SEC Predictions, Week 1

The first weekend of SEC football is going to be a LONG weekend. South Carolina and Vanderbilt play their openers tonight. Eight more league teams debut on Saturday. Kentucky opens up on Sunday and Ole Miss kicks off its season on Monday.

Even with the games spread over a five-day span, your fearless forecasters at RockyTop.com are confident their Week 1 predictions will be deadly accurate.

Here they are:

Randy Moore's picks

VANDERBILT AT WAKE FOREST: Two teams who combined for six wins last year meet in a game that could set a tone for their respective seasons. For instance, a Vandy win could mean the difference between a 3-8 record and a 4-7 record this fall. Vandy 27, Wake Forest 20.

CENTRAL FLORIDA AT SOUTH CAROLINA: UCF has lost its last 15 games in a row, which is the nicest welcome-back-to-the-SEC present Carolina's Steve Spurrier could hope for. The ol' ball coach can relive his glory days at Florida as he's running up the score in the fourth quarter. Carolina 31, UCF 14.

UAB AT TENNESSEE: Blazer opponents completed 60 percent of their passes last year, while Vol opponents completed 61 percent. Look for a lot of passes -- and a lot of completions -- with UT's pass rush ultimately proving decisive. Tennessee 37, UAB 10.

BOISE STATE AT GEORGIA: Will the Broncos buck the odds? Will the Dawgs find there's life after David Greene, David Pollack, Thomas Davis, Odell Thurman, Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson? Will this be a great game? Answers: Maybe. Probably. Absolutely. Georgia 24, Boise 17.

WYOMING AT FLORIDA: Both teams went 7-5 last year but Florida has the returning talent to go 10-1 this year. Plus the home field advantage. Plus a topnotch coach. Florida 34, Wyoming 14.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE AT ALABAMA: A great defense, coupled with the return to health of QB Brodie Croyle makes Bama my pick as this year's SEC dark horse. Bama 27, MTSU 7.

MISSOURI STATE AT ARKANSAS: Missouri State actually won more games (6) than Arkansas (5) last year. The Hogs played a little tougher competition, however. They'll miss Matt   Jones but not THAT much. Arkansas 24, Missouri State 7.

MURRAY STATE AT MISSISSIPPI STATE: The Bulldogs were good enough to beat Florida and bad enough to lose to Maine last season; they're about as unpredictable as Hurricane Katrina but not nearly as powerful. Murray won seven games in 2004, so this could be close. Mississippi State 21, Murray 14.

NORTH TEXAS AT LSU: The Tigers are loaded with proven players, except at quarterback. If JaMarcus Russell comes through, Les Miles' boys should leave the Mean Green black and blue. LSU 31, North Texas 7.

GEORGIA TECH AT AUBURN: I don't care what anybody says: A team that loses its entire starting backfield -- Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown and Jason Campbell -- in the first round of the NFL Draft is going to slip a bit. Chan Gailey's Jackets could make this game interesting. Auburn 20, Georgia Tech 13.

LOUISVILLE AT KENTUCKY: I'm wondering why the Wildcats brought back head coach Rich Brooks for another season. By halftime, I suspect UK's administration will be wondering the same thing. Louisville 31, Kentucky 14.

OLE MISS AT MEMPHIS: Ed Orgeron's debut with the Rebels could be a rocky one. Tommy West's Tigers have the homefield advantage, a superstar tailback in DeAngelo Williams and a two-game winning streak in this series. Memphis 24, Ole Miss 20.

Jeffery Stewart's picks:

VANDERBILT AT WAKE FOREST: Two schools with reputations for producing far more honor graduates than NFL Draft picks square off in this season opener. A curious thing about Vanderbilt, although they rarely win in the SEC they are still a member of the SEC, and out-of-conference squads like to add SEC scalps to their lodge poles. It's a case of damned if you are and damned if you aren't. Wake Forest 27, Vandy 20.

CENTRAL FLORIDA AT SOUTH CAROLINA: Steve Spurrier makes his long-awaited return to the college football scene in a nationally televised contest that helps kickoff the long Labor Day weekend. The Gamecocks are hardly loaded by SEC standards but there is enough returning talent to take care of business in convincing fashion at home against Central Florida. South Carolina 33, Central Florida 17.

UAB AT TENNESSEE: At least on paper this is a perfect opening opponent for the Vols. UT's untested secondary will be challenged by the Blazers' passing game and UAB's success the last two seasons should get Tennessee's attention. However the Blazers' defense doesn't look up to the task of containing a diverse offense that has the capability of being dominating. Tennessee 34, UAB 14.

BOISE STATE AT GEORGIA: The Broncos return 14 starters from a team that went 11-1 after a 44-40 defeat in the Liberty Bowl to Louisville. However the last time Boise State played an SEC team was at Arkansas in 2002 and it lost 41-14. The Bulldogs will prevail in what figures to be a competitive and entertaining contest. Georgia 38, Boise State 28.

WYOMING AT FLORIDA: Why would Wyoming open it's season against SEC powers like Auburn, Tennessee and Florida over the last five years? The answer is the same as it is to why Wyoming played it's 2002 home opener in Nashville, Tenn. MONEY. A healthy bottom line comes with a price. Florida 43, Wyoming 16.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE AT ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide could be the surprise team in the SEC this fall. Returning nine starters from an outstanding defense they also have senior QB Brodie Croyle back to reenergize a long sputtering offense. Alabama 24, MTSU 6.

MISSOURI STATE AT ARKANSAS: If you schedule two-time national champion USC as your first road game of the season, you're entitled to open at home against Southwest Missouri State. The Razorbacks, who break in a new quarterback after four seasons with the dynamic Matt Jones at the helm, should make the most of it. Arkansas 40, SW Missouri State 6.

MURRAY STATE AT MISSISSIPPI STATE: After losing to Maine, 9-7, in Starkville last season I suppose anything is possible, but the Bulldogs have athletes and return eight starters on both offense and defense. So this looks like a spot for a decisive win by a team that showed steady progress last fall. Mississippi State 28, Murray State 12.

NORTH TEXAS AT LSU: North Texas went 7-5 last season but didn't fare well against top tier competition, as Texas beat the Eagles 65-0 and Colorado recorded a 52-21 victory. That's just what the doctor ordered for an LSU offense looking to get off to a fast start under new head coach Les Miles. LSU 47, North Texas 10.

GEORGIA TECH AT AUBURN: Last season Auburn went 13-0 and didn't even play for the national title. That won't be a problem this fall, but Georgia Tech may be. Auburn 24, Georgia Tech 20.

LOUISVILLE AT KENTUCKY: The Kats have lost four of the last five in this series including a 28-0 setback last season in Louisville. Expect more of the same from two programs headed in different directions. Louisville 39, Kentucky 20.

OLE MISS AT MEMPHIS: The Rebels have lost the last two games in this series and Memphis is coming off an 8-4 campaign under former Vol Tommy West. Ed Orgeron enjoyed a solid recruiting campaign in Oxford adds an infusion of young talent to 13 returning starters. Meanwhile Memphis returns only 3 offensive starters and may find points hard to come by against the former USC defensive mastermind. Ole Miss 23, Memphis 17.


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