1 vs. Buffalo
There is literally no sane and objective person under the sun that believes that a team from the MAC would beat Tennessee in 2011, least of all Buffalo.
The Bulls went 2-10 last season, and one of those wins was against FCS Rhode Island. When you lose that many games to MAC teams, there's something seriously wrong.
Nov. 5 vs. Middle Tennessee State
Although Middle Tennessee was a bowl team last season, the losses on their 2010 record raise some serious questions about their abilities. Memphis only won one game last season, and it was against MTSU.
Minnesota was about as bad of a team you can find in the Big Ten, but they managed to beat MTSU. Arkansas State managed to score 51 points against the Blue Raiders. MTSU only managed to beat Western Kentucky by a single point.
The point of all of this is to demonstrate that the Blue Raiders have almost no hope of beating a team like Tennessee.
Last, and in this case, least, the Vanderbilt Commodores. Every conference needs a doormat, and for the SEC, Vandy serves that role. Since the end of World War II, Vanderbilt has played in 708 football games.
That puts them on par with the best major programs in the country. Alabama has played 718. Notre Dame, 704. Texas, 706. Nebraska, 712. USC, 716. Yet Vanderbilt has been able to win just 240 games over that span or just 35.1 percent.
Before their stunning 2008 season (7-6 is stunning?), the Commodores hadn't played in a bowl game since 1982. Before that, 1974 and 1955 are the only other bowl apperances. Suffice it to say that Vanderbilt isn't your typical SEC team.
When SEC fans get into any argument about the SEC's invincibility, Vanderbilt, along with their list of anti-accomplishments, is left unmentioned. So how will they fare this season against their non-SEC opponents?
Sept. 3 vs. Elon (FCS)
Even Vanderbilt gets in on the SEC vs. FCS game. And why not? After all, it's one of the few games where Vandy will be favored. Elon was 6-5 last season, and looking at the list of returning starters, there's some hope for improvements for the Phoenix.
Whether or not they'll improve enough to be an FBS team—even Vanderbilt—is doubtful. Vandy wins, but not in a blowout.
Sept. 10 vs. Connecticut
The defending Big East champions come to visit on September 10, and the Huskies are looking to prove to everyone that their success wasn't a fluke, and the BCS berth last season was deserved.
Beating an SEC team, even if it is Vanderbilt, will be a feather in Connecticut's hat. If the SEC wants to pretend that it's the best thing since goal posts, they the SEC must accept that a win against even the least of the SEC will be held up as a win against the SEC.
And the Huskies will return home with a win.
Oct. 22 vs. Army
Once upon a time, in the not-so-distant past, a game against Army was pretty much a guaranteed win. Those days may be gone, as West Point has shown signs of an improved program of late.
Sure, Army hasn't beaten Navy in a decade, but they returned to a bowl game last season for the first time since 1996, and managed to beat SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl. Army will take another step this season, beat Navy and beat Vandy en route.
Nov. 26 at Wake Forest
This one Vanderbilt may actually win. Wake Forest serves essentially the same function in the ACC that Vandy serves in the SEC. You might even call this game the 2011 SEC-ACC Toilet Bowl.
It doubtful either of these teams will be making a bowl trip in December, so this is likely to be the final game on both schedules.
While Vanderbit “may actually win” this game, it's still a long shot. Even if both teams had a complete turnover of all 22 starters, very little would essentially change. These two teams did actually meet last season, and Wake Forest took the opportunity to avoid double-digit losses, and won 34-13—in the process giving Vanderbilt double-digit losses.
Picking a winner in this game is like picking what food you'd rather have for dinner: liver or brussels sprouts. We'll go with liver and pick Wake Forest.