It’s week one of the college football season and that means out of conference match ups and cupcake blowouts. South Carolina continues to act like an ACC school by kicking off the season at home on a Thursday night. The other major story around the SEC seems to be the QB position: Arkansas has a Heisman candidate in Ryan Mallett; Jordan Jefferson looks to finally live up to his potential at LSU; new quarterbacks at Georgia, Auburn, and Florida; Spurrier’s lack of faith in Stephen Garcia; and I still have no clue who will be under center at Tennessee. Here’s our take on this week’s games around the SEC:
Southern Mississippi at South Carolina
Spread: Carolina by 14
Story Lines: Lots of people have asked whether this will be the year that Steve Spurrier finally gets South Carolina over the hump. He’ll head into his first game without a clear picture at quarterback and missing his All-SEC tight end, Weslye Saunders. Southern Miss went 7-6 last season, but won’t have enough to beat the Cocks at home.
Prediction: South Cackalacky 38, Southern Miss 21
Miami (OH) at #4 Florida
Spread: Florida by 35
Story Lines: John Brantley replaces Jesus, I mean Tim Tebow, at quarterback for the Gators. The talented Florida team will have no trouble putting Ben Rothlisberger’s alma matter faster than he put down a drunk sorority in Milledgeville last summer.
Prediction: Florida 62, Miami 10
Kentucky at Louisville
Spread: Kentucky by 3
Story Lines: Both teams have new head coaches as the bluegrass state rivalry renews once again. Charlie Strong brought in a lot of recruits that should help turn around the Cardinals program over the next few years, but Joker Phillips has my new least favorite player in the SEC: Randall Cobb. Kentucky wins a close one.
Prediction: Kentucky 27, Louisville 21
Jacksonville State at Ole Miss
Spread: No line
Story Lines: It looks like it is back to the drawing board for Houston Nutt after Jeremiah Masoli was ruled ineligible on Tuesday. Ole Miss catches a break playing a 1-AA school in week one and should not be threatened.
Prediction: Ole Miss 42, Jacksonville State 17
Tennessee-Martin at Tennessee
Spread: No Line
Story Lines: Derek Dooley will get to beat up a directional school at home for his first game on the sidelines in Knoxville. Tennessee typically likes to put up as many points as humanly possible in its cupcake openers, so expect them to score often. Plus, their bench is so shallow, there are not a lot of back ups to actually put in the game in the second half (I’m kidding!).
Prediction: Tennessee 56, UT-Martin 10
Arkansas State at Auburn
Spread: Auburn by 31
Story Lines: New Auburn quarterback Cam Newton takes the helm with high expectation from the War Tiger faithful. Gus Malzahn’s offense put up a lot of points last fall, but Auburn fans hope for an improved defense in 2010. Newton should have a field day and put up huge stats and the Tigers will cover the spread…barely.
Prediction: Auburn 55, Arkansas State 23
Tennessee Tech at Arkansas
Spread: No line
Story Lines: Arkansas takes the field as the 2010 version of Ole Miss, with high expectations on the offense and quarterback Ryan Mallett. As Georgia fans saw last fall, Tennessee Tech is not just a 1-AA school but a bad 1-AA school. Petrino leaves Mallett in the game until the fourth but the Arkansas defense continues to give up too many yards to bad teams.
Prediction: Arkansas 63, Tennessee Tech 20
San Jose State at Alabama
Spread: Alabama by 37
Story Lines: Alabama opens its title defense without Heisman winner Mark Ingram, but it won’t matter. Crimson Tide fans have been saying that Trent Richardson is a better overall back anyway so now is the time to prove it. The Tide celebrate their championship and open the title defense with a big victory. Look for a solid day from quarterback Greg McElroy as well.
Prediction: Alabama 48, San Jose State 3
Memphis at Mississippi State
Spread: Mississippi State by 21.5
Story Lines: Memphis has not been very good since Deangelo Williams left a few years ago. People keep saying Mississippi State is on the rise under Coach Dan Mullen. We’ll see how they have improved. I expect a Bulldog victory, but not the blowout everyone expects.
Prediction: Mississippi State 34, Memphis 24
Northwestern at Vanderbilt
Spread: Northwestern by 5.5
Story Lines: After a narrow loss to Auburn in the Outback Bowl, Northwestern looks for its third straight winning season under Pat Fitzgerald. The Wildcats must replace star quarterback Mike Kafka and his 3000+ passing yards from a year ago. Vanderbilt enters the season with new coach Robbie Caldwell after the surprising resignation of Bobby Johnson. The line is close, but I see Northwestern winning this one easily.
Prediction: Northwester 35, Vanderbilt 21
LSU vs. North Carolina (at the Georgia Dome)
Spread: Line not released
Story Lines: North Carolina was expected to have one of the best defenses in the country this year with NFL caliber talent at many positions. But Agentgate threw a wrench in those plans. Throw in recent allegations of academic fraud and Butch Davis’ team that was so highly regarded is now covered in shadows. On the flip side, many think Les Miles may be finally leaving LSU after this season to take the Michigan job he should have taken back in 2007. The typically stout LSU defense was horrible in ’09, but should be more experienced this fall. Patrick Petersen may be the best defensive player in the SEC. Look for a close game, but if Jordan Jefferson can find a rhythm, LSU may win this rather easily.
Prediction: LSU 27, North Carolina 17
Louisiana-Lafayette at Georgia
Spread: Georgia by 28
Story Lines: The debut of Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense and redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray highlight Georgia’s 2010 season opener. The Dawgs will be without running back Washaun Ealey and receiver Tavarres King, which will only result in more yards for Caleb King and AJ Green. Georgia should have a field day with the Ragin’ Cajuns, a mid level team from the Sun Belt Conference. Look for Marlon Brown and Kris Durham to also have big receiving days for the Dawgs and the debut of junior college transfer Jakar Hamilton at safety.
Prediction: Georgia 52, Louisiana-Lafayette 17
Happy week 1. GO DAWGS!!!