1 way too early thought about every SEC team's opener
The jersey countdowns started weeks ago. The preseason magazines are arriving. Sure, it’s 100 degrees today in many parts of the South, but, finally, it’s starting to feel like football is near.
Which means opening day can’t be far behind.
As such, here’s 1 way too early thought I have about every SEC team’s 2019 opener.
Alabama vs. Duke: Duke? Really?
As often as I opine for more P5 vs. P5 interaction, I completely understand how hypocritical it sounds to also criticize Alabama’s opening opponent. The Tide can’t play Clemson every week.
Still … Duke?
I also understand David Cutcliffe’s football program is better than the brand name suggests, even with a new starting quarterback.
Still … Duke? Not so long ago, to avoid paying penalties for backing out of games against Louisville, Duke successfully argued in court that it was among the worst football programs in America. It was a rare gridiron win, indeed.
Duke is better now. I get it. And Coach Cut is a gem. But are you genuinely excited? I doubt it. We’re still talking about a team that went 19-19 over the past 3 seasons — with a starting quarterback who became a top 10 pick.
The contract was signed in 2016. I’m surprised Alabama didn’t gently nudge Chick-fil-A officials into finding a more enticing opponent.
Arkansas vs. Portland State: A win’s a win, baby
Some teams deserve criticism for soft openings. Other teams genuinely need such games to develop some confidence. After what Arkansas endured last season, the Hogs clearly are in the latter group.
Portland State gave up 60 or more points 3 times last season.
If Chad Morris’ offense struggles in this one … oh, boy.
Auburn vs. Oregon: A Playoff opener?
This contract was signed in 2015, when both programs had realistic Playoff hopes. There have been some bumps in the road since, sure, but this game is on the very short list of best and most anticipated Week 1 showdowns.
Oregon, led by potential first-round QB in Justin Herbert, will arrive as a fringe top 10 team. Auburn also will be ranked, though probably closer to 20s.
Auburn’s defensive line might be the best in the SEC, and we know how much Pac-12 teams have struggled with SEC soul-stomping fronts. Herbert’s body and stock could take a beating.
Florida vs. Miami: Can’t wait!
Call it regional bias. Call it whatever you want. I’ve spent almost 15 years in Florida, part of that in Miami. This is the game I can’t wait to watch. I understand neither team is what it once was.
Could not care any less.
I want the smoke and all the swagger. I want 30 guys on the field celebrating a TD. I don’t typically advocate violence, but I kinda want a pregame scuffle at midfield. I want mics on the cornerbacks talking trash to the wide receivers. I know they never faced each other, but I want Spurrier and Jimmy Johnson in the booth, sharing stories.
I want it every year, not once a decade. Apparently, so do plenty of others. The lowest get-in price right now is $226.
This has a WWE Raw feel to it. The hype almost assuredly will surpass the product. And it doesn’t matter.
Georgia at Vanderbilt: Road trip!
Every SEC town has its go-to spots, but is there a better place to celebrate an opening victory than a late night on Broadway?
And if Vandy somehow pulled off the unthinkable, where better for Dawgs to drown their sorrows? Heartache is the heartbeat of country music, after all. One of the best road trips my wife and I took was to Nashville, ostensibly for an NFL game. My Jaguars lost to the Titans 36-22 (it wasn’t that close; the Jags trailed 27-0 at halftime) but marching up and down Broadway afterward was so much fun the game didn’t matter.
Kentucky vs. Toledo: Who needs Benny Snell?! A.J. Rose is a grown man!
(Read that in Scooter Magruder‘s voice. It’s better that way. Just remember: It’s Week 1, and Toledo, while a solid MAC team, gave up 49 last year to Miami.)
LSU vs. Georgia Southern: New offense? Saving that for Texas
Save the spice for the gumbo. With the Week 2 showdown looming, vanilla will be the offensive flavor of the night in Week 1. Or at least that will be the post-game message if the passing game struggles even a little bit.
Mississippi State vs. Louisiana: Can anybody complete a 20-yard pass?
The Bulldogs’ QB competition is ongoing. Joe Moorhead recently added Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens to the mix. Moorhead’s best pure passer might be true freshman Garrett Shrader. We shall see.
Until somebody actually completes a series of tight-window 20-yarders, I’m withholding judgment on the offense’s ceiling.
Missouri at Wyoming: Numbers never lie? About that …
Wyoming had one of the nation’s stingiest run defenses in 2018, ranking No. 25 and allowing just 129.5 yards per game and 3.67 yards per carry.
Missouri will challenge that from the opening series. The focus will be on new QB Kelly Bryant, but the reality is, this is Larry Rountree’s offense.
Bold prediction? Not exactly. Remember, the Tigers ran for 203 yards against Wyoming last year, and that was with Drew Lock throwing 45 times for 398 yards. I doubt Bryant throws half as many passes or totals half as many yards.
Ole Miss at Memphis: First one to 50 wins
Memphis returns a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,200-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver.
That’s about the last set of circumstances and personnel Ole Miss’ maligned defense would select to open a season against.
One bonus? New DC Mike MacIntyre will have zero issues maintaining his unit’s focus in fall camp.
South Carolina vs. North Carolina: Winner gets to be called “Carolina”
Both programs lay claim to the one-word brand. The reality is, thanks entirely to basketball, most of the nation thinks of the Tar Heels when they hear “Carolina.”
Instead of some bogus piece of hardware, let’s preclude the loser from using “Carolina” until the next time they play.
That might also serve as motivation to get these neighbors and former ACC rivals together more often. They’ve played just 3 times in the past 27 seasons.
Tennessee vs. Georgia State: It’s better than a spring game …
Georgia State was 2-10 last year, including 1-7 in the Sun Belt.
I hope Jeremy Pruitt allows Jarrett Guarantano to set a career-high for attempts (39 vs. South Carolina last season). He’s only attempted 30 passes in a game twice.
Texas A&M vs. Texas State: Let’s talk about Trevor Lawrence, shall we?
Texas State lost to Rutgers last season. Its only Sun Belt win came against … wait for it … Georgia State.
Midway through the first quarter, announcers already will be talking about Clemson and Trevor Lawrence and the Aggies’ trip to Death Valley in Week 2.
I’ll put the Lawrence/Clemson mentions above Texas State’s first down total.