SEC Week 1 Predictions

Predicting the Week 1 slate in the SEC.

The bowl season wasn’t kind to the SEC, but just like every other team in the nation, all 14 teams in college football’s No. 1 conference are 0-0 and looking to start the year with a victory.

 

A couple of marquee non-conference matchups lead the way in the Week 1 slate for the SEC. In Atlanta, Auburn takes on Louisville, while Texas A&M and Arizona State meet in Houston for an anticipated high-scoring affair. Auburn has playoff aspirations, and this matchup against Louisville should be a good barometer test for coach Gus Malzahn and coordinator Will Muschamp on how far the defense has progressed in one offseason.

 

Elsewhere in the SEC this week, South Carolina-North Carolina and Vanderbilt-WKU play on Thursday night. Tennessee travels to Nashville to take on Bowling Green, and Mississippi State takes an in-state road trip to Southern Miss on Saturday night.

 

Athlon Sports offers its SEC Week 1 predictions from three editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615) and Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch).

 

SEC Week 1 Game Power Rankings & Predictions

 

1. Louisville vs. Auburn (Atlanta)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: CBS

 

David Fox:

Among Bobby Petrino, Todd Grantham, Gus Malzahn and Will Muschamp, a ton of the coaches in this game have crossed paths at one time or another. 

Auburn 31–21

 

Steven Lassan:

Easily one of the best games of Week 1 and a great matchup of Auburn’s offense versus Louisville’s defense. The Cardinals should present some problems for the Tigers at the line of scrimmage, but quarterback Jeremy Johnson hits a few plays in the second half to secure the victory.

Auburn 31-20

 

Mitch Light:

Auburn will turn to Jeremy Johnson, who has completed 73.1 percent of his passes with 11 TDs and two INTs in 11 career games. He will be tested by a Louisville defense that has been rebuilt by impact transfers. 

Auburn 27-20

 

2. Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (Houston)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

 

David Fox:

This game could set up as a shootout. Arizona State will be the team that can make the critical stop or force the crucial turnover.

Arizona State 35–28

 

Steven Lassan:

Easily one of the weekend’s most intriguing games and should be no shortage of fireworks between these two offenses. An underrated matchup to watch is the Arizona State offensive line against Texas A&M’s defense – under new coordinator John Chavis – with Myles Garrett coming off the edge. The Sun Devils will land their share of big plays, but the Aggies score a key non-conference win.

Texas A&M 34-31

 

Mitch Light:

John Chavis takes over an A&M defense that allowed a staggering 509.5 yards per game against SEC opponents last season. The Aggies will be tested by strong-armed Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici. 

Arizona State 34-31

 

3. Wisconsin vs. Alabama (Arlington)

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC

 

David Fox:

Is it possible that quarterback could be a liability for Alabama? Guess we’ll find out.

Alabama 31–14

 

Steven Lassan:

Great name value in this matchup, but it’s tough to find a reason why Wisconsin can win this one. The Crimson Tide should be able to hold the Badgers’ rushing attack in check, which adds a lot of pressure on quarterback Joel Stave and an inexperienced receiving corps. Alabama won’t name a starter at quarterback until kickoff, but it shouldn’t matter which signal-caller takes the first or a majority of snaps this week.

Alabama 34-13

 

Mitch Light:

Alabama has concerns at quarterback and is inexperienced at wide receiver … but still has far more talent than Wisconsin. 

Alabama 28-13

 

4. North Carolina vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN

 

David Fox:

South Carolina’s defense was abysmal last year, and I’m not sure what they’ve got on offense besides Pharoh Cooper. At least we know UNC can score.  

UNC 28–21

 

Steven Lassan:

Not sure what to expect in this one. North Carolina has one of the ACC’s best offenses, and Gene Chizik was hired to improve a struggling defense. South Carolina picked Connor Mitch as its starting quarterback, but he has only six career pass attempts. The Gamecocks also struggled mightily on defense last year.

South Carolina 31-27  

 

Mitch Light:

South Carolina lacks proven playmakers other than Pharoh Cooper. North Carolina is loaded with offensive weapons. North Carolina 37-30

 

5. Bowling Green vs. Tennessee (Nashville)

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

Can Tennessee live up to the hype? The Volunteers might have to play through some nerves as they start the season. Tennessee 35–17

 

Steven Lassan:

Tennessee has momentum on its side entering coach Butch Jones’ third season. The Volunteers are heavy favorites here, but Bowling Green has enough firepower to make this one interesting for a half. Keep an eye on Falcons’ quarterback Matt Johnson returning to the lineup after missing most of last season with a hip injury.

Tennessee 38-17

 

Mitch Light:

Quarterback Matt Johnson returns to the Bowling Green lineup after missing all but one game with an injury last season. He will lead an offense that is good enough to score some points on Tennessee’s talented but young defense. Tennessee 41-22

 

6. WKU at Vanderbilt

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

Western Kentucky put up points on just about everyone last season. Derek Mason’s life won’t get any easier if his first game at DC is a showcase for WKU QB Brandon Doughty. 

WKU 35–21

 

Steven Lassan:

Vanderbilt needs this one. After a 3-9 debut, the pressure is already building on coach Derek Mason. WKU’s offense is explosive and is going to give the Commodores all they can handle. Expect Vanderbilt to use a heavy dose of running back Ralph Webb to avoid to the upset.

Vanderbilt 34-31

 

Mitch Light:

Vanderbilt is a home underdog to high-powered Western Kentucky. The Commodores will have a new look on defense now that head coach Derrick Mason is calling the shots. The plan: Put a ton of pressure on WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty.

Vanderbilt 38-30

 

7. Mississippi State at Southern Miss

Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

 

David Fox:

Mississippi State will go as far as Dak Prescott can take the Bulldogs. 

Mississippi State 28–10

 

Steven Lassan:

Southern Miss is getting better under coach Todd Monken and hopes an infusion of transfers brings improvement to a defense that allowed 35.4 points a game last season. The Golden Eagles might hang around for a half, but Mississippi State won’t lose this one behind quarterback Dak Prescott.

Mississippi State 38-13

 

Mitch Light:

The Bulldogs make the short trip to Hattiesburg with a chip on their shoulder. Despite winning 10 games a year ago, most — including Athlon Sports — are picking Mississippi State to finish last in the SEC West. This, of course, is not a league game, but the Dogs will be eager to play well in Week 1.

Mississippi State 31-7

 

8. UL Lafayette at Kentucky

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

 

David Fox:

Kentucky will be overlooked in Week 1, but this is a big test for a team hoping to return to the postseason. 

Kentucky 31–13

 

Steven Lassan:

This is a must-win game for Kentucky if it wants to go bowling. UL Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire is one of the top players in the Group of 5 ranks. Ragin’ Cajuns hang around, but Wildcats pull away late.

Kentucky 34-17

 

Mitch Light:

Kentucky’s march to bowl eligibility begins with a tough test against one of the Sun Belt’s top teams. UL Lafayette has won exactly nine games in each of the last four seasons. The Cats will have to earn this one. 

Kentucky 34-17

 

9. UTEP at Arkansas

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

 

David Fox:

Two grinding teams will try to keep possessions low. Arkansas, though, will run away with it. 

Arkansas 35–14

 

Steven Lassan:

These two teams are similar in style of play – strong offensive line and rushing attack – but there’s a clear edge in talent. Razorbacks continue the momentum from end of 2014 with an easy win on Saturday.

Arkansas 45-13

 

Mitch Light:

Arkansas’ rushing attack gets all the headlines, but UTEP boasts a quality running back of its own. Junior Aaron Jones rushed for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014. 

Arkansas 44-14

 

10. ULM at Georgia

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

Nick Chubb might be your Heisman front runner by the end of September. Of the first three opponents, ULM (86th in yards allowed per play) had the best rush defense. 

Georgia 42–14

 

Steven Lassan:

ULM has a good defense, but the offense is a work in progress. Bulldogs simply have too much defense and a deep stable of running backs to carry the workload on offense. Greyson Lambert earning the starting quarterback job over Brice Ramsey came as a surprise. How well will the Virginia transfer perform in his first game with the Bulldogs?

Georgia 44-13

 

Mitch Light:

Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert makes his first start at Georgia, but Nick Chubb is the main man for the Bulldogs’ attack. As a freshman, Chubb led the SEC with 7.1 yards per carry and averaged 172.9 yards over his final seven games against FBS foes. 

Georgia 41-13

 

11. New Mexico State at Florida

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

Treon Harris can prove why he held onto the starting job.

Florida 49–14

 

Steven Lassan:

Treon Harris gets the nod over Will Grier as Florida’s starting quarterback, but it won’t matter which signal-caller takes the first snap. The Gators should control this one from the start and open the Jim McElwain era with an easy win.

Florida 47-10

 

Mitch Light:

The Gators will play two quarterbacks in Jim McElwain’s debut. Both should have success against a New Mexico State team that ranked 116th in the nation in total defense in 2014. 

Florida 51-0

 

12. McNeese State at LSU

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

McNeese has former Kansas State quarterback Daniel Sams. LSU could be starting Brandon Harris. I’m still trying to figure out who has the QB advantage. 

LSU 35–10

 

Steven Lassan:

New quarterback Brandon Harris has an opportunity to build some confidence against McNeese State. Tigers should control this one from the opening snap.

LSU 45-9

 

Mitch Light:

Brandon Harris takes over an LSU offense that is desperate for adequate quarterback play. If he can deliver, this team has enough talent to contend in the SEC West. 

LSU 41-7

 

13. UT Martin at Ole Miss

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

I’m looking forward to seeing the Chad Kelly-Laquon Treadwell connection. 

Ole Miss 42–10


Steven Lassan:

Chad Kelly’s debut for Ole Miss makes this one worth a watch on Saturday. Rebels win easily.

Ole Miss 45-10

 

Mitch Light:

Led by a star-studded junior class, the Rebels have the talent to contend in the brutal SEC West. In the opener, all eyes will be on quarterback Chad Kelly.  

Ole Miss 34-11

 

14. Southeast Missouri State at Missouri

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

 

David Fox:

Missouri’s young defensive line is worth watching here. Otherwise…

Missouri 42–7

 

Steven Lassan:

Look for quarterback Maty Mauk and his revamped receiving corps to work out a few kinks against Southeast Missouri State.

Missouri 40-7

 

Mitch Light:

The two-time defending SEC East champs being their season with a visit from an FCS foe for the fourth straight season. The Tigers won the last three by an average of 38.7 points. 

Missouri 48-10

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