Week 2 SEC Game Previews and Predictions
Georgia Hosts South Carolina in SEC's Game of the Week
The opening week of the 2013 college football season was well worth the agonizingly long offseason, and things got underway with two great games featuring SEC teams on Thursday before an abundance of action on Saturday. I went 11-2 in picks last week in what was a mixed bag for the conference as a whole.
Alabama came away victorious in their opener vs. Virginia Tech but did not look to be the unstoppable force many had expected to see. Georgia lost a tough one vs. Clemson in a game they likely win if not for a bad snap on a field goal attempt in the closing seconds of the third quarter and injuries to Todd Gurley and Malcolm Mitchell. The biggest game of the week and toughest to predict is their game vs. South Carolina. The Gamecocks dominated in their opening win over North Carolina and will look to make it four straight vs. Georgia on Saturday.
The four new coaches went a combined 3-1 with Kentucky’s Mark Stoops losing to Western Kentucky. Bret Bielema and Butch Jones had dominating efforts for Arkansas and Tennessee, and both programs look to exceed expectations in year one. Gus Malzahn's Auburn team surprised some by having a strong running game as the passing game behind Nick Marshall got off to a somewhat rocky start.
Mississippi State and Vanderbilt each lost, but in two completely different fashions. The Bulldogs' offense was non-existent while the Commodores had no answer to Ole Miss’ offense in the second half. Florida won ugly as they were down a number of key contributors as a result of injury and suspension. Their game vs. Miami is the second biggest game of the week and will be the last time the two programs play for the foreseeable future, so it should be a game that goes down to the wire.
Finally, LSU and Texas A&M each won despite suspensions to their top offensive players. Johnny Manziel was suspended for the first half and then promptly led four scoring drives in the five he played, and Jeremy Hill was withheld from the Tigers' win over TCU stemming from his offseason arrest. A return of a different sort was seen in the Missouri game with Henry Josey coming back from injury, and we saw a return of the James Franklin from 2011 in the Tigers' romp.
Without further ado check out my predictions and previews for each game and let me know which games you agree or disagree with in the comments below. The games are listed according to their start time. I will be making predictions throughout the season every Tuesday and updating my record each week.
Kentucky beats Miami (OH) 24-14
The debut for Mark Stoops did not go exactly as planned for the folks in Big Blue Nation, but Kentucky will get in the win column this week vs. a Miami (OH) team who gave up 52 last week to Marshall. Maxwell Smith will start at quarterback for the Wildcats, and if he started in the opener I believe Kentucky would be 1-0. They need to cut down on penalties - they had 10 last week - and win the time of possession game after Western Kentucky held the ball for 10 more minutes than Kentucky, and I believe they do both.
Florida loses to Miami (FL) 17-13
Florida and Miami both held their week 1 opponents to six points, but the Hurricanes' offense showed more big-play ability in the opener. Neither team played a stiff test in Toledo and Florida Atlantic, but I'm siding with Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris to make one more play against a very good Gators defense to pull out the win at home. Florida will be boosted by the return of starting running back Matt Jones, but he has been out all fall with an infection and I worry about his conditioning. Florida's passing attack is not intimidating, and if Florida is going to win this last game between the two in-state rivals for the foreseeable future it will need to keep Johnson under 100 total yards. He had more than 200 last week, and he is far too explosive to contain for four quarters.
Tennessee beats Western Kentucky 27-17
Western Kentucky defeated Kentucky in a minor upset in week 1, but I don't believe Bobby Petrino's team starts out their season 2-0 vs. the SEC. Tennessee did everything you wanted to see from them in their slaughtering of Austin Peay in week 1. Butch Jones' debut proved he's the perfect man to lead the Vols and should start out 2-0 with a reliance on the run game that rushed for more than 300 yards in the opener.
Missouri beats Toledo 26-16
After a bit of a sluggish start defensively, Missouri tightened up after the first quarter and shutout Murray State as James Franklin and the offense poured it on. The biggest note of the Tigers' opener was the triumphant return of running back Henry Josey to the field who had not played since an injury ended his 2011 season. Russell Hansbrough gives Missouri two talented backs to keep opposing defenses on their heels. Toledo didn't have much success on offense in their opening week loss to Florida, so they will be under pressure to deliver. I think the Tigers defense bends a little but won't break.
Mississippi State beats Alcorn State 38-10
Mississippi State dropped their opener to Oklahoma State after playing relatively even the first 27 minutes. However, the wheels fell off after a long run by J.W. Walsh as the Cowboys would score a touchdown and never look back. Adding injury to insult Tyler Russell was concussed and is unlikely to play this game meaning Dak Prescott will get his most extensive action as a Bulldog. He has dual-threat ability and should display the potential that has many 'Dawg fans optimistic about his future. The defense played surprisingly well for much of the game last week and should continue to play well this week.
South Carolina beats Georgia 28-27
Georgia has not beat South Carolina since 2009, and Aaron Murray is 0-3 against his SEC east foe. He faces a must-win situation after dropping the opener to Clemson. Georgia benefits by playing in Athens, but the last time they hosted the Gamecocks they allowed 45 points. To make matters even worse they will be without top wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell who tore his ACL. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall need to rush for 250 yards between them and take pressure off Murray who has a history of wilting under the pressure of big games. After being dissected in week 1 and having a poor individual game vs. North Carolina you can expect Jadeveon Clowney to hold up his big words from SEC Media Days when he said Murray is scared of him. He'll have two sacks this game and control the line of scrimmage.
Arkansas beats Samford 52-6
Arkansas was the team to impress me the most in week 1 as Bret Bielema has already changed the culture of the Razorback program. The offense was balanced with two 100-yard rushers and got smart and efficient play from Brandon Allen who looks like he has "it" at quarterback. Defensively, the front four led by Chris Smith and Trey Flowers set the tone up front and the back seven played off their success.
Ole Miss beats Southeast Missouri State 49-13
After a thrilling finish in their win over Vanderbilt in the opener, Ole Miss gets a tune-up before their week 3 tilt vs. Texas. The big thing for this game is to come out of it healthy as the Rebels lost two starters in the opener. Ole Miss isn't the deepest team in the SEC, so having as many healthy bodies vs. the Longhorns in Austin is imperative. I'll be looking to see the continued development of freshmen Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche, Tony Conner and Evan Engram as the defense dominates.
No. 12 LSU beats UAB 38-9
LSU looked pretty potent on offense putting up 38 points over a very good TCU defense, and the Tigers did so without their best offensive player as Jeremy Hill was withheld for disciplinary reasons. Les Miles has not been clear in if Hill will play vs. UAB or not, but the Blazers aren't a threat so I'm guessing he will be held out as his discipline from his offseason arrest continues one more week.
Texas A&M beats Sam Houston State 63-10
Texas A&M won't be tested in this game and for the second week in a row Johnny Manziel will only play for a half. The Aggies should put on an offensive clinic in the first half, and I wouldn't be shocked to see five or six touchdowns in the first 30 minutes.
Auburn beats Arkansas State 31-16
Nick Marshall took a little while to get settled at quarterback for Auburn, but that was to be expected to a degree after coming form the JUCO ranks. The Cam Newton comparisons were unfair, but he was helped out by a three-headed monster at running back with Corey Grant, Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne leading the rushing attack for the Tigers that finished with 295 yards on the ground. Look for Gus Malzahn to get Marshall comfortable by running early and often and opening up play action passes. Robenson Therezie had a breakout game at the "Star" position and earned defensive player of the week honors for the conference after a seven tackle performance that included a game-clinching interception in the fourth quarter vs. Washington State.
Vanderbilt beats Austin Peay 45-7
Vanderbilt is coming off a heart-breaking loss at home vs. Ole Miss and gets an Austin Peay opponent that lost 45-0 to Tennessee in their opener. Austyn Carta-Samuels should have no trouble finding Jordan Matthews time and time again in this contest, and the Commodores should be able to get the run game going vs. the Governors who gave up more than 300 yards to the Vols.
Alabama is resting up this week after defeating Virginia Tech in their opener. Nick Saban and his staff will undoubtedly spend the entire bye devising a foolproof gameplan to neutralize Johnny Manziel when Alabama travels to College Station to take on Texas A&M Sept. 14.