Picking the SEC
Predictions, Spreads, and Tidbits for Every SEC Game in Week One
*North Carolina vs. South Carolina (-2.5) – Thursday, 6 p.m., ESPN
The Tar Heels and Gamecocks square off for the first time since 2013 when South Carolina won 27-10 in Columbia. Both teams are looking to play the spoiler role in their respective divisions in 2015. The storyline here is bad defense. Both of these teams have made changes on that side of the ball so it will be interesting to if either has improved. With the coaching advantage and more to prove, the Gamecocks should have a slight edge over the Tar Heels.
Prediction: South Carolina 27, North Carolina 20.
Western Kentucky (-2.5) at Vanderbilt – Thursday, 8 p.m., SEC Network
I’m a bit surprised the Hilltoppers are still favored in this game. Sure, Vanderbilt was atrocious last year, but they have significantly upgraded their coordinators over the offseason and they return 18 starters. Vandy got better as the 2014 season went on, so don’t expect them to lose by 30 in the home opener again. Western Kentucky isn’t coached by Bobby Petrino anymore. They might hang around for a little while, but the Commodores will win this game comfortably.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 34, Western Kentucky 23.
Louisiana-Monroe at No. 9 Georgia (-35.5) – Saturday, Noon, SEC Network
Simply put, there just isn’t much to see here. Monroe had its 15 minutes of fame in 2012 when they beat Arkansas. Since then, it hasn’t been so pretty. Monroe’s quarterback Garrett Smith is making his first start. Between the hedges is not the easiest place to do such a thing. Georgia’s offensive line will control the line of scrimmage early and Nick Chubb will rush for at least 100 yards before being pulled early.
Prediction: Georgia 49, Louisiana-Monroe 10.
Tennessee-Martin at No. 17 Ole Miss – Saturday, Noon, SEC Network
Ole Miss is in serious position to contend for a championship. If they can get through the gauntlet that is the SEC West they should be able to compete with most other Power Five teams. The Rebels’ 2013 class is ready for a breakthrough. Tennessee-Martin is coming off moderately successful six win campaign in 2014, but they don’t enough firepower to compete with Ole Miss’ stingy defense. This one should be over before halftime.
Prediction: Ole Miss 49, Tennessee-Martin 0.
Texas-El Paso at No. 18 Arkansas (-33) – Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU
The Hogs may not be tested until they meet up with Texas A&M in Arlington. Despite losing star running back Jonathan Williams for the season, Arkansas is loaded up front. Their offensive line should allow them to take control of this game early on. And if the way Arkansas finished the season on defense is any indication of how good they could be this year, UTEP may be sore by the time they load the bus to head back to El Paso.
Prediction: Arkansas 38, Texas-El Paso 3.
*Louisville vs. No. 6 Auburn (-10.5) – Saturday, 3:30 p.m., CBS
In one of the most anticipated matchups of week one, Gus Malzahn’s powerful run-first offense will take on the high-velocity pass offense of Bobby Petrino and Louisville. The biggest storyline in this game is whether or not the Tigers’ new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will have anything dialed up to slow down the Cardinals’ offense. Auburn’s depth could be the deciding factor in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Auburn 45, Louisville 30.
Southeast Missouri State at No. 24 Missouri – Saturday, 4 p.m., SEC Network
Honestly, there just isn’t much to say about some of these matchups. It’s great that football season is finally upon us but it could be a few weeks before some teams are challenged. Missouri enters the season with questions at wide receiver but their running game will over power Southeast Missouri State. The Tigers have a senior-laden offensive line and a quality running back in Russell Hansbrough.
Prediction: Missouri 42, Southeast Missouri State 7.
*Bowling Green vs. No. 25 Tennessee (-21.5) – Saturday, 4 p.m., SEC Network
The Vols have as much momentum as any SEC team entering the 2015 season. Tennessee’s high powered offense led by quarterback Josh Dobbs will be far too much for Bowling Green to handle. However, the silver lining for the Falcons may be in their running game. Travis Green is Doak Walker Award candidate and the offensive line returns a combined 125 starts. The Falcons may put some points on the board, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to stop Tennessee.
Prediction: Tennessee 45, Bowling Green 20.
*No. 15 Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (-3.5) – Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN
This one should be fun. Arizona State is used to playing against fast-paced offenses and they are no stranger to competition. The Pac-12 South is probably college football’s best division outside the SEC West. The only thing that gives A&M a slight edge in this game is their upgrade at defensive coordinator with John Chavis coming over from LSU. The Aggies will get it done but it won’t be easy.
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Arizona State 35.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Kentucky (-17) – Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU
Lafayette has been one of the most consistent programs in college football under head coach Mark Hudspeth. The Ragin’ Cajuns have won nine games in every season since his arrival. While they may stay competitive in the first half, a depleted defense could have trouble slowing down Kentucky’s new approach to the Air Raid offense. Patrick Towles and company will run away in the second half.
Prediction: Kentucky 41, Louisiana-Lafayette 13.
McNeese State at No. 14 LSU – Saturday, 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
Again, just not much to talk about here. McNeese State has been successful in the Southland Conference in recent years, but that just doesn’t compare to the SEC West. The Bayou Bengals have a nice warm-up game here to figure out the quarterback situation. Expect Leonard Fournette to sit the second half after racking up a couple early touchdowns.
Prediction: LSU 46, McNeese State 7.
New Mexico State at Florida (-37) – Saturday, 7:30 p.m., SEC Network
New Mexico State isn’t expected to be very good, but the smart decision for a gambling man here might be to take the Aggies with the points. Is Florida capable of scoring 37 points and shutting out New Mexico State? It will be interesting to see how new head coach Jim McElwain’s offense performs against a rather easy opponent in week one.
Prediction: Florida 34, New Mexico State 3.
*No. 20 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Alabama (-12) – Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC
The Badgers are bringing back a boatload of talent from an 11-win team that beat Auburn in the bowl season. Alabama is coming into this game with a new face at quarterback and plenty of questions along the offensive line and at wide receiver. Wisconsin’s defense has had ample time to prepare for Lane Kiffin’s offensive attack, but in the same regard, Nick Saban is tough to beat in games he has time to prepare for.
Prediction: Alabama 24, Wisconsin 21.
Mississippi State (-21) at Southern Miss – Saturday, 10 p.m., Fox Sports 1
Despite being ranked No. 1 in the country last season, Mississippi State is picked last in the SEC West. The Bulldogs have plenty to prove and are capable on offense with Dak Prescott at quarterback and De’Runnya Wilson on the outside. The question is, who else can they rely on? State should be able to coast in this game, even in their current situation.
Prediction: Mississippi State 44, Southern Miss 17
* – Indicates neutral site game