Overall 2016 SEC Football Predictions Record (0-0)
Your wish has been granted. Week 1 of the 2016 SEC Football Predictions is here.
We learned two very important truths last season:
- The loser of the Alabama-Ole Miss game the last two seasons has positioned themselves nicely to win back-to-back SEC Championships, advance to the College Football Playoff, and win one national championship out of those two CFP appearances.
- Clemson’s defense can do a spot-on impression of Alabama’s 2013-2015 offense. The ‘Tide offense basically forgot about freakishly big and athletic tight end, O.J. Howard for nearly three full seasons. Clemson’s defense spent nearly three full quarters doing the exact same thing in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona. O.J. had 269 yards receiving in his freshman year and 260 as a sophomore. He had 208 yards… in the title game to go along with his two touchdown receptions; both of which came in what looked like a warm-up pitch and catch from Jake Coker as Howard was so far ahead of the defense that he would have been called offside in soccer.
Not only is 2016 SEC Football Predictions a great prediction piece, it can also serve the simple purpose to answer the question What SEC Football games are on today? There may be one or two or 13 you can dig out of here that may be worth watching this glorious opening weekend.
All Times Eastern | Utilizing AP Rankings until the College Football Playoff Selection Committee Rankings are released in October.
SEC Football Predictions | Week 1
Thursday, September 1, 2016
Appalachian State (0-0, 0-0 SEC) at #9 Tennessee (0-0)
7:30 PM ET | SEC Network | Knoxville
This Is An FBS App State, Not FCS Team Looking For Payday: This is not the same Appalachian State team that beat Michigan in the Big House on opening day nine years ago. This team is probably better. On the other hand, the 2016 edition of the Tennessee Volunteers should be better than that 2007 Michigan team.
I am sold on this Tennessee roster and the talent they have at every position. Butch Jones has built quality depth on both sides of the ball, so the prognosticators picking Tennessee to win the East seem to be correct.
BUT, Jones has yet to prove he can win in big game situations. One line of thinking would say that Tennessee had ample opportunity to win every game in 2015. The other philosophy is that Tennessee should have won every game in 2015, but they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on more than one occasion when leading by two or more scores late in the game.
One argument for a Tennessee trip to Atlanta in 2016 is that Butch Jones is tied with Kentucky’s Mark Stoops as the most tenured coach in the SEC East. The East has gone from being the home of head coaches that won a combined eight SEC Championships and a national championship in 2015 to a division loaded with rookie and second-year coaches.
Jim McElwain at Florida is the second-most tenured coach in the East… in his second season. 2016 is also the year Butch Jones prophesied that his Vols would be at full strength and ready to compete for an SEC title.
None of the above have much to do with this Thursday night opener in Knoxville, but I want to lay the groundwork for what may come to fruition as we experience this 2016 SEC football season together.
Kirby Smart has yet to prove anything as a head coach, but he appears to have all things under control in Athens. Jim McElwain has already proven what he can do Gainesville. Don’t be surprised if Tennessee fans are ripping up reservations they made for a trip to Atlanta in December if game day coaching is what decides more than one game this season.
Sorry to digress, but this is 2016 SEC Football Predictions and what kind of prediction gentleman would I be if I didn’t give you a long-term heads up or two as we navigate these choppy prediction waters? Exactly. Not much of one at all. Get ready for the VFL’ers to be worked up into a stew of excitement before, during, and after this one as they hope to win the pole at Bristol next week.
PREDICTION: Tennessee 45, Appalachian State 17
South Carolina (0-0) at Vanderbilt (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
8:00 PM ET | ESPN
2016 SEC East Familiar Storyline: A storyline everyone in the East will see more than once in 2016 is “First Year Coach vs. Second Year Coach.” Derek Mason is in his third season at Vanderbilt (practically one of the grandfathers of the SEC East coaching ranks) while Will Muschamp is in his first season at South Carolina while receiving a second chance as head coach in the SEC.
Recent unsuccessful seasons for Muschamp have tarnished what was once an image of mad scientist and genius defensive coordinator that will one day become a great head coach. Muschamp’s second season as Florida’s head coach in 2012 saw the Gators get within a fumble in the end zone against Georgia from playing Alabama for a chance to take on Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game.
Instead, things fell apart and the fiery outbursts that appeared to display his passion for the game soon became a buffet of content for meme creators when those outbursts began to appear much more crazed than passionate when his team found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Derek Mason appears to have navigated his way through the thickest fog of becoming a first-time head coach in the toughest conference in the history of college football at the worst football school in the history of the conference. In no way am I hinting at a Vanderbilt run to Atlanta, but you could dress his defensive unit in LSU or Alabama uniforms and not notice a difference at first or second glance.
Because of this, the Commodores could be this season’s team to determine the SEC East champion. Most years saw Kentucky or South Carolina playing this role well, but Vandy may very well ruin one or two seasons in 2016. This team could resemble the Woodyball/Rod Dowhower teams of the mid-to-late ‘90s that would resemble an NFL powerhouse on defense and a middle-of-the-road peewee team on offense. The offense should have more talent than those sad teams of the late ‘90s, but the conference is much deeper today.
Freshmen > Seniors: Thursday’s game could be a preview of another growing trend we may see with at least two other schools in the SEC. Will Muschamp may take a chance with freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain since he will be playing with house money in his first season. Why start a senior (Perry Orth) when you will be forced to groom another quarterback to become a first year starter in your second year as head coach at a school where you are following back-to-back hall of fame coaches in Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier?
Vanderbilt fans should expect low-scoring, frustrating “Why can’t we just get one first down” type games on West End this season. South Carolina can expect the same in 2016 in Columbia. Both teams can expect this type of game to open the season tonight. The final few minutes could be as entertaining as any game you will watch all weekend. The first 55 minutes will be what everyone wants to forget.
PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 13, South Carolina 7
Saturday, September 3, 2016
South Alabama (0-0) at Mississippi State (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
Noon ET | SEC Network
1 A.D. – After Dak: For all the great accomplishments and wonderful success a team can experience with a quarterback like Dak Prescott, there is one negative that will eventually be felt by the program — the realization that you haven’t been forced to worry about who will be your quarterback for three years. Mississippi State had a guy that was a right-handed prototype of SEC Nation co-host, Tim Tebow that happened to be coached by the guy who was his offensive coordinator at Florida.
Dak led this team to unprecedented heights that may never be experienced again in Starkville. In 2014, the Bulldogs were the No. 1 team in the country for a few weeks before a trip to Tuscaloosa ended the prince’s ball for Cinderella. MSU at its very best is a top 10-15 team, but the stars aligned for Prescott and Dan Mullen to put together such a historic run together in Starkville.
South Alabama is not exactly the top non-conference opponent an SEC team will face this weekend, but a game versus a beatable USA team is a blessing for a team with a new quarterback trying to get accustomed to the position as the man while avoiding the shadow being cast by Dak Prescott’s success.
Don’t let the negative overshadow the potential and upside of the quarterbacks waiting in the wings. In what the Bulldogs lose in talent with Prescott’s exit, they retain in size and athleticism.
Sophomore Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 230) has been named starter, but the guys behind him are somehow larger. Sophomore Elijah Stanley (6-6, 249), and redshirt freshman Nick Tiano (6-4, 239) can cross “seeing over the line of scrimmage” off the list of intangibles. Junior Damian Williams, the “smallest” of the quarterbacks (6-1, 229), has experience at the position as a true freshman in 2014 and returns after redshirting in 2015.
This will be a good scrimmage for the Bulldogs to get as many quarterbacks a little in-game action as possible before they hit the ground running with conference games against South Carolina at home September 10 and at LSU the 17th.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 34, South Alabama 10
Missouri (0-0, 0-0 SEC) at West Virginia (0-0)
Noon ET | FS1
Back In The Big 12: West Virginia was not in the Big 12 when Missouri last made the old SWC/Big 8 its home. Regardless of past conference affiliations, the SEC’s northwestern most team will “return” to the Big 12 Saturday with a trip to Morgantown to face the Big 12’s northeastern most team.
All Missouri has done since joining the SEC is win the East as many seasons as they haven’t. Here we are again talking about which teams could challenge Tennessee for a trip to Atlanta and the Tigers from Columbia (East) barely receive a grunt after discussing Georgia and Florida and South Carolina and Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Well, it’s not that bad, but Missouri is in its fifth season of conference play and they remain a, for the most part, flyover program.
Missouri may not win the East in 2016, but they will be a team that is well-coached, stingy on defense, and pretty fun to watch on offense. Speaking of well-coached, Missouri is one of three teams from the East with a new head coach. Dave Odom is new to the position, but not to the program. He is loved by the players and provides a much-needed sense of structure to a team that spent much of the 2015 season as a team divided.
If the running game improves from the 115 yards per game average of 2015 (and how could it do much worse?), Missouri could be in the Vanderbilt category of “Teams Who Won’t Compete For But Will Decide The East.”
West Virginia won’t exactly be watching the College Football Playoff rankings each week with baited breath, but they should be better than Missouri on this day. I said the same thing about BYU last year when Missouri was in the midst of chaos and trying to see if there were any possible way to average one point per game.
Home field advantage may be one of the differences in this entertaining opener, but the game will be played during the day and the combination of Mizzou’s talented defense and WVU’s tendency to throw an interception or two, I’m giving Missouri the edge. Senior quarterback Skyler Howard threw 15 picks in 2015. He’ll need to be much more protective with the ball in this one to beat a team with Missouri’s talent on defense.
PREDICTION: Missouri 28, West Virginia 24
#15 UCLA (0-0) at Texas A&M (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
3:30 PM ET | CBS
Trevor Knight Should Pretend UCLA Is Alabama: Knight was 32-of-44 for 348 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman quarterback for Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama following the 2013 season. That’s a completion percentage of 72.7%. Since that game, Knight has been “the next great one” and heading into the first game of 2016 he still carries that title. He hopes to live up to this prophecy, but he will have to do it in the best division of the best conference that has the greatest defenses in the history of college football.
Not only does Knight come from the offensive juggernaut of Oklahoma, he’s coming from a conference that appears to have players on defense that are not eligible to tackle the first two or three years of their careers.
With that being said, let’s not pile on. Knight has not lived up to expectations yet, but he has completed no more than 59 percent in a season. So, maybe that is actually piling on more.
Come to think of it, Trevor Knight hasn’t been the same since he played an awful game in 2014 after Katy Perry mentioned him on Gameday in Oxford the week of the 2014 Alabama-Ole Miss game. Just the mention of his name surrounding an Alabama game more than likely caused the ‘Tide to lose that game to Ole Miss.
UCLA comes in with a No. 15 preseason ranking to go along with hype and expectations. If there’s a team that can crumble under the weight of hype and expectations as masterfully as UCLA, I have yet to meet them. The Bruins are even being mentioned as a dark-horse to reach the College Football Playoff. That may be the fatal blow to a season that is just getting under way.
The weight UCLA will feel from expectations of success alongside the addition of playing on the road inside a rowdy Kyle Field should provide the Aggies enough help to defeat the Bruins in a marathon of a game. This will be our first overtime game of the 2016 season.
PREDICTION: Texas A&M 51, UCLA 48 | 3 Overtimes
#5 LSU (0-0, 0-0 SEC) vs. Wisconsin (0-0)
3:30 PM ET | ABC | Lambeau Field | Green Bay, Wisconsin
Lambeau… Yeah. That Lambeau: Some football fans hate the gimmick games where two teams will play in a historic stadium or ballpark from another sport or different league. I am not one of those people. I dream of matchups and alternate venues on a regular basis… because I’m a good person.
This week LSU will travel to Lambeau Field to take on Wisconsin. I know the “Les Miles eats grass!” barbs are tired, but I don’t see a scenario where he’s not sitting criss-cross-applesauce at midfield with a fork and knife just going to town on some fescue.
Many national pundits, outside of Barrett Sallee at Bleacher Report, believe the Bengal Tigers could be the best in the West, the SEC, and the nation. Many of you know Barrett as the guy who is obviously biased against your team. These pundits believe in LSU. although the university administration had all but replaced Les Miles with Jimbo Fisher before Jimbo changed his mind and decided to “make-do” in Tallahassee with great athletes and an ACC schedule that will be much easier (outside of Clemson) than a weekly SEC West firing squad.
I tend to side with Barrett on the long-term prognosis for this team. We all know that Les Miles could have six or seven national championships if he had consistent quarterback play during his time in Baton Rouge. We could blame that on the luck of the draw or see it as an example of why Saban has won three of his four national titles in Tuscaloosa with first-year quarterbacks who improved every game and never got his team beat.
It makes no difference which philosophy you choose to subscribe, the fact of the matter is this is Les Miles’ final season in Baton Rouge if the quarterbacks continue to wade in the waters of mediocrity.
Circling back to the present; if LSU has any quarterback play whatsoever from Brandon Harris, I see no way the Tigers can lose. In all honesty, I don’t see why Harris would need to do anything outside of handing the ball to Leonard Fournette each and every play. Expect a game similar to 2015’s opening game between Alabama and Wisconsin in Dallas.
PREDICTION: LSU 35, Wisconsin 14
LA Tech (0-0) at Arkansas (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
4:00 PM ET | SEC Network
They Can’t All Be Huge: This opening weekend is like a New Year’s Day bowl lineup. It would actually be better, but the sprinkling in of a few games like LA Tech-Arkansas aid in diluting the weekend just enough to keep it fair for the other 13 weeks of the season.
We can talk more about Arkansas next week. Hopefully, after a win against a Bulldog team that could keep people glancing down at the score crawl while watching bigger games.
As yet another aside, I readily admit that I am an Alabama fan. I also admit many who claim the same tend to annoy others with reckless abandon. With that out of the way and on behalf of every Alabama fan out there, allow me to thank Arkansas for 2015’s national title.
PREDICTION: Arkansas 23, LA Tech 21
#22 North Carolina (0-0) vs. #18 Georgia (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
4:30 PM ET | ESPN | Atlanta | Georgia Dome
What Have You Got To Lose Besides A Game?: Similar to Will Muschamp at South Carolina, first-year head coach Kirby Smart could be heading into Week 1 with a quarterback that has as many days on campus as the coach. I also subscribe to the philosophy applied to Muschamp playing a freshman quarterback in his first year as head coach because he has nothing to lose so long as that is going to be his guy moving forward anyway.
Nowhere does this philosophy apply better than in Athens. The only way true freshman Jacob Eason shouldn’t start against North Carolina inside the Georgia Dome is if he is caught stealing a walker from an elderly lady while blatantly plagiarizing all papers due in all the freshman classes.
While writing these predictions, the UGA 2-deep still listed all three quarterbacks as possible starters. Not only is the freshman better for the long-term, he will be better for the short-term as well.
Another report coming out of Athens while we predict all the football is that Nick Chubb will “not be on a pitch count” according to Kirby Smart and will not be limited in any way for the season opener.
North Carolina has not defeated an FBS program in an opener since the year 2000 when they found a way to get by Tulsa in a matchup of football teams playing a sport. We have to travel all the way back to 1997 to find the last Tar Heel team to defeat a Power 5 conference team. That Power 5 team was Indiana. I understand that was then and this is now, but UNC has proven to falter more times than not in games against the traditional powers.
Kirby Smart may have a few growing pains in 2016 as he and his team adjust to a new normal in Athens. I don’t see those growing pains being too catastrophic Week 1 inside the lame duck Georgia Dome. I can see, however, how a big win will cause Dawg supporters to contract a bad case of inflated expectations. This was the same disease that ran off the greatest coach to walk beside Uga on the sideline since Derek Dooley’s dad.
PREDICTION: Georgia 35, North Carolina 24
Southern Miss (0-0) at Kentucky (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
7:30 PM ET | ESPNU | Lexington
Cats Can’t Kickback And Cruise: Golden Eagles quarterback Nick Mullens can throw the ball all over the field. In 2015, Mullens had his best game in a 36-28 loss to Nebraska in Lincoln when he completed 26 of his 41 passes for 447 yards. For Kentucky to believe this game is just another warmup to the SEC season would be a mistake that would most likely end Mark Stoops and the Wildcats short-lived hopes for a magical undefeated season. We can discuss Kentucky more in-depth next week along with the other teams not participating in games of All-Time-Great-Classic-Matchup magnitude and status.
PREDICTION: Kentucky 30, Southern Mississippi 20
Massachusetts (0-0) at # 25 Florida (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
7:30 PM ET | SEC Network | Gainesville
Is Florida Allowed To Play The Role Of “Sleeper” In The East? I would say throw out all the records for this one, but that statement really applies to every game taking place this weekend. Every team is undefeated and ready to reach heights never before experienced at the school. While some schools are great at cultivating endless optimism that meets its ultimate demise by halftime of the first game, Jim McElwain has his Gators in a rare position of underdog and forgotten for the second consecutive season. This underdog role comes off a 2015 season that saw Florida bring home an SEC East title and trip to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta in McElwain’s first season.
Luke Del Rio’s College Quarterback Tour stops off in Gainesville in 2016 and he will be the starting signal caller for the Gators as a redshirt sophomore. If Del Rio uses his remaining eligibility at Florida, he will be old enough to sign a one-day contract with his favorite NFL team and retire.
The redshirt sophomore began his career on Alabama’s depth chart in 2013. A full 2016 season similar to Will Grier’s partial 2015 season and this Florida team may upset a few apple carts in the SEC East and West.
PREDICTION: Florida 52, UMASS 0
#20 USC (0-0) vs #1 Alabama (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
8:00 PM ET | ABC | Dallas | AT&T Stadium
Experience Wins… Again: As per usual in Tuscaloosa, another off-season full of hype and buzz surrounding a young quarterback who is wise beyond his years ends with Nick Saban proclaiming redshirt junior Cooper Bateman and last year’s fall practice buzz-producer, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett as the two guys that will go for Alabama on Saturday when they kick the season off yet again in a suburb of Dallas inside AT&T Stadium.
Not that people will turn away and avoid the game, but haven’t these neutral site games run their course? The attention you can bring to your campus by inviting five-star recruits to visit during a game of this magnitude seems better than playing in a sterile NFL stadium that has become a Bryant-Denny Southwest for Alabama since 2012. The ‘Tide actually won one more game than the Cowboys in AT&T Stadium last year.
USC brings with them their own bag of history and tradition to Dallas Saturday night. USC was the most recent dynasty before Nick Saban and Alabama’s current run of four national titles over the past seven seasons.
USC will be talented and athletic on the edges with fast wide receivers who can break a big play or two. USC’s biggest opportunity for a win will need to be forcing Alabama’s new quarterback to throw the ball to the wrong team and striking quickly following the turnover. Ole Miss used the very delicate recipe of mixing a few turnovers and big plays in a bowl with a little bit of luck on a tipped and batted ball to give Alabama its only loss of 2015.
The Trojans have the athletes to make the plays on both sides of the ball if given the opportunity. The problem for the Trojans is I don’t see this being the game Alabama gives the opposing team a chance to capitalize on clumsy errors and mistakes. Bo Scarbrough will have people asking to see identification to prove he’s not Trent Richardson or Derrick Henry or a clone of both. Expect a close game early, but Alabama will pull away in the second half. All of this is assuming USC didn’t pull a turnabout’s fair play and secretly install the wishbone offense in the offseason like Alabama did to USC to open the 1971 season.
PREDICTION: Alabama 34, USC 17
#2 Clemson (0-0) at Auburn (0-0, 0-0 SEC)
9:00 PM ET | ESPN
Very Good Bookends: Luckily for Auburn, the season begins with the runner-up of the National Championship Game and will close with the National Champion (Alabama). Between those two games is the entire SEC West as well as Georgia from the East. A win against Kirk Herbstreit’s favorite to win the national title in the opening game will catapult Auburn from being a team looking for an identity to an immediate contender in the SEC West, entire conference, and College Football Playoff.
Pssssssst! Hey, Auburn. Look For The Tight End: As mentioned in the opening section of this epic, the tight end position is one that the Clemson defense apparently refuses to recognize as an official position. If Auburn watched the College Football National Championship Game in January, they would have seen Alabama’s tight end O.J. Howard running around Arizona like he had been quarantined from Clemson’s defense. Twice he caught long touchdown passes from Jacob Coker with no Clemson defender within 15 yards of him. He had zero touchdowns going into the biggest game of the year and left Arizona as the offensive MVP. So, if you are an Auburn fan hoping to roll Toomer’s Corner in the wee hours of September 3rd, let sophomore quarterback know that he needs to ensure that tight end Jalen Harris is named as ESPN Player of the Game at the end of night.
Coming off such a successful season where the first loss didn’t come until the final game is something this Clemson program has not experienced. There’s something about coming so close to the ultimate prize that can send a program down one of two paths. One is what many assume Clemson will take which is the path of even more hunger and passion to take that next step and win it all. The other path is when your hunger for the championship blinds you to the present. Rather than repeat what it took last season to get so close, you only focus on where you fell short and base your work and preparation on being good enough to win when you get another chance to win it all. This path usually leads to a very disappointing season because teams like Auburn show up on your schedule and remind you that there are 13 games you’ll need to be ready to play before you get another shot at being a champion.
Jordan-Hare Stadium will be rocking and the Tigers wearing the home navy uniforms will beat the Tigers that wear orange and purple and white.
PREDICTION: Auburn 31, Clemson 27
Monday, September 5, 2016
#11 Ole Miss (0-0, 0-0) vs. #4 Florida State (0-0)
8:00 PM ET | ESPN | Orlando | Florida Citrus Bowl
This Just In: I received a text from a source close to the situation and, according to his estimations, the NCAA has not opened any additional investigations into improper recruiting practices in Oxford. But this is as of mid-week so stay tuned.
Ole Hit Or Miss: Call me crazy (or maybe), but the worst thing that has happened to Ole Miss the past two seasons is defeating Alabama in each of those two seasons. Neither year were they able to handle the success that came with beating the ‘Tide, especially in 2015. Although the Rebels won 11 games, they failed to reach Atlanta as SEC West Champions because they forgot to show up in Gainesville against Florida and allowed Arkansas to become the most popular team in the state of Alabama when they threw a lateral Hail Mary ball behind them and scored a victory over the Rebels in overtime.
I think it’s time we get right down to it and ask the tough question to the Ole Miss faithful. Can the Rebels handle the success and expectations that will come with a victory over a No. 4 ranked FSU this early in the season? Barring any NCAA drama (basically a disclaimer that should be placed at the beginning or end of every sentence when discussing the future of an SEC team), the Rebels could continue to grow and succeed under Hugh Freeze, including a third consecutive win over Alabama.
The issue for Ole Miss is not winning big games. They are over that hump. The hump is now shaped more like a mountain. Ole Miss needs to sustain a high level of success for an entire season before they find themselves alone atop the SEC West standings. A win on Monday night will give Hugh Freeze and the Rebels a chance to sustain the high.
PREDICTION: Ole Miss 33, Florida State 28
Eric Taylor is a contributor to FBSchedules.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricFromSpfld or contact him via email at Eric–at– TaylorCreativeGroup–dot– net. Eric is also President and Founder of Taylor Creative Group, home of the Punt On Third Down blog and podcast. Be sure to Like the Facebook page Facebook.com/EricTaylorWritesStuff for the latest on the 2016 SEC Football Predictions and all POTD Blog and Podcast news.