By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Alabama Week 1 Review
Despite losing much of its front seven to the NFL, No. 1 Alabama’s defense was dominant in the Crimson Tide’s 24-7 victory over No. 3 Florida State in Atlanta last Saturday (Sept. 2). The Alabama offense struggled at times in new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s debut, but the unit was aided by multiple special teams plays that set up the offense with good field position. Jalen Hurts threw for 96 yards and a touchdown, including a 53-yard strike to Calvin Ridley. Ridley finished the game with seven catches for 82 yards. Running back Damien Harris scored a touchdown while rushing for 73 yards on nine carries. Alabama hosts Fresno State on Saturday (Sept. 9) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Auburn Week 1 Review
While Auburn’s offense stole the headlines in the offseason, it was the defense that led the way during the season opener. The Tigers held Georgia Southern to only 78 yards of offense en route to a 41-7 win. The Eagles’ only points of the night came on a 22-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Jarrett Stidham threw for 185 yards two touchdowns in his debut and ran for another score. Kerryon Johnson rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries as the Tigers improved to 1-0 on the year. Auburn travels to Clemson to take on the defending national champions on Saturday (Sept. 9).
1. Alabama (1-0)
2. Auburn (1-0)
3. Georgia (1-0)
4. LSU (1-0)
5. Mississippi State (1-0)
6. Tennessee (1-0)
7. South Carolina (1-0)
8. Florida (0-1)
9. Kentucky (1-0)
10. Arkansas (1-0)
11. Missouri (1-0)
12. Ole Miss (1-0)
13. Vanderbilt (1-0)
14. Texas A&M (0-1)
Week 2 Previews and Predictions
Week 1 record: 13-1
Saturday, Sept. 9 – Game of the Week
Auburn at Clemson (-5.5). Auburn faces its first major test of the season as the Tigers visit defending national champion Clemson on Saturday night. Clemson defeated Auburn, 19-13, to open up the 2016 season, and this will be the sixth meeting between the schools since 2007. Clemson has won the last three meetings and is favored to win Saturday’s matchup in Death Valley. Dabo Swinney’s team has a wealth of talent and experience on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and it will be a major challenge for Auburn up front. Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway will make his season debut after missing last week’s game, and the Tigers will need him after Kerryon Johnson’s Week 1 injury. A loss won’t knock either team out of the national title picture, but an Auburn win would signify Gus Malzahn’s team as a championship contender. Prediction: Clemson 27, Auburn 19.
UT Martin at Ole Miss (-29.5). Led by quarterback Shea Patterson, the Ole Miss offense was as dynamic as advertised in the season opener against South Alabama. The Rebels struggled at times defensively but will have an opportunity to make adjustments and improvements before traveling to Cal next weekend. Prediction: Ole Miss 54, UT Martin 16.
Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky (-33.5). Mark Stoops’ team went on the road and squeaked by Southern Mississippi, 24-17. The Wildcats started off the season much better than a season ago. Eastern Kentucky took Kentucky to overtime two seasons ago, but the Wildcats should have no problem this week. Prediction: Kentucky 45, Eastern Kentucky 13.
Fresno State at Alabama (-43.5). Alabama returns home to take on Fresno State after last week’s physical victory over Florida State, and the Tide will look to create more explosive plays on offense. Jalen Hurts and the offense didn’t turn the ball over against the Seminoles, but the passing game struggled at times. The Alabama defense was superb, though it did lose linebackers Christian Miller and Tyrell Lewis for the season due to injuries. Saturday’s matchup against the Bulldogs should give the Tide’s offense a chance to make improvements across the board. Prediction: Alabama 55, Fresno State 6.
TCU at Arkansas (+3.5). The Razorbacks and Horned Frogs won easily against inferior opponents last week, but this game will be a measuring stick game for both teams and their coaches. Arkansas defeated TCU, 41-38, in overtime a season ago, but the Hogs have new faces on both sides of the ball while TCU is the most experienced team. It isn’t a season-defining game for Bret Bielema and Arkansas, but an early-season loss would not be the best way to start the year. Prediction: TCU 34, Arkansas 31.
Indiana State at Tennessee (-33). Tennessee started the season with a thrilling 42-41 comeback victory over Georgia Tech in overtime. The Volunteers are on a short week and have a huge showdown with Florida looming in two weeks. Prediction: Tennessee 52, Indiana State 17.
Alabama A&M at Vanderbilt (-47.5). The Commodore defense was phenomenal in a 28-6 win on the road at Middle Tennessee, and Vanderbilt controlled the game from the opening quarter. Vandy gets another tune-up game before Kansas State visits Nashville next weekend. Prediction: Vanderbilt 56, Alabama A&M 3.
South Carolina at Missouri (-2.5). South Carolina submitted one of the most impressive performances of any SEC team during the first week of the season in defeating North Carolina State, 35-28. Quarterback Jake Bentley picked up where he left off last season, and he will need to be sharp again against Missouri on the road. The Tigers have an explosive offense, scoring 72 points in their season opener again Missouri State. Missouri also gave up 43 points, so Saturday’s game might turn into a shootout rather quickly. Prediction: Missouri 44, South Carolina 41.
UT-Chattanooga at LSU (-38.5). LSU’s defense pitched a shutout against BYU despite being without top defender Arden Key, and the Tigers have a good opportunity to record another shutout against the Mocs. Though Derrius Guice was impressive in the opener, the LSU offense requires some fine-tuning before taking on Mississippi State next week. Prediction: LSU 45, UT Chattanooga 0.
Georgia at Notre Dame (-6.5). The Bulldogs dominated Appalachian State, 31-10, despite quarterback Jacob Eason suffering an injury early in the game. Freshman Jake Fromm stepped in and played well in Eason’s absence, but Georgia now hits the road for a difficult test against Notre Dame. The Bulldog defense played well against the Mountaineers but the Notre Dame offense will present more of a challenge on Saturday night. Prediction: Notre Dame 26, Georgia 23.
Nicholls State at Texas A&M (-39). Kevin Sumlin’s team led UCLA 44-10 in the third quarter of the Aggies’ season opener. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen then led one of the greatest comebacks in college football history as the Bruins defeated Texas A&M, 45-44. Sumlin was already on the hot seat entering the season, and Sunday’s loss certainly didn’t help his case. If Texas A&M doesn’t go on a winning streak, Sumlin’s tenure might be coming to an end in College Station. Prediction: Texas A&M 52, Nicholls State 12.
Northern Colorado at Florida (-40.5). Florida’s offense was disappointing in a 33-17 loss to Michigan, with the Gators’ only touchdowns coming from the defense. Jim McElwain’s team has a chance to make improvements against Northern Colorado before the conference opener against Tennessee. Prediction: Flo-rida 48, Northern Colorado 3.
Mississippi State at Louisiana Tech (-7). The Bulldogs’ road game against Louisiana Tech could prove to be a difficult test. Louisiana Tech is projected to be one of the best teams from Conference USA, so Dan Mullen’s squad can’t afford to overlook them, with next weekend’s SEC West showdown against LSU looming. Prediction: Mississippi State 44, Louisiana Tech 27.