In & around SEC football


  SEC Rankings

1. LSU 

2. South Carolina

3. Alabama

4. Georgia

5. Auburn

6. Missouri 

7. Ole Miss

8. Mississippi State

9. Florida

10. Texas A&M

11. Tennessee

12. Vanderbilt

13. Kentucky 

14. Arkansas

Week 1 Previews and Predictions 

Saturday, Aug. 30

Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky. A year removed from a 2-10 season, Mark Stoops and the Wildcats have an opportunity to start 2014 with an easy win. Prediction: Kentucky 48, Tennessee-Martin 13. 

South Dakota State at Missouri. The defending SEC East champions are easing their way into the new season, and quarterback Maty Mauk should put up big numbers against an overwhelmed South Dakota State team. Prediction: Missouri 51, South Dakota State 9.

West Virginia vs. Alabama (-26.5).* Despite a new starting quarterback, a couple of new offensive linemen and several new starters on defense, Alabama begins the 2014 season as the favorite to win the SEC championship. That’s a testament to the coaching and recruiting abilities of Nick Saban, who ushered in yet another top-ranked recruiting class in the offseason. It really doesn’t matter who is playing quarterback for Alabama against the Moun-taineers, because the Tide’s running game will be dominant enough to carry them to a big opening victory. Prediction: Alabama 41, West Virginia 10.

Arkansas at Auburn (-21). Auburn surprised nearly everyone last year in becoming the first SEC team to follow up a winless conference season with a league championship. Auburn isn’t sneaking up on anyone this year, however, and the Tigers will be a big target for most of the season. Arkansas’s physical running game could present problems for an Auburn defense that struggled last season. If the game turns into a shoot-out, Auburn has what might be the most explosive offense in all of college football. Quarterback Nick Marshall will miss at least one series due to a vi-olation of team rules, but backup Jeremy Johnson is a very capable replacement. Despite a slow start, the Tigers handle the Razorbacks in the season half en route to a big opening SEC victory. Prediction: Auburn 45, Arkansas 20. 

Clemson at Georgia (-7.5). These two teams met a season ago in what turned out to be an offensive shootout in favor of the Tigers. Neither team returns its starting quarterback from last year, but the Bulldog offense should be potent as long as running back Todd Gurley remains healthy. Perhaps the biggest offseason acquisition for Georgia was the hiring of former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Expect another shootout but look for the Bulldogs to dominate in the fourth quarter. Prediction: Georgia 38, Clemson 24. 

Idaho at Florida (-36). 2013 was a disaster for Will Muschamp and the Gators. A 4-8 year that included an embarrassing loss to FCS Georgia Southern was one of the worst seasons in Gainesville in decades. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper should provide a welcomed boost to the Gator offense, and Muschamp’s defense should also improve. A blowout win over the Vandals is a necessity for Florida’s confidence in 2014. Prediction: Florida 48, Idaho 6. 

Southern Miss at Mississippi State (-30.5). Mississippi State’s non-conference slate is probably the easiest in the league, and it should result in four wins for the Bulldogs. Prediction: Mississippi State 55, Southern Miss 12. 

Wisconsin vs. LSU (-4.5).** Les Miles has been stellar in non-conference games while at LSU. He is planning on using two quarterbacks in the opener, as both Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris will get reps. The Tigers have been great in season openers in the past under Miles, but the Badgers are a dangerous team. A win would be a huge confidence boost for the Baton Rouge squad. Prediction: LSU 30, Wisconsin 23. 

Sunday, Aug. 31 

Utah State at Tennessee (-6). The Volunteers start their 2014 campaign against a sneaky good team in Utah State. Aggie quarterback Chuckie Keeton nearly led his team to an upset over Auburn a few years ago, and he’s developed into one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the nation. Tennessee should win the game, but Utah State won’t go down easily. Prediction: Tennessee 37, Utah State 27. 

* Game played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta

** Game played at Reliant Stadium in Houston

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