SEC Football 2013 Week 1 Simulation
If you've been following Adam Kramer's simulations, you have long since embraced the power of the predictive power of the EA Sports NCAA Football series.
For years, Adam has been following along week by week on a national level, reporting simulation results and tracking the game's ability to call upsets and pick winners. It has been, in a word, impressive.
With a passion for everything SEC, I thought it was about time we featured every SEC game, week by week. I'll be giving you winners, standout players, and game breakdowns on every game as well as tracking how the game performs over time.
I'm adding a couple of twists, though. I'll be picking winners and against the spread each week, an effort to see if a real live human can defeat the futuristic AI Turing-Test-beating brain that is EA Sports NCAA Football 2014.
It's also an excuse to factor video games into my productivity.
So, let's start this journey with Week 1's predictions.
North Carolina  @ #8 South Carolina 
Let's just say that the game doesn't have a whole lot of confidence in South Carolina.
In what is easily the week's biggest upset, the Tarheels roll into Columbia and easily knock USC off of its eighth-ranked pedestal.
Leading 7-6 after the first quarter, Spurrier watches helplessly as UNC scores 34 unanswered to clinch the knockout. Carolina's vaulted defense gives up 490 yards and allows Bryn Renner to hit on 23 of 32 passes (71 percent) for 278 yards, two douchdowns and no interceptions.
Connor Shaw saw nearly all of USC's quarterback play, and...oh boy. The Gamecock fans will be screaming for Thompson after this one, as Shaw only manages to hit on 7 of 19 attempts. In his defense, he managed a five-yard, first quarter run for a touchdown. That's something, right?
Oh, and Clowney? He finished third on the team in tackles with seven and a sack.
Let's just hope, Carolina fans, that the computer is mistaken on this one.
EA PICKS: North Carolina to win, North Carolina (+11.5)
MY PICKS: South Carolina to win, South Carolina (+11.5)
Ole Miss  @ #25 Vanderbilt 
The bad luck continues for home teams as the Rebels solidify this season's high expectations with a win in Nashville in Week 1.
The game was a struggle from the outset, with the first touchdown coming from a six-yard toss from Wallace to Moncrief in the first. After UM's Scott breaks away for a 38-yard run in the second quarter, the Commodores adjust their gameplan and score two unanswered touchdowns in the third, capped by a 62-yard sprint from Tate.
After another couple of marches down the field from the Rebels, Vandy's touchdown pass to Tate with 1:45 remaining was too little, too late.
The teams were evenly matched on paper as well, though interestingly the game had Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews as a backup and Wesley Tate as the starter at running back. Tate was an all-star, rushing for 116 yards and receiving for 32 more.
Bo Wallace was as crisp as you'd expect him to be for Ole Miss, hitting 15 of 28 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Oh, and that top overall recruit Nkemdiche? He led the game with 13 tackles.
Winning on the road is tough, but am I brave enough to pick this one against the computer? No. No, I am not.
EA PICKS: Ole Miss to win, Ole Miss (-1.5)
MY PICKS: Ole Miss to win, Ole Miss (-1.5)
Toledo  @ #10 Florida 
Matt Campbell and Toledo come into Gainesville and almost make it two-straight top ten SEC teams to fall.
The Gators jump out to a 24-0 lead on the shoulders of Driskel before halftime and set it on cruise control. Unbeknownst to Muschamp, the Rockets weren't about to roll over and respond with an identical run to tie the game up in the fourth quarter.
Florida needs an endzone-to-endzone march capped by a four-yard touchdown run from Murphy with 1:36 remaining to win the game, a bit too close for Florida fans across the nation who have undoubtedly had one simultaneous heart attack.
UF racks up 460 yards, including a decent 10-for-20, two touchdown performance from Driskel. Murphy also sees a bit of time, completing seven of 14 passes for 71 yards.
I'm not sure if the game accounts for intangibles like getting careless after a big lead, but it's a valid point against a solid Toledo squad.
EA PICKS: Florida to win, Toledo (+21)
MY PICKS: Florida to win, Toledo (+21)
Rice  @ #4 Texas A&M 
Finally, one that makes sense. If you're curious, EA Sports seems to think Johnny Manziel plays against Rice.
And boy, does he. Manziel has no trouble with the Owls, hitting 20 of 33 passes for 329 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Nevermind the 72 yards of rushing.
Mike Evans might have been just as impressive for the Aggies, catching eight passes for 170 yards with 86 of those after the catch.
A&M's 640 yards, allowing only 230, didn't give Rice much of a chance. The Owls didn't score until garbage time with the backups in with 4:02 remaining.
A good ol' fashioned Texas buttwhippin'.
EA PICKS: Texas A&M to win, Texas A&M (-28)
MY PICKS: Texas A&M to win, Texas A&M (-28)
Mississippi State  vs. #16 Oklahoma State 
The SEC gets revenge for the South Carolina upset in a big way when Mississippi State pulls out of Reliant Stadium with a huge victory over a top 25 opponent.
This game is a tight one until that poor conditioning kicks in and the game is sealed by a Josh Robinson one-yard touchdown run with 3:00 remaining in the fourth quarter. All ten of MSU's advantage points are scored in the final quarter.
The Bulldogs outgain OSU's legendary offense 444 yards to 378 and allow just 70 Cowboy plays, surviving three interceptions and a fumble. Russell isn't sharp for State, hitting 14 of 32 passes for 250 yards, two touchdowns and all three INTs.
Ladarius Perkins brings home 82 yards and a surprising Robert Johnson racks up 134 yards, 71 of them after the catch.
A performance like this would certainly make those who picked against the Bulldogs to make a bowl question their predictions.
EA PICKS: Mississippi State to win, Mississippi State (+12.5)
MY PICKS: Oklahoma State to win, Mississippi State (+12.5)
Louisiana Lafayette  @ Arkansas 
Welp. Make that 0-2 for the SEC against non-conference opponents.
Save for a desperate 51-yard connection from Allen to Horton in the third quarter, the Razorbacks are never able to get anything going on offense and can't hold tight enough on defense to take this one.
The 'Backs cough the ball up twice and redshirt sophomore Brandon Allen is responsible for both of them. Only managing to connect on 12 of 30 passes, Allen's debut leaves massive questions at the slot for Arkansas.
The Razorbacks have a lot to replace, are starting a new quarterback, and begin the season against a talented and capable low major.
After this one, Arkansas fans are losing their Bielemer status.
EA PICKS: ULL to win, ULL (+14)
MY PICKS: ULL to win, ULL (+14)
#1 Alabama  @ Virginia Tech 
Following a similar theme to Adam's simulation, EA seems to think the Hokies are a tough matchup for the Tide.
After a six-yard touchdown run from Drake, Alabama looks to enter the final quarter up 20-7. Tech hits a field goal before the whistle and opens the fourth with a big touchdown drive and two-point conversion to pull within two points. After a tight fourth quarter, the 'Bama scores ten points in the final four minutes to close out the win.
On paper, Alabama dominates. The "fighting Sabans" record 425 yards of offense to 186 for VT and grab 26 first downs to nine. An uncharacteristic three Alabama turnovers help to level the playing field.
One of the big news items out of the game is an early McCarron injury, putting Sims in the spotlight where he shines. Sims connects on 17 of 28 passes for an efficient 185 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
T.J. Yeldon was as dominant as you'd expect, with 134 yards on the ground and a reception for 11 yards. Amari Cooper led the team's receiving corps with six for 95 yards and a touchdown.
I'm guessing the game is rating some carrying stats a bit too low and this game isn't all the close IRL.
EA PICKS: Alabama to win, Virginia Tech (+20)
MY PICKS: Alabama to win, Alabama (-20)
Austin Peay  @ Tennessee 
Call this a typical cupcake SEC game, with a typical cupcake SEC score.
The Vols manage 407 yards of offense without turning the ball over. Worley is decent, hitting on 14 of 28 passes for two touchdowns. Vol fans will want him to be a bit better than decent in the future, especially against FCS opponents.
Devrin Young rushed for 113 yards on 20 attempts and Marlon Walls recorded eight tackles and two sacks.
Nothing to see here, folks.
EA PICKS: Tennessee to win, Austin Peay (+50)
MY PICKS: Tennessee to win, Austin Peay (+50)
Washington State  @ Auburn 
How's that for a BCS non-conference for the SEC's worst squad a year ago?
A six-yard touchdown run from the Tigers and a 43-yard bomb from Wallace puts the Tigers ahead 14-0 early in the second quarter, only for the Cougars to score 17-straight to take the lead. Auburn knocks a field goal in with two seconds left in the half to tie the game at 17.
A 26-yard pick-six by Chris Davis with 2:37 left in the third proved to be the turning point in the game, with a 19-yard Auburn field goal at 1:36 remaining in the game to seal it.
Davis wreaked havoc all night long, including eight tackles and one of the team's five sacks. The War Eagle somehow managed 415 yards of offense despite Wallace's absolutely terrible 9-of-36, two interception passing performance.
If Auburn can manage to survive poor quarterback play like it [simulatedly] did against Washington State, the '12 cellar dwellers may have a chance to win an SEC game or two.
EA PICKS: Auburn to win, Washington State (+13.5)
MY PICKS: Auburn to win, Washington State (+13.5)
Western Kentucky  vs. Kentucky 
Make no mistake; the Hilltoppers are no joke. WKU is coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history and Kentucky is, well, not.
A long touchdown drive to open the game gives Western Kentucky the early lead, quickly followed by a breakaway 74-yard jog by quarterback (!) Maxwell Smith. The game would remain similarly competitive but UK's third-quarter 10-point showing and three forced turnovers would help the Wildcats hold on.
Smith was nearly Kentucky's entire offense, throwing for 183 yards on 15-of-29 passing and 116 yards rushing, scoring one touchdown each through the air and on the ground.
This is certainly a game to watch if you're a Kentucky fan. The Wildcats will need all the voodoo you can muster. Or is that LSU?
EA PICKS: Kentucky to win, Western Kentucky (+4.5)
MY PICKS: Kentucky to win, Western Kentucky (+4.5)
Murray State  @ Missouri 
Another FCS opponent, another blowout.
Mizzou scores three touchdowns in the first quarter and never looks back, allowing just two scores—one of those coming on a pick-six.
The main note of interest here is Franklin's poor performance. He completes just 16 of his 33 pass attempts and gives the ball up four times. That's not good, in case you were wondering.
One standout was L'Damian Washington, who caught five passes for 112 yards. He'll be someone to look out for the rest of the season.
EA PICKS: Missouri to win, Murray State (+38)
MY PICKS: Missouri to win, Missouri (-38)
#5 Georgia  at #9 Clemson 
This one goes exactly how you'd expect. Physical, back and forth, and a huge riot afterward. That could have just been my cat knocking something off of a table, I wasn't sure.
The first half is comfortable for the Bulldogs, as the stars of Gurley and Murray come out in force and UGA leads 28-10 at halftime.
Clemson's Seckinger steps up right out of the gate in the second half, scoring a touchdown each through the air and on the ground to pull the game within four. After 20-yard touchdown run from Gurley, the remainder of the game stayed even, giving the Bulldogs the win.
Murray gets his potential Heisman campaign off to a solid start, throwing for 297 yards on 22-of-34 passing and three touchdowns with an interception. Gurley fought him for the limelight, averaging 7.2 yards a carry on 14 attempts, totaling 102 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving.
UGA's unheralded linebacker Chase Vasser also made a name for himself, leading the SEC this week with 14 tackles, eight of them solo, and a sack.
Yeah, Georgia's going to be a scary team this season.
EA PICKS: Georgia to win, Georgia (+2)
MY PICKS: Georgia to win, Georgia (+2)
#12 LSU  at #17 TCU 
The Tigers pull a rabbit out of the ol' Miles hat in the fourth quarter of this one, scoring 21 unanswered to put the score in blowout territory after a close battle all game.
Both teams pull a couple of big plays in the first half, where TCU leads 10-7. A 15-yard connect from Mettenberger gives the Tigers the lead in the third quarter, but the long-questioned quarterback goes off for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Speaking of Mettenberger, he sends a message to doubters with a 267 yard, 21-of-32 passing and four-touchdown performance. That's Aaron Murray-level efficiency right there. Jeremy Hill nearly reaches the 100-yard mark after 20 attempts on the ground and the Tigers open their 2013 campaign in style.
EA PICKS: LSU to win, LSU (-5)
MY PICKS: LSU to win, LSU (-5)
SEC Football Enjoys Week One...Mostly
With a predicted 10-2 SEC record against non-conference opponents, including three wins over Top 25 teams, the almighty computer is very much on board the SEC bandwagon.
If you've been following my stuff, this kind of performance wouldn't surprise you.
That is, of course, assuming this magical AI machine is accurate. Which, of course, it is.
We'll check back in next week to see just how amazingly accurate EA Sports NCAA Football 2014 is in Week 1 and if I can come close to competing.
Until then, leave some nasty comments and follow me @SEC_Nerd on Twitter.