The wait is over and football is almost back. Actually, it kind of already is back if you count the Week 0 games played on Saturday for teams with the Hawaii exemption, but I digress. The SEC begins play this Thursday and by the end of Labor Day Weekend, we should know a little more about what the teams will look like this fall.
By Steve Wright
One thing to remember is that snap judgments after Week 1 (or Week 2 for that matter) are generally a bad idea as the schools will grow and get better as the season progresses. That being said, losing in college football is never a good thing if you want to be in the hunt for the College Football Playoff come the end of the season.
Here are the SEC games for Week of the season:
Thursday, August 31
Florida A&M @ Arkansas in Little Rock – The first SEC game of the season should be a dud. If Arkansas wants to compete at all in the SEC West then they have to blow out a Rattlers team that was 4-7 overall and tied for fifth in the MEAC last season. Arkansas will be better at every position on the field in this dominating victory. Prediction – Arkansas by 35.
Saturday, September 2
Missouri State @ Missouri – This is one of those in-state matchups that opening day used to be loaded with. Nothing to see here, as the Tigers take care of the Bears. Prediction – Missouri by 28.
NC State vs South Carolina in Charlotte, NC. – It is unfortunate for South Carolina that they have found themselves up against a normally middle of the road ACC opponent that is on a dramatic upswing right now. The Wolfpack could easily have been ranked inside the top 25 to start the season and their defensive line will be the best that the Gamecocks face all year. Factor in how offenses are always slower to start the season than defenses and this could be a long day for South Carolina. Prediction – NC State by 14.
Michigan (11) vs Florida (17) in Dallas, TX. – Florida is now down eight players through suspension for this giant clash in the Jerry Dome. Many have cited the Gators as a potential dark horse pick for the College Football Playoff, but they will be shorthanded against a high ranked Michigan squad in their opener. Florida will need a big play from their defense or special teams unit to win this one and they will get it. Prediction – Florida by 6.
Kentucky @ Southern Miss – One of very few true road trips for SEC teams in week one is taken by Kentucky as they play Southern Miss. The Wildcats are a team that has quietly high hopes of making some noise in 2017. In the season opener last year the Golden Eagles beat Kentucky 44-35 in Lexington. This though is a very different Kentucky squad and this should be a cracking game. Prediction – Kentucky by 4.
Charleston Southern @ Mississippi State – CSU won the Big South last season with a 7-4 record before losing to Wofford in the first round. They are solid, but the feeling is Nick Fitzgerald gets rolling in this one. Prediction – MSU by 21.
Appalachian State @ (15) Georgia – As cupcake sounding schools go, Appy State is not one you want to mess with. They finished 2016 10-3 and won a share of the Sun Belt title, plus it is not all that long ago that the Mountaineers beat Michigan as an FCS school. This is the upset alert of the week even with Georgia as a 14 point favorite. Prediction – Georgia by 3.
Georgia Southern @ (12) Auburn – The Jarrett Stidham era at Auburn is upon us and it is going to start with a bang. The Auburn offense will look terrific against an overmatch Georgia Southern D, but the Eagles triple-option offense (one that will be close to leading the nation in rushing come the end of the year) will get some scoring drives going. Even so, Auburn will have way too much here. Prediction – Auburn by 24.
South Alabama @ Ole Miss – This is a game that is more dangerous than it looks for the Rebels. They will be hosting the Jaguars as a four touchdown favorite, but this South Alabama squad has been here before. Last season they shocked Mississippi State 21-20 on opening day and they have designs on the same sort of result against a Mississippi program that is still reeling from its offseason. It’s hard to see the Rebels winning by that many. Prediction – Mississippi by 10.
(3) Florida State vs (1) Alabama in Atlanta, GA. – This is the game everyone is waiting for. It is almost unheard of to have teams ranked this highly meeting on the opening weekend of the season and it feels like whoever wins will have one foot in the College Football Playoff already. Alabama has been very good out of the blocks in big games under Nick Saban (see their 52-6 demolition of USC last year) and that trend will continue on Saturday. Prediction – Alabama by 10.
Vanderbilt @ Middle Tennessee – This is an under the radar game that has the potential to both be good and to tell us plenty about Vanderbilt this season. The Commodores have their best quarterback/running back situation in years, while the Blue Raiders are expected to compete for the C-USA title this fall on the strength of their offensive firepower. Prediction – Vandy by 7.
BYU vs (13) LSU in New Orleans, LA. – This game was supposed to take place in Houston but it has been moved to New Orleans because of the disaster in southern Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey. The move closer to campus will favor LSU, but it will be interesting to see how BYU plays defensively against the Tigers. If they load eight and nine into the box and force the Tigers to pass it will Danny Etling be good enough for LSU to win? Prediction – LSU by 3.
Sunday, September 3
Texas A&M @ UCLA – Can Texas A&M contain UCLA QB Josh Rosen? The next big thing in college football is as brash as he is talented and he has the ability to win this type of game on his own back. The Aggies will slash and dash on offense, but Rosen at home will prove to be just too good. Prediction- UCLA by 3.
Monday, September 4
(25) Tennessee vs Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA. – The weekend wraps up on Monday win an intriguing clash between the SEC and the ACC. Georgia Tech runs a funky, triple-option offense that no one seems prepared for, while Tennessee has to replace so many parts from 2016. This one will be close. Georgia Tech by 6.