By Cole Frederick
SEC football rankings
4. Ole Miss
7. Texas A&M
10. Mississippi State
14. South Carolina
Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Missouri at West Virginia (-10). Barry Odom’s first game as a head coach comes on the road in a hostile environment in Morgantown. The Tiger defensive will be challenged by the Mountaineers’ potent air-raid offense but the Missouri offense should be able to move the ball against West Virginia’s defense. Prediction: West Virginia 31, Missouri 20.
South Alabama at Mississippi State (-28.5). Dan Mullen still hasn’t decided on a starter to take over for Dak Prescott but the Bulldogs have some time to figure out that positionbefore conference play begins next week. Damian Williams and Nick Fitz-gerald will both see time at quarterback, and the Bulldogs should have no trouble with the Jaguars on Saturday. Prediction: Mississippi State 45, South Alabama 17.
Southern Miss at Kentucky (-6.5). Mark Stoops likely must reach a bowl game in order to retain his job for another season, and his Wildcats have a tough opening game challenge against Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are the favorites to win Conference USA and are capable of upsetting Kentucky in Lexington. Prediction: Kentucky 34, Southern Miss 24.
Louisiana Tech at Arkansas (-25.5). Arkansas is replacing several key contributors on offense this season. Quarterback Austin Allen is taking over for his brother Brandon, and the Hogs will still likely rely on their ground game throughout the con-test. The Razorbacks might look sluggish early but should pull away in the second half. Prediction: Arkansas 38, Louisiana Tech 20.
Massachusetts at Florida (-36.5). The defending SEC East champions have been under the radar all offseason but possess the talent to compete for the di-vision crown. The Gators should have no problem in dismantling the Minutemen before next week’s SEC opener against Kentucky. Prediction: Florida 41, UMass 6.
Clemson at Auburn (+7.5). Auburn welcomes a national title contender to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night. Clemson nearly won the national championship a season ago and return the nation’s best quarterback in Deshaun Watson. Dabo Swinney’s team is loaded on offense and will challenge Auburn’s young but ta-lented defense. Gus Malzahn named Sean White the starter at quarterback, and Auburn will likely rely on its running game and strong offensive line most of the game. Prediction: Clemson 31, Auburn 27.
UCLA at Texas A&M (-3). Kevin Sumlin is entering his most important season as a head coach, and he is relying on former Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight to lead the way for his Aggies. Knight has plenty of talent surrounding him – specifically receiver Christian Kirk – and the defense should be improved as well. UCLA should be one of the best teams in the Pac-12, and this should be a tightly contested matchup. Prediction: Texas A&M 37, UCLA 31.
LSU at Wisconsin (+10).* Les Miles enters 2016 under as much pressure as any coach in the country. Luckily he has Leonard Fournette on his team to lead his offense, as well as a defense loaded with talent. Wisconsin struggled with Alabama’s depth and physicality in the season opener a year ago, and LSU should have the same success this year at Lambeau Field. Prediction: LSU 31, Wisconsin 10.
North Carolina at Georgia (-2.5).** Star ru-nning back Nick Chubb is available and ready to carry the Georgia offense into the showdown against North Carolina on Saturday. Kirby Smart is entering his first game as a head coach and will need to rely on Chubb heavily due to concerns at quarterback. North Carolina returns many starters from last year’s team that played for the ACC title and has the talent to knock off the Bulldogs in Atlanta. Prediction: Georgia 27, North Carolina 24.
USC at Alabama (-11.5).*** Nick Saban announced the quarterback competition was between Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett, and both likely will see playing time against the Trojans Saturday night. USC has the talent at the skill positions to compete with Alabama, but the Crimson Tide has a major advantage at both offensive and defensive line. The UA offense might sputter for a half, but look for the defense to set them up with multiple scoring opportunities throughout the game. Prediction: Alabama 34, USC 13.
Ole Miss at Florida State (-4.5)**** The Rebels are practically playing a road game against the Seminoles, but certainly are capable from a talent perspective of pulling off the win. Chad Kelly is the best quarterback in the conference, and Hugh Freeze will rely on him to carry the Rebel offense both through the air and on the ground. Defensively, Ole Miss is tasked with stopping star running back Dalvin Cook, who might be the best back in the country. While both teams have playmakers on defense, this one might turn into a shootout. Prediction: Florida State 34, Ole Miss 27.
*game played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
**game played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.
***game played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
****game played on Monday, Sept. 5 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.