NCAA Football

SEC Football: Week 1 Predictions

The SEC enters week 1 of the 2012 college football season as the reigning national champions and have done so for six years in a row. The week 1 schedule is full of SEC teams playing non-conference teams but some of those matchups are high-profile games that will garner national attention.

Here are my predictions for the SEC in week 1.

South Carolina  at Vanderbilt 

All eyes will be on running back Marcus Lattimore and how he fares in his return from knee surgery. Steve Spurrier will probably ride Lattimore the entire night and pass sparingly, as was the case last season.  The defenses of both teams will be the story of the game. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin will need to find a way to stop defensive end Jadaveon Clowney in order to keep his quarterback upright.  A victory in this game would make a huge statement to the SEC for Vanderbilt and they have the tools to win, but South Carolina will end up being too much for the Commodores. South Carolina 27, Vanderbilt 17

Tennessee  vs. North Carolina

The lose of wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers will hurt the Tennessee passing attack but there is still hope for the Vols in their first game. Wide receiver Justin Hunter returns after missing most of last season and it will be interesting to see if he can shake of the rust to be a weapon for Tyler Bray. The Vols will also have the services of Cordarrelle Patterson but he is another question mark for the team’s offense. The off-season was a turbulent one for coach Derek Dooley and he needs this win to keep his seat from getting any hotter. Tennessee 28, N.C. State 24

Buffalo at Georgia 

Mark Richt and the Bulldogs will use this game as a tune-up for their next game against Missouri. Georgia possesses superior talent compared to that of Buffalo and this game should be a rout. The only question for the Bulldogs is whether linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Bacarri Rambo will play after being previously suspended. Aaron Murray should be on the sidelines by the fourth quarter and Georgia wins big. Georgia  52, Buffalo 7

Bowling Green  at Florida 

The Gators possess a talented defense that will keep the Falcons at bay. What will be interesting is what quarterback emerges from the rotation Will Muschamp has set in place. The Florida offense is nothing special but it will be enough to defeat Bowling Green. Florida  27, Bowling Green 14

Central Arkansas at Ole Miss

The Hugh Freeze era begins at Ole Miss with an opponent the Rebels should be able to defeat. Ole Miss lost the seven games of their 2011 season and need to get into the win column. Against Central Arkansas, that should be no issue. However, there are many questions for the Rebels and Central Arkansas could pull the upset. Ole Miss 31, Central Arkansas 21

Jacksonville State at Arkansas

John L. Smith will finally make his debut and the questions about how the Arkansas offense will run will be answered. Running back Knile Davis will be making his return from a broken ankle that ended his 2011 season, expect him to be let lose to knock off the rust. At the end of the day, John L. Smith shows the nation that Arkansas can win without Bobby Petrino. Arkansas 48, Jacksonville State 10

Jackson State at Mississippi State

The season opener comes at the perfect time for Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs, who are dealing with an NCAA investigation. The 2012 Bulldogs are perhaps the most talented team that Mullen has had at Mississippi State and a win should help clear the air in Starkville. Mississippi State 36, Jackson State 6

North Texas at LSU

Zach Mettenberger makes his debut as the starting quarterback for the Tigers and will be the center of attention. LSU has not had a passer of his talent in years, making the Tiger offense even more dangerous. The LSU defense will have no issue containing North Texas and Mettenberger will have the chance to show his potential. LSU 42, North Texas 3

Southeastern Louisiana at Missouri

Missouri has a week before officially opening SEC play against Georgia. The Tigers will use SE Louisiana as a means to fine tune their game plan for next week. Quarterback James Franklin starts 2012 in a big way. Missouri 52, SE Louisiana 13

Auburn at Clemson

The Auburn Tigers are surrounded by question marks. They are starting a new quarterback and will have a new center after suspending their previous starter. The battle of the Tigers will be close but Clemson will claw out a victory. Clemson 21, Auburn 17

Michigan vs. Alabama

The marquee matchup of the weekend will be everything it is billed to be. Denard Robinson is an exciting play-maker but will face a true test in the Alabama defense. Alabama is young and will be tested by Robinson. If Alabama can force Robinson to throw, the Tide will force him into bad decisions. Expect this game to be closer than the pundits believe. Alabama 28, Michigan 24 

Kentucky at Louisville

A game against an in-state rival often means a must-win game and it is for Joker Phillips. However, Charlie Strong is building something at Louisville and possesses a better team. Louisville 27, Kentucky 14

Chris Lionetti covers the SEC for Rant Sports.

Follow him on Twitter at: @ChrisLionetti