What chance does your SEC team have to lose in Week 1?
Here at SDS, we don’t want to be downers. It’s May, everybody is undefeated, and even fans of Vanderbilt and Kentucky are planning their CFP title excursions. But around the corner, Week 1 lurks, and somebody — probably a couple of somebodys — will leave their dreams of glory in that opening weekend.
We’re breaking down what the chance is that each SEC team will take a soul-crushing Week 1 loss, and sorting them into five categories from No Worries to Be Afraid, Be VERY Afraid.
Arkansas. The Razorbacks open the season hosting FCS foe Florida A&M in Little Rock. Arkansas fans might as well just punch “snooze.” A&M was 4-7 last season and lost their sole Power 5 conference game in a 70-3 heartbreaker at Miami.
Mississippi State. Sure, the Bulldogs stumbled to open last season against South Alabama. But this time, they played things safer, taking on FCS Charleston Southern. Southern was 7-4 last year, and lost to Florida State by 44 points. They figure to not have much fun with Nick Fitzgerald.
Missouri. The Tigers struggled in league play but racked up yards and points easily against weaker out-of-conference foes in 2016. They’ll open 2017 by hosting FCS foe Missouri State, fresh off a 4-7 campaign and a 35-point loss to Kansas State.
So you’re telling me there’s a chance?
Auburn. The Tigers hope they gained ground on Alabama and are looking forward to the grind of the SEC slate. They shouldn’t sleep on Georgia Southern, even though the Eagles were just 5-7 last year. GSU lost at Georgia Tech by just 11 and Ole Miss by 10 in 2016. They won’t be intimidated by the Tigers and could hang tough in this matchup.
LSU. Sure BYU beat an SEC team last year. But it was Mississippi State and it took every ounce of its power to pull off that win. These Tigers will be a different kettle of fish. That said, LSU will have to show up in Houston and compete. But if they do, it shouldn’t be too rough in Week 1.
Sitting pretty, but not too pretty
Georgia. The Bulldogs are the most talented team in the East and should be in good shape in Week 1 against Appalachian State. Of course, a year ago, people said the same thing about Tennessee, and they needed a phenomenally lucky bounce in overtime to escape with a win against the same Appalachian State team that ended up going 10-3. If Georgia doesn’t come out ready, this could be a long and frustrating evening for Bulldogs fans.
Kentucky. The Wildcats lost at home in Week 1 to this same Southern Miss team last year — and that was in Lexington — so many would put them a slot or two lower on this list. But Southern Miss lost most of its best playmakers, and Kentucky has reinvented itself as a physical, power running team. The Wildcats figure to be a solid favorite, but can’t afford to sleep on the host Golden Eagles. If they are tempted, Mark Stoops can show them some pretty ugly game film.
Vanderbilt. The Commodores generally play a tough opener, and driving a few minutes to play Middle Tennessee will qualify. The Blue Raiders won eight games in 2016, including a win at Missouri. That said, Vandy won last year’s matchup 47-24, and its defense should slow MTSU’s passing game. Still, Vandy has suffered worse losses, and it will have to play well.
In legitimate danger
Alabama. Sure, the Tide have the most talent in college football. And sure, they open every season with a legitimate Power 5 opponent. But Florida State in Atlanta is a big-time showcase game, against one of the few programs that doesn’t have a major talent deficit against Nick Saban’s squad. Some way-too-early polls have the Seminoles ahead of the Tide, but both safely inside the top 5.
Alabama has a chance for a statement-making first week. Unfortunately, it also has a chance for a painful opening loss.
Ole Miss. The Rebels should be safe in their opener against South Alabama. But then, Mississippi State should have been last year, and the Jaguars went into Starkville and pulled the upset. South Alabama also beat San Diego State last season, and while it only won six games, it won’t be intimidated, particularly by an Ole Miss team likely to be looking past this game, and with little to play for, as they have already given up their bowl eligibility for 2017. The Rebels could be in real danger here.
Tennessee. There’s really just no good way to prepare for the triple option attack of Georgia Tech. Tennessee is the more talented team, but it will be inexperienced in the backfield and missing many of 2016’s team leaders. Tech will play disciplined football and won’t beat itself. Georgia Tech has beaten Georgia twice in the past three years. Tennessee’s hands will be full.
Be afraid, be very afraid.
Florida. Give the Gators points for audacity, because opening with Michigan in Arlington, Texas, is definitely not playing it safe. If Gators can pull this off, they’ll have to be the favorite to win the East for a third consecutive year. The bad news is that they’re about a touchdown underdog, and unless they found an offense in the offseason, it doesn’t look good.
South Carolina. The Gamecocks will be underdogs to open the year at N.C. State. State returns 3,000 yard passer Ryan Finley and pass-rushing stud Bradley Chubb, a cousin of Nick. Carolina will have its hands full in the opener.
Texas A&M. Traveling cross-country and taking on UCLA isn’t exactly what the doctor ordered for an Aggies team that might well feature a true freshman QB. Whoever plays for the Aggies, UCLA’s Josh Rosen will be the best passer in the game, and given the long road trip, A&M has some significant work to do to avoid opening the season 0-1.