By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Aug. 29, 2011
Last season’s record: 77-20 (79.4%)
The 2010 season was a good one for the Predictions Dept., which narrowly missed an 80-percent year. This season, parity in the middle of the SEC figures to make a lot of games tough to pick. In Week 1, LSU and Oregon highlight the game schedule, with Georgia and Boise State not far behind. Most teams are facing weak sisters, however.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC at FLORIDA
The Owls finished just 4-8 last season and are a poor match for the Gators. Despite putting in new systems and trying to instill confidence in its quarterback, Florida is a heavy favorite here and only a meltdown of epic proportions gives FAU any chance to win. The Owls are rebuilding its defense, but it’s the offense, which finished the 2010 season feeding at the bottom of the rankings, that is the real issue. Florida might not be running at top efficiency, but they’ll easily handle what might be the worst team in Division-IA.
Florida Atlantic 7
KENT STATE at ALABAMA
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GEORGIA vs. BOISE STATE (at Atlanta, Ga.)
The Bulldogs open what might be Mark Richt’s last season by playing a team some folks think will be the eventual national champion. Boise State has revenge on its mind, given that Georgia opened the 2005 season by bursting the bubble of this “BCS buster.” In the seasons since, most have conveniently forgotten just how bad Boise looked in that game, enthralled by the Broncos’ blue field and frenetic offense. Georgia, this time, is the team with something to prove, and especially Richt, as he fights for his job. The Bulldogs don’t need any injuries, particularly in the offensive backfield. Boise State will be trying to replace a wide receiver corps that was aces in 2010. The Broncos had impressive stats on both sides of the ball in 2010, but the defensive performances were notably less impressive when the Broncos played top-conference schools. Biggest key? Boise must find a way to stop Georgia QB Aaron Murray – with a secondary that has only one returning starter.
Boise State 27
WESTERN KENTUCKY vs. KENTUCKY (in Nashville, Tenn.)
The world’s most curious neutral-site game is certainly this game, which finds Western Kentucky and Regular Kentucky playing a game in a state other than Kentucky. Ehh? Just call this one the Superfluous Bowl. Also call the Wildcats the victors.
W. Kentucky 14
SOUTH CAROLINA vs. EAST CAROLINA (in Charlotte, N.C.)
The run of neutral-site games continues with this juggernaut of a traditional rivalry between South Carolina and East Carolina, in Charlotte. Was the Gamecock gym not available? At least in this instance, East Carolina looks like a decent opponent, especially on offense, where the Pirates are heavily influenced by the Texas Tech offense Ruffin McNeill experienced before becoming ECU’s head coach. East Carolina’s problem is the defense, which is allegedly McNeill’s specialty, was putrid in 2010. Offensively, they couldn’t run the ball, making the Pirates too one-dimensional. South Carolina isn’t good enough to cakewalk its way through this game, but the Gamecocks should still win.
South Carolina 31
East Carolina 22
MONTANA at TENNESSEE
What, no neutral-site game location in northern Kansas?
ELON at VANDERBILT
This is almost as bad as Montana-Tennessee. James Franklin, for at least one week, becomes a Vandy coach with a career undefeated record.
MISSOURI STATE at ARKANSAS
The one certainty here is that, Knile Davis or no Knile Davis, Arkansas will be running up and down the field on Missouri State all day long. The Razorbacks can name the score, and they will.
Missouri State 14
UTAH STATE at AUBURN
Utah State draws the unfortunate stick with “11 a.m. kickoff” printed upon it. The Aggies weren’t great anyway – the defense didn’t stop a soul in 2010 and the offense wasn’t much better – but any hope Utah State had of upsetting a rebuilding Auburn team went by the wayside when this game was moved to an early start time. Now the only question is how long Auburn will play its starters.
Utah State 21
LOUISIANA STATE vs. OREGON (at Dallas, Texas)
Another neutral-site game, but this one makes a ton of sense, as last year’s BCS Championship Game runner-up, Oregon, faces the team that many feel could be one half of the game this season. Both teams come into the game with plenty of off-field drama playing out, and LSU will have to rely on one of its two backup quarterbacks. What should have been a fairly easy game for LSU just got a lot harder, and if the Tigers can’t catch up to the Ducks’ speed, this one could actually get ugly for the Bayou Bengals. We’re going out on a limb here by sticking to our original preseason prediction.
MISSISSIPPI STATE at MEMPHIS
The Bulldogs hope to right some wrongs from 2010, one of the biggest being the loss to Auburn in Week 2 of the season. The Tigers come up second again this year, so MSU will look to tune up against a different set of Tigers from Memphis. Memphis simply isn’t a good team, and while the Bulldogs are rebuilding several areas of their own team, look for State to have no trouble here before turning their sights toward the team that took Cam Newton from them.
Mississippi St. 38
BRIGHAM YOUNG at MISSISSIPPI
Ole Miss hosts BYU in Week 1, an intriguing intersectional matchup that, shockingly, is not being played a neutral site. If Kentucky and Western Kentucky have to go into another state to have their battle, how did the Cougars and the Rebels ever get on the same page? Ole Miss is a team in repose at the moment, and Houston Nutt’s job may be on the line. BYU, meanwhile, could be flirting with a Big 12 Conference invitation at the time of this game, depending on what Texas A&M does, but for now is carving out its own path as an independent. If BYU can figure out the riddle of its offense, it should be able to give Ole Miss fits. This is one of the most veteran teams in Division-IA for 2011.
Ole Miss 23