By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
SEC Football Rankings
4. Mississippi State
6. South Carolina
7. Texas A&M
12. Ole Miss
Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Game of the Week: Washington vs. Auburn (-2). Both the Huskies and Tigers are expected to be playoff contenders this year, and the winner of this matchup will have an excellent win on its resume. The loser won’t be out of the race but might have to run the table the rest of the way to have a chance. Auburn’s front seven might be the best in the country, and Washington might have the best secondary in the nation. The quarterbacks on both sides are talented but this has the making of a low-scoring affair. Prediction: Washington 20, Auburn 16.
Northwestern State at Texas A&M (-43.5). The Jimbo Fisher era should get started with an easy win, and the Aggies need this tune-up game before next weekend. Texas A&M welcomes Clemson to College Station on Saturday, Sept. 8, as Fisher meets his old ACC nemesis Dabo Swinney. The Aggies could be a very solid team by the end of the year, but there will be some growing pains with the new coaching staff. Prediction: Texas A&M 51, Northwestern State 13.
Coastal Carolina at South Carolina (-29.5). Will Muschamp has quickly turned this program back into a contender in the SEC East Division. While most pundits believe Georgia will win the East again, the Gamecocks are expected to challenge the Bulldogs for the right to play for the SEC title. South Carolina should win comfortably this week before the Bulldogs come to town next weekend. Prediction: South Carolina 45, Coastal Carolina 16.
Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech (-2.5). While the Red Raiders have several starters returning on defense, this should still be an offensive shootout. Both offenses are capable of scoring 40 points in this game, and the Rebels have some of the best weapons of any team in the country. Receiver A.J. Brown could easily be the top receiver taken in the NFL draft. This game could easily come down to the last possession. Prediction: Texas Tech 41, Ole Miss 38.
Austin Peay at Georgia (-42.5). Georgia’s near-championship season wasn’t a fluke in 2017. Kirby Smart is building a program in Athens almost identical to what Nick Saban built in Tuscaloosa, and the Bulldogs will be back in the title hunt again this fall. After an easy win in the opener, Georgia will travel to Columbia to take on South Carolina. Prediction: Georgia 52, Austin Peay 12.
Tennessee vs. West Virginia (-10). New Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt has his work cut out for him in his first season in Knoxville. Pruitt is a defensive mastermind but his Vols are going up against one of the top offenses in the country in West Virginia. Tennessee has some talent, but it might take a couple of months for fans to see progress. Prediction: West Virginia 41, Tennessee 30.
Central Michigan at Kentucky (-17). Mark Stoops has guided the Wildcats to back-to-back bowl games, but it will be a challenge to win six or seven games this fall. They have a tough test on the road next week at Florida, so they can’t afford to overlook the Chippewas on Saturday. Prediction: Kentucky 31, Central Michigan 17.
UT-Martin at Missouri (-35). The Tigers are expected to have one of the best offenses in the country with Drew Lock at quarterback. Missouri should be able to score on any team in the country, though the Tigers might struggle defensively. Expect Missouri to light up the scoreboard in the opener on Saturday. Prediction: Missouri 62, UT Martin 23.
Eastern Illinois at Arkansas (-35). New Arkansas coach Chad Morris doesn’t exactly inherit the best roster, but the Arkansas fan base knows the team is in need of a rebuild. However, it’s possible Morris can get six wins and a bowl bid out of the Hogs this year. They need to win all four non-conference games to have a chance at a bowl game. Prediction: Arkansas 48, Eastern Illinois 20.
Stephen F. Austin at Mississippi State (-41). No new head coach is walking into a better situation than Joe Moorhead. Mississippi State has one of its most talented rosters in school history thanks to Dan Mullen, and is loaded on both sides of the ball. Nick Fitzgerald is a dark horse Heisman contender at quarterback for the Bulldogs. Prediction: Mississippi State 55, SF Austin 9.
Charleston Southern at Florida (-40). Dan Mullen gets to ease into his tenure with the Gators before conference play begins next week against Kentucky. Florida has several issues to work through on the offensive side of the ball but Mullen will sort that out during his inaugural season. Prediction: Florida 38, Charleston Southern 10.
Middle Tennessee at Vanderbilt (-3). The Commodores are expected to be neat the bottom of the SEC this year, but should have a much better offense. Kyle Shurmur is back at quarterback and he’s playing behind a veteran offensive line. Defensively, the Dores might struggle early on, and this could be a tricky game against the Blue Raiders. Prediction: Vanderbilt 27, Middle Tennessee 23.
Louisville vs. Alabama (-24.5). Nick Saban hasn’t yet announced a starter at quarterback, and it’s possible that both Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts play against Louisville. Regardless of who starts, the Crimson Tide will be nearly unstoppable on offense. The Cardinals might be able to score against a young Alabama defense, but the Tide should cruise to an easy win. Prediction: Alabama 48, Louisville 20.
Miami vs. LSU (+3.5). This is a pivotal season for Ed Orgeron’s career at LSU. The Tigers finished 9-4 last year but this is a program expected to contend for championships. LSU’s schedule is brutal, and the Tigers absolutely need a win over Miami to start the season. The Hurricanes will be a very tough opponent, and this has the potential to be a low scoring defensive battle. Prediction: Miami 16, LSU 13.