Well, SEC football is back – and boy, oh boy, was it a sight to see last night!
The Las Vegas experts lost two of the three SEC games straight up as Texas A&M rolled over South Carolina, and Temple trounced Vanderbilt. I took the under in the opening game, which died a quick and relatively painless death early in the third quarter. Ole Miss looked ugly early, but a strong fourth quarter covered the spread.
The Vanderbilt-Temple game offered line movement that I have never personally seen. It is not unheard of that a game that opens at (-17) in the summer drops by a field goal over a three-week period. However, between the time I made my predictions on Wednesday and kickoff (which was delayed nearly two hours due to weather), the line had dropped to (-9).
Somebody knew something I didn’t know, because the (-14) was too tempting for me to resist and I took the Commodores to cover. After one of the worst head coaching debuts in recent history, Vandy and Derek Mason were blown out.
You’ll notice that one game is absent from these selections – check back tomorrow morning for that one.
This week: 2-2
This season: 2-2
#2 Alabama (-26) vs. West Virginia (in Atlanta)
The word on the street (or CBSSports.com, whichever you prefer) is that Blake Sims will get the starting nod over Jacob Coker on Saturday. As we inched closer to game day, no news was good news for Sims, as every day it appeared more and more likely that the senior would get his opportunity.
In this matchup, the quarterback really shouldn’t matter. Even with a handful of suspensions, Alabama is too strong on both sides of the line of scrimmage and at the offensive skill positions. West Virginia should go bowling this season, but they are unlikely to give the Tide a tough game in this one.
Alabama 42, West Virginia 14
#16 Clemson at #12 Georgia (-7.5)
That half of a point is very tempting. Clemson won this matchup last season at home as an underdog, and they have the talent to pull another win on the road to begin 2014.
Both teams must replace record setting quarterbacks, but the Bulldogs enter the game with a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back. Todd Gurley is the best player in the SEC at any position, and Hutson Mason should slide easily into the quarterback role as a fifth-year senior.
However, Georgia struggled on defense last year, and there are still plenty of questions for them on the depth chart – especially in the secondary. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is a good one, but he will be facing off against one of the best offensive coordinators in the nation in Chad Morris.
And, if Texas A&M taught us anything last night, it is to not underestimate a strong offensive system, no matter the personnel changes. That said, Georgia should be too much for the Tigers in Athens. They’ll win, and cover.
Georgia 41, Clemson 31
Idaho at Florida (-36.5)
You know the story by now. Florida was 4-8 last season and head coach Will Muschamp’s seat is the hottest of anyone’s in the nation at the beginning of 2014. The Gators were horrific on offense last year and have put their trust in a man that helped Duke make an appearance in a conference championship game.
Kurt Roper comes to town with high expectations as the new offensive coordinator, and he has a proven track record as a quarterback developer. Roper tutored Eli Manning in college, and helped Thad Lewis make it to the NFL.
Now, it’s Jeff Driskel’s turn to learn under Roper, and Driskel appears to be an ideal fit for the new OC’s hurry-up spread offense. Expect Driskel (who missed the majority of last season with a broken leg) and Florida to rebound in 2014, and start by destroying the Vandals – who are one of the worst teams in the country.
Florida 49, Idaho 3
Southern Miss at Mississippi State (-31)
The last game Mississippi State played was against the Conference USA champion in the 2013 Liberty Bowl. The Bulldogs rolled through Rice 44-7, and quarterback Dak Prescott put together one of the most impressive performances of his young career.
Now, Prescott is the full time starter after splitting time last season, and he enters the 2014 campaign as a potential Heisman candidate.State is one of the trendy picks to make a splash in the SEC West, and Southern Miss has won one game in two years. So, it should be a blowout, right?
Maybe. But, the Bulldogs have not always handled inferior competition quite like they should. A 21-20 win over Bowling Green and a 28-22 victory at home against Kentucky in back-to-back weeks last year comes to mind.
The Eagles have struggled terribly since winning the 2011 C-USA title. Auburn defensive coordinator was the head coach in 2012 and they went 0-12. Last year, USM was 0-11 until finally ending their losing streak in the season finale with a 62-27 victory over UAB.
However, Southern Miss will be an improved football team this season, and they can hang with the Bulldogs for a quarter – which could be long enough to give the Eagles the edge with the points.
Mississippi State 42, Southern Miss 14
#13 LSU (-5.5) vs. #14 Wisconsin (in Houston)
Aside from last night’s showdown in Columbia, this is the game of the week. There are a lot of questions surrounding LSU, particularly when it comes to the offensive skill positions. The Tigers still haven’t named a starting quarterback, and it appears that both sophomore Anthony Jennings and true freshman Brandon Harris will play on Saturday night in Houston.
Most casual observers will be excited to see the debut of LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who will be wearing #7. He is listed as the third-string running back on the depth chart, but is the most celebrated running back recruit since Adrian Peterson. However, Wisconsin has a bona fide Heisman candidate in their backfield in Melvin Gordon.
The Badgers will rely on Gordon to take the pressure off of a defense that lost eight starters from last year’s group. LSU has one of the best offensive lines in the SEC, and a top ten unit in the nation. The Tigers should be able to run the football, and the talented LSU defense should be good enough to win the game.
LSU 28, Wisconsin 21
Sunday September 1, 2014
Utah State at Tennessee (-6)
Tennessee football fans are excited to see their new team this Sunday, and the rest of us will be happy to see a college football game on a Sunday evening.
The Vols should be a better team this year than they were in 2013 simply because there is more talent on the roster. Will that translate to more wins? Maybe, but the schedule is tough – and Utah State is no pushover.
The Aggies were nearly the champions of the Mountain West conference last season, but lost in the championship game by a touchdown and finished 9-5. And that was without quarterback Chuckie Keaton, who missed a large portion of the year due to injury. Keaton is healthy again, and is one of the best players on a non Power 5 roster and Utah State is well coached. But, the team only return eight total starters from last year.
Tennessee must completely rebuild their offensive and defensive lines, but they still have an edge in overall talent in this game. With new playmakers on offense like true freshmen newcomers Jalen Hurd and Josh Malone, as well as junior college receiver Von Pearson joining senior quarterback Justin Worley, there is a lot to be excited about in Knoxville. However, it will take some time before the Vols are hitting on all cylinders.
Tennessee 31, Utah State 24
What do you think? Where would you put your money on Saturday? Let us know in the comments below.