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I know that the season is still some weeks away but...
...I JUST CAN'T HELP MYSELF
Let's pick 5 SEC games in Week 1 and break them down.
UNC at South Carolina- This is the most intriguing game on the docket, I believe. This is a Thursday night matchup that features a borderwar. The last time these two teams met, USC won 27-10.... on a Thursday night. These two teams are more similar than different. Despite having one of the better offenses in college football and certainly one of its more electrifying players at QB, the UNC defense was one of the very worst and it spelled disaster in 2014. Fedora fires Koenning and hires Chizik, one of the best, and sneakiest, hires in the off season. But, is there enough talent to make this defense click?
Most of the potent offense returns including QB Williams. South Carolina was also terrible at defense, firing and hiring at the DC position. The offense is going to be a question mark outside of Wilds and Cooper. But, hey, it's Spurrier, right? Not so fast. Cooper aside, Spurrier doesn't have elite pieces anywhere else on the offensive side of the ball, and though Cooper can do everything, he can't do it every time. UNC wins a massive upset game.
Louisville at Auburn*- The line opened up pretty wide, favoring the Tigers. Petrino will almost certainly enter this game with his best foot forward, a scary thing. He is one of the very few coaches that you want to give an entire off season to prepare. The Cards will be missing DeVante Parker, a stud. Radcliff came on strong late in the season at running back, but the Cards simply aren't going to be a running team, especially with a retooled offensive line. The defense was amazing last year, one of the very best. They ranked #6 in total offense, despite playing in the score-happy ACC. Many people suspected a drop off in defensive production because of the losses to graduation and the NFL. Instead, Grantham went out and brought in some transfers that are studs including former TCU stud Devonte Fields and UGA standout Josh Harvey-Clemons. This is going to be a very good unit.
Many predict the Auburn offense to be one of the very best while the defense simply must be better than the previous unit. What can you expect on offense? I think facing a 3-4 defense is going to present a huge struggle for the Tigers and Jeremy Johnson. In order to win, the line is going to have to block into the second level. They simply cannot allow the front 3 to fight them to a stalemate. Auburn must be able to exploit matchups on the linebackers against the linebackers and/or nickleback. That may mean moving Duke Williams into a shallow slot role or even a 3rd in-line receiver. At a minimum, another receiver has to emerge outside of Williams and Louis. Who will that be? Whoever this is will have a career day. Defensively, I believe the Tigers will be fine. Petrino is going to have to pass to win. Auburn's secondary play will be solid and while the score may look tight at halftime, expect the defense to explode in the second half.
Alabama vs Wisconsin*- Alabama has been fortunate to play teams that aren't quite what they were when the contract was signed to play. Michigan, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia have all been shells of their former selves when they played against Alabama. Meanwhile, Alabama has more or less been the same team we saw the year before. That isn't to say that Alabama has shined in their openers, because they really haven't. It took a career day for Christian Jones in 2013 to beat Tech and a sloppy game to close out West Virginia. Wisconsin, on the other hand, lost another head coach in the off season, hiring Paul Chryst. Wisconsin lost the majority of it's offensive line and one has to wonder if the previous coaching staff could recruit and develop as well as Bielema. My thinking is, no. The Wisconsin defense was stout on paper, but they played a soft schedule that included beating Nebraska, one of the only teams they played, who had one of the very worst game plans I have ever seen. Questions at quarterback loom large. Corey Clement is a good back. But he isn't Ball, White, or Gordon.
Alabama will hand the ball off to Henry all game and take a few shots down field, which I expect to connect. The defense rolls. This will be a laugher of a game.
Arizona State at Texas A&M*- One of the best moves, fantasy wise, I have seen is the move of DJ Foster to WR due to the newfound talent at tailback. Bercovici started 3 games last year and beat Stanford and USC. Outside of these two and the emerging play of RB Richard, what will ASU look like on offense? Defensively, they were "meh." They do get almost the entire unit of "meh" back, however. Take that how you like it. TAMU looks to be great on offense with the very best WR core in the SEC, as I wrote about for TrackEmTigers.com. You can read that post here. The defense received a huge coaching boost with Chavis, who created an instantaneous impact in recruiting by landing some whales. He already has one of the very best pass rushers in the game. The only chance ASU has is by getting Foster the ball in space over 30 times, something he isn't build for. The Aggies role.
Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt- Vanderbilt has nearly no chance in the SEC, and it remains to be seen if they will be favored in a single game, especially after this one. Doughty is one of the best gun slingers in the game and he has a plethora of weapons. Though Vanderbilt's better unit is their defense, I don't know if they can expect to stop an offense that averaged 44 points a game. On the flip side, WKU had perhaps the worst defense in college football. That's probably ok for this game, as Vandy has no offense to speak of. I know WKU will score a lot of points. If they get even a single turnover on defense, they will win. Mason may be out of a job by October.
*Neutral site game