SEC Football: Power Ranking the SEC Openers

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIAugust 30, 2011

SEC Football: Power Ranking the SEC Openers

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    The best conference in the country is opening college football with a bang. Every SEC team finds themselves facing a non-conference foe in week one.

    The 2010 season, like the four seasons before it, saw the college football landscape dominated by the SEC, so the eyes of the nation will be on the Southeastern Conference from the get-go.

    Which games will be must see TV and which ones will be stinkers? Read on to find out.

12. Alabama vs. Kent State

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    Alabama is going to have one of the best defenses (if not the best) in the country next year and will be contenders for the National Title.

    Kent State, on the other hand, went 5-7 in the MAC last season ad aren't exactly a hyped up team.

    While there may be bigger mismatches in the SEC openers, this will still be the most boring game. The only way that Kent State will even get close to scoring is if Alabama's rookie quarterback happens to throw an interception at the wrong place on the field.

    Alabama will, in all likelihood, shut out Kent State entirely. It will be obvious from the beginning that Alabama will win and they will do so easily without much flash or flare. It'll be boring and one sided, and that's why I'm ranking it at the bottom.

11. Arkansas vs. Missouri State

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    This probably IS the most lopsided game on opening weekend. Arkansas is one of the better SEC teams and Missouri State is an FCS school that won five games last year.

    Arkansas is out of the picture for the national title now that star running back Knile Davis is out for the season. That also means they're going to be a lot less fun to watch too.

    Sure, quarterback Tyler Wilson has a lot of hype heading his way and Greg Childs is still one of the best receivers in the SEC, but Arkansas still isn't going to have that explosive offense it looked like they were going to have a month ago.

    Expect a very lopsided win for Arkansas here. It'll be more fun to watch than Alabama, but not by much.

10. Vanderbilt vs. Elon

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    Vanderbilt vs. Who? The Elon Phoenixes (if that's even how you pluralize Phoenix) are an FCS team from the Southern Conference who won a whopping six games last season.

    While this won't be any closer than the Alabama game, there is at least an intriguing storyline that has emerged from Vanderbilt lately.

    Does the name Jordan Rodgers ring a bell? It probably won't outside of Wisconsin and California, but he's Aaron Rodgers's little brother and he just transferred to Vanderbilt.

    No, he's not the same player as his brother, but he'll still be an improvement and an interesting player to watch next season.

    Vanderbilt has some good players on their squad this year (including one of the best corners in the country, Casey Hayward) and lost pretty much no one to the draft. Expect them to have a good year by their standards.

    It's Vanderbilt football, so no one is going to be on the edge of their seats and it'll be one sided to boot. I'd recommend following Vanderbilt next season, but don't feel rushed.

9. Auburn vs. Utah State

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    Auburn won the National Championship last year. Utah State won four games in the WAC.

    After losing four offensive linemen, their best defensive player, their quarterback, and one of their best receivers, Auburn is over ranked at No. 23, but they'll still be good enough to wipe the floor with Utah State. Still, Utah State had a win over BYU last season and gave Oklahoma and Nevada a run for their money.

    Still, those games were probably flukes. Expect to see Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb run straight through Utah State's defensive line and lead Auburn to victory.

    There is an outside chance that Utah State could pull off some of that almost-upset magic from last season and make the game a close one, but I wouldn't count on it.

8. Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky

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    Western Kentucky isn't an FCS school, but coming off of a three win season, they may as well be.

    Kentucky hasn't exactly been burning up the BCS rankings either, but they have some good players, including All-SEC outside linebacker Danny Trevathan, to keep things interesting.

    Western Kentucky also has one interesting player of their own: running back Bobby Rainey.

    Rainey rushed for 1649 yards and 15 touchdowns last season and was pretty much the only good thing about Western Kentucky. This season, he'll be trying to get NFL scouts to notice, so don't be surprised if he puts 100 yards on Kentucky.

    Kentucky should still win this neutral site game with ease. That said, there'll be plenty of interesting things to see with both teams, so watch if you can.

7. Mississippi State vs. Memphis

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    Yet another really one sided game, Mississippi State finished 2010 with a 52-14 win over Michigan. Memphis won exactly one game last year, and that was against Middle Tennessee State.

    Mississippi State is feeling left out of the SEC West talks: everyone is talking about Alabama, LSU and Arkansas, but not many are talking about Mississippi State. They won nine games last year and feel entitled to at least some of the hype.

    Expect Mississippi State to come out swinging and give everything they've got to try and impress the rest of the SEC West.

    The game is at Memphis, which is about all the Tigers have going for them, outside of monster defensive tackle Dontari Poe. It'll be Mississippi State by a ton.

6. Tennessee vs. Montana

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    If you haven't noticed yet, most of these games are very one sided toward the SEC. This is another one.

    Montana is an FCS team, but they're a historically dominant one, winning a piece of their conference championship every year from 1993 to 2009 and winning the FCS National Championship twice.

    Before you get too excited, they fell off last year and are only predicted to finish third in the Big Sky Conference this season.

    Still, Montana is good enough to show up against Tennessee and give them a decent game.

    The Vols have one of the youngest teams in the NCAA, and are coming into 2011 with stud quarterback Tyler Bray, reliable running back Tauren Poole and  great group of young receivers.

    It'll be a high flying, fun game to watch, but will still be pretty one sided.

5. Florida vs. Florida Atlantic

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    If you know your college football history, you know who Howard Schnellenberger is. He's the guy that made Miami "The U" and he was the Offensive Coordinator of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins. That gives him a pretty important spot in football history.

    He now coaches Florida Atlantic and has announced that he will retire after this season. Florida Atlantic is no contender for anything; they only won four games last year with their signature win coming from UAB.

    Regardless of that, you can bet that the kids on that team are going to want to send Schnellenberger out with the best season they can possibly give him.

    They don't stand a chance against Florida, but the Gators are over ranked, and I wouldn't be surprised if Florida Atlantic made the game a lot closer than it should be.

    This will be a good one, if for no other reason than it's Schnellenberger's last season opener  Watch it.

4. Ole Miss vs. BYU

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    This is one of the only games in week one that the SEC is expected to lose.

    BYU had a solid season in 2010, winning seven games including a victory over UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl.

    Ole Miss on the other hand, won only four games, only one of which was in the SEC.

    Still, I expect Ole Miss to be a little bit better than last year, and the SEC is the best conference in the country, so they could very well give BYU a close game.

    I'd favor BYU, but I would be surprised if this game was won by more than a touchdown. Ole Miss has a lot to prove.

3. South Carolina vs. ECU

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    Neutral site games are always fun, and this is about as neutral as it gets.

    South Carolina is the runaway favorite to win the SEC East this year, but ECU is no pushover. They went 6-7 in 2010 including a bowl loss to a very good Maryland team.

    South Carolina starts the season ranked No. 12 in the polls, but ECU looks a little better than last year and could surprise everyone by playing up to South Carolina's level.

    Also, South Carolina's stud running back Marcus Lattimore has apparently spent the offseason in the weight room and has added more muscle to his frame. He's already the best running back in the conference (maybe the country), and he might just make a Heisman run this year (no pun intended).

    If nothing else, South Carolina will be exciting to watch. Don't skip this one.

2. LSU vs. Oregon

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    Another neutral game that is truly neutral. No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 LSU will meet in Texas to see who is top dog.

    A couple of weeks ago, this would've been without a doubt, the best opening week game period. Two perennial powerhouses meeting on neutral ground to settle the score. Classic!

    Unfortunately, LSU lost two players to arrest, including starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson. This definitely sets them back a couple of notches.

    Given LSU's situation, I have to give the advantage to Oregon. They have Heisman hopeful LaMichael James on their side and were the Nation Championship runner ups last season.

    If the Mad Hatter manages to pull out a win in this one, LSU will be a legitimate contender for the National Title, no matter who they have at quarterback. If Oregon wins, they get bragging rights against the SEC.

    It'll be a hard fought game, and you'd be crazy to miss it.

1. Georgia vs. Boise State

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    This game is listed as neutral, but realistically it's a home game for Georgia.

    If you want my opinion, both of these teams are over ranked, but that doesn't take away from the importance of this game.

    Boise is looking to come down and hand an upstart team in the best conference in the country a loss so that they can again try to make the case for a National Championship appearance.

    Georgia is looking to show an upstart small school who is top Dawg.

    I don't think either team wants this win more than the other.

    Both these teams are trying to show doubters that they're for real, and one of them will do it. To make things even better, this will be maybe the most evenly matched game in all of the SEC openers.

    I'll be sure to watch, and you should too; it'll be a classic.