In & around SEC football - Week 1 previews

August 29, 2019 chris
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By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent

SEC Football Standings
1. Georgia
2. Alabama
3. LSU
4. Texas A&M
5. Auburn
6. Missouri
7. Mississippi State
8. Florida (1-0)
9. Kentucky
10. South Carolina
11. Tennessee
12. Ole Miss
13. Vanderbilt
14. Arkansas
Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Auburn vs. Oregon (+3.5). For the second straight season, the Tigers are opening the year on a neutral field against the favorite from the Pac-12. Last year, Auburn narrowly defeated Washington in Atlanta. On Saturday, the Tigers travel to Arlington, Texas, to face the Ducks for the only meeting between ranked teams this weekend. True freshman Bo Nix from Pinson Valley has earned the start from Auburn, and he’s surrounded by a wealth of experience on both sides of the ball. The Ducks are led by projected first-round pick Justin Herbert at quarterback, but he’ll have his hands full with Auburn’s loaded defensive line. Prediction: Auburn 24, Oregon 20.
Toledo at Kentucky (-11.5). The Wildcats are coming off of the best season in over 40 years, and they are replacing more starters than any team in the SEC. However, Mark Stoops is optimistic about this squad, and they start the season with a challenging game against a quality Toledo team. Replacing Benny Snell won’t be an easy task, but Kentucky should still have plenty of success offensively in the opener. Prediction: Kentucky 38, Toledo 27.
Ole Miss at Memphis (-5.5). Memphis is projected to be one of the best Group of 5 teams this season, and the Rebels are making the one-hour drive north to take on the Tigers. The Rebels have a pair of new coordinators and only three starters back on offense and return the worst defense in the SEC from last season. Technically, this would be an upset if Ole Miss won, but the Rebels arguably still have more talent. Prediction: Ole Miss 41, Memphis 38.
Mississippi State at Louisiana (-19.5). Expectations are high once again in Starkville, and the Bulldogs should probably start the season with three straight non-conference wins. However, this could be a tricky spot for the Bulldogs. Louisiana is a quality opponent and this is an early-morning road game to open the year. Do not be surprised if the Ragin’ Cajuns keep this close for a few quarters. Mississippi State 33, Louisiana 16.
Duke vs. Alabama (-33.5). The Tide are heavily favored in the season opener again, and the Blue Devils shouldn’t pose much of a threat to Nick Saban’s squad. Regardless, Alabama’s top two running backs – Najee Harris and Brian Robinson – are suspended for the first half for missing a team meeting, and star linebacker Dylan Moses tore his ACL in practice earlier in the week. Alabama will likely win going away, but there will be some pieces missing in the first half. The loss of Moses definitely hurts long term, and the Crimson Tide will need a couple of younger linebackers to step up and fill the void. Prediction: Alabama 52, Duke 16.
South Carolina vs. North Carolina (+10.5). The Gamecocks arguably face the toughest schedule in college football, so this is a must-win if they wish to reach a bowl game. Mack Brown is back on the sidelines for North Carolina, but it figures to be a rebuilding year for the Tar Heels. South Carolina is the more talented team, and the Gamecocks need a sharp performance to start the season. Prediction: South Carolina 31, North Carolina 23.
Georgia State at Tennessee (-26). The Volunteers are a trendy pick to drastically improve this season, and Jeremy Pruitt’s team is expected to return to a bowl for the first time since 2016. The non-conference schedule is manageable, and UT has the opportunity to start the season on a positive note with an easy win. Prediction: Tennessee 45, Georgia State 16.
Portland State at Arkansas (-28.5). Arkansas only won two games in Chad Morris’ debut season, but there should be marked improvement in his second year. The Hogs are still a couple of years away from being close to contending in the West Division, however, and a bowl bid would be a success for this season. Prediction: Arkansas 55, Portland State 27.
Georgia at Vanderbilt (+22). Georgia’s national championship aspirations begin with a road conference game in Nashville. Vanderbilt will never be confused with a national title contender, but it still could be a tricky spot for the Bulldogs to open the year. Georgia’s offense will be one of the best in the country but there might be some growing pains on the defensive side of the ball. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is perhaps the most underrated running back in college football, and he should have some success on the ground if the Commodores can throw the ball effectively on early downs. Prediction: Georgia 38, Vanderbilt 17.
Georgia Southern at LSU (-27.5). Ed Orgeron has built LSU back into a contender, and this is the year the Tigers are expected to break through and be in the mix for a playoff berth. With a road game at Texas on deck, LSU’s game plan might be vanilla against Georgia Southern. Regardless, next week should reveal everything fans need to know about the Tigers. Prediction: LSU 34, Georgia Southern 6.
Missouri at Wyoming (+18). Kelly Bryant and the Missouri offense should be one of the most explosive in the SEC, and there’s a good chance the Tigers will be in contention in the SEC East in the second half of this season. An early-season road game at Wyoming could be a tough spot to open the year, but the Tigers will be too much for the Cowboys to handle offensively. Prediction: Missouri 51, Wyoming 31.