SEC Week 2 predictions
What did you think of the first weekend in college football?
RELATED: Week 2 AP Top 25
Two games on Thursday and 11 others on Saturday left us with several takeaways within the SEC including Texas A&M’s obvious resurgence on defense under John Chavis. I picked the Aggies to beat Arizona State, but didn’t think they would do it in blowout fashion.
Alabama looked the part against Wisconsin, South Carolina managed a hard-fought opening night win over North Carolina and Jeremy Johnson escaped three interceptions as Auburn held off Louisville.
Week 1 pick results:
- Brad (@BCrawfordSDS) — 5-8 (against the spread); 12-1 (straight up)
- Christopher (@csmithSDS) — 8-5 (ATS); 11-2 (straight up)
Readers can make their Week 2 picks here.
Jacksonville State at Auburn (-36.5)
Brad: Johnson and the Auburn offense won’t be down for long (if you can call it ‘down’). The Heisman candidate at quarterback can erase last weekend’s lackluster passing performance against Louisville with a stat-stuffer in the home opener against a team that won’t be able to match the Tigers’ speed or athleticism on either side of the football. I have a feeling Will Muschamp will become quite animated on the sideline if the Gamecocks cross the goal line … but that may not even happen.
Auburn 56, Jacksonville State 6
Christopher: RB Roc Thomas and “Buck” Carl Lawson are both expected to play Saturday, coach Gus Malzahn reiterated earlier today. Still, this Jacksonville State team is ranked No. 5 in one FCS poll and No. 6 in the other. The Gamecocks are a legitimate contender for the FCS national championship, and are stocked with former power-conference players. Auburn should put this game away by halftime, or at least in the third quarter. But the team’s emphasis on offense needs to be taking care of the football (Jeremy Johnson) and establishing a ground game. Malzahn is known for running up the score at times — Auburn won 62-3 against Western Carolina in 2013 — but I think the Gamecocks keep it (relatively) respectable.
Auburn 45, Jacksonville State 10
Fresno State at Ole Miss (-29)
Brad: It’s a shame Laquon Treadwell had to ruin Chad Kelly’s near-perfect stat line in his first game at Ole Miss last week. The JUCO transfer and former Clemson backup was superb in limited action, accounting for 231 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. More of the same this week as Ole Miss covers, though I wouldn’t expect the Rebels to reach 70 against Fresno State.
Ole Miss 45, Fresno State 17
Christopher: Ole Miss’ run defense minus DT Issac Gross (out for the season) will get an immediate test. Fresno State is a mediocre team, but running back Marteze Waller is a potential first-team All-Mountain West Conference selection and he’s operating behind a good offensive line. The Bulldogs will have every incentive to slow the game down after watching the Rebels rip off 76 points against Tennessee-Martin in the season opener. I’m curious to see how aggressive coach Hugh Freeze will be in this one. Oh, and it sounds like Laremy Tunsil still won’t play. Still, even if Fresno State gains some yards on the ground, I’m not sure that the Bulldogs can score enough points to beat the spread.
Ole Miss 41, Fresno State 10
Georgia (-20.5) at Vanderbilt
Brad: Deep Water alternate uniforms or not, it’s not going to matter for the Commodores against a team that’s dead-set on reaching the SEC Championship Game this season. I wouldn’t bet the over on this game, but the Bulldogs will cover because Vanderbilt simply can’t move the football against a defense this talented.
Georgia 38, Vanderbilt 7
Christopher: According to one gambling website, 88 percent of public bets are siding with Georgia. Vanderbilt just managed 12 points against a mediocre Conference USA defense last week. There’s a possibility that the Bulldogs could shut out the Commodores. But remember: Vandy reached the red zone five times, and only scored one touchdown. The team’s running game isn’t atrocious. And the Commodores defense played a decent game in last week’s loss. I don’t expect an upset by any means. But there’s a reason the line is holding under 21 points in spite of such heavy public money on UGA. The sharps like Vanderbilt to cover in this one.
Georgia 31, Vanderbilt 14
Middle Tennessee at Alabama (-35)
Brad: Can Middle Tennessee score in Tuscaloosa? This game’s 35-point spread feels like easy money considering Alabama put up 38 on Wisconsin and didn’t establish a rhythm until the second half. Derrick Henry won’t play much, but he’ll post his second straight 100-yard game as the Tide rolls.
Alabama 45, Middle Tennessee 3
Christopher: The Tide probably is glad to get this matchup early in the season. The Blue Raiders run an up-tempo spread offense that will give Alabama a much different look than Wisconsin. Coordinator Kirby Smart will get a chance to find out if his faster back seven can play better against this system early in the year before having to face Ole Miss next week, another team capable of attacking with tempo. Coach Nick Saban usually lets his foot off the gas pedal in the second half of these games. I wouldn’t put money on it if I was in Vegas.
Alabama 49, Middle Tennessee 10
Toledo at Arkansas (-21.5)
Brad: Anyone doubting Brandon Allen as one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks now? I was bashed in April for ranking him No. 2 in the league behind Dak Prescott coming out of spring practice, but I honestly felt given his experience level and the addition of Dan Enos, Allen would be one of college football’s most efficient at his position this fall. He was fantastic in last week’s win over UTEP with 308 yards passing and four touchdowns. More of the same Saturday afternoon against a Toledo defense that won’t be able to rush the passer against the Razorbacks’ massive wall of blockers.
Arkansas 41, Toledo 13
Christopher: Toledo is a MAC contender with good players sprinkled throughout the roster, including 1,600-yard rusher Kareem Hunt. But the Rockets lost all five senior starters from the 2014 offensive line. That’s going to be a problem against a big, deep Arkansas defensive front. The Razorbacks showed better than expected balance on offense in a resounding Week 1 win. Arkansas has started to roll against non-conference opponents, and the Hogs are red hot in Las Vegas since the beginning of last season. That may change later this year in SEC play, but not here.
Arkansas 38, Toledo 14
Oklahoma (-1) at Tennessee
Brad: One of my bolder predictions this season, I’m picking the Vols to beat the 19th-ranked Sooners by double digits inside Neyland Stadium because, above all, this is the signature win Butch Jones has longed for since his arrival. The timing’s right and the setting is ripe for a party on Rocky Top.
Tennessee 38, Oklahoma 24
Christopher: Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield is spearheading a revamped Sooners offense now deploying the Air Raid. After Bowling Green threw for 433 yards on an injury-depleted Volunteers secondary last week, Tennessee has to be concerned about covering Sterling Shepard and others. Cam Sutton needs some help from his teammates — not just in the secondary, but from Curt Maggitt and Derek Barnett, who need to generate a pass rush. I like UT’s chances of more than doubling last year’s 10-point output thanks to QB Joshua Dobbs. But I’m not quite feeling this one as coach Butch Jones’ signature win in Knoxville.
Oklahoma 31, Tennessee 27
Ball State at Texas A&M (-30.5)
Brad: Christian Kirk scored again. Texas A&M’s latest weapon in the passing game led the SEC in total yards during the first weekend with a performance highlighted by a nifty punt return score in the first half. I came away most impressed by the sheer force displayed by the Aggies’ front seven on defense, anchored by SEC defensive lineman of the week Daeshon Hall. Hall and Myles Garrett combined for six of Texas A&M’s nine sacks. If that continues, this team has staying power inside the Top 15.
Texas A&M 59, Ball State 10
Christopher: Though Ball State is an experienced team — the Cardinals return 17 starters — coach Pete Lembo’s group only managed 16 sacks last season. That’s great news for the Aggies, which still are very young at quarterback between sophomore Kyle Allen and freshman Kyler Murray. Ball State did run for 229 yards and five touchdowns in the season opener last week, so A&M’s run defense will need to stay tough. But if John Chavis can get his defensive line to produce anything approximating last week’s effort, this spread shouldn’t be a problem.
Texas A&M 49, Ball State 13
Mizzou (-10.5) at Arkansas State
Brad: There’s a problem if the Tigers don’t cover here in what I consider one of the locks of the week. Mizzou’s defense is one of the Eastern Division’s elite and will keep the opposition out of the end zone for the second straight game. Will the first two weeks help the Tigers down the road against nationally-ranked league competition? Not really, but it gives the coaching staff time to see other players and many different personnel combinations.
Mizzou 31, Arkansas State 9
Christopher: RB Russell Hansbrough and C Evan Boehm, questionable with ankle injuries, probably won’t play in this game. The backup ball-carriers were ineffective Week 1. That will put pressure on Maty Mauk and the inexperienced receivers to carry the torch, because even a very good Tigers defense probably won’t shut out Arkansas State. The perennial Sun Belt favorites will be keyed up for what is yet another odd road game — Mizzou played at Toledo in 2014. If Missouri’s offense can find traction, this spread could be a joke by the second half. If not, it’ll be closer than some think.
Mizzou 27, Arkansas State 13
East Carolina at Florida (-20.5)
Brad: When it was clear last week New Mexico State was no match for Florida’s revamped offense, I turned to Twitter to see what fans were saying about Jim McElwain’s new-look squad. Split down the middle on Treon Harris and Will Grier, the battle rages on. Harris actually graded out better than Grier in the opener, but both passers showed pinpoint accuracy with an emphasis on tight end targets. Florida’s front seven defensively will be taken out of the game if the Pirates’ quick-trigger passing game musters enough first downs and keeps it moving. But that’s the issue. This isn’t the same East Carolina team the Gators battled in last year’s Birmingham Bowl. Not close.
Florida 41, East Carolina 17
Christopher: The days of East Carolina being scary to power-conference foes may be over. Record setters QB Shane Carden and WR Justin Hardy are gone, along with offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley (now at Oklahoma). The Pirates beat FCS team Towson, 28-20, last weekend. Meanwhile, this Florida defense remains full of playmakers. And new Gators coach Jim McElwain needs to leverage these games to excite as many fans and recruits as he can. Expect him to keep driving through the fourth quarter in this one.
Florida 49, East Carolina 13
Kentucky at South Carolina (-7.5)
Brad: What are the chances South Carolina quarterback makes a 180-degree turnaround in his second career start and first at home? The Gamecocks offense should perform much better inside the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium against a squad deeming this one a must-win as far as bowl eligibility is concerned. South Carolina’s won seven straight home games vs. Kentucky by an average of 20.7 points. This team isn’t built to blow others away, as Spurrier admits, but fans won’t sweat too much.
South Carolina 27, Kentucky 17
Christopher: Based on Louisiana-Lafayette’s second-half rally last week, I’m still skeptical that Kentucky has caulked its leaky defense. South Carolina has enough playmakers — and a certain play-caller — to take advantage. At the same time, UK’s Air Raid offense is blooming into a big success. QB Patrick Towles and RB Boom Williams should be legitimate SEC standouts by the end of the season, and there are plenty of capable wideouts dressed in blue. Two Skai Moore end zone interceptions saved South Carolina last week, but the 13 points allowed against North Carolina was a bit deceiving. I expect points in this game.
South Carolina 38, Kentucky 31
LSU (-4.5) at Mississippi State
Brad: This one won’t be easy for the Tigers, who go into a hostile environment without any semblance of rhythm after last week’s canceled game against McNeese State. The ‘Brandon Harris needs reps’ narrative is a bit overblown, but still meaningful. I’d expect this matchup to be one of the SEC’s most competitive games this week with Dak Prescott having a chance to win the game at the end with a touchdown drive. But LSU survives.
LSU 27, Mississippi State 20
Christopher: I was skeptical about Mississippi State all offseason, and last week’s blah 34-16 win against Southern Miss didn’t change my mind. Dak Prescott is scary to bet against, and he helped demolish LSU last year in the first three quarters. This Tigers defense is very fast, though, and the secondary should be able to handle De’Runnya Wilson and the other Bulldogs receivers. In 2014, Mississippi State won the line of scrimmage for the majority of this matchup. This year, that script flips. Brandon Harris plays just OK, but Leonard Fournette has a huge day as the Tigers make just enough plays downfield to put away their West Division rivals.
LSU 31, Mississippi State 24