The days of counting down triple- and double-digit days until kickoff are mercifully over. It’s finally time to talk about actual games rather than players in off-season trouble, the what-ifs of yesteryear and whether or not a 4, 8 or 64-team playoff is the perfect way to determine a champion.
Grab your coffee and take notes, for these predictions are worthy of a SPOILER ALERT due to their undeniably accurate nature. I know, we have nothing to prove the validity of such claims just yet, but just wait until Sunday night after Tennessee’s game with Utah State. You will need three people to lift your agape jaw off the floor.
Yes, the accuracy is impressive, but I try to stay humble and you bragging about how good my Weakly Predictions are just makes it that much harder not to grow a large dome of a head.
All Times Eastern | Utilizing AP Poll until College Football Playoff Selection Committee poll is released on October 28.
Thursday, August 28
#21 Texas A&M (0-0, 0-0 SEC) at #9 South Carolina (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
6:00 PM ET | SEC Network
The battle between A&M and Carolina will be tough, but there was nothing more vicious and tantalizing than the battle between the 17 remaining SEC-fan DIRECTV subscribers and any DIRECTV employee brave enough to answer the phone and/or leave their house before they came to an agreement to carry the SEC Network on August 4th. Y’all thought Sherman’s march through Atlanta was bad? Anyone north of the Mason-Dixon Line (because it’s ALWAYS the North’s fault) was in jeopardy of having one heck of a fire insurance claim. Billy and Ricky would have need only a five-gallon can of gasoline and a Bic lighter wrapped in a classy “Firearm/American Flag/Cross” theme to turn the North into toast, all because DIRECTV just refused to listen to the Rickys and Billys across the South. Ricky and Billy had been waiting a long time to burn “the North,” but lucky for “the North” DIRECTV made a deal with the SEC Network and peace can once again prevail in the South.
Now with access to the SEC Network, most everyone is able to witness South Carolina destroy Texas A&M in a game that immediately gets the media jabbering and cackling the next day about Kevin Sumlin’s inability to win without Johnny Manziel.
They may be right.
The only anxiety about this game that gives me pause (or paws if you’re a cat) is South Carolina’s ability to consistently pour Nyquil and Tylenol PM all over the most exciting Thursday of the year for college football fans. Boring or not, the South Carolina Spurriers get it done in game one.
FINAL SCORE: South Carolina 27, Texas A&M 10
Boise State (0-0) vs. #18 Ole Miss (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
8:00 PM ET | ESPN | Georgia Dome
The last time Boise State opened the season in Atlanta inside the Georgia Dome the Georgia Bulldogs wore uniforms that depressed ‘Dawg fans to a level matched only by the passing of legendary voice of the Bulldogs, Larry Munson. The year was 2011 and the Broncos ran circles around the Georgia defense in a 35-21 win where the score did zero justice to Boise State’s dominance from kickoff to 00:00.
So what about this game vs. Ole Miss? There’s a new coach (Brian Harsin from Arkansas State) in Boise, Idaho for the first time in eight years. The Rebels are entering the third year of the Hugh Freeze era and have guarded optimism about 2014’s potential. Redshirt junior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche is suspended for the opener and the game may be close enough to where his absence could be a difference maker.
If last year’s season-opener for the Rebels is any indicator, this game will be one of the best ten games played the entire season. Ole Miss won a classic in Nashville over Vandy, 39-35, which set the stage for a hot start (3-0) for quarterback Bo Wallace and the Rebels until they were shut out by Alabama on September 28th.
The biggest challenge among many for Ole Miss will be obtaining directions to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. As the only member of the SEC West to never play for the SEC Championship, fans of the Black Bears planning to make the trip have mailed letters to the university regarding concerns they have about their first trip to Atlanta:
“I am staying downtown and will be walking to the ‘Dome from my hotel. Will you have security detail for me as I walk through the CNN building? Cooper [Anderson] and Wolf [Blitzer] like to push me down and call me names. They are so mean. Please. Help.”
I hope Ole Miss fans understands this is all in fun. We all know that you wouldn’t bring a silver gravy boat to an event held prior to Labor Day. That’d be silly.
Oh, yeah. Who will win?
Don’t be surprised when Ole Miss plays with the excitement of a team making its first trip to the Georgia Dome – because they are.
FINAL SCORE: Ole Miss 44, Boise State 14
Temple (0-0) at Vanderbilt (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
9:15 PM ET | SEC Network
Man. Has there been a bigger game in Vanderbilt history? In a word, yes. There probably have been like 523 bigger games in Vanderbilt history, but probably no bigger game for new Vandy head coach Derek Mason.
Derek Mason is the defensive mastermind from Stanford that turned Oregon’s offense from princess to pumpkin twice in two seasons. The spread offense is becoming more commonplace and tougher for guys like Nick Saban to slow down in the SEC, but Mason comes from the Pac-12 where the spread is as common as non-bathed skin and hug-filled trees in Berkeley.
So, Mason has that going for him.
He’ll also have going for him an opening game versus an opponent that’s not exactly an Alabama. Let’s be honest, this Temple team might be a 3-point underdog against Goldie Hawn’s Wildcats team.
Remember this about Temple if you remember nothing else – the mascot’s name is Hooter the Owl. Is that not the cutest?
FINAL SCORE: Vanderbilt 45, Temple 13
Saturday, August 30
UT Martin (0-0) at Kentucky (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
12:00 PM ET | SEC Network
Talk about the look-ahead game of all look-ahead games. The Skyhawks of UTM have a date with Central Arkansas on September 6th, but before that, they must travel to the University of Kentucky to play a game of what people in Lexington call ABAH (Ain’t Basketball, Ain’t Horses). The rest of the country refers to is as football.
UTM cannot be focused on the trip they will be making to wherever Central Arkansas is located. To play the school where Scottie Pippen dribbled and shot some ball is an honor to say the least.
But it’s August 30th and both of these teams will need to be ready to get after it, get amongst it, legggoooo, and all the other things motivated people say to get other people motivated.
Kentucky enters the second season of the Mark Stoops era at Commonwealth Stadium in this early afternoon kickoff. Stoops has stirred a good dose of guarded excitement in Lexington with aggressive recruiting and undeterred optimism in a place where optimism is hard to find.
The best news for a fan base that understands the importance of bloodlines in the second most popular sport in the state — horses — is that Stoops comes from one heck of a bloodline. Mike and his brothers were born of a coach in the land known for a few coaching legends. Brother Bob has done a few things to make a name for himself at Oklahoma. Brother Mike currently coaches with Brother Bob in Norman, but had a stint as head coach at Arizona.
Kentucky has some holes to fill in year two under Stoops, but these holes will have to wait at least another week to take advantage of the Wildcats. The Skyhawks will do well for a quarter, but there will be little reason to tune in for much longer than a half unless you bleed blue.
FINAL SCORE: Kentucky 42, UT Martin 7
South Dakota State (0-0) at #24 Missouri (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
3:30 PM ET | ESPNU
This game is proof that the new television deals in place are a beautiful thing for fans. Why? Because it’s televised. Many years ago, a game like this would force a fan to watch a game not involving their team so they could catch the sporadic score updates from around the nation. There would be intense pain if your team was outside the Top 25 because they’d only show your score maybe once per half.
Then there was pay-per-view for games like this. You could pay $40 to watch your team play South Dakota State because you’re desperate to see football. Eventually, you could at least check your computer for scores and that evolved into checking your phone and following the game through Twitter updates.
That was 126 words I just wrote about 2013 SEC East Champion Missouri and South Dakota State without saying anything about the game. Can you blame me? It’s still the preseason and I’m trying to make a roster. Seems pretty impressive to me that I could string together 126 words together about this game. That has to get attention of the guys here at FBSchedules.com or the Wall Street Journal or somewhere.
(SPOILER ALERT) No, Missouri will not win the SEC East in 2014, but they will win the season-opener against this South Dakota State team that returns not all, but definitely some, of their players.
FINAL SCORE: Missouri 56, South Dakota State 0
#2 Alabama (0-0, 0-0 SEC) vs. West Virginia (0-0)
3:30 PM ET | ABC | Georgia Dome
The last time Alabama was on a football field, Derrick Henry was running all over the carpet of the New Orleans Superdome — when he was actually given the ball to do so. Henry only ran the ball about two times and scored almost 10 touchdowns. Seems impossible, but the guy is a beast.
Alabama may end the 2014 season with the greatest running back tandem in the nation and its history. Better than Ingram/Richardson, Richardson/Lacey and Lacey/Yeldon. Alabama fans would then call Paul Finebaum after Tweeting renowned liberal Gay Muslim Bama fan sports writer Clay Travis to inform these “haters” that they knew this would be the best running back tandem in the history of Alabama football, but no one believed in this little team from Tuscaloosa but them. It will be emotional. It will be full of toilet excrement.
Anywho, West Virginia comes in expecting to play this game with 11 guys on each side of the ball at any given time. That’s about all people are expecting from the Mountaineers. That could be a setup for an upset if they were playing anyone besides Alabama… or Georgia… or Florida… or Kentucky… or UT Martin, but there’s a reason ESPN and ABC made this a 3:30 pm Eastern kickoff inside a dome. The game will be completely out of hand before the coin hits the ground when West Virginia calls “Heads… NO! Tails! No… HEADS!” The referee will look over at West Virginia’s bench to ask if they really want to go through with this. They’ll look around and say — as if asking rather than answering a question — “Yes?”
Alabama will make plays. West Virginia will do their best to make it ugly. The obvious prediction when looking at the Mountaineers is they will try to run a hurry-up. They finished 35th in the FBS in passing and 84th in rushing last season. Not sure speeding that up will increase their chances of winning, but Alabama had a hard time stopping anything hurried in the last two games of the 2013 season, so why not go to the well until it’s dry, eh?
As happens every season-opener for the ‘Tide, they will under-perform in one or two areas which will cause a mass uprising among fans. This game will see ‘Tide kicker Adam Griffith miss two field goals and ABC will show Kick Six four times before each attempt, but it will matter little in determining the winner of this one.
FINAL SCORE: Alabama 37, West Virginia 7
Arkansas (0-0, 0-0 SEC) at #6 Auburn (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
4:00 PM ET | SEC Network
Hey, everybody! Kick Six.
I’m an admitted Alabama fan. I even claim to be part of the three or four percent that aren’t absolutely unexplainable. That does not mean I can watch highlights of Kick Six without crying into my pillow until I fall asleep three weeks at a time. Make no mistake, I am not an unbiased predictor. I’m very objective, but that doesn’t mean I’m unbiased. So, when you comment that I am an Alabama homer, you can pat yourself on the back knowing you are correct.
Example of my Objectivity and Bias: I’m not a fan of Auburn, but I have friends that are. I like them and hate their team. See what I did? I’m objective about my friendship. I’m biased about my fandom. This may be way too much for some of you to digest on this, the opening week of college football.
So, who will win this game? We know quarterback Nick Marshall will not start the game. What Gus Malzahn means by this is Nick will not kick off nor will he return the opening kick. Auburn is a big family and when the head of the household lays down some discipline, the players listen.
This matchup has potential to be one of the best games of the day. It could also turn out like the Auburn-Mississippi State game from 2008 where five total points were scored. The good news for Auburn fans is they had three of the five points that day.
We all know Auburn will score more than three points in this game because Gus and his Heavenly Blessed Tigers will run somewhere just shy of 231 plays. This will be the difference in the game as Auburn wears out this Arkansas team that has Bret Bielema as head coach. I’m not so sure B-Biel understands completely where or why he’s coaching, so that will also be a factor in this prediction.
FINAL SCORE: Auburn 30, Arkansas 17
#16 Clemson (0-0) at #12 Georgia (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
5:30 PM ET | ESPN
Not quite the top-10 hype of last season’s matchup at Death Valley, but this could be the best game of the weekend.
While fans of other schools are scared of losing a key player or two to injury in the course of a season, Bulldog fans just blankly stare into the distance as they hear the news that four starters tore ACLs getting off the team bus. I tend to exaggerate, but Georgia fans reading this are nodding their heads and whispering, “He’s a snarky son of a gun, but dang, he’s right.” If there were a championship belt for a team that has had its fair share of injuries, Georgia would be the unanimous champion. Well, maybe they share it with Florida, but there’s no close third place.
With the best and most proven backfield in the conference – if not the nation – Georgia’s season will look very similar to 2013’s in that success stands on the legs of junior running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Senior quarterback Hutson Mason’s success in his first year as starter relies on Gurshall’s health and success – and in that order. If a sophomore slump sets up largely successful follow-up seasons, the Bulldogs may be in Atlanta in December looking to take one of the four available seats in the College Football Playoff.
A revenge win over Clemson and a 1-0 start would be a great step toward an interesting December and January for the Bulldogs. Clemson seemed to play with 13 players in 2013’s season-opening win versus Georgia. The fans and atmosphere were the difference in the game with Death Valley living up to its name. Expect the same in Athens for 2014.
FINAL SCORE: Georgia 24, Clemson 20
Southern Miss (0-0) at Mississippi State (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
7:30 PM ET | SEC Network
This game is simply titled “The Battle Of The Most Decent 2nd or 3rd Place Team In Mississippi.”
You can be standing in the Scott Field concessions line waiting to buy a bag of feed when you overhear an alumnus with his Ph.D. say with excitement, “It don’t get no bigger ‘an ‘is right here, boh. Who wimme? Who wimme? Come on! Let me see your cowbells!”
That will get the fans into a mess of wild and crazy which will then lead to a 12th-man advantage at Scott Field. Tim Tebow, Jr., aka Dak Prescott, will be the difference in this one. The reason he’s considered a Jr. and not the second coming is because Dak will kill weaker competition, but he won’t have near the same success once SEC play begins. He’ll be good, but not great.
He’ll be good enough on this night and the defense will prove that they will be good enough versus weaker competition. It begins tonight.
FINAL SCORE: Mississippi State 24, Southern Miss 0
Idaho (0-0) at Florida (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
6:00 PM ET | ESPNU
Things got really bad last year as Florida lost what seemed to be any starter on the first three teams of the depth chart. But not to worry Gator fans. It got worse in November when Georgia Southern came into The Swamp and beat the Gators. It was not exactly a “Look how awesome that SEC is” moment.
No one welcomed the offseason as much as Will Muschamp and the Gators. Don’t expect a great season, but lightning can’t strike in the same place two years in a row can it? Muschamp better hope not or he’ll be interviewing with Kirby Smart to take over his vacated defensive coordinator position at Alabama when Nick Saban shocks (and provides a sigh of relief) to the football world and announces his retirement at the end of the season.
That would probably be a nice little gig for Muschamp, so I guess it’s win-win for Willy.
Let’s just take it one game at a time for now. We have yet to play Week 1 and we are already talking offseason. The new Gators offense shines under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. Quarterback Jeff Driskel may see improvement similar to what Zach Mettenberger saw at LSU under Cam Cameron. Driskel has the tools to be successful in a pro-set offense. If he puts it together, this may be the first of many wins for the Gators.
And the defense. Oh, that defense. It’s Will Muschamp. The defense will be nothing less than dirty.
FINAL SCORE: Florida 35, Idaho 10
#13 LSU (0-0, 0-0 SEC) vs. #14 Wisconsin (0-0)
9:00 PM ET | ESPN | NRG Stadium
Remember that time LSU had but a few huge, strong and fast athletes? Yeah, me neither.
If Les Miles doesn’t try to keep the game close because he thinks it would be neat to see a Big Ten team do well in a game versus the SEC, the Tigers could really win this one big. Alabama is the favorite to win the SEC West, but — like many years under Miles — LSU is a solid quarterback away from being not only great, but possibly historic.
Leonard Fournette may just show up and change his name to Adrian Peterson by mid-October. Decent quarterback play will give Fournette enough space to be great in his first year in Baton Rouge.
Wisconsin is always pretty good, but can they run on LSU? The easy answer is always no. The passing game is not that great, but Senior quarterback Joel Stave threw 22 touchdowns in 2013 for a team that runs the ball much more than they pass. Stave also threw 13 passes to the wrong team, so he’ll need to cut down on mistakes if he wants to beat LSU.
LSU always has legendary guys in the defensive backfield and it’s more than likely where the Tigers separate themselves from the Badgers in Houston.
The effects of this physical battle may not be visible until a game two or three weeks down the road when a mismatched team hangs in a little longer than expected.
Expect LSU to come out on top. Don’t be surprised if this game resembles a style that put both the SEC and Big Ten on the map — Running game, managing the clock, tough defense and winning ugly.
FINAL SCORE: LSU 14, Wisconsin 13
Sunday, August 31
Utah State (0-0) at Tennessee (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
8:00 PM ET | SEC Network
Many are pointing to this game as a possible win for Utah State, which means the upset talk is prematurely out of the bag and Tennessee will come out and do something they haven’t been able to do in Knoxville in a long time — Win. Because they have better athletes and look like the better team from start to finish.
If Butch Jones and the Vols can find a few diamonds in the rough up front, there’s reason to believe Knoxville may be celebrating more than a few big wins in 2014.
Go ahead and remove this game from your list of “upset watch” contenders. Tennessee wins and they win going away.
FINAL SCORE: Tennessee 41, Utah State 24
Eric Taylor is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricFromSpfld or contact him via email at Eric.Taylor –at– stadiumjourney –dot– com.