Another weekend is here and it is another weekend of sports! Praise the Lord. Along with the NBA Conference Finals, we also have the return of SEC football. And to be fair, unlike the opening week for the ACC, there are a few games that at least have caught my attention. I guess it really does mean more.
In fact, there are several games this weekend that have drawn my interest to some degree or another. With Clemson on a bye week, I look forward to sitting back and watching all the games with my computer closed and my keyboard unbothered.
(Shameless plug: Be sure to visit AllClemson.com for all the latest on Clemson football this season)
Tennessee @ South Carolina
Oh, man. It’s always interesting when these two teams meet up. The two Eastern Division foes have been known to produce a tight contest with six of the last eight meetings being decided by three points or less. Last season, though UT routed the Gamecocks in Neyland Stadium, 41-21.
Things look different now and very different if you’re South Carolina. It’s game on with a new offensive coordinator and new starting quarterback. Now luckily for the Gamecocks, Mike Bobo and Collin Hill came over from Colorado State so they’ll have a step ahead having worked together previously.
South Carolina lost a key player in 5-star freshman running back MarShawn Lloyd who tore his ACL in the first days of fall camp. An enormous blow to the Carolina offense as many believed he was ready to make an immediate impact. Kevin Harris will get the start Saturday entering the role with 178 rushing yards and four touchdowns for Carolina.
Tennessee has some questions, too. I don’t think this is the year they make the jump and compete for a SEC East title. But I do think Jeremy Pruitt has the Vols on the right track after a very questionable start to the season last year. Not sure what to think about redshirt senior QB Jarrett Guarantano but at least he’s got the experience.
I could see this one going either way and I wouldn’t bet $5 on either team. However, if you pulled my arm I’d take Tennessee straight up due to the uncertainty around the Carolina offense. This is essentially a mulligan season for Muschamp so anything at all positive is good to build on next season when he’ll be fighting for his job.
I think Tennessee has more to lose and I think they get it done in Williams Brice Stadium on Saturday night. The Vols will get after Hill and force the Gamecocks to throw the ball which could prove to be a problem with this unproven WR core AND unproven backfield.
Mississippi State @ LSU
Mike Leach is such a national treasure. As a reporter, I would love to sit on his back porch one day with a few beers and just talk. He’s such a storyteller. While he’s not on the elite level as a coach, he’s consistent guy that will typically get you 8-9 wins. But that’s about the ceiling it seems. With Covid-19 and all the time restrictions, not sure how much install they were able to do this offseason and in fall camp, so the air raid might not be full throttle this weekend. Even if it was, not sure it would matter against LSU.
The Bayou Bengals lost about as much as you possibly could after winning the natty and that became even more true this summer after WR Ja’Marr Chase opted out of the 2020 season. Gone too of course is quarterback Joe Burrow, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire and a host of talent all over the field. LSU lost a ton of talent but it is LSU, not Louisiana Tech.
They have more talent to help fill the voids left behind. Myles Brennan is now the starter a quarterback. Terrace Marshall Jr. and Derek Stingley return to take the lead in in WR and CB rooms.
I don’t think they come close to defending their title this season but they will still be a factor in the SEC-West, race even if its as a spoiler down the stretch. As for me, too many unknowns and with a new head coach with limited install time this off season, I just have to go with Orgeron and the Tiguhs in this one.
Florida State @ Miami
The ACC desperately needs both of these teams to return to national relevance again. And quickly, but FSU is just not a good or stable program right now. Coach Norvell might be a good fit down the road but it’ll take a little time. Due to catching Covid-19, he won’t even make the trip Saturday to Miami.
Houston Transfer De’Eriq King and coach Manny Diaz hope to help lift Miami back into the top ten to stay and contention for an ACC title. CBS Sports Barrett Sallee thinks Miami could be a real threat to Clemson this year. I watched the UAB game and I’m here to tell you, nah. Miami has a little more juice back but I don’t think they are ready to go toe to toe for four quarters with Clemson’s starters.
While they won’t play Notre Dame during the regular season, right now I would still give the Irish the edge. We’ll find out for sure on Oct. 10 in what could be a top-ten showdown in Death Valley if the Canes survive Saturday’s meeting with the Noles.
It’s a rivalry game so you never know what could happen but I don’t believe in James Blackman or the FSU offensive line. The Seminoles blocked two field goals and one extra point but still couldn’t seal the deal in a 16-13 loss to the Yellowjackets. That’s not a good sign in Norvell’s first game. Simply put, FSU football is a program that doesn’t know how to win right now.
I think Miami scores early and often as King has a career day at the Seminoles’ expense. Somewhere Willie Taggart is smiling and saying “Told ya it wasn’t just me”
Kansas State @ Oklahoma
Spencer Rattler is the latest contestant on the next great Oklahoma quarterback game show. Come on down, Spencer. Rattler tossed for 290 yards and four touchdowns in the opener….but it was against Missouri State. Kansas State should be far more competitive but not sure it will matter much. K-State fell to Arkansas State in the season opener, 35-21.
Quarterback Skylar Thompson can make you pay but just not sure he has enough around him to keep up with the Sooners. He enters Saturday’s game with over 4,000 career passing yards 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Kansas State is just not what I would call a great team right now and who knows if they’ll even be a full strength Saturday. Oklahoma will be revenge minded after last year’s meeting and can’t afford to start the year off with a slip up against Kansas State.
I like chaos and would invite a nice early season upset but I don’t think it happens here. Boomer Sooner! (Whatever that even means)
Kentucky @ Auburn
Bo Nix and Chad Morris on the same sideline? I want to see it! OC Chad Morris comes to Auburn after a terrible and short tenure in Arkansas where he never registered a single conference win…0-14. Yikes.
I always thought he wasn’t quite ready for the head coaching position and his progression went a bit too quickly from high school (2009) to college major Power 5 coordinator (2011) to college head coach (2015). His records at SMU and Arkansas seem to show that.
I think he’ll do much better in Auburn with better talent to play with similar to what he was blessed with at Clemson. But not sure that reveals it self this weekend. Kentucky is one of those schools I always seem to pick for an upset at some point during the season. I’m definitely sticking with that this year, especially with true home field advantage off the table. I think it helps level the playing field for road teams like Kentucky.
Senior QB Terry Wilson is listed as the starter and head coach Mark Stoops continues to develop the program into a consistent one. The Wildcats have won their last two bowl games. In 2018, they won 10 games, last season they notched eight. I like chaos, Auburn has some questions on the offensive line and Kentucky’s play in the trenches may be its strong point. Chad Morris and Bo Nix have both looked impressive and but also suspect at times in their past. With all that being said, not sure I trust this Morris offense in week one with only one returning starter on the offensive line. Give me Kentucky with the upset as they all but end Auburn’s playoff aspirations before we reach October.
The Hall Pass Pick ‘Em Selections:
Florida over Ole Miss
UCF over East Carolina
Louisville over Pittsburgh
Texas over Texas Tech
Georgia over Arkansas
Virginia Tech over N.C. State
Duke over Virginia
TCU over Iowa State
Oklahoma State over West Virginia
Georgia Tech over Syracuse