By Jess Nicholas
Sept. 6, 2017
Last week’s record: 14-0 (100.0%)
Season record: 14-0 (100.0%)
The Predictions Dept. got off to a home-run start in 2017, correctly hitting on all 14 SEC games in Week 1. For Week 2, things get a bit easier, as the toughest game on the board to pick is either Georgia-Notre Dame or Auburn-Clemson. Most SEC teams are taking a break after challenging openers.
NORTHERN COLORADO at FLORIDA
Assuming this game happens – a hurricane is entering the gulf; anything is possible, even though Irma is not expected to reach Florida until mid-week – then it will be a walkover for the Gators, who spent the opener getting trucked by a Michigan team that looked both more physical and speedier. Such mismatches would have been unheard of in Gainesville for the better part of the 80s, 90s and 00s, but Florida has struggled in recent years to achieve the success set during Steve Spurrier’s era and then duplicated under Urban Meyer. The Michigan loss was ugly; Florida needs a big win here to get its confidence back.
No. Colorado 13
FRESNO STATE at ALABAMA
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GEORGIA at NOTRE DAME
Georgia lost its starting quarterback against Appalachian State, and now must face a Notre Dame team that put together a surprisingly complete win over a Temple squad that wasn’t expected to be terrible. This game has flown under the radar somewhat, thanks in large part to Notre Dame’s struggles to remain relevant in recent years. Georgia will have to win this game with defense, because it is still feeling its way offensively and now must rely on a true freshman QB (Jake Fromm) and not much in the way of backups. Georgia still harbors championship aspirations, but they’ll evaporate without a victory in this game.
Notre Dame 23
EASTERN KENTUCKY at KENTUCKY
Kentucky did last week what it couldn’t do in 2016 – start the season with a win over Southern Miss. Now it’s time to polish off Eastern Kentucky rather than doing something we refer to as “typical Kentucky”: tripping up against a no-name opponent when it’s actually time to make a statement instead. The SEC East may be more wide open this year than anyone dared to think in the preseason, so taking care of business in this game is crucial heading into a matchup with South Carolina that suddenly could end up deciding second place in the East.
E. Kentucky 21
SOUTH CAROLINA at MISSOURI
Early betting lines have Missouri the favorite in this game, which is mind-boggling if you happened to catch each team’s respective games last week. Missouri ran up a bunch of points on a lower-division opponent, but displayed no defense. South Carolina, meanwhile, beat a North Carolina State team that was expected to contend for an ACC title if not also a spot in the college football playoff. This one comes down mostly to whether South Carolina QB Jake Bentley is the real deal. If he is, it’s unlikely Missouri can put up enough points to make up for its horrid defense. Will Muschamp has the Gamecocks believing.
South Carolina 27
INDIANA STATE at TENNESSEE
The Volunteers’ win over Georgia Tech was costly from an injury standpoint, but Indiana State poses no threat. This is simply a rest stop on the road to relevancy.
Indiana St. 21
ALABAMA A&M at VANDERBILT
The Commodores dispatched MTSU with surprising efficiency in the opener, with the defense leading the way. A similar effort should yield a margin of victory close to twice as much this week. The Commodores aren’t ready for prime time just yet, but the SEC East is vulnerable enough that a return trip to the postseason isn’t out of the question. Given that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Vandy’s defense, if the Commodores prove to have the job taken care of already, it could mean bad news for other borderline SEC teams that must go through the ’Dores’ schedule.
Alabama A&M 6
TEXAS CHRISTIAN at ARKANSAS
Neither TCU, who played Jackson State, nor Arkansas, who faced Florida A&M, were challenged in the first week. It wasn’t even possible to really tell what each team had at its disposal. Thus, this sort of becomes an opener for each team, with last week’s slate of games merely a pair of glorified scrimmages. Both teams are reasonably healthy, so this will come down to Arkansas’ ability to stop the Horned Frog offense. The Razorback defense was much-maligned heading into the season, and TCU’s offense has been good enough lately to give just about anyone a scare. The Horned Frogs are about on par with a good-but-not-great SEC team, so a win here by Arkansas would make quite the positive statement about its chances to make a bowl. An ugly loss, though, would make a statement of its own, and the Razorback defense is potentially bad enough to trigger it.
AUBURN at CLEMSON
Unquestionably the marquee game of the week for the SEC, Auburn’s opener showed vulnerabilities at offensive line, wide receiver and perhaps quarterback as well. But there’s no denying the Tiger defense is fast, big and mean as advertised, making Clemson’s road to victory a tough one. Clemson looked better offensively than expected – and especially adept at the quarterback position – during its opening-week win. The real question here is whether Auburn’s offensive line has the talent to keep a fast, aggressive Clemson defense off its running backs and out of QB Jarrett Stidham’s face. If Clemson gets the kind of pressure on Stidham that it wants, this is going to be a long day for Auburn indeed.
TENNESSEE-CHATTANOOGA at LOUISIANA STATE
Tigers look to chew-chew Chattanooga.
TENNESSEE-MARTIN at MISSISSIPPI
It’s always a barn-burner when Harvard of the Haystacks comes to town. Right … ?
Ole Miss 60
MISSISSIPPI STATE at LOUISIANA TECH
Once everyone gets past the mystery of why in the world Mississippi State agreed to go to Ruston for this game, the next mystery to solve is how Louisiana Tech allowed itself to give up 24 points to Northwestern State in the opener. Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald is probably hitting the NyQuil every night this week just so he can knock the edge off and get some sleep, lest he be kept up all night by visions of reaching the Tech end zone unabated.
Mississippi St. 55
Louisiana Tech 21
NICHOLLS STATE at TEXAS A&M
There’s really nothing to say at this point for how Texas A&M managed to find itself 0-1 after the opening week slate of games. Suffice to say if Kevin Sumlin has any hope of retaining his job, the Aggies need a big win here and need it to touch off a string of other big wins in the next few weeks.
Texas A&M 47
Nicholls St. 15
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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