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SEC Predictions for Week 1

PHOTO: Matt Bush/USA Today Sports

The 2018 College football season kickoff this past weekend.  It great to have you back old friend!

It’s GAME WEEK!

Here are my SEC Predictions for Week 1

Texas A&M vs Northwestern State: Yeah, it’s the debut of the Jimbo Fisher era at Texas A&M, but more importantly, this game will see what Texas A&M must improve on before Clemson comes to town the following week. The Aggies will have a significant scheme change on offense, so an opportunity for a tune-up against Northwestern State is ideal for Fisher’s team.  Texas A&M will want to establish a nasty tone from the start, and not just to make things look great in Jimbo’s first game.

Prediction: Texas A&M

Coastal Carolina vs South Carolina: After 9-4 record last year, South Carolina is looking to the next step and challenge Georgia for the SEC East Champion.  For, Will Muschamp’s team to reach that goal, improving the offense needs to be a priority.   The Gamecocks will be looking to speed up the offense.  South Carolina averaged about 24.2 points a game in 2017. With QB Jake Bentley and top playmaker Deebo Samuel back, this should help the Gamecocks open the offense a bit.  South Carolina can’t just overlook Coastal Carolina.  The Chanticleers gave Arkansas a game all it could handle last season.  The Gamecocks need to set the tone for the season because Georgia is coming next week.

Prediction: South Carolina

Ole Miss vs Texas Tech: If you like offense, then this matchup is for you. It was a long time ago, but the last time these two teams played, Ole Miss won 47-34 in the 2009 Cotton Bowl. The game before that? Texas Tech won 49-45 in 2003 and won 42-28 in 2002.  This game will not be void offense.  The Red Raiders are breaking in a new quarterback (McLane Carter) and a couple of targets on the outside. Ole Miss is returning QB Jordan Tamu and top receiver AJ Brown, who is everyone top’s receiver prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft.  The problem here is Ole Miss’ defense gave up 34.6 points a game last year. Nine tacklers are back for the Red Raiders, along with a solid-looking secondary with a talented group of safeties.  Texas Tech has some key positions on defense that Ole Miss does not.

Prediction: Texas Tech

Austin Peay vs Georgia: Austin Peay is ranked in the FCS preseason top 25 coming off a strong 8-4 season. Georgia coming within a couple of plays of winning the national championship.  This is the game to show that there’s life after Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, with D’Andre Swift looking like the next-star emerging as a prolific Georgia running back. Georgia is poised for another SEC East championship and potential national title.  The only concern is their defense, with losing so much from last year “Junkyard Dawgs” defense. The Bulldogs will be motivated to erase last year heartbreaking finish.

Prediction: Georgia

West Virginia vs Tennessee: This is the first time these two teams have ever met on the gridiron. This is interesting because less than 500 miles separate these universities. Tennessee will aim to get off to a great start under first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt. Despite last season 4-8 record, there is talent on the Vols.  However, that Tennessee offense that struggled last season will be a work in progress.

Three years ago, Tennessee struggled to stop a Florida quarterback named Will Grier from converting five fourth downs in a thrilling comeback.   Fast forward, now Will Grier is the starting QB at West Virginia. Grier has a huge arm and talented receivers to throw the ball to.  This West Virginia’ offense will be too powerful for Tennessee to stop.

Prediction: West Virginia

Central Michigan vs Kentucky: Mark Stoops has led Kentucky to back-to-back bowl appearances but has yet to win more than seven games in a season. Are the Wildcats ready to take a step forward?  Benny Snell must control the action from the start.  The great UK back leads a strong rotation of runners that should be excellent behind a line that gets back four starters. Central Michigan has been to a bowl game in the last three seasons, but the Chippewas start the season with a new QB and receivers. It’ll Snell who is the game changer. UK is going to win because the running game will be way stronger.

Prediction: Kentucky

Tennessee-Martin vs Missouri:  In last season-opener Missouri QB Drew Lock torched Missouri State for 521 yards and seven touchdowns. UT-Martin’s defense should provide a little more resistance in this year’s season opener. Their defense finished fourth in FCS in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. However, Missouri has a new offensive coordinator, Derek Dooley. It will be interesting to see how Lock performs in this new offense.

Prediction: Missouri

Eastern Illinois vs Arkansas: It’s the beginning of the Chad Morris’ era at Arkansas.  The Razorbacks will be looking to get back on track after a disappointing 4-8 season last year. The Hogs will not abandon the run game but will have to figure out their passing attack with QB Cole Kelley.  Kelley’s 58 percent completion rate will need to rise.  Eastern Illinois is coming off a 6-5 season with solid defense.  This will be a game to see where Arkansas’ scoring will come from this season.  This should be a win for Arkansas.

Prediction: Arkansas

Stephen F. Austin vs Mississippi State: The Joe Moorhead era kicks off, looking to get the offense going before having to go to Kansas State the following week. This game got interesting with starting QB Nick Fitzgerald’s suspension for violated teams rules.  The focus was on the QB and the look of the offense under the new coaching staff, but Nick Fitzgerald won’t get the live reps which he needs.   However, the Bulldogs should be fine with backup QB Keytaon Thompson.  State’s defense is loaded with talent up front with Montez Sweat and Jeffrey Simmons.

Stephen F. Austin finished 4-7 last year and is already dealing with some uncertainty, as coach Clint Conque resigned in August. They do return 11 starters to at least jump-start their struggling offense from last season.

Prediction: Mississippi State

Charleston Southern vs Florida:  It’s Dan Mullen’s debut as the head coach of the Florida Gators.  Mullen inherits a Florida team that finished a disappointing 4-7 last year. However, the Gators still have talent in the program. Mullen’s defense should rank among the best in the SEC, and the offense can lean on an experienced line and stable of running backs. Felipe Franks will be the starting QB for the game against Charleston Southern. The Buccaneers were decent last season – finishing with a 6-5 record – they lost to Indiana 27-0 and 49-0 against Mississippi State. The Gators’ defense should keep Charleston Southern from scoring against another FBS opponent.

Prediction: Florida

Middle Tennessee vs Vanderbilt:  Vanderbilt dominated MTSU 28-6 last season. This matchup features two standout senior quarterbacks in Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt) and Brent Stockstill (MTSU). The Commodores held the Blue Raiders to six points in the opener last fall. Last year, he and the Blue Raiders couldn’t generate much of anything, connecting on just 18-of-31 throws for 166 yards and a score with a pick.  Middle Tennessee will throw the ball, but Vanderbilt will throw it better. Shurmur threw for 296 yards and three scores in last year’s win.

Prediction: Vanderbilt

Louisville vs Alabama:  The last time Alabama and Louisville played each other was in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl.   Bama came away with a 34-7 victory.  Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts are both listed as QB1 for this game.  Louisville turns to upcoming star Jawon Pass to replace Lamar Jackson. The Crimson Tide will have a revamped secondary replacing Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison.  Even if Louisville has some success on offense, their defense isn’t likely to slow down the Crimson Tide attack.  It doesn’t matter if Tagovailoa or Hurts take the majority of the snaps on Saturday, Bama’s rushing attack with Damien Harris will be hard to stop.

Prediction: Alabama

Miami vs LSU: This is the showdown between two of college’s football programs in Arlington, TX.  LSU is not short on talent and coming off a solid nine-win season.  Is the question?  What is this LSU’s offense going to look like?  Ohio State graduate transfer Joe Burrow is starting at QB. There’s going to be a chip on his shoulder to prove he really is that good. In addition to the transition in scheme and new quarterback, LSU must identify a new running back and receivers. The Tigers’ defense is still strong.  Miami looks to win the ACC’s Coastal Division for the second straight year in a row and push for a CFB Playoff Bid. This game will be likely decided up front.  Can this Miami offensive line hold off this LSU’s defensive front?   This game can go either direction.

Prediction: Miami

Washington vs Auburn: The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game delivers another great matchup.  This is redemption time for the PAC-12 conference.  After a terrible 2017 bowl season, and the last time Washington made it to the CFB Playoff it ended with a loss to Alabama.  A win against Auburn could go a long way in the PAC-12’s playoff hopes.  Both Washington and Auburn have talent on defenses.  How well can Auburn offensive line hold up against Washington defensive front? Auburn has an NFL quarterback in Jarrett Stidham, and the ground game under Gus Malzahn will be terrific, but how will running back Kam Martin do against this Washington’ defense?  Of course, Stidham will have a passing attack.  If Washington wants to win, it’ll have to do it with a strong passive attack.  If Washington is unable to stretch the field, it will be hard for the Huskies to pull off the win.

Prediction: Auburn

 

 

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