Predicting the biggest upset of the 2020 season
Be honest, nobody saw South Carolina upsetting Georgia last season.
Or Wyoming (+17.5) thumping Missouri.
Or Georgia State (+26) taking out Tennessee.
But it happened. And there are scars to prove it.
Upsets are as much a part of college football’s fabric as numbers on Alabama’s helmets, as guaranteed to happen every fall as the Third Saturday in October. (Just not usually on the Third Saturday in October.)
The question is: Who will be part of the biggest upset in 2020?
That’s something we’ve been discussing for a while.
Connor O’Gara, Senior national columnist
I’ll go off the beaten path here and say Ole Miss knocks off Auburn in Week 3.
It’ll be one of those games that at the time, it feels like a really big upset, but it won’t feel like one by season’s end. In a game in which Ole Miss could go in as a double-digit dog against a top-15 Auburn team, Oxford is going to be fired up for Lane Kiffin’s SEC debut. Auburn could be coming off a big win against UNC and facing a 1-1 Ole Miss team with a first-year coach doesn’t exactly scream “upset alert.” We’re talking about a rivalry that favors Auburn 24-6 since they started facing each other annually in 1990.
But I’ve been saying all offseason that I have major concerns about the Auburn offense with Chad Morris. In their first true road game for that inexperienced offensive line, there could be problems protecting Bo Nix (even though I think the Rebels take a significant step back on that side of the ball). And on the flip side, an Auburn defense that lost a ton of talent up front is going to have a tall task trying to tackle John Rhys Plumlee and Jerrion Ealy. Auburn will still be figuring out how to get pressure without Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson taking on so much attention.
The one other thing I keep coming back to is Alabama beat Auburn in 3 consecutive seasons just 1 time since 1993. That was from 2014-16 … when Kiffin was Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Obviously those Alabama teams were different, and Kevin Steele was Auburn’s defensive coordinator in just 1 of those matchups. But with 3 different quarterbacks in those Iron Bowl showdowns, Kiffin’s offenses put up an average of 38 points. I think Kiffin will have some more success against the Tigers.
Don’t forget that it was 4-win Ole Miss that nearly upset Auburn on The Plains last year. This year, the Rebels get the job done at home.
Neil Blackmon, Florida columnist
Sure, Tennessee is 2-28 in the past 30 meetings against Florida and Alabama, but Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee are going to beat one of those teams this season.
Maybe it’s smarter money, but I don’t think it will be Florida, which will undoubtedly be tired of all the Vols chirping in the offseason when they arrive in Knoxville. More important, Dan Mullen’s program will get the Vols early, while the Vols are still working out some questions on offense as it relates to perimeter playmakers. That advantage should help Florida eke out a narrow win on Rocky Top.
That leaves Alabama. Give me the Vols over the Tide on Oct. 24. Tennessee was competitive against Bama last season, and by mid-October, so they’ll enter the game with confidence. By mid-October, the playmakers should have emerged. Plus, that offensive line is going to push most everyone around this season– the question is what will that mean for the passing game and what version of Jarrett Guarantano will lead the team this season? If more often than not it is the 4th quarter of the Gator Bowl version, Tennessee will be more than capable of claiming a huge scalp.
The schedule is also favorable. Alabama will be playing its 8th game in a row when it arrives on Rocky Top. The Vols get a bye week to prepare. If Tennessee’s losing streak and Saban’s streak against proteges is going to end, this is as good a time as any. Vols by a field goal.
By the way — it’s also safe to bet on Pruitt’s team is losing to Arkansas a week after beating Alabama. Giant step forward, small step back. That’s normal.
Michael Bratton, News editor
I’m tempted to pick any South Carolina game because Will Muschamp has a habit of winning games unexpectedly as a big underdog and dropping games his teams have no business losing.
Instead, I’m going with Kentucky on the road at Auburn during Week 5 of the season. I’ve seen at least one sportsbook list Kentucky as a 17-point underdog in this matchup, but I see this game as a close contest and one that I actually favor the Wildcats to win.
Another one that I could see happening is Tennessee winning Week 2 at Oklahoma. I expect the Sooners to pull it out in the end, but I anticipate the Vols making that game a 4-quarter contest and it wouldn’t shock me if Jeremy Pruitt lands his first signature win in this matchup.
Chris Wright, Executive editor
Last season, Auburn upset Oregon, which went a long way toward knocking the Ducks (and the Pac-12) out of the Playoff.
This year, I think another SEC team takes care of a Playoff regular early in the season.
I like Tennessee against Oklahoma in Week 2. The Vols are 8.5-point underdogs and on the road. On paper, it looks less than ideal.
The reality is this will be touted QB prospect Spencer Rattler’s 2nd career start, and facing Missouri State in the opener isn’t exactly the same thing as facing Jeremy Pruitt’s bunch a week later.
Lincoln Riley has recruited well enough to replace some of the skill he just lost to the NFL Draft, but this is the first time he’s entrusting the offense to somebody as raw as Rattler.
Rattler was the nation’s top-ranked QB in the 2019 class. Watching and learning from Jalen Hurts, Rattler appeared in just 3 games last season. His stat line — 7-for-11, 81 yards — reads like a solid quarter. Maybe he’s ready. Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel won the Heisman as redshirt sophomores.
But I like the Vols’ chances to control the line on offense, establish the running game, limit OU’s opportunities and force Rattler to try to play hero ball just 2 starts into his career.