With the first full weekend of Southeastern Conference football means it is time to look into The SEC Crystal Ball and try to predict just who will win … and who will lose — which SEC teams hardly ever do in the opening weekend when many creampuffs dot the schedule.
South Carolina got it started by holding off Vanderbilt on Thursday night, but here is a look at the rest of the schedule, including the three big non-conference matchups that will define the opening weekend.
Tennessee vs. NC State in Atlanta- This would be a great way for Tennessee to open the season and take some of the pressure off Derek Dooley, but it will be a tall order. NC State will plan to disrupt Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray with interception-machine David Amerson leading the way. Tennessee’s defense will concentrate on Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon since rushing the football has not been a strong suit. Tennessee is a much improved team from last season, but are the Vols improved enough to beat NC State? Maybe, but it’s doubtful.
Winner: NC State, 27-20
Auburn vs. Clemson in Atlanta- Like Tennessee, Auburn needs to launch the post-Gus Malzahn/Ted Roof era with a big win. Beating Clemson would fit the bill. Look for Auburn’s new offensive and defensive coordinators — Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder — to shine in their War Eagle debuts and also watch for outstanding games from quarterback Kiehl Frazier and running back Onterio McCalebb. Clemson is still Clemson and the Tigers will be out to erase the memory of a 70-33 Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia.
Winner: Clemson, 24-23
Alabama vs. Michigan in Arlington- Can Alabama contain Denard Robinson enough to beat the Wolverines? The Tide knows it has a challenge, but defensive-minded Nick Saban has had an entire offseason to prepare and he’s pretty good when he only has a week to prepare; but a few months should be plenty of time. Alabama will put a great offensive line on the field and that makes things easier for AJ McCarron and new featured back Eddie Lacy.
Winner: Alabama, 31-17
Kentucky at Louisville- Joker Phillips needs this one, but he won’t get it. Louisville was young last year and went 7-6. Kentucky struggled last year and will again, especially opening on the road at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was a freshman last year but he’s bigger, stronger and ready to lead the Cardinals in this Bluegrass rivalry.
Winner: Louisville, 37-14
Here’s the rest of the SEC schedule:
Mississippi State over Jackson State, 24-10
Ole Miss over Central Arkansas, 24-14
LSU will down North Texas, 35-3
Georgia will knock off Buffalo, 48-0
Florida will stop Bowling Green, 38-7
Arkansas will beat Jacksonville State, 44-10