Published August 2, 2012 - 5:30pm
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Can you feel it?
It hits harder than a Jadeveon Clowney blindside sack. It’s as smooth as Marcus Lattimore galloping his way through a secondary. Concrete stadium uppers tremble on third down it’s so loud.
What is this sense of pride and urgency, this monstrous force erupting with passion?
It’s not just Gamecock football: It’s football in the Southeastern Conference.
In four weeks, ESPN’s preseason darkhorse darling — the South Carolina Gamecocks — debut in the national spotlight as the first of six ranked SEC teams to taking part in college football’s opening weekend. Spurrier’s squad, likely his most talented group yet in Columbia coming off a school-record 11-win season, takes on James Franklin’s upset-minded Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville. Two days later in the premier event for BCS conference bragging rights, defending national champion Alabama entertains Michigan in a primetime tussle at Cowboys Stadium.
What is the over/under for Denard Robinson’s yards from scrimmage against one of the nation’s stingiest defenses? How many touchdowns will he or the Wolverines have to score to stay in the game? Can Eddie Lacy match Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram’s production in the Crimson Tide backfield?
We’re not done.
Week 1′s filler is just as pleasing.
Auburn heads back to the Georgia Dome on Sept. 1 against Clemson in what is blossoming into quite the early-season rivalry between SEC and ACC competitors. Auburn’s final game last season was a 43-24 drubbing of Virginia on the same Atlanta turf in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, a quality finish to an otherwise lackluster — by 2010 national champion standards — 8-5 campaign. Gene Chizik’s group will try and avenge last year’s loss to Clemson in Death Valley in what is sure to be a ‘we’re going to run more plays than you’ track meet.
The battle for Tiger supremacy is the second game of a two-night gala on opening weekend in Atlanta following Tennessee’s date with the N.C. State Wolfpack. On Aug. 31, Tyler Bray returns to the Volunteers’ starting lineup against the nation’s interception leader from 2011, David Amerson, and a rangy secondary from Raleigh. Wins against Auburn and Tennessee could be just what the doctor ordered for a BCS flop of a conference in desperate need of national attention.
But it isn’t likely.
Preseason SEC favorite LSU begins a three-game home stand — all at night — Sept. 1 against North Texas. Outside of a road trip to Auburn three weeks later, the Honey Badger and LSU’s opening month is a cakewalk consisting of more yawns than action. To be honest, games against Washington, Idaho and Towson sets up Tyrann Mathieu’s shot at a Heisman rather nicely. He’ll at least be in the Top 5 entering October, perhaps the leader with multiple special teams or defensive touchdowns.
John L. Smith won’t have to sweat his first two weeks with the Razorbacks as Tyler Wilson should have field days against Jacksonville State and Louisiana-Monroe. Alabama looms in Week 3, so we’ll see early just how serious Arkansas is about returning to a BCS game after appearing in the Cotton Bowl in 2011.
Conference newcomers Texas A&M and Missouri will both start 1-0 on Sept. 1 before reality sets in the following week. The Aggies get the Gators at home, while the Tigers host — by most accounts — SEC East favorite Georgia.
After taking in the SEC opener in Nashville and preparing for the main course with a quick bite in Atlanta, both Saturday night contests involving Alabama and Auburn should be enough to quench the SEC appetite.
Oh, and Kentucky opens with Louisville the following afternoon.