All 14 of the SEC teams are in action with two games on Thursday night and the others set for Saturday. This is an eagerly awaited week for college football fans and I am one of them. Here is a look at the 13 SEC games to open the 2013 season:
North Carolina at South Carolina--I like South Carolina in this one on Thursday evening because the Gamecocks have a stronger team with more playmakers on both sides of the ball. As is normally the case, Coach Spurrier's team will be able to move the ball and score points, especially when the quarterback play is solid, which appears to be the case this year. It also doesn't hurt to have big Jadaveon Clowney in the lineup to lead the defense.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt--Vandy has endured a lot of problems off the field recently and the Commodores are trying to replace their quarterback. Combine that with opening on Thursday night vs. an Ole Miss team that is very excited about seeing how good it can be and I see the visiting Rebels heading home from Nashville with an early SEC victory.
Toledo at Florida--The Gators have some questions at running back and elsewhere going into Saturday's opener, but this should be an easy victory for Florida despite the fact Toledo won nine times last year.
Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State at Reliant Stadium, Houston, Tex.--I don't see Mississippi State winning this one against an opponent that is supposed to be really good this year. For the Cowboys this could be a good opportunity to showcase their program for recruiting purposes in the Houston area. Oklahoma State has a history of scoring a lot of points against almost everybody they play and that should put them over the top vs. the Bulldogs.
Louisiana-LaFayette at Arkansas--This game has the potential to be a lot closer than many people might suspect. The Ragin' Cajuns won nine games last year and are expected to make a run at winning the Sun Belt championship that Gus Malzahn's Arkansas State team won in 2012. I am picking the Razorbacks to win, but it won't be easy because Louisiana-LaFayette has a potent offense.
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech at the Georgia Dome, Atlanta--The Hokies have the potential to keep this game interesting, but in the end I think Alabama is too strong for Virginia Tech and will win comfortably.
Austin Peay at Tennessee--The Butch Jones Era in Knoxville starts with what should be a gimme vs. an opponent that won just twice last year.
Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky at LP Field, Nashville--Both teams are leaving the state and heading south for an opener the Wildcats hope isn't a repeat of 2012 when Western Kentucky won a hard-fought game 32-31 in overtime at Lexington. Both have new head coaches, but Western Kentucky's Bobby Petrino is more experienced in that role than Mark Stoops so I am picking Kentucky to lose a second straight to the Hilltoppers.
Murray State at Missouri--Year two as an SEC member has the potential to be better for Missouri now that their standout quarterback, James Franklin, is healthy again. The Tigers, who won just five games last year, should take this contest with ease.
Georgia at Clemson--Normally I would go with the SEC team in a matchup vs. an ACC opponent when both teams are so highly ranked. At first I was leaning toward Georgia, but the more I thought about it the more I like Clemson. I think the pace at which Clemson runs its offense with a fourth-year offensive coordinator matched up against a young and rebuilding Georgia defense will give the advantage to the Tigers. In fact, I think it is a deadly combination for Georgia so I am picking Clemson.
LSU vs. TCU at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Tex.--If this game was in Baton Rouge I would be picking the Tigers. TCU has a lot of key guys coming back who started last year. Although they won't be as talented as LSU, the TCU players will be well coached, will play hard and can be very good defensively. Early in the season I think that will be enough to beat an LSU team that is replacing a lot of its key players.
Washington State at Auburn--I expect the Tigers will be better on offense--considerably better--than they have been the past two seasons. I also expect Auburn's offensive line to be good enough to give Washington State's defense problems and I like the Tigers' potential to run the ball effectively on Saturday night.
Washington State's offense is one dimensional. The Cougars throw the ball almost all of the time. The challenge for Auburn will be keeping fresh players on the field, particularly the guys rushing the passer.
I like Auburn's kicking game and with this matchup being played at Jordan-Hare Stadium I like Auburn to get the 2013 season off to a winning start.