We are still two weeks away from the start of the college football season, but for those of you like me, itching for it to began, here is a preview of the week one matchups in the SEC.
Week’s Best Matchups
9/4 - LSU at North Carolina (Atlanta, GA)
This is the game of the week for the first week of SEC contests. The game will be played in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia as part of the third annual Chik-fil-A Kickoff Game. Both teams are coming off similar seasons and have high expectations for the coming season.
North Carolina expects to challenge for the ACC title with a team returning 17 starters (eight on offense, nine on defense) including last season’s leading passer, quarterback T.J. Yates and rushers Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston. UNC is still awaiting a response from the NCAA on the eligibility of defensive tackle Marvin Austin, so we will have to wait and see what impact that will have on this game, if any.
LSU has fallen behind Alabama in the SEC West in recent years and now has to contend with the likes of Auburn and Arkansas. LSU only returns 11 starters from a year ago, with only four on defense. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson returns to lead the offense that will have to replace its two leading rushers from a year ago.
I expect this to be a tough and physical contest to the end. Will this be the year the ACC beats the SEC in the Chik-fil-A Kickoff Game for the first time, or will the SEC continue its dominance?
UNC 24, LSU 17
9/4 - Kentucky at Louisville
Kentucky has won the last three games in this rivalry and looks to continue the streak under first year head coach Joker Phillips. Louisville is coming off a disappointing 4-8 (1-6) year and looks to rebuild under first-year coach Charlie Strong.
Kentucky has a dynamic playmaker in receiver Randall Cobb, who can line up in multiple positions and formations, including quarterback and punt/kick returner. The Wildcats also utilize the “wildcat” formation to give Cobb touches in the run game. Look for him to be the difference-maker in this game.
Louisville returns 14 starters (eight offensive) from a disappointing team that prompted a coaching change. The new man in charge is Charlie Strong, former USC and Florida defensive coordinator. Look for Strong to improve a defense that surrendered 26 points a game a year ago.
This game is hard to predict, with two new first year head coaches, but I have to give the edge to the Wildcats in a close one.
Kentucky 17, Louisville 16
9/2 – Southern Miss. at South Carolina
Not a lot of options for the upset pick this week. Why this game? The Eagles return 13 starters from a 7-6 bowl team from the previous season and will be the toughest opponent USC has opened the season against in years. Southern Miss. is confident in their team, with coach Larry Fedora already predicting a win.
South Carolina typically plays down to their opponent, especially in season openers. While the Gamecocks have talent and depth at the skill positions and on defense, questions still remain about the quarterback and offensive line positions.
With all that said, Steve Spurrier, in his sixth season at Carolina, has arguably the most talented team in school history. To make a run at the SEC Eastern Division crown, the Gamecocks can’t stumble in the first game. If this game turns into a blow out, Carolina just might have the team capable of making a run this year.
South Carolina 38, Southern Miss. 20
Rest of the Schedule
San Jose St at Alabama
Tennessee Tech at Arkansas
Arkansas St at Auburn
Miami (OH) at Florida
Louisiana-Lafayette at Georgia
Jacksonville St at Ole Miss
Memphis at Mississippi St
Tennessee-Martin at Tennessee
Northwestern at Vanderbilt
Well that wraps up this week’s preview and prediction of the SEC action in week one. Look for this weekly write up and more throughout the season.
Leave some feedback in the comments for the structure of this and future articles. I was also considering a layout including: Game of the Week, Intriguing Games (three or less, unless more needed), Upset Alerts, and the Rest of the Schedule.