Jeff Driskel makes his first start against Texas A&M
It's time for week two of my SEC predictions. I went 11-1 last week, missing only on Kentucky-Louisville.
Here they are:
Auburn @ Mississippi State, 12:00n, ESPN
The Tigers got off to a rough start with a bitter rubber match loss to Clemson, while the Maroon Dogs cruised against Jackson State. This game means everything for MSU. Go look at their schedule—they could easily be a 10 win team. On the flip side, look at Auburn's schedule. Auburn better win this game, because if they don't, they could easily miss a bowl game. So with the desperation factor even, I'll give the nod to the home team—the one who wants revenge for last year's heartbreaker. Mississippi State pulls the upset thanks to a stout defense and a great game from LaDarius Perkins.
Mississippi State 27, Auburn 17
East Carolina @ (9)South Carolina, 12:20pm, SEC Network
The Gamecocks survived a scare in their opener against the Pirates last year and another one in their opener against Vanderbilt this year. Maybe Steve Spurrier's club just doesn't like openers. In any case, this isn't the opener for the Gamecocks, and with a (somewhat) healthy Marcus Lattimore and lights out defense, East Carolina shouldn't have a chance in Columbia. Unless Rio Johnson gets more time to make plays than I anticipate, the Gamecocks will cruise.
South Carolina 41, East Carolina 16
Western Kentucky @ (1)Alabama, 3:30pm, SEC Network
Really? Shame on Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore for scheduling this. The Hilltoppers have historically been a nice appetizer for SEC powerhouses, and this shouldn't be an exception. Eddie Lacy has stepped into Trent Richardson's big shoes very well, AJ McCarron continues to flourish as a game managing QB, the defense is still nasty... and this is against a non-AQ team in Tuscaloosa. Please. The Tide will Roll with ease.
Alabama 52, Western Kentucky 7
(24)Florida @ Texas A&M, 3:30pm, ESPN
Each team has two huge advantages over the other: Texas A&M is at home, but Florida has played a game already (Texas A&M has not) and the biggest improvement comes from week one to week two. Texas A&M has tape of Florida and Florida doesn't have tape of Texas A&M—but Kevin Sumlin has to wonder how much of his hand Brent Pease really showed. Each team has a QB making his first official college start: Johnny Manziel for A&M, Jeff Driskel for Florida. But there is one thing Florida has that A&M doesn't—a ferocious, veteran defense. That's the difference in this game, but not before the Gators get the scare of their lives.
Florida 31, Texas A&M 27
Georgia State @ Tennessee, 4:00pm, ESPN3
After mauling North Carolina State (it was much worse than 35-21), the Volunteers need to be careful not to look ahead to Florida. That's the standard warning for any team coming off a big win facing an SEC team two weeks later with a FCS team sandwiched in. The Vols will probably ignore it, because they've heard it from Derek Dooley, and besides, this may be the best passing attack in the country. Not the SEC—the entire country. Even without Da'Rick Rogers, Cordarrell Patterson and Justin Hunter will make enough big plays for Tennessee to waltz into the Florida game unbeaten.
Tennessee 59, Georgia State 20
Louisiana Monroe @ (8)Arkansas, 7:00pm (broadcast locally only)
Poor War Hawks. They have to play Arkansas, Auburn and Baylor to start their season. QB Kolton Browning's first opponent is Tyler Wilson, and Wilson's got all the weapons Browning doesn't. In particular, Knile Davis will cut the War Hawks' defense to pieces. True, ULM did win in Tuscaloosa, but none of players or coaches are still there. So Arkansas calls the Hogs and they all enjoy a tasty bird dinner together.
Arkansas 45, Louisiana Monroe 17
Washington @ (3)Louisiana State, 7:00pm, ESPN
The rematch from a few years ago shouldn't be nearly as interesting this time around. For one thing, it's at night in Tiger Stadium, which didn't happen even once last year. For another, well, LSU is just far better in every phase of the game. QB Keith Price will have his hands full with a tenacious Tiger defense, while Zach Mettenberger and company should put up similar numbers to what RG3 and Baylor did last year. The difference is, Washington's offense won't be able to counter.
Louisiana State 51, Washington 21
Texas El Paso @ Mississippi, 7:00pm, ESPN3
Nathan Jeffrey torched the Sooners defense for 177 rushing yards last week and he's looking for more against a shaky Ole Miss defense. Meanwhile, Ole Miss has a solid offense of their own. Donte Moncrief seems to be pretty comfortable catching passes from Bo Wallace so far, and Wallace has shown the ability to run pretty well. But UTEP's defense is sharp. They silenced Oklahoma's Landry Jones and held the Sooners to 24 points. But until I'm proven otherwise, I'm going with the SEC team at home.
Mississippi 20, UTEP 13
Kent State @ Kentucky, 7:30pm, ESPN3
The Wildcats took a crushing week one loss to their rival Louisville, and now it's the day of atonement. Obviously, they can't play the Cardinals again, so they'll settle for Kent State. Morgan Newton will settle in a bit, the defense will stop giving up the big play and the Wildcats will get the job done against a lower quality team.
Kentucky 34, Kent State 17
(7)Georgia @ Missouri, 7:45pm, ESPN2
Without four starters on defense, a much tougher test looms for the Dawgs. They're pretty much in the same boat as the Gators. They looked average at best against Buffalo, an average MAC team, and now they go on the road to face an SEC newbie. Regardless, this defense is still very good, and Aaron Murray is still the QB. On the other hand, Missouri has playmakers everywhere, from TJ Moe to Dorial Green-Beckham to dual threat QB James Franklin. Like Florida, the Bulldogs will get the scare of their lives. And like Florida, they'll survive.
Georgia 27, Missouri 23
Vanderbilt @ Northwestern, 8:00pm, Big 10 Network
The Commodores took a great step forward last year, and another one in defeat to South Carolina. Now it's time for them to get over the hump and actually win one of these games. Northwestern would be a great start. Jordan Rodgers looked pretty good, considering he was facing a great defense last week, and the defense (mostly) did a good job on Marcus Lattimore. Meanwhile, Northwestern is coming off of their own "Great Escape" against Syracuse last week. They won't escape this time. Vanderbilt finally breaks through and contributes something towards SEC Football Pride.
Vanderbilt 31, Northwestern 23