The SEC is pushing itself hard in the opening weekend of the college football season. Who’ll win the Week 1 games? Check out the way-too-early picks for each SEC game.
Thursday, September 1
Appalachian State at Tennessee
6:30 PM SECN Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
Be really, really careful with this one, Tennessee. The line will probably climb closer to September, considering hype around the Vols is through the roof. If you’re the investing type, wait until after SEC media days when Butch Jones’ bunch is picked to win the East. This is a very, very good, experienced Appalachian State team good enough to take the Sun Belt title. The Mountaineers won’t have the punch to pull off a 2007 Michigan-like shocker, but they’ll keep it a little too tight until late in the game.
Line: Tennessee -23
June Prediction: Tennessee 41, Appalachian State 20
South Carolina at Vanderbilt
7:00 PM ESPN Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN
This might not be the most scintillating of SEC openers, but it’s Will Muschamp’s debut at South Carolina. The Gamecocks face a plucky Vanderbilt team with enough of a defense to keep the score way, way, down. The under by game time will likely check in around 35, with neither offense ready to crank it up. USC’s quarterback situation is still a big question mark, but that won’t stop the defense from shutting the Commodores down cold.
Line: Vanderbilt – 3
June Prediction: South Carolina 20, Vanderbilt 16
Saturday, September 3
Missouri at West Virginia
11:00 AM FS1 Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
Can Missouri score? West Virginia has the offensive punch to put up massive numbers when it has time to work. That’s where the Tiger pass rush comes in. The new up-tempo offense will allow Mizzou to keep up the pace against a rebuilt Mountaineer defense, but it won’t be jelled quite yet. West Virginia spoils the Barry Odom debut, but it’ll be a battle.
Line: West Virginia -13
June Prediction: West Virginia 26, Missouri 17
South Alabama at Mississippi State
11:00 AM SECN Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, MS
What kind of Mississippi State team will show up? It’s the first day of the rest of MSU’s life without Dak Prescott, but the offense should be more balanced. The key will be a defense that should be frothing at the mouth under new defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon.
Line: Mississippi State -33
June Prediction: Mississippi State 45, South Alabama 10
LSU vs. Wisconsin
2:30 PM ABC Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
LSU likely won’t be the No. 1 team in the country to start the season, according to all the preseason polls. All the polls are dead wrong. This is a nasty, experienced team with all the tools to win the national title – or at least beat the Badgers in Green Bay. Wisconsin’s defense will keep Leonard Fournette from going crazy, but the offense will stall way too often against new LSU defensive coordinator – and former Bucky DC – Dave Aranda’s defense.
Line: LSU -9.5
June Prediction: LSU 26, Wisconsin 17
UCLA at Texas A&M
2:30 PM CBS Kyle Field, College Station, TX
There’s pressure, and there’s what the loser of this game will have to face the following week. Texas A&M has been dogged, ridiculed and jilted while falling off the perch of being the cool school, but a win over UCLA at home would go a long way to turning things back around. Trevor Knight will look terrific in his debut. It’s not going to last, but he’ll have Week 1 as he outduels Josh Rosen in a fun firefight.
Line: Texas A&M -1
June Prediction: Texas A&M 36, UCLA 31
Louisiana Tech at Arkansas
3:00 PM SECN Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, AR
This isn’t last year’s Louisiana Tech team. There’s no Jeff Driskel at quarterback anymore, or touchdown-machine Kenneth Dixon at running back, but the offense will still be dangerous. Arkansas will grind it out with long, sustained drives to take control of the game early on. The big line will pound away for the big backs as Bret Bielema starts out with a convincing win.
Line: Arkansas -20.5
June Prediction: Arkansas 40, Louisiana Tech 17
Georgia vs. North Carolina
4:30 PM ESPN Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
When last we saw North Carolina, it was getting steamrolled over by Baylor’s running game in an epic collapse. That was last season. This season, it’ll start out by getting stuffed cold by a frenetic Georgia defense that’ll do everything right in Kirby Smart’s debut. The spotlight will be on freshman quarterback Jacob Eason, but it’ll be the Dawg running game that carries the load on the way to an ugly blowout.
Line: Georgia -3.5
June Prediction: Georgia 40, North Carolina 13
Southern Mississippi at Kentucky
6:30 PM ESPNU Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, KY
Is this a make-or-break game for Kentucky? The Wildcats have an interesting defense, a good-looking offense, and the expectations to break through to a bowl game. That probably can’t happen with a loss to Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are the likely favorites to take the Conference USA title with the type of offense to potentially pull off the upset. Be careful here.
Line: Kentucky -7
June Prediction: Kentucky 35, Southern Miss 27
Massachusetts at Florida
6:30 PM SECN Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
While several college football big boys are stepping up in the opening week, Florida has the smarts to check in with a preseason tune-up game. The defense won’t allow a thing, while the offense will prove that this isn’t last year – at least for one layup of a game against a horribly overmatched team.
Line: Florida -37
June Prediction: Florida 51, Massachusetts 10
USC vs. Alabama
7:00 PM ABC AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
No one would complain if this turned out to be part of the 2017 College Football Playoff. USC has the talent and offensive pop to take an okay-but-not-great Pac-12, while Alabama is out to show that it’s business as usual with a new offensive backfield, some new starting defensive linemen, and a bunch of question marks. Alabama will get the love because it’s Alabama in an opening week game, but USC has been traditionally dominant in openers, too. Clay Helton’s team will come out smoking, but the run defense will break down late.
Line: Alabama -10
June Prediction: Alabama 27, USC 24
Clemson at Auburn
8:00 PM ESPN Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, AL
I’ve made the same painfully not funny line for 19 years, so to keep with tradition: the Tigers are going to win – guaranteed. It’s June, and I’m going to change my mind 19 times between now and September, but I’m a believer in Auburn to come up with a massive performance at home to open things up. The defense is going to be terrific, the pass rush will get to Deshaun Watson, and the John Franklin III-led offense will be one of the key talking points after Week 1. If this was in Clemson, I’d go with the ACC Tigers, but it’s not, so …
Line: Clemson -8
June Prediction: Auburn 31, Clemson 27
Monday, September 5
Ole Miss vs. Florida State
7:00 PM ESPN Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL
Can Ole Miss show up and shine after such a rocky offseason? Can Florida State rock out of the gate and show that it really is ready to again be a major player in the national title chase? Both defenses will be outstanding – the Rebels will bottle up Dalvin Cook – but the rest of the Seminole offense will be just effective enough to take care of a few key opportunities to pull off a tough, statement win.
Line: Florida State -6
June Prediction: Florida State 23, Ole Miss 20