By Jess Nicholas
Sept. 4, 2018
Last week’s record: 12-2 (85.7%)
Season record: 12-2 (85.7%)
The Predictions Dept. showed faith in Tennessee in the opening week, and was rewarded in the form of a thud. That, and an unexpectedly strong debut for LSU, were the blemishes on the first-week schedule. This week, Georgia-South Carolina offers the only matchup of ranked teams, while Clemson-Texas A&M and Florida-Kentucky are probably the best second-line games. Most teams are facing weaker sisters in preparation for the start of full-blown conference play.
KENTUCKY at FLORIDA
Florida played a nobody in Week 1 but that hasn’t stopped the fans desperate for a return to relevancy from thinking Dan Mullen already has Gainesville figured out. Kentucky predictably had some difficulty with Central Michigan in its matchup. Truth be told, these two teams are probably very close to one another in terms of program strength at the moment, but Kentucky still cannot seem to show a killer instinct. We’re all waiting for the Wildcats to run roughshod over a similarly-talented, or even stronger opponent. Were this game in Lexington, this might be a statement game for Kentucky as it tries to get into the SEC East’s upper half. But with the game in Florida, even a rebuilding Gator team still holds the edge over a Kentucky program still chasing one of the most elusive of goals – that of being confident.
ARKANSAS STATE at ALABAMA
GEORGIA at SOUTH CAROLINA
South Carolina is ranked, just barely, and it’s going to be a short stay in the top 25. Despite hosting this game, the Gamecocks have little chance of staying with the Bulldogs unless Georgia comes in unprepared. South Carolina obliterated Coastal Carolina in the opener but gave up too many significant plays in the passing game to feel good about itself. Georgia will have a field day with the Gamecock defense unless South Carolina just didn’t show its hand last week. The only way South Carolina can pull the upset is if the improvement in the running game shown against Coastal Carolina wasn’t a mirage. Georgia’s defense is good, but maybe not good enough to prevent a shootout from developing – if, and only if, South Carolina is capable of triggering one.
South Carolina 20
WYOMING at MISSOURI
Wyoming is one of the few teams that have already played two games. The Cowboys opened with a nice win over New Mexico State before falling, somewhat uncompetitively, to Washington State. The passing offense is on the rocks, understandable given the departure of Josh Allen to the Buffalo Bills of the NFL. Missouri, meanwhile, comes into this game with all the offensive weaponry a team can expect to have, and if Wyoming struggles defensively in the manner it did against Wazzou, the whole thing is going to come flying apart rather quickly. From Wazzou to Mizzou, Wyoming is about to get tattooed. Again.
EAST TENNESSEE STATE at TENNESSEE
Jeremy Pruitt will get his first win as Vol head coach this week, but Tennessee has bigger problems than just failing to pull a predicted upset in Week 1. Nothing looked good about that loss to West Virginia: the pass defense was a total dud, the rush defense was mediocre, and the Vol offense, which is undergoing a heart transplant as it sheds its finesse-spread trappings in favor of a power-tuned attack, was neutered like a shelter pup by the Mountaineers. Still, this is ETSU, and if Tennessee has any problems here, it’s going to be a long year. It may be a long year already.
NEVADA at VANDERBILT
Vanderbilt looked better than expected in a Week 1 win over MTSU. That’s a good thing, because Nevada scored 72 points in its opener – even though the opponent was Portland State, that kind of output can’t be ignored – and the Commodores are going to have to batten down the hatches and not be tempted to look ahead to Notre Dame in Week 3. Predictably, Vandy’s strengths appear to be on the defensive side of the ball, while the offense languished a bit against the Blue Raiders. The running game is still clunky and there’s a general lack of athleticism, but 72 points or not, Nevada shouldn’t be in Vanderbilt’s universe in that regard. Nevada’s pass defense needs improvement, if the Portland State contest is a reliable indicator. And Vanderbilt has enough weapons there to make the Wolfpack uncomfortable.
ARKANSAS at COLORADO STATE
The Razorbacks do, indeed, travel in this game, which says a lot about how far the Razorback program has fallen that it can’t force Mountain West teams to come to them. But at least Arkansas gets a solid shot at a win. The Colorado State of 2018 isn’t the Colorado State of years past; losses to Hawaii and Colorado are already on the ticker and the Rams have looked slow in both. Arkansas has a lot of growing to do, but the Razorbacks are certainly on the level of at least a Hawaii already. Who knows how much of a home-field advantage really exists in Fort Collins, but Arkansas should be able to manage it regardless.
Colorado State 14
ALABAMA STATE at AUBURN
The Hornets are coming to town, but they’ve got about as much chance of surviving a visit to Auburn as real hornets do surviving a visit to a RAID factory.
Alabama St. 0
SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA at LOUISIANA STATE
It’s not that LSU upset Miami, it’s how the Tigers went about doing it that surprised people the most. LSU thoroughly dominated the Hurricanes, only letting the score gap get fairly close in the waning minutes of the game. A letdown is probably in order, but Southeast Louisiana probably can’t do anything with it. The Lions did come within 3 points of knocking off Louisiana-Monroe in the opener, but the only similarities between ULM and LSU is the state in which they are both located.
SE Louisiana 10
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS at MISSISSIPPI
Ole Miss is reaping the benefits of a solid spanking of Texas Tech in the opener. Alabama looms in Week 3, so this might be the last week the Rebels are able to feel good about themselves for awhile. The Salukis are not a pushover; they throttled Murray State 49-10 in their opener. But this is still an FCS school trying to compete with one of the best offenses the SEC has to offer.
Ole Miss 52
So. Illinois 21
MISSISSIPPI STATE at KANSAS STATE
The Bulldogs go on the road to face a KSU team that almost found itself the upset victim of South Dakota. Kansas State sometimes plays up or down to the level of the competition, so expect a better showing this week, but Mississippi State looked nigh unstoppable in its opener, even without the services of QB Nick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald returns this week, and if MSU’s offense is further helped by his addition, Kansas State ought to hope the game gets shortened by lightning or something. Otherwise this could get ugly.
Mississippi St. 41
Kansas St. 17
CLEMSON at TEXAS A&M
Texas A&M embarrasses lowly Northwestern State in its opener, and suddenly the college football world wants to make this game into the Peloponnesian War. Unless Texas A&M really did underachieve horrifically the last couple of seasons, the Aggies are nowhere near the level they need to be to beat Clemson, home game or not. Clemson is coming off a solid win over Furman, and the Tiger defense is so dominant that it’s unlikely A&M will be able to mount much of an attack, certainly not back up the performance the Aggies recorded in Week 1, which set school records for output. An upset here would send shockwaves through both conferences.
Texas A&M 17
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN