By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Alabama Week 1 Recap
Alabama played precisely how the No. 1 team in the country should play as a 42-point home favorite against an inferior opponent. The Crimson Tide dominated from the start and cruised to a 55-0 victory over an overmatched Utah State team. Bryce Young tossed five touchdown passes and rushed for 100 yards and another score to pace the Alabama offense, while Traeshon Holden hauled in five receptions for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama (1-0) hits the road for its first test of the season at Texas on Saturday (Sept. 10).
Auburn Week 1 Recap
A dynamic rushing attacked propelled Auburn to a 42-16 win over Mercer in the season opener for the Tigers. Tank Bigsby rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns, while Jarquez Hunter added three more scores on the ground. In relief of T.J. Finley, backup quarterback Robby Ashford rushed for 68 yards on only six carries and threw for 100 yards. Finley started the game and threw for 112 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice. Auburn faces San Jose State on Saturday in a final tune-up game before Penn State visits The Plains.
Week 2 SEC Rankings
1. Alabama (1-0)
2. Georgia (1-0)
3. Texas A&M (1-0)
4. Florida (1-0)
5, Arkansas (1-0)
6. Mississippi State (1-0)
7. Tennessee (1-0)
8. Kentucky (1-0)
9. Ole Miss (1-0)
10. Auburn (1-0)
11. LSU (0-1)
12. South Carolina (1-0)
13. Missouri (1-0)
14. Vanderbilt (2-0)
Week 2 Previews and Predictions
Game of the Week: Tennessee at Pitt (+6.5). The Volunteers went 7-6 in Josh Heupel’s first season in 2021, but that hasn’t stopped the hype train from taking off in Knoxville. Expectations call for a 9 or 10-win season, and Saturday’s game will go a long way in determining if Tennessee is ready to compete at a high level or not. Pitt, which won the ACC a season ago, will be a tough opponent. If the Vols can go on the road and win, it will be an impressive early-season victory for Heupel’s squad. Prediction: Pitt 38, Tennessee 37.
Alabama at Texas (+20). Nick Saban’s crew heads out to Austin for a showdown against former assistant Steve Sarkisan’s Texas Longhorns on Saturday morning, and the world gets to find out if Texas is “back” or not. The answer is likely no, and few expect the Longhorns to win. This is expected to be one of Saban’s best Alabama teams, and the Crimson Tide defense already looks especially dominant. Will Anderson is the best defensive player in the country – and maybe the best overall player – and the Alabama de-fense should wreak havoc on the Longhorns’ offensive line. Prediction: Alabama 38, Texas 13.
South Carolina at Arkansas (-8). Arkansas picked up where it left off last season with a gritty 31-24 win over Cincinnati last week, and the Hogs are just as physically dominant up front this year as they were last year. South Carolina struggled early in its 35-14 win over Georgia State, and transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler did not look comfortable in his first start with the Gamecocks. If the Razorbacks control the line of scrimmage, South Carolina will struggle to keep them off the field. Prediction: Arkansas 34, South Carolina 26.
Wake Forest at Vanderbilt (+13). The Commodores have looked vastly improved to start Clark Lea’s second season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Mike Wright has been electric in his first two starts of the season, but the ‘Dores will be tested this weekend. Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman returns after missing the first game of the season, and the Demon Deacons are an offensive machine with Hartman in the lineup. Prediction: Wake Forest 44, Vanderbilt 31.
Missouri at Kansas State (-7.5). Missouri’s offense looked sharp in a 52-24 win over Louisiana Tech, but the defense will be put to the test Saturday morning in Manhattan. Kansas State has one of the most underrated backs in the country in Deuce Vaughn, and the Wildcats will change the Tigers’ front seven. Prediction: Kansas State 34, Missouri 24.
Appalachian State at Texas A&M (-19). The Aggies did not look like a cont-ender in all facets in the 31-0 win over Sam Houston State last week, but the talent is certainly there for them to contend in the SEC. Haynes King struggled at quarterback, but A&M has top-tier talent at every other position group. Appalachian State gave North Carolina all it could handle a week ago, so the Aggies cannot be caught looking ahead to next week’s showdown with Miami. Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Appalachian State 20.
Samford at Georgia. No team in the country submitted a better performance in Week 1 than the defending national champions. The Bulldogs pummeled Oregon, 49-3, and served a reminder that last year’s title was not a fluke. Georgia is here to stay. Prediction: Georgia 52, Samford 0.
Kentucky at Florida (-5.5). Billy Napier’s first game as Florida head coach resulted in a thrilling 29-26 victory over No. 7 Utah that ended with a game-saving interception in the end zone. Gator quarterback Anthony Richardson looked like a Heisman Trophy contender against a very good Utah defense, but Florida now must turn around and face a Kentucky team that’s consistently been second to only Georgia in the SEC East over the past few seasons. Saturday’s loser will face a major uphill battle in the divisional race. Prediction: Florida 26, Kentucky 23.
San Jose State at Auburn (-23). Bryan Harsin’s tenure at Auburn is off to a rocky start, and he desperately needs a strong season to improve his job security. The strength of the season will be largely dependent on the quarterback position, and if last Saturday was any indication, the Tigers are not close to solving that puzzle. T.J. Finley submitted a rocky performance, but backup Robby Ashford showed promising signs. It’s unclear what Ashford’s limitations are in the passing game, as he was not asked to do as much as Finley. Both quarterbacks will play against San Jose State, but Harsin needs an answer quickly because the schedule toughens dramatically after Saturday. Prediction: Auburn 37, San Jose State 13.
Central Arkansas at Ole Miss. Lane Kiffin brought in more players via the transfer portal than any other Power 5 program this offseason, so it’s no surprise the Rebels were not exactly sharp on either side of the ball in a 28-10 win over Troy. Ole Miss has one more week to tighten the screws before traveling to Georgia Tech next week. Prediction: Ole Miss 48, Central Arkansas 13.
Southern at LSU. Brian Kelly’s debut with the Tigers did not go as planned, as LSU was upset by Florida State, 24-23, after missing a potential game-tying extra point with no time left on the game clock. It was a disappointing effort for Kelly’s squad, which has a week to sort things out before SEC play begins. Prediction: LSU 52, Southern 3.
Mississippi State at Arizona (+10.5). The MSU offense was clicking on all cylinders in the Bulldogs’ 49-23 win over Memphis in the opener. State now travels to Tucson for a tricky road game against Arizona. The Wildcats were abysmal a season ago but already pulled off an upset over San Diego State last week. If Mississippi State is caught looking ahead to next week’s LSU game, the Bulldogs could very well suffer an upset loss on the road. Prediction: Mississippi State 41, Arizona 34.