Let it ring loud, and let it ring clear: Tennessee football is BACK, and the SEC East is no longer a two-team race.
Or ... Florida football is BACK, and the SEC East is no longer a two-team race.
Which is true, we don't know. I guess we'll find out Saturday. Just like we'll find out whether it's Derek Dooley or Will Muschamp who will be tarred and feathered back in his home city.
The rush to anoint great teams, and coaches on the hot seat, is an accelerated one in the SEC. Just look at Gene Chizik, who has gone from national championship coach to the hot seat in, oh, about 21 months. Dooley is undergoing an even quicker transformation, except its the other way: At the start of this season he was almost a sure goner, but then one good win over a middling ACC team, and Dooley and the Vols are the new golden children of the SEC East.
The suspicion here is everyone is making a quick rush to judgment. Maybe not on Chizik - who is now well under .500 in his career without Cam Newton as his quarterback. But in the case of Tennessee as possible SEC East favorite, here's a minor request: Let's see how the Vols do in an actual SEC game. And if the Vols do blow the doors off the Gators, remember that Florida may not be very good, and the game was in Knoxville.
I realize that the storyline of Georgia and South Carolina dominating the East has become boring to some. But let's not let a desire for a fresh storyline get in the way of what should be obvious: Georgia and South Carolina are still the division favorites, and this Florida-Tennessee game is basically an elimination game.
On to the picks:
FLORIDA ATLANTIC at GEORGIA (-42.5): As a teenager, Mark Richt lived less than two miles from the FAU campus. Of course there was no football program at the time, and it wasn't started until Howard Schnellenberger - who coached Richt in college - started the program in 2001. That was the same year Richt started at Georgia. What do all these little coincidences mean? As Dark Helmet said to Lone Starr near the end of "Spaceballs": Absolutely nothing. Pick: Georgia covers.
FLORIDA at TENNESSEE (-3): Despite my overall skepticism about the Vols' being a contender, I still buy into Tyler Bray and the passing game, at least more than I buy into anything much going on with the Gators' offense at the moment. Pick: Tennessee covers.
ALABAMA (-20) at ARKANSAS: Perhaps CBS should sue John L. Smith for rendering this game much less interesting, but word is Smith's finances aren't looking too great these days. Pick: Alabama covers.
UAB at SOUTH CAROLINA (-33.5): Whether or not Connor Shaw plays in this game is about as vital as whether or not Steve Spurrier shoots a 79 or an 80 at Augusta on Saturday morning before the game. Pick: South Carolina covers.
WESTERN KENTUCKY at KENTUCKY (-6.5): Willie Taggart, a resident of the state of Kentucky, earlier this week stated that most students at Western Kentucky couldn't get into the University of Kentucky. This seems a fairly uncontroversial statement, until you consider that Mr. Taggart is the head football coach at Western Kentucky. Not surprisingly, Mr. Taggart quickly apologized. (He could have explained that he was ignorant based on his inferior education from, wait for it, Western Kentucky University). Pick: Kentucky covers.
ARIZONA STATE at MISSOURI (-3.5): Sheldon Richardson wisely was quiet this week. Much to the dismay of reporters in Columbia and Tempe. Pick: Arizona State wins.
TEXAS (-10) at OLE MISS: It's cute and all that the Rebels are only 10-point underdogs, apparently based on home wins over Central Arkansas and UTEP. But c'mon, let's not go crazy here. Pick: Texas covers.
LOUISIANA-MONROE at AUBURN (-16.5): This game would have had upset written all over it if La.-Monroe hadn't already done it last week, and Auburn weren't in desperate need of a win. So look for a resounding Tiger victory that restores spirits on the Plains, just in time for next week's game against LSU. Which will send spirits right back to where they were. Pick: Auburn covers.
IDAHO at LSU (42.5): Wait, LSU beat Washington by 38, and we're supposed to believe Idaho (0-2, lost at home to Eastern Washington) will keep it to 41? Pick: LSU covers.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (-16) at TROY: Hit writer's block. Asked the wife what I could say about the Mississippi State-Troy game. Her answer: "That nobody's gonna watch it?" I do love her. Pick: Troy covers, MSU wins.
WAKE FOREST at FLORIDA STATE (-27.5): A downward trend alert: The Seminoles by 66 and then 55 points, so 44 seems a pretty good bet here. (Yes, the second game was ended early by rain, and Wake Forest is not an FCS team, but don't tell all this to Duke, which by my logic is now due an 11-point win over the Seminoles in Week 9.) Pick: Florida State covers.
SOUTHERN CAL (-8.5) at STANFORD: Lane Kiffin tried to ban a reporter from practice and yank his credential for having the audacity to report on an injury. Luckily, Kiffin's bosses over-ruled him. But in so doing, Kiffin continues to endear himself to media members and fans far and wide, as his massive charm offensive across America continues unabated. Pick: USC covers.
NORTH CAROLINA at LOUISVILLE (-3): Charlie Strong is on the verge of becoming a very popular name in the SEC, at least among athletics directors in need of a new head coach. Pick: Louisville covers.
VIRGINIA at GEORGIA TECH (-10): This is a line that surprises me. Yes, the Cavaliers barely skated by Penn State, which isn't looking very good these days. But is Georgia Tech 10 points better than Virginia? Methinks not. Pick: Virginia covers, Georgia Tech wins.
NOTRE DAME at MICHIGAN STATE (-5.5): Michigan State's campus is closer to the Atlantic Coast than Notre Dame. ... Notre Dame is joining the Atlantic Coast conference. ... Discuss. Pick: Michigan State covers.
Last week: 8-7 vs. spread, 10-5 overall.
Season: 13-17 vs. spread, 22-8 overall.