Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

SEC Football: Week 2 Preview and Predictions

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The college football season got off to a hot start in week one. The SEC got off to a great start, save for a few of slip-ups. They were all understandable losses, however, as Georgia lost a three point nail biter to Clemson on the road, Mississippi State lost in Houston to Oklahoma State and Kentucky fell to Western Kentucky who, albeit a Sun Belt team, had defeated them the year before and seemed like the better team coming in. One other SEC team lost, but it was to another team in the conference. Vanderbilt fell to Ole Miss on the opening night of the season in a roller coaster contest that had an entire nation on the edge of its seat. That doesn’t happen often when those two teams meet up, but this isn’t your father’s Vanderbilt, and Hugh Freeze’s success on the recruiting trail for the Rebels is already paying huge dividends.

All in all it was a good week, and I went 11-1 on my picks. I nailed Western Kentucky’s win over Kentucky, and correctly picked the right side of the coin in the Vanderbilt-Ole Miss toss-up. Georgia’s loss to Clemson was my only slip-up of the week.

The week two slate is pretty thin, and nobody would judge you if you decided to take a Saturday afternoon nap on the couch. There are a couple of headliners, with Florida traveling to Miami and then the big afternoon SEC East tilt with South Carolina going in between the Hedges to take on Georgia. The 10 other SEC teams in action on Saturday play against non BCS opponents, and Alabama has a bye week to prepare for Texas A&M.

Then again, it’s hard to complain because come April or May, we’d all kill to watch Kentucky play Miami (OH). Here’s my week two picks:

Miami (OH) at Kentucky
Saturday, 12:00 PM ET

The Mark Stoops era didn’t get off to a great start as the Wildcats lost to Western Kentucky for the second year in a row. The budding excitement in Lexington was suppressed after the opener as reality set in. The talent just isn’t there, and while Stoops has been recruiting at a torrid pace, it will be tough for him to keep hold of this class with as bad as it is bound to get this season for the Wildcats. After Jalen Whitlow got the start for the ‘Cats last week, Stoops has made a change and Maxwell Smith is taking the reigns. Smith saw playing time against Western Kentucky, and the offense looked a lot more in sync with him taking the snaps. Look for Smith to manage the game well, but look for the star of the afternoon to be senior running back Raymond Sanders, who should take advantage of the RedHawks’ weak defensive front.

Prediction: Kentucky 31, Miami (OH) 17

No. 12 Florida at Miami (FL) 
Saturday, 12:00 PM ET — ESPN

This is the last scheduled regular season meeting  between the two old rivals. They used to play annually for the Seminole War Canoe up until 1987 when the series took a 14-year hiatus until 2001. They haven’t played since 2008, with the Gators earning a 26-3 win. Still, the Hurricanes have won seven of the last eight meetings, and eight of the last ten. Miami is trying to reclaim lost glory, and Al Golden has the program moving in the right direction. Even against lowly Florida Atlantic, Miami looked strong in their opener led by running back Duke Johnson, who is one of the best backs in the country. Johnson will be a tough test for Florida’s defensive front, but there aren’t many better units in the country than the Gators. They should be able to limit Johnson’s damage, but I can’t say the same for Miami’s defense against Florida’s ground game. Mack Brown should shoulder the load for Florida’s offense while Jeff Driskel manages the game at quarterback. It’ll be close, but the Gators should get the win.

Prediction: Florida 24, Miami (FL) 20

Western Kentucky at Tennessee
Saturday, 12:21 PM ET — SEC Network

Bobby Petrino’s debut with Western Kentucky couldn’t have gone better as he led his Hilltoppers to a win over Kentucky. Now, Petrino will look to slay his second consecutive SEC opponent as they travel to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. Butch Jones got off to a similarly strong start in his Tennessee debut with the Vols easing past FCS opponent Austin Peay. More so than that, Jones has energized a fanbase that had been dormant since Phil Fulmer’s departure from the sidelines. It will be a much taller order for the Hilltoppers to get the win this week, and Tennessee’s size up front figures to be the difference. Tennessee has one of the best offensive lines in the nation, and they should impose their will and open up plenty of running lanes for Rajion Neal. Look for it to be close, but the Vols should wear Western Kentucky down in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Tennessee 28, Western Kentucky 20

Toledo at Missouri
Saturday, 3:30 PM ET — ESPNU

Toledo was a popular upset pick last week against Florida, but their offense sputtered against the strong Florida defense as they manged only six points. The Rockets are still a dangerous team that Missouri won’t be able to take lightly on Saturday afternoon. But, Missouri looks improved from last season with a healthy James Franklin back at quarterback and Henry Josey back from injury at running back. Franklin had a strong start to the season, throwing for 318 yards and three touchdowns. Josey made his triumphant return with 113 yards rushing on 13 carries. It also looks like Dorial Green-Beckham, one of the top recruits in the nation in 2012, is ready for a breakout season. He caught four passes for 83 yards in the opener. A healthy Franklin and Josey will be the difference on Saturday.

Prediction: Missouri 37, Toledo 27

Alcorn State at Mississippi State
Saturday, 3:30 PM ET

Mississippi State’s defense played well enough to win last Saturday in Houston, but their offense didn’t show up again after their opening drive. They held a normally high-powered Oklahoma State offense to just seven points in the first half and 21 total, but they manged only three points themselves. They took the opening drive of the game down the field and got a field goal, and then did nothing of note. It didn’t help matters that starting quarterback Tyler Russell was knocked from the game with a concussion, and he’s unlikely to play this week. That means sophomore Dak Prescott will get the nod in Mississippi State’s home opener, but it won’t matter against Alcorn State. The Bulldogs should lean heavy on running back LaDarius Perkins, and he will carry the offense on his back.

Prediction: Mississippi State 40, Alcorn State 10

No. 6 South Carolina at No. 11 Georgia
Saturday, 4:30 ET — ESPN

The game of the week in the SEC, and the country, is South Carolina’s tilt with Georgia. This is a huge game for SEC East positioning, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the winner of this game end up in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. Georgia is a desperate team coming in after last week’s loss to Clemson. Their fanbase was thinking National Championship, and an 0-2 start would be an absolute disaster. The Bulldogs can ill-afford a second loss already, but it will be tough for them against a Gamecocks team that has had their number. Steve Spurrier’s crew has won the last three meetings, including a 35-7 beatdown in Columbia last year. Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will give South Carolina problems, but the Bulldogs’ offensive line struggled to protect Aaron Murray against Clemson. That’s bad news with Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina’s fierce defensive front coming to Athens. The Bulldogs will also be without their top wideout, Malcolm Mitchell, who tore his ACL celebrating a touchdown. Look for strong games from Connor Shaw and Mike Davis as South Carolina ceases early control of the eastern division.

Prediction: South Carolina 31, Georgia 28

Samford at Arkansas
Saturday, 7:00 PM ET

Arkansas certainly looked like a Bret Bielema coached team last week against Louisiana Lafayette. The Razorbacks pounded the rock for sixty-minutes and amassed nearly 300 rushing yards against the Ragin’ Cajuns. Sophomore Jonathan Williams and freshman Alex Collins led the way as they both totaled more than 130 yards on the ground. Along with the dominant ground game, sophomore quarterback Brandon Allen turned in a good performance through the air, tossing three touchdowns and throwing for 230 yards. The Hogs should have little trouble with Samford this weekend.

Prediction: Arkansas 48, Samford 7

Southeast Missouri State at Ole Miss
Saturday, 7:00 PM ET

Ole Miss earned a key SEC win over Vanderbilt in week one thanks to their fabulous freshmen, but also thanks to an immaculate 75-yard touchdown run by senior running back Jeff Scott that proved to be the game winning score. The Rebels have a ton of potential, and more talent on the roster than they have had in years. A lot of their freshmen made impacts, including last year’s No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche, who more than lived up to the hype. Freshman tackle Laremy Tunsil got in on the action on the offensive line, and the Rebels’ offense finally found a rhythm with him in the game. The two biggest impact freshmen were wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and safety Tony Conner. Conner had three tackles, a pass breakup, and an interception in his first game, while Treadwell was Bo Wallace’s go-to target at receiver. Treadwell caught nine passes for 82 yards in the win over the Commodores. It’ll be interesting to watch them grow as the season progresses, and this is nothing more than a tune-up before they enter their murderer’s row of opponents: at Texas, at Alabama, at Auburn, and home against Texas A&M.

Prediction: Ole Miss 55, Southeast Missouri State 10

UAB at No. 9 LSU
Saturday, 7:00 PM ET — ESPNU

I don’t know why so many people doubted LSU coming into this season. Yeah, they lost a lot on defense, but the Bayou Bengals don’t rebuild; they simply reload year after year. And they’ve done that again, and it showed in their 37-27 win over TCU in Dallas in a game they never seriously seemed to be in danger of losing. While their defense looked as stout as we have all come to expect; holding TCU’s offense to 259 yards and forcing a pair of turnovers, it was their offense that turned the most heads at Cowboys Stadium. They racked up 448 yards of offense against a good TCU defense, with quarterback Zach Mettenberger throwing for 251 yards and a touchdown. They also ran for 197 yards on a 4.1 yards per carry clip. They are expected to play Jeremy Hill on Saturday against UAB, and Hill, regardless of his legal transgressions, is one of the best backs in the country. This shouldn’t be close.

Prediction: LSU 34, UAB 7

Sam Houston State at No. 7 Texas A&M
Saturday, 7:00 PM ET

Alabama is on a bye, and Texas A&M has a tune-up against an FCS opponent before next week’s highly anticipated matchup against one another in College Station. That game is this year’s Game of the Century for now, even though everyone could be calling Alabama-LSU that when the time comes in November. While this is a game against a FCS opponent, Sam Houston State is one of the best teams from the FCS every year. Texas A&M will be without a handful of players once again who are serving the second game of their two game suspensions. Sam Houston State will score more than you might expect, especially against this Aggies defense that looked vulnerable against Rice at times last week. But, Kevin Sumlin will have Johnny Manziel at his disposal for a full game this time after he was suspended for the first half of their game against Rice. Manziel will be the difference, and Texas A&M should cruise toward next week’s date with Alabama.

Prediction: Texas A&M 56, Sam Houston State 24

Arkansas State at Auburn
Saturday, 7:30 PM ET

You know Arkansas State is itching for this game as they look to take down their old boss, Gus Malzahn. Malzahn’s debut with Auburn got off to a good enough start as they defeated Washington State, but that game did little to answer the multitude of questions surrounding this football team. If it wasn’t for three interceptions by Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, then the Tigers probably lose. Their defense didn’t look any better than it was last season, save for the turnovers, as they ceded 464 yards of offense to the Cougars. They were out gained by 70 yards. JUCO transfer Nick Marshall was unspectacular in his first game as the Tigers’ starting quarterback as well; he threw for just 99 yards, but he did avoid any critical mistakes. The one facet of the game where Auburn did look good, however, was on the ground, and that’s likely to be the difference on Saturday. Led by Corey Grant and Tre Mason, the Tigers ran for 295 yards. I expect this to be a close game for a while, but the Tigers will wear Arkansas State down in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Auburn 34, Arkansas State 21

 

Austin Peay at Vanderbilt
Saturday, 7:30 PM ET

It’s a shame that either team had to lose last Thursday because Vanderbilt and Ole Miss both played terrific. The Commodores came up just short, but they had plenty of positive takeaways from the loss. First, Austyn Carta-Samuels looks like a fine replacement for departed quarterback Jordan Rodgers, as he threw for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Rebels. Also, wide receiver Jordan Matthews is as good as anybody in the country; he’s also as tough as they come. He caught 10 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown last week. The one thing Vanderbilt will have to figure out offensively is the running game. Ole Miss stoned the Commodores’ rushing attack, holding senior Wesley Tate to 39 yards on 17 carries. They’ll look to get the kinks worked out on the ground against Austin Peay before they travel to South Carolina next week.

Prediction: Vanderbilt 42, Austin Peay 6

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