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No. 21 Texas A&M vs No. 9 South Carolina
I'll be real honest with you about something. I don't know why TAMU is ranked in the Top 25. Maybe I should be a little more forgiving and understanding. See, I expect them to finish in the bottom of the SEC-West in 2014. The only divisional game I see them winning is MAYBE Arkansas, I and expect the Hogs to be a surprise team. TAMU has had atrocious defenses in the past few years. It's a side effect of being in the Big 12 for so long. All the premium recruits are on the other side of the ball. TAMU has lost a once in a lifetime QB and WR in Manziel and Evans. Additionally, they have lost 2 offensive linemen to the NFL in 2 consecutive seasons. The Aggies have been lucky to win without a run game, but the luck has run out in 2014. I still expect a wide-open passing attack. I expect Seales-Jones and Noil to be standout young receivers. But with the losses of both Manziel and Joekel, I don't see the production.
South Carolina has been one of the most impressive teams in the SEC for the last 4-5 years. If Bama hadn't been so unbelievably dominate, we would be hoisting the Gamecocks as the pride of the conference. I expect the offense to be decent with Thompson calling the shots, though it won't be as gritty as it was with Shaw, who may be the most under-appreciated QB of our time. Thompson has been a part time starter and has plenty of snaps. He won't be a threat to run like Shaw, but he is a very capable passer. Behind heim, he has a decent backfield. Though Mike Davis had an unbelievable year in 2013, it is worth mentioning that USC had one of the easiest schedules in the conference. The East was a trainwreck in 2013 and they played Arkansas and Mississippi State from the West. In the last 4 games, he had under 250 yards combined. I do think he is a good back. I don't think he is a Heisman contender. Ellington is gone to the 49s and that is a huge loss. Replacing him as the primary target for Thompson is Byrd, who has continued to up his production each year. Expect him to have 750 yards of receiving in 2014. Defensively, it's hard to gauge what USC will be like without Clowney. Despite losing the overall #1 pick, it's hard to believe that USC will see a huge dropoff on defense, where they have been very good for half a decade.
USC has been a trendy pick for the SEC East and for good reason. They are the only team in the SEC East without major question marks. They are good enough to rank in the top 1/3rd of the SEC West. On the other hand, TAMU has question marks everywhere except receiver and MAYBE offensive line. I expect TAMU to put up useless yards, but be held in check where it counts. USC puts up a very balanced attack on offense and cruises to a nice win on National TV at home.
42-17 South Carolina
Ole Miss vs Boise State
It's a shame that these out of conference games get scheduled so far in advance. Boise State isn't the team it was with Peterson and Kellen Moore. Not even close. And their 5 loss season last year reflects it. They have a new starter at QB and simply don't' have very good personnel to matchup to the monsters that Freeze has recruited. The Rebels are everyone's darkhorse, and while I don't reflect that sentiment, I do recognize that they could be a very....very....good team. Bo Wallace has started out each of the previous two seasons hot as a firecracker, due to his ability to scramble and run.Yet, but the season's end, he has been injured and limited. While he lost Moncreif to the NFL, he will have Treadwell, which I believe is an upgrade. Moncreif did not have the overall ability Treadwell possess. And, Treadwell will actually hustle for balls across the middle. As I stated in my Fantasy Football Draft Picks, the Treadwell/Wallace connection may be the overall best in all of the SEC. Though I don't believe Wallace has a chance at being a Heisman winner, it won't stop the Old Ball Coach from trying to push him as a front runner. With the strength of schedule on the backend, he better get those stats while he can. And, he will.
Ole Miss has lost several key starters on defense, but the overall depth of talent has improved greatly. Expect Nkemdiche to have an outstanding year, but certainly in this game. The Boise State offensive line won't face a player this year with the ability of Nkemdiche.
Across the board, Ole Miss is a far superior team. This one will be tough to watch.
45-3 Ole Miss
Arkansas vs No.6 Auburn
I own't go into the detail on this game, as I have already covered it in-depth. Go read about it.
Auburn wins 35-17
Alabama vs West Virginia
Truly an intriguing matchup. If you would take your Crimson blinders off for a minute, you may find this game to be more compelling than you might think. There are few coaches out there I would want to give 9 months to prepare for a single game. Dana Holgerson is one of those guys. With the right players, his offense can be unbelievable, especially in the first half of the season. He doesn't (and won't have) a 5-Star offensive line, nor recievers that are all 6'3" or taller. But, if he has a mobile QB and a few shifty receivers, he can score with anyone. However, last year he didn't have these players. After losing an amazing skill position crop to the NFL in Smith, Austin, and Buie, he struggled with Trickett in 2013. It was downright painful to watch at times. Additionally, he lost his 1,000 back to the Bucs.
We all know what Alabama has to offer, save for the QB position, which I light-heartedly wrote about in yesterdays offering. We don't know WHAT West Virginia will have. Truth be told, the years he has been the best have been those which started in anonymity. Pat White and Geno Smith were both QBs that came out of nowhere to be stars. And, it seems they average every 3 years...making this a potential year for a breakout offensive star from Morgantown. The skill position players surrounding these two were very similar: undersized guys with great speed and a chip on their shoulder. Are these guys on the roster now? Time will tell. What I do know is that the Mountaineers have the best shot of any team in recent history to truly catch the Tide by surprise.
Alabama wins 38-14
No. 16 Clemson at No. 12 Georgia
Man, will this be a tough one to predict. It's almost impossible to gauge how Clemson will look on offense after losing Boyd and Watkins. Additionally, they lost their leading rusher in McDowell. But, old Dabo has recruited incredibly well, especially on defense. Though Clemson hasn't produced a top D-line prospect lately, they have been a powerhouse at that position.
On the other side, Georgia will have a new-ish starter in Mason. But, he looked fantastic in limited duty in 2013. Additionally, UGA has the best backfield in America. Even if Clemson does put a fantastic offense on the field, UGA has the ability to pound it away to keep it close. The issue is at reciever, where the Dawgs cannot seem to avoid injury in the last few years. But, for each injury, someone has come off the bench to catch the ball. I just don't know how long the luck can last. Defensively, the Dawgs will be good, though it's worth mentioning they have lost several players for various reasons. It hasn't been the individual effort on defense as much as good coaching. I expect Pruitt to have a good scheme.
Clemson knocked the Dawgs off in the opener last year in a very close game.
The problem is, they will be playing Between the Hedges this go-round.
UGA wins 24-17
No. 14 Wisconsin vs No 13 LSU
You think there will be some rushing numbers put up in this contest? Two of the top rushing attacks will go at it late Saturday night.
What can be said about LSU? They recruit well. They play well. They can't seem to turn the corner in the last decade under Miles, despite being the best overall program in the SEC. Obviously Mettenburger is gone, but despite being an NFL pick and setting records, he didn't win a single big game for LSU...at least that ended up mattering in the long run. In fact, that has been the case for LSU in the last 15 years. The QB play has been adequate at best, but unable to win games down the stretch. LSU continues to pound out running backs....being the only team I have ever seen who can throw any of 4 different guys behind the QB without a drop off. This year looks to be another such year with Magee and Fouronette getting the reps. LSU lost two terrific WRs in Beckham and Landry. It's impossible to think that LSU can continue to replace receiver after receiver....
It's another LSU defense, which means it will be great. In the last 2 years, they haven't had standout players, so they are well overdue for an elite pass rusher or secondary player.
Wisconsin might have the best back in America in Gordon. But, are the days of 2 backs done? We had Ball and White. Then White and Gordon. Will there be a fresh back to keep up the pressure?
Perhaps the biggest loss will be Abbrederis, who had 1,000 receiving yards. He took the top off the defenses when they came down into the box. Interestingly, Stave is out and McEvoy is in at QB. Didn't see that one coming. If he offers an other dimension that Stave didn't....say, the ability to boot out or run....the Badgers may become the team to beat in 2014. It's hard to imagine that McEvoy couldn't be special if he is replacing a guy who threw for 2,400 yards and 20 TDs behind one of the top 3 rushing attacks in 2013. But, time will tell.
IF Wisconsin can get past LSU, they are almost a lock for the playoff. IF. And don't think they haven't thought about it.
Wisconsin Wins 17-14
Tennessee vs Utah State
Despite losing a terrific coach to Wisconsin, the pedigree is still in place for the Aggies. 2013 wasn't as kind to the Aggies as the previous two years, but a lot of that had to do with Chuckie Keeton, easily the best player in the Mountain West, was out with an injury. The entire identity of the team changed after this. Well, the dynamic QB is back, but his weapons aren't. Keeton has been so successful because of the weapons around him, whether it was NFL talent Turbine (now at Seattle) or just a solid receiver corp like Reynolds and Van Leeuwen.
Yet, despite missing all those offensive weapons, they have one of the best scoring defenses in the Nation, who ranked 7th in 2013 while allowing only 17 points a game.
Tennessee struggled in 2013, putting up only one game of note against South Carolina. Their QB situation is one of the worst in the SEC, which is a shame since North may be one of the best receivers. Gone is the venerable and versatile Rajion Neal, who has the only bright spot on the offense in 2013. In his place is Lane, who may be as good...we will just have to see.
Worley and company will struggle with a very good Utah State defense. I fully expect several turnovers in this game, which will ultimately spell DOOM for the Vols.
On the other side of the ball, if Keeton proves to have weapons around him...and there isn't a reason to think that he won't....expect to see a lot of scoring. Keeton may not be an NFL talent, but he is as dangerous a QB as there is in NCAA football, as I wrote about in my Top Fantasy QBs for 2014. Tennessee's defense isn't up to snuff yet. Though I respect Coach Jones, the players aren't there yet.
Utah State wins 28-21