Picking individual football games has never been much of a strong suit. Too often the heart or the gut or a general tendency toward recklessness get in the way of rational choice.
South Carolina fans can certainly attest. For whatever reason, the Gamecocks have consistently been a blind spot.
Whether too slow to believe in them or too late jumping on the bandwagon, picking South Carolina cost me four decimal points in my overall record this season. Instead of a respectable 70.8 percent winning rate with my “Educated Guesses,” it could be almost 75 without the four-game Gamecock-call losing streak midseason and the wrong choice (again) on the Palmetto rivalry.
But the bigger picture has always been a lot clearer in my mind. While my weekly compass might be a little off at times, a general overall sense rarely fails me.
So it was this collegiate season, when the preseason big-picture predictions were pretty much right on the money.
On Georgia: “Bulldogs can go 11-1 and play the West champion for a trip to Miami. It’s in their hands. Don’t fumble it.” They didn’t spike it instead.
On South Carolina: “Another 10-win regular season.” Check.
On Clemson: “Seminoles are favorites … but ACC title repeat is reasonable.” Just that one Seminole loss shy.
On Georgia Tech: The weak “Coastal Division is attainable.” Well, as long as Miami and North Carolina were ineligible.
The annual New Year’s predictions were almost as fruitful. Picking four things I hoped to see resolved in 2012, three essentially came true.
“A real college football postseason.” The first step was taken toward a legitimate playoff by adopting a four-team bracket for 2014.
“An awakening of golf’s leadership.” The governing bodies took a big first step by proposing a ban on anchoring clubs.
“A return to glory by Tiger Woods.” While he didn’t win another major, he won three times and repositioned himself to reclaim No. 1 in the world again.
So to those who like to criticize my predictive skills, beat that. Three out of four ain’t bad.
So with my credentials clarified, here’s a look at the crystal ball for 2013 (and New Year’s Eve).
• Atlantic Coast Conference fails … again. While Florida State has finally found a team the conference can beat in the Orange Bowl (Northern Illinois), our local entries won’t fare as well with Clemson (to LSU) and Georgia Tech (to Southern Cal) going down.
• Southeastern Conference soars … again. Georgia and South Carolina will take care of Big Ten foes even if their hearts aren’t exactly in it. But most importantly for the SEC, Alabama will secure a seventh consecutive BCS title by knocking Notre Dame back down to earth.
• Not so super for the Falcons … again. Atlanta has beaten only two playoff caliber teams (Denver and Washington) and I don’t think they’d beat either of them again if given the chance. They have to prove the many skeptics wrong in the postseason before anyone will take them seriously. I’ll take 49ers to win the Super Bowl over Patriots.
• Tiger Woods will win the Masters Tournament this year. Count on it. Other less confident major picks: Sergio Garcia (U.S. Open at Merion), Padraig Harrington (British Open at Muirfield) and Luke Donald (PGA at Oak Hill).
• That’s right, no Rory McIlroy major picks this year. Equipment switch to Nike will interfere with his grand slam ascension.
• For the sake of having something on the record about basketball, I’ll take L.A.’s Clippers and Duke’s Blue Devils.
• It’s time for the Braves to reclaim their rightful place in the postseason landscape and reach the World Series, facing the A’s.
• Conference expansion might kick up again when the Big Ten decides to hit 16 by adding Georgia Tech and Kansas (assuming Texas and North Carolina decline). The two AAU schools would fit the conferences desired reach into new markets. The ripple effects could prompt the ACC to add UConn or Cincinnati, the Pac-12 to reconsider its flirtation with Texas and Oklahoma and the SEC to listen to the pleading from Florida State and Clemson for safe haven while secretly trolling the two towers of Tobacco Road.
• Georgia will take a big step back next season in football, possibly as far down as 8-4 with Mark Richt once again surviving calls for his ouster. Georgia Tech will win more games but not enough to win is division, causing Paul Johnson’s seat to get very hot.
• South Carolina will take the ultimate step up, winning the SEC East and representing the conference in the last-ever BCS title game. Even better for the Gamecocks will be delivering Clemson’s only loss to prevent the ACC champs from qualifying for that same BCS title game.
Start the snickering, but we’ll check the ledger before 2014.