The Commodores are fortunate to return the dean of SEC quarterbacks in Jay Cutler. Cutler will certainly end up in the top ten in career offensive yards if he stays healthy.
Vandy has won three straight in this series, but winning their fourth consecutive contest may prove to be very difficult. The Demon Deacons are led by 2004 All-ACC running back Chris Barclay. Barclay will look to return to his 2004 form and keep Cutler safely on the sidelines.
This contest, in my opinion, favors the Demon Deacons for two reasons: Number 1, they are playing at home and, Number 2, Vandy has lost seven straight season openers. Barclay and Wake will make it eight in what will be a close battle.
Wake Forest 28 Vanderbilt 24
Central Florida @ South Carolina
This weekend's contest will mark the return of arguably the best SEC coach of the modern era, Steve Spurrier. While Spurrier may not have the athletes to run his vaunted "Fun N Gun" offense just yet, he will have enough to win this one.
Second-year UCF head Coach George O'Leary saw his team go winless a year ago. This season should produce a win or two but this week is a very tough draw. The offense must be more productive than the abysmal 16 pts per game a year ago.
The Gamecocks lost a lot on defense, especially up front, not to mention the losses of RB Demetrius Summers and WR Troy Williamson. New gunslinger Blake Mitchell should have more than enough to hand Spurrier his first win in garnet and black.
South Carolina 31 UCF 10
UAB @ Tennessee #3
The Vols enter the season as the consensus pick to win the SEC and are a favorite to play in Pasadena. The expectations are certainly lofty, but the folks in Knoxville have the talent to meet those expectations, especially if QB Erik Ainge can continue to develop. Rick Clausen played well at times a year ago and will see time if Ainge starts to falter.
The Blazers of UAB have a pretty decent signal caller themselves in Darnell Hackney. Hackney led the Blazers to a strong thirty-one points per game and he has the ability to keep that going if he can get some help from the depth of the receiving corps.
Tennessee should win this one after an early struggle. RB Gerald Riggs has his time to shine now that Cedric Houston has departed. Riggs has the pedigree and potential to have a special season. The last time Tennessee defeated the UAB Blazers, the Vols won the national championship.
Tennessee 27 UAB 17
Boise State #18 @ Georgia #13
If there's a game on the slate this weekend that has upset written all over it, it's this one. Boise State averaged forty-nine points per game in 2004 and nearly five hundred yards. Granted they didn't run up those yards in the SEC, but anytime you win 35 of 37 you're doing something right.
The Broncos used to be known mainly for their "Smurf turf", featured each season to the chagrin of everyone's color TV. The Broncos now are known for head coach Dan Hawkins imaginative offensive schemes. QB Jared Zabransky is back to torment WAC defenses again this season with one of the country's more balanced attacks.
Georgia will counter with career heir apparent QB D.J. Shockley. Shockley has bided his time and watched now departed David Greene rewrite the Bulldog record books. Georgia lost a lot, and despite a size and strength advantage, I'll go with the minor upset this week. Georgia is a team looking to reinvent themselves and Boise State is looking to show the country they can play with the big boys.
Boise State 34 Georgia 28
Georgia Tech @ Auburn
This is a very tough opening draw for the defending SEC champs. The wrambling wreck of Georgia Tech was one of the country's toughest defenses a year ago. When you factor in the loss of the entire Auburn backfield, this could make for a very interesting game.
Brandon Cox may not be the athlete that Jason Campbell was, but he may end up being a better QB. Cox is suited for the "Gulf Coast" offense and throws a very nice ball. He is very heady and makes the right reads the majority of the time.
The Jackets need to create some turnovers to offset often erratic signal caller Reggie Ball. They were one of the worst teams in the country last season in turnover margin. Due to the fact that Auburn is playing at home and the ability of Cox, they should win a close defensive struggle.
Auburn 17 GT 13
Louisville @ Kentucky
Stefan Lefors took the Cardinals to new heights last year and won a 44-40 shootout over Boise State in the Liberty Bowl. Lefors is now gone, but Conference USA Freshman of the Year Brian Brohm is more than ready to take the helm as Louisville ventures into the Big East.
The Cards have won six of seven in the series and this year the Wildcats don't seem ready to reverse the trend. The Cats were 112th in the country last year in rush defense and that certainly won't help matters when the Cards go play-action.
Expect Brohm to break all of Lefors passing records before he is done. And if the Cats aren't careful he may break some single game records this weekend.
Louisville 42 Kentucky 14
Middle Tennessee State @ Alabama
Alabama is considered by many as a darkhorse in the SEC West race. The SEC home schedule is favorable with Florida, Tennessee and LSU all paying a visit. Drawing Florida and Tennessee is no easy task, but at least the Tide get them at home.
MTSU QB Clint Marks is a good one. Marks will lead a fast-paced offense that likes to go "no huddle". Alabama had the number two defense in the country a year ago and you can expect the Tide to be equally as nasty this year.
Head man Mike Shula is anxious to get Brodie Croyle back on the field. After Croyle's injury, the Tide offense was very one-dimensional. Ken Darby, who has recovered well from an injury he suffered a year ago, returns as the top rusher in the SEC. This week, the Tide should get the chance to get plenty of reps for Croyle and Darby, as the MTSU defense is sizeable over-matched.
Alabama 31 MTSU 7
Wyoming @ Florida # 11
The spread option offense is all the rage in college and high school football. Gator head coach Urban Meyer has seen high school and college coaches flock to Gainesville just to learn a little bit more about it. That offensive scheme helped Alex Smith go #1 in the NFL draft. Florida's Chris Leak is Meyer's next prodigy.
Leak has all of the ability in the world and may throw the best deep ball in the country. Leak's smaller frame will take some punishment and SEC defenses pack a bigger punch than those of the Mountain West.
Can the spread option's QB keepers and shovel passes really work in the SEC? The Gators get a dress rehearsal this week with the Wyoming Cowboys. The Cowboys gave up about 390 yards on defense a year ago. With the talented Gators running this new scheme, their average should go up considerably this week.
Florida 42 Wyoming 10
Missouri State @ Arkansas
Mizzou State, formerly known as Southwest Missouri State, will visit the Hogs, who will attempt to get over the departure of QB Matt Jones. Sophomore Robert Johnson sits atop the depth chart and will depend mightily on tailback Peyton Hillis and WR Marcus Monk to make plays to aid in his development.
Hillis, Monk and Johnson are all sophomores and have the chance to rebuild together. Hillis is an absolute bull with the ball and Monk is the prototype big receiver. If Johnson's offensive line can develop, especially on the right side, the Hogs have a chance to be decent.
Missouri State is a good opponent for a team like Arkansas, who is looking to redefine their offense. With just three senior starters on defense, the Hogs could be very good in 2006, but will take a few lumps this season.
Arkansas 24 MSU 10
Mississippi @ Memphis
The Ed Orgeron era begins in earnest this holiday weekend. The Rebs spent the offseason searching for the right man and believe they have in Orgeron. Coach "O" is known for his fiery disposition and his ability to recruit. Orgeron has pledged to build a "fence" around Memphis when it comes to recruiting.
That comment brought on some good natured ribbing from Memphis head man Tommy West who asked if the folks in Memphis would be able to leave their homes. Orgeron may prefer to build a fence, or more to the point, a cage around Memphis running back DeAngelo Williams.
Williams, a Heisman candidate, has seen two straight wins over the Rebs and will look for number three this year. But he will be without solid signal QB Danny Wimprine.
The Rebs won't announce a starter at QB until game time, but it is safe to assume that both Spurlock and Lane will see some action. Spurlock appeared to have won the job in the spring, but Robert Lane has come on as of late to make the fall heat to close to call. Lane, the hero of the 2004 Egg Bowl, is a very spirited competitor who was able to rally the team around him. Spurlock may have the edge in athleticism, but, based on last year's results, Lane should emerge as the clear starter at some point.
This should be one of the better games of the SEC weekend schedule. With Williams ability and Joe Lee Dunn's defense taking it's swipes at an offense looking to install a new scheme, I like the Tigers in this one.
Memphis 24 Mississippi 17
Murray State @ Mississippi State
Jerious Norwood and Nick Turner used to battle each other for playing time. This weekend, the two will battle head up on opposite sidelines. Tuner and Norwood have both garnered SEC honors during their careers and both have a chance to play football at the next level. You know the chance to battle head to head means a lot to both of them.
Mississippi State was pretty good last year against the pass, but pretty poor against the run. With Quinton Culberson moving to middle linebacker and Titus Brown to end, hopefully that will improve. The Bulldogs have a size and speed advantage, but they will be facing an SEC caliber tailback in Turner.
Turner cannot beat the Bulldogs by his lonesome, but I am certain the Dogs will see Turner's best effort.
The Bulldogs have been anemic on offense for some time now. The Dogs were 11th in the conference in scoring offense despite having some success down the stretch run of 2004. Tee Milons had a good fall camp and seems poised to display his full potential in 2005. His job will be made easier with a healthy Will Prosser, who has been mostly inactive in the fall.
The Bulldogs have some aches and pains after a brutal spring and a very physical beginning to fall camp. Hopefully, this hard work will translate over to the win/loss column. The Bulldogs are heavily favored to win this game, but as we know all to well anything can happen.
I look for the Bulldogs to start fast and put some distance between themselves and the Racers. Turner may win the battle for rushing yards over Norwood, but it will be Norwood getting the W.
MSU 31 Murray State 13
Well, that's the week and what a week it has been. Our hearts and prayers go out to our many friends and neighbors who were directly affected by this week's devastation, Hurricane Katrina. It is something that none of us will ever forget.
Until next week,
Steve Robertson writes The Robertson Report for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.