Are you ready for some football?
Games of Interest: Week 1
#9 South Carolina vs #21 Texas A&M (Thursday night)
In one of the easier picks of week one, the Gamecocks invite the Aggies to Williams-Brice for the first ever meeting between the two schools. Texas A&M's offense will look to sophomore Kenny Hill to fill the shoes of Johnny Manziel at quarterback. While I expect the Aggies to have some success moving the ball against South Carolina and its young, inexperienced secondary, at the end of the day I don't see them being able to sustain a close margin throughout the second half and think the Gamecocks will grind out the win behind the legs of Mike Davis and a fired up home crowd.
The Pick: South Carolina
#13 LSU vs #14 Wisconsin
The Tigers and Badgers square off in this top 15 neutral site match up in Houston, Texas. Les Miles intends on playing both Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris as neither has separated themselves as the better overall package. Both squads are young on the defensive front and will have to play well and prove they are the real deal. That could be tough against Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon who rushed for over 1600 yards last season and LSU's trio of seniors Kenny Hilliard and Terrence Magee and Freshman Leonard Fournette. This one comes down to which defense can rise to the occasion and stop the run..or at least slow it down.
The Pick: LSU
#2 Alabama vs West Virginia
I'm not sure why I bothered bringing this one up to be completely honest. Although, I'm very interested to see how Kiffin does at Alabama this season. This one will go down in Atlanta Saturday afternoon but it really doesn't matter when or where it is played because Alabama will roll. (No pun intended...well maybe a little) As of this post, Vegas has the Tide as 27 point favorites. 27. West Virginia will be lucky to be within three touchdowns by halftime. Hope Dana Holgorsen has saved up his money cause he takes another step towards unemployment this weekend. (RDT!!!)
The Pick: Alabama
#6 Auburn vs Arkansas
The Razorbacks look to get back on track this season after going 0-9 in SEC play last year. It won't be easy snapping the streak on the road against Auburn where they are 21 point underdogs to the Tigers. Bret Bielema's squad improved towards the end of last season and nearly knocked off LSU in the season finale in Tiger Stadium falling 31-27. Auburn's Nick Marshall will play despite his misdemeanor marijuana charge this summer however Auburn has announced Sophomore Jeremy Johnson will get the start. The Razorbacks should be better this year and RB Alex Collins who rushed for over 1000 yards last season will play a big role in turning things around in Fayetteville.
The Pick: Auburn
#1 Florida State vs #21 Oklahoma State
Jameis Winston and the Seminoles look to defend their National Championship and start their back-to-back campaign Saturday as they face the Cowboys, who are also coming off a pretty good year, in Arlington, Texas. Florida State remains absolutely stacked on both sides of the ball with NFL talent all over the field. Mike Gundy's crew doesn't have as many household names but has a powerful offense that averaged just under 40 points per game last season while giving up just over 21. I think this game could be closer than the 17 point spread predicts but I think Winston and company will get the job done nonetheless.
The Pick: Florida State
Featured Game of the Week: Week 1
#16 Clemson @ #12 Georgia
Saturday, August 30th 5:30 PM
Preview: The Tigers and Dawgs kick off the football season together again this year with Clemson traveling to Athens-- a place where they have only won three times in the last 100 years. To be fair they haven't played UGA every year and there has been random spans of years where the two didn't play at all. Most recently from 2004-2012. However, even when they played every year such as in the 70's/80's the Tigers did not win very often down in Athens. Will that change this weekend or will Georgia continue its home dominance over Clemson? This year's meeting doesn't have the big time names like last year and if you're looking for another shootout then look elsewhere. This weekend's game will be a much lower scoring affair and will come down to which quarterback plays the best and makes the least amount of mistakes. Todd Gurley racked up over 150 yards in Death Valley last year and looks to make another big impact Saturday between the hedges. He will get his yards and almost certainly will find the end zone at least once Saturday evening but can the Tigers limit his production down the stretch?
Things to watch: As I've said, in all likelihood this will be a low scoring game and if either team can reach the mid-to-high 20's it should be enough to win, in my opinion. Quarterback play will be huge with two players making their first "big game" start...Huston Mason for Georgia and Cole Stoudt for Clemson. Coach Swinney made it clear weeks ago that freshman Deshuan Watson will also play Saturday but has not given us much else on details about how much or long we will see him on the field. An area of concern for Clemson is the offensive line. While the Tigers should be "okay" Saturday, if someone gets banged up the Tigers will have to dig deep to come up with a combination that will hold up against UGA's defense. The loss of Shaq Anthony, who announced last week he will transfer, is huge and makes an already young and unproven line even more vulnerable. I don't have to tell you what the atmosphere will be like Saturday afternoon. It will be of the utmost importance for the Tigers to all be on the same page and be able to communicate and focus. That being said, it isn't all roses for Georgia's offensive line either who will likely have to play two freshmen linemen in Isaiah Wynn and Dyshon Sims at some point in the game due to depth issues. Going up against Clemson's strong front seven will be a test for everyone they face this season, no matter what the talent/experience level. We'll get to see if the Tigers are as good as advertised up front.
We know the secondary is also unproven and will have to step up Saturday night. Redshirt Freshmen Mackensie Alexander will get the start at corner opposite of Martin Jenkins. He's played well through spring ball and preseason camp and is ready to go after last season's groin injury that kept him on the sideline. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables is confident in him but again first game of the season in a hostile environment...it will be interesting to see how he responds. Sophomore Safety Jayron Kearse was hit or miss last year and you never really knew what to expect so I'd also keep an eye on him and see if Mason throw his way early to test him. Lastly, I think the first few series will be key for Clemson. Of course the Tigers would like to strike first with a touchdown but they have to be able to weather the storm early and not take unnecessary risks and absolutely MUST protect the football. Its going to be a long and physical game. If Stoudt can manage the game and take care of the football, I like Clemson's chances. The defense should keep them in the ballgame as long as the offense does their part and avoids turnovers and quick three and outs, the Tigers should be in position to win in the second half. All in all this game is a toss up. Georgia definitely has the edge with it being at home but at the end of the day it comes down to which teams plays better and makes fewer mistakes. Both have significant questions marks at key areas on the field and it appears to be another evenly matched contest. Call me a homer but I'm drinking the kool-aid and think the Tigers find a way to get it done in Athens. For the record, I perfectly predicted the 38-35 Clemson win in Death Valley last season. Hopefully I can make it two years in a row. In the words of Clemson radio host Roy Philpott....bring on the hate!
Prediction: Clemson 24 Georgia 20