All of us have waited. Some of us patiently, some impatiently. But, it’s finally here. College Football is back! And it comes back with a vengeance with lots of great games around the country. Around the SEC, the most hyped game is the SEC vs Big Ten showdown at Jerry’s World in Dallas. Alabama vs Wisconsin. It is the SEC Game of the Week. But, we’ll take a look at every other game out there, including a nice SEC vs PAC-12 showdown between Texas A&M and Arizona State. So, without further ado, lets take a look at Week 1 around the SEC.
GAME OF THE WEEK #1
20 Wisconsin vs 3 Alabama (-12)
Key Matchup – Wisconsin on Offense
The Badgers come into the game playing with three guys on their offensive line that have little to no experience. That could be huge for Bama’s defensive front, which just might be the best in the nation. A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, and Jonathan Allen could live in the Badgers backfield. But, this is Wisconsin. The Badgers lose great offensive linemen all the time, then they just plug in the next guy in line. Look for Bama to have success, but not necessarily due to the youth on Wisconsin’s offensive front. Bama should have success because the Badgers like to run it right at you. That type of team usually plays into the Tide’s hands. It’s when teams spread them out that give Bama trouble. Wisconsin QB, Joel Stave has to keep this Bama D honest with timely throws. The Tide’s secondary was a huge weakness last season, and they have new starters in the secondary this season. If, Stave can get the ball down field some, it could open things up a little for running back Corey Clement. The junior gained over 900 yards last season, with Melvin Gordon in the mix.
Key Matchup – Alabama on Offense
Who knows who Nick Saban will call on to run the Tide’s offense. He may already know, but no one else does. If I was a betting man, I’d say it will be Jake Coker. The transfer from Florida State was supposed to be the guy last season. But, a little guy named Blake Sims won the job in fall camp and never relinquished it. Bama returns only three starters on offense. However, that’s a bit deceiving when you factor in bruising running back, Derrick Henry who went for over 1,000 yards on the ground, and Kenyan Drake who was a focal point of Bama’s offense behind T.J. Yeldon before he went down to an ACL injury against Ole Miss. Speaking of Drake, it will be quite interesting to see how he’s utilized by offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. We’ll see Drake all over the place, possibly reminding us of how Kiffin utilized Reggie Bush while at USC. The Badgers have to keep someone attached to Drake at all times. This is Drake’s first action sense his injury, but as we know it right now, he’s Bama’s most explosive weapon on offense. Much like Bama, the Badgers D isn’t going to be impressed with a team that only runs the ball right at them. Whomever the QB is, the Tide will have make some plays that utilize the entire field. Spread the Badgers out some. One player the Tide will be hard pressed to replace is Amari Cooper. Look for guys like sophomore Ardarius Stewart to try and fill those huge shoes.
Outcome – The Badgers are trying to make this their second consecutive victory over an SEC team. They beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl to end last season. Both of these teams should be players in their respective conference’s and this could be a huge game in determining who plays in the College Football Playoff. Bama, looks like the more talented team on paper. But, both teams have youth all over the place. Look for Bama to win this game with a score very consistent with the odds makers. Bama 27 – 16
GAME OF THE WEEK #2
15 Arizona State vs Texas A&M (-3.5)
Key Matchups – Arizona State on Offense
The Mike Bercovici Show is finally on at Arizona State. The senior has sat and waited for his time to shine, and that time is now. It has to be a great feeling for Sun Devils head coach, Todd Graham to be able to trot out a guy who knows the offense like the back of his hand. Bercovici, gained a lot of experience last season when starter Taylor Kelly went down to injury. Bercovici, put up huge numbers in a loss to UCLA, but a week later put up 510 through the air in a win over USC. It’s no secret that the Sun Devils are going to put the ball in the air, and they have weapons like senior receiver, D.J. Foster to go and get the ball. A&M, had massive problems stopping anyone last season. So, this may not be the best matchup right out of the gate for the Aggies and new defensive coordinator, John Chavis. The former LSU, and Tennessee defensive guru will have his hand full. But, he’s not playing with an empty deck. One of the best pass rushers in the nation is back to wreak havoc. Sophomore defensive end, Myles Garrett had 11.5 sacks as a freshman. He’ll have to be huge in this game against that Sun Devils pass attack. Arizona State can pound the rock also. Sophomores DeMario Richard, and Kalen Ballage could be a really nice duo in the desert this season.
Key Matchups – Texas A&M on Offense
We all know what Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies want to do. Throw the ball all over the place, and run as many plays as possible. Sumlin, decided on Kyle Allen to run his up-tempo offense this season. Allen, who started the final 5 games for the Aggies last season after the Kenny ‘Trill’ Hill mania died out, had success as a freshman and beat out true freshman, Kyler Murray. With all the weapons at Sumlin’s disposal it may not matter who the QB is. Junior wide receiver, Josh Reynolds is an All-SEC selection. Sophomores, Speedy Noil, (who isn’t named ‘Speedy’ for nothing) and Ricky Seals- Jones are all threats to make big plays down field. There’s depth behind this crew as well. If the nearly 28 points per game given up last season is any indication, the Sun Devils will have a tough time keeping up with the Aggies. One thing’s for sure in this matchup. Points won’t be at a premium.
Outcome – They may need a new scoreboard after this game is over at NRG Stadium in Houston Texas. This game may just be the most entertaining game of the weekend. The defense that makes the most plays and maybe forces a key turnover or two will probably prevail. With that said, it could very well come down to who has the ball last. I like the Sun Devils to win the PAC-12 South this season, and this game over Texas A&M. Arizona State 44 – 38
Other games around the SEC
North Carolina vs South Carolina (-2)
This game officially kicks off the FBS season on Thursday night. Is Steve Spurrier too old to be doing this coaching thing? He says, he’s not and plans to coach a few more seasons. He says that now, but this Gamecocks squad might make him change his mind. New starting QB, Connor Mitch has very little experience and it’s hard to find much of the star quality talent that we’re used seeing in a South Carolina uniform. For the Tar Heels, this is a critical season for Larry Fedora, who’s in his 4th season at Chapel Hill. Expectations have been high, but the production has been low. Junior QB, Marquise Williams will look to change that fortune this season. He can beat you with his feet, maybe more so than with his arm. We’ll have to see if the Gamecocks have gotten their defense fixed after giving up an embarrasing 30+ points per game last season. My gut tells me no, at least not early in the season. Tar Heels 27 – 20
Louisville vs 6 Auburn (-10.5)
Anytime you face Louisville head coach, Bobby Petrino, you have to beware of his usual potent offensive attack. As Petrino enters the second season of his second stint with the Cardinals, that may not be quite the case. As of yet, Petrino has not announced a starter. That’s probably because neither of the candidates have fully stepped up. Junior QB, Will Gardner will most likely get the nod. He’ll face an Auburn D that has questions of it’s own. The amount of improvement from this unit will determine just how far Auburn goes this season. The offense should be explosive under Gus Malzahn and new QB, Jeremy Johnson. Louisville looks to be in for a long day inside the Georgia Dome. Auburn 38 – 20.
In other SEC games…
Western Kentucky (-2) 34 Vandy 24 – Too much offense from the Hill Toppers. Too little D from the ‘Dores
9 Georgia (-35) 41 Louisiana-Monroe 10 – Greyson Lambert’s debut as Georgia’s starting QB should be no problem.
17 Ole Miss (-) 48 Tennessee Martin 3 – Chad Kelly is the QB for now in Oxford.
18 Arkansas (-33) 45 UTEP 10 – Bret Bielema’s boys should have few problems with the Miners.
25 Tennessee (-21) 34 Bowling Green 17 – The Falcons won’t be a pushover, but the Vols should prevail with comfort.
24 Missouri (-) 42 Southeast Missouri 3 – Mizzou could be a contender again in SEC East.
Kentucky 31 Louisiana 13 – The Wildcats could be bowling after this season.
14 LSU 51 McNeese 16 – McNeese has caused problems before. Not this time, though. Tigers win big.
Florida 40 New Mexico State 6 – Let the Jim McElwain era begin at The Swamp.
Mississippi State 34 Southern Miss 13 – Rare road trip to Hattiesburg for an SEC team. Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs should have little trouble.