The SEC rolled through its opening weekend with a 12-1 record, mopping up the competition in every matchup minus Vandy's loss to Western Kentucky on Thursday night. Texas A&M upset No. 15 Arizona State and the rest of the conference took care of its opponents with relative ease.
Week 2 boasts a couple of intriguing contests, including LSU traveling to Mississippi State and an electric non-conference tilt between Oklahoma and Tennessee in Knoxville. Managing editor Danny Parker swept through his predictions to bring an undefeated record into this week's slate, with publisher Josh Woodward and staff reporter Cory Gunkel tied with an 11-2 record. This week, the staff differs on a couple of key games that will hopefully live up to the hype. Our guest picker for this week is co-host of The Drive on 94.3, Richard Daugherty.
Danny Parker's Picks (13-0):
Oklahoma at Tennessee:Oh brother. The mother of all non-conference games for the entire SEC weekend. Been dreading this pick. Having to been to over 100 big-time college football games over the years, I've often seen a crowd fuel a team for chunks of games at a time and helped players play beyond their ability. The atmosphere at Neyland is good enough for at least 6-10 points for the Vols. Will that be enough? I'm not so sure. The offensive skill and defensive front both figure to have quality days but the giant holes at MIKE linebacker and nickelback continue to rear their ugly head. Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Justin Martin need to get up to speed in a hurry but not sure they have the trust of the defensive coaches yet and that's going to cost the Vols defense for the second straight week. So, Tennessee must overcome those issues and flat outscore the Sooners. Can they block Oklahoma? We found out next to nothing from the Bowling Green defense last week. Jury is still out and this pick remains a tough one. As I said in my season prediction, just don't see enough experience and talent at key positions to allow the Vols to make key plays in the second halves of games. Going against the Big Orange but expecting an amazing game. Oklahoma, 38-35.
Jacksonville State at Auburn:Hard to imagine that the Tigers/War Eagles won't put up several touchdowns on Jax State regardless of what their defense does, even though Jeremy Johnson will show weekly that he is not the second coming of Cameron Newton. Given the stable of backs that Gus Malzahn has, he may want to keep the football on the ground. Auburn, 56-13.
Georgia at Vanderbilt:After getting up to play Monroe, the Bulldogs face a drop-off in talent with this Southeastern Conference Eastern Division foe. Strange things sometimes happen on Dudley Field but not this weekend. Expect the Bulldogs to have multiple 100-yard rushers. Georgia, 45-9.
Fresno State at Ole Miss:Hugh Freeze had no mercy on UT-Martin last week. Tougher opponent this week. Still see the fins up on the Rebels defense and the skill players in Oxford create splash plays at a torrid pace. Ole Miss, 41-10.
Middle Tennessee at Alabama:Not exactly a favorable matchup for the Blue Raiders. Suggestion would be to take away Derrick Henry and the Tide ground game and see if Jacob Coker has what it takes to beat someone with his right arm. Not an easy task but worth a try. Alabama, 49-7.
Toledo at Arkansas:What happens when you miss Rockets and Razorbacks? A crispy piece of bacon, that's what. Maybe I'm just hungry. Arkansas looks like a more and more balanced offensive attack weekly. That's scary news for opponents. Arkansas, 48-16.
Ball State at Texas A&M:The Aggies are an impressive bunch, especially on offense. Shame won't get to see them in person this year. Kyle Allen can flat sling it. Texas A&M, 34-17.
Missouri at Arkansas State:The Tigers are on the road here? Interesting. Will also be interested to see how long the staff waits to put Drew Lock in as its starting quarterback. He's the future, and he can win football games for them if they get him the experience he needs. Missouri, 27-10.
East Carolina at Florida:Much more of a test for the Gators than what we usually see in their early non-con slate. Coaching changes at ECU mean this one isn't as scary as it would be otherwise. Florida, 21-17.
Kentucky at South Carolina:No idea on this one. Could legitimately go either way since the atmosphere in Columbia ain't the scariest ever for incoming SEC foes. It may simply come down to which team has the better quarterback and makes the fewest mistakes. That figures to be the Wildcats. Picking UK on the road in a league game though? Am I really considering doing that? If Lafayette didn't play Kentucky to within a single score last week, I would. South Carolina, 38-28.
LSU at Mississippi State:Question marks aplenty as the Bengal Tigers didn't get more than a handful of snaps last week, but I find it hard to believe that the Bulldogs can slow down that ground attack. LSU, 17-12.
Cory Gunkel's Picks (11-2):
Oklahoma at Tennessee:The game of games in this week's SEC slate and undoubtedly the most electric atmosphere of the bunch, rain or no rain. Tennessee's ground game blasted Bowling Green for nearly 400 yards, but will it be able to even come close to that against an Oklahoma defense that boasts one of the best players in the Big 12 in Eric Striker? Will Tennessee's pass defense have the ability to stalwart Baker Mayfield and this Air Raid offense that boasts a host of skill players headlined by All-Big 12 first teamer Sterling Shepard? Conversely, Oklahoma's offensive line struggled mightily against Akron and was unable to get its own ground attack going during a rout of the Zips. This one might come down to a field goal, and while leaning Oklahoma early, I think the Vols' defensive line will be able to feast enough to disrupt Mayfield and squeak out an enormous win. Tennessee, 34-31.
Jacksonville State at Auburn:Despite a couple of boneheaded picks from new starting QB Jeremy Johnson, Auburn was able to fend off a good Louisville team in Atlanta last week and Johnson flashed why his impressive arm. This offense has the ability to be so much fun to watch, and Will Muschamp's defense will take no prisoners against Jacksonville State. Auburn, 51-17.
Georgia at Vanderbilt:Georgia's defense will dispatch of the coffin Vandy trots out as an offense as quickly as it took to mercifully call last week's game against UL-Monroe. The Commodores' defense will play better than expected for a half, but UGA pulls away decidedly. Georgia 34, Vanderbilt 17.
Fresno State at Ole Miss:Hugh Freeze tweeted this out Sunday: "GRACE- God's merciful gift that promises eternal life in heaven, & abundant life here. Have you received it? Do U know someone who needs it?" UT-Martin certainly needed it Saturday, Hugh, and Fresno State might too. The Black Bears roll again. Ole Miss, 45-13.
Middle Tennessee at Alabama:Nick Saban became livid at a reporter this week after he had the nerve to suggest Alabama is a big favorite in this game. I'd go as far to say that the Tide's second string would also be double-digit favorites as well. Alabama 38, Middle Tennessee 7.
Toledo at Arkansas:Brandon Allen showed the world last week he wasn't just a distraction for the Hogs' bruising run game. Toledo might need to rocket away from Little Rock as fast as possible after this one. Arkansas 35, Toledo 10.
Ball State at Texas A&M:The only thing scarier than Texas A&M's offense under Kevin Sumlin is Texas A&M's offense under Kevin Sumlin with an actual defense. That looks to be the case this year under first-year coordinator John Chavis. Texas A&M 56, Ball State 3.
Missouri at Arkansas State:The Tigers travel to Jonesboro to face an Arkansas State team that has become a coaching tree in recent years. Blake Anderson is a Larry Fedora disciple, so the Red Wolves can score, but Mizzou will be too much, even with Arkansas State at home. Missouri 34, Arkansas State 20.
East Carolina at Florida:Ruffin McNeil has built East Carolina into an Air Raid monster, and Florida had to sneak out a win over the Pirates very recently. The Gators annointed Will Grier as the starting QB, and Florida's talented defense will be too big of a hurdle for ECU. Florida 28, East Carolina 14.
Kentucky at South Carolina:This might be the hardest pick of the week, even including the one below and the one at the very top. The Wildcats appear to be building a bowl-caliber team in Lexington. South Carolina looked, um, rather unimpressive in a nail-biter over North Carolina last Thursday. Patrick Towles pulls off the upset in Columbia. Kentucky 24, South Carolina 20.
LSU at Mississippi State:LSU had its opener called due to a monsoon, so Dan Mullen gets only a couple of plays to glean information on the Tigers. Mississippi State scratched out a win in Hattiesburg last week against Southern Miss and the secondary showed major holes. If Brandon Harris is able to exploit them to complement Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette, the Tigers could win in double-digits. LSU 27, Mississippi State 17.
Josh Woodward's Picks (11-2):
Oklahoma at Tennessee:Well, "Big Game Bob" is in town and he brings a new offensive system with him this year. The Sooners put up some big passing numbers last week and will likely pick on the Tennessee secondary this week. They also have two NFL running backs to hand it off to when needed. It will be a major matchup problem for Tennessee. The Vols are much better than last season, but I'm not sure they are good enough. Last year the Vols were handicapped with their quarterback mobility and with Josh Dobbs, things will open up more. I don't see Tennessee having a problem scoring. I believe they will score in the upper 20s. I just think Oklahoma will score in the 30s. The one factor could be huge is the crowd. This is the biggest game since the California game and Neyland Stadium could be as loud as ever. I know that Oklahoma has downplayed this all week, but it can be a problem for them and could be a factor late in a close game. With that said, until Tennessee beats a team like Oklahoma, I can't pick them. Oklahoma, 31-28.
Jacksonville State at Auburn:This should be a breeze for Auburn after the Louisville scare last week. All eyes will be on Jeremy Johnson and how many picks he will throw. Auburn can only go as Johnson can carry them, so this is very intriguing for me to see how it plays out. 42-10 Auburn.
Georgia at Vanderbilt:I guess the saying "taken behind the woodshed" applies with this one. This could get ugly in a hurry. Vanderbilt is horrible and Georgia can't help but hang 50 on them. It is bad in Nashville and we are beginning to see that James Franklin was winning with Bobby Johnson's players and Franklin left Vanderbilt with a below average roster. 55-7 Bulldogs.
Fresno State at Ole Miss:This isn't the Fresno of old, but it will be a better challenge for Ole Miss. After Hugh Freeze ran it up against UT-Martin, he will try to run it up late against Fresno. I do think it will be a little closer. 42-20 Rebels.
Middle Tennessee at Alabama:Poor Middle Tennessee, it could be rough for the Blue Raiders. Alabama 55, 3.
Toledo at Arkansas:Arkansas looked great last week and will likely look great this week to. I think they are the second best team in the West. 45-14 Hogs.
Ball State at Texas A&M:The Aggies shouldn't have any problem this week. They looked really good last week against Arizona State. It could be close early, but A&M will pull away. Texas A&M 48-20.
Missouri at Arkansas State:Arkansas State is a tough opponent for Missouri, but I see the Tigers pulling it out in a close game. Missouri 28-24
East Carolina at Florida:This is a challenge for the Gators. ECU was a really good team last season. Will they beat Florida? Probably not, but they will be a good test for them. I like the Gators in the end. Florida, 28-20.
Kentucky at South Carolina:A good, solid matchup in the early SEC scheduling. If this game was in Kentucky, I would pick them, but being in Columbia I'm going with the Gamecocks. South Carolina, 35-28.
LSU at Mississippi State:More cowbell, please!, Man, this stadium will be rocking. It should be a great game and it will come down to mistakes. I think that the quarterback play will be a major factor and this favors Mississippi State, 33-31.
Guest Picker Richard Daugherty (94.3 The Drive Co-Host):
Oklahoma at Tennessee:Both teams enter this game in desperate need of a win in a game like this. After a disappointing 8-5 season last year, the Sooners want to prove that their program isn't slipping. Tennessee, on the other hand, wants to prove that they really are a program on the rise and ready to take the next step. Big games are won in the trenches. Tennessee's defensive line needs to assert themselves vs. an inexperienced Sooner offensive line. Conversely, OU's defense is going to show us whether the Vols' OL really has improved. This game could go either way, but home field proves to be the critical difference. Tennessee 28-24.
Jacksonville State at Auburn:The only question in this one is can Jeremy Johnson stop throwing the ball to the other team? Other than that, no need to tune in to this beat down on the Plains. Auburn 76, Jacksonville State 3.
Georgia at Vanderbilt:This game will feature the Bulldogs donning their red jerseys so that Vanderbilt can unveil their new "Deep Water" alternate uniforms. In this game, Vandy is in deep something, but it isn't exactly water. Derek Mason found a magical coaching sheet that he had lost several months ago that he says will show him what to do in key situations. Judging by the Commodores' week 1 loss to Western Kentucky, he better keep looking for a magical coaching sheet for offense. Georgia inexplicably lost the last time they visited Nashville. The Bulldogs will be motivated, more talented, and better dressed in this one. Georgia 38-9.
Fresno State at Ole Miss:Ole Miss won a pair of relatively close games in a home-and-home series against Fresno State in 2010 and 2011. Ole Miss has come a long way since then. Chad "Swag" Kelly and the Rebels put up 76 points on UT-Martin in their opener. They won't match that, but the Black Bears will win comfortably. Ole Miss 48-10.
Middle Tennessee at Alabama:Nick Saban became quite agitated this week when he felt a member of the media wasn't giving enough respect to the Blue Raiders. MTSU is a good opponent, aight. They've got good coaches, aight. They've got good players, aight. ... blah, blah, blah. He isn't fooling anyone with that nonsensical rhetoric. MTSU isn't a bad team, but they are not anywhere close to being good enough to challenge the Crimson Tide. Alabama's defense will shut down MTSU and give Lane Kiffin a chance to figure out what he really has at QB. Alabama 42-6.
Toledo at Arkansas:The Razorbacks looked really good in their opener against UTEP. Brandon Allen and the Arkansas passing game looked capable of complementing their vaunted rushing attack. Arkansas will physically overpower the Rockets in this one. Arkansas 42-17.
Ball State at Texas A&M:The Aggie defense under John Chavis looked ahead of schedule against Arizona St. They'll look even better against Ball St, and the Aggie offense will roll up points like they normally do. Texas A&M 52, Ball State 10.
Missouri at Arkansas State:Why is Missouri playing a road game at Arkansas St? Don't they realize they are in the SEC? SEC teams don't play games in Jonesboro, Arkansas. In this one, Arkansas St asst. Trooper Taylor will waive his towel a lot, but not enough to get the victory for the Red Wolves. As usual, Missouri won't look very good, but they will win. Missouri 31-12.
East Carolina at Florida:Who hasn't been waiting for this rematch of last season's unforgettable Birmingham Bowl? Uhh, me neither. The only thing unforgettable about that game was Gator RB Adam Lane soiling himself during the game, and he is not even playing for the Gators anymore. Florida's offense looked good putting up 61 pts against New Mexico St last week, but let’s not read too much into that just yet. Last year, Florida's offense wasn't very good, and yet they scored 65 pts in their opener against Eastern Michigan. East Carolina will be a tougher test, but they are replacing some really talented players on their offense. In the end, Florida's defense proves to be too much for the Pirates. Florida 27-14.
Kentucky at South Carolina:Kentucky has lost 22 straight road games. There isn't a single Wildcat on their roster who has ever won on the road in college. The Cats came close last year losing in 3 OTs at Florida and losing by 4 at Louisville. South Carolina should be highly motivated in this game after losing at UK last year. The Gamecocks had no answers when UK repeatedly ran JoJo Kemp out of the Wildcat package. South Carolina didn't look good in their opener. Kentucky barely survived Louisiana Lafayette in their opener. In the end, how can you trust Kentucky on the road? I can't see Steve Spurrier losing 2 years in a row to the Wildcats. South Carolina 24-20.