In & around SEC football


Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (+20). The Crimson Tide, who start the season as the top ranked team in the nation, faces Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, Ga. Alabama has won back-to-back national championships, and the quest to make it three in a row begins with an inexperienced Virginia Tech squad. The Hokies have many freshman and sophomores who are likely going to be key contributors on Saturday, which bodes well for a veteran Alabama team. Alabama’s offensive line could face problems against the Hokies’ defense line, but that might be the only advantage in Virginia Tech’s favor.

Nick Saban is undefeated in season openers at Alabama, and that streak will continue this season. The closest anyone has come to defeating the Crimson Tide in the season opener under Saban was Virginia Tech in 2009. The 2013 version of the Hokies are not close to the Crimson Tide talent wise, and Alabama should dominate in every phase of the game. Prediction: Alabama 38, Virginia Tech 10.

Auburn Week 1 Preview 

Washington State at Auburn (-15.5). The Tigers open the season at home versus the Cougars in a game that features two offensive-minded coaches. WSU plays up-tempo and will dedicate most of its plays to the passing game. Auburn will also play up-tempo but the Tigers will likely run several read-options with quarterback Nick Marshall. If the Auburn defense can stay off the field and give the offense solid field position, the Tigers should pick up a victory for Gus Malzahn in his first game as Auburn head coach. Malzahn will call plays for the Tigers, although offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee will also have input. Defensively, the Tigers have the task of stopping the Cougars’ passing game, which should be much improved in head coach Mike Leach’s second season.Prediction: Auburn 40, Washington State 24.

Toledo at Florida (-23.5). The Gators should not have any trouble with the Rockets on Saturday, although Will Muschamp’s team did struggle in last year’s season opener against Bowling Green. Jeff Driskel returns at quarterback for Florida, and the Gator offense should be much improved from a season ago. Despite losing a few key starters, Florida once again should be dominant defensively. Prediction: Florida 38, Toledo 17.

Rice at Texas A&M (-27). Quarterback Johnny Manziel will be suspended for the first half of the Aggies’ season opener against Rice due to a minor NCAA infraction. Texas A&M should have no problem with the Owls in College Station, although all eyes will be on Manziel when he returns in the second half. If the Aggies plan on contending for the SEC championship, they need to handle their first two opponents in easy fashion before Alabama comes to town in two weeks. Prediction: Texas A&M 48, Rice 16.

Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State (-13). The Bulldogs open the season against one of the favorites to win the Big 12. The Cowboys have an explosive offense, which could be troublesome for Mississippi State. An upset over Oklahoma State would be excellent for Mississippi State’s momentum entering conference play, but the Cowboys just have too much offense for the Bulldogs. Prediction: Oklahoma State 41, Mississippi State 23.

Louisiana Lafayette at Arkansas (-11). The Razorbacks enter the season with low expectations in Bret Bielema’s first year as head coach, and there will not be many easy victories this year for the Hogs. Brandon Allen will lead the Razorbacks at quarterback and fellow sophomore Jonathan Williams will be the starter at running back. Arkansas is one of the youngest teams in the league, and that inexperience might be evident throughout the course of the season. Prediction: Arkansas 27, Louisiana-Lafayette 17.

Austin Peay at Tennessee. The Butch Jones era commences in Knoxville with what should be a victory over the Governors. The Volunteers are very young and lack experience on both sides of the ball. However, APU should not provide many problems for the Vols. Prediction: Tennessee 45, Austin Peay 13.

Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky (-5). Mark Stoops’ debut as head coach of Kentucky is being overshadowed by the debut of another head coach in this game. Bobby Petrino returns to the field as a head coach after being fired from Arkansas at the beginning of last season. The Hilltoppers hired Petrino in the spring after teams like Tennessee, Auburn, and ironically, Kentucky overlooked him. The Wildcats are in rebuilding mode and the Hilltoppers are a dangerous opponent for Stoops’ first game. Prediction: Kentucky 20, Western Kentucky 16.
Murray State at Missouri. Gary Pinkel and the Tigers are looking to start off 2013 on a positive note, which should not be a problem against the Murray State Racers. Quarterback James Franklin is finally healthy, while Dorial Green-Beckham is a legitimate deep threat at wide receiver. Prediction: Missouri 52, Murray State 10.

Georgia at Clemson (+2). The Bulldogs and the Tigers are two of the best teams in the country entering the season, and Saturday night’s matchup should be one of the best games of the year. Quarterback’s Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd lead two high-powered offenses, both of which are capable of scoring at will. Expect a shootout. Prediction: Clemson 41, Georgia 38.

LSU vs. TCU (+4). The Tigers open up the season at Cowboys Stadium against the Horned Frogs in what should be an excellent defensive matchup. Both teams return several key starters, but the most important matchup will be between LSU head coach Les Miles and TCU head coach Gary Patterson. The Tigers typically are very good in season openers under Miles and should be able to outlast TCU on Saturday night. Prediction: LSU 27, TCU 20.

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