SEC Preview and Predictions: Week 2

 

Last Week’s Record: 9-4 (69.2%)
Season Record: 9-4 (69.2%)

TideFans got off to a rocky start to the 2019 season, thanks largely to Tennessee and Missouri wetting their respective pants all over national television. Misses in close games like Auburn-Oregon and South Carolina-North Carolina are to be expected, but watching SEC teams lose to Wyoming and Georgia State is just ridiculous. For Week 2, Texas A&M at Clemson is the hands-down headliner, although LSU-Texas is not a bad No. 2 and Vanderbilt-Purdue is likely to be an entertaining game despite there being nothing of susbstance to play for.

TENNESSEE-MARTIN at FLORIDA
Florida took a lot of heat for its mediocre showing against Miami in the pre-Week 1 opener, but given the carnage of the SEC’s first full week, the Gators came out the clear No. 2 team in a suddenly bombed-out SEC East. This week, Florida gets to play whoever it wants and call whatever plays it wants as UT-Martin, “The Harvard of the Haystacks,” comes to town.
Florida 55
UT-Martin 7

NEW MEXICO STATE at ALABAMA
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MURRAY STATE at GEORGIA
Georgia played as vanilla as possible against Vanderbilt in its opener and still crushed the Commodores. The only thing to care about in this game is keeping the starters healthy in advance of the meat of the schedule.
Georgia 52
Murray State 0

EASTERN MICHIGAN at KENTUCKY
Chris Creighton has done a fabulous job at turning around expectations at Eastern Michigan, long one of the worst programs in FBS. The Eagles won their opener, but it was only by a 30-23 score over Coastal Carolina, not exactly a powerhouse. More importantly, Eastern Michigan struggled to move the ball and also to stop it through the air. The Eagles aren’t just going to lie down for Kentucky, but EMU simply lacks the firepower necessary to compete in this game.
Kentucky 34
E. Michigan 17

WEST VIRGINIA at MISSOURI
Before you start laughing at Missouri’s chances in this one, especially given the Tigers were upset by lowly Wyoming in their opener, consider that while the Tigers were busy embarrassing their SEC brethren, West Virginia was skating by James Madison by a score of 20-13. Neal Brown is in his first year as West Virginia head coach, promoted from Troy to replace Dana Holgorsen. His debut effort found the Mountaineers unable to move the ball on the ground and unable to stop the run. It’s quite possible both West Virginia and Missouri were looking past their respective first opponents to this game, but there’s no excuse for either performance. Take Missouri here if for no other reason than the game is in Columbia.
Missouri 30
West Virginia 27

CHARLESTON SOUTHERN at SOUTH CAROLINA
Missouri and Tennessee had worse losses in Week 1, but South Carolina’s Will Muschamp may be the first SEC coach on a legitimate hot seat in 2019. South Carolina has failed to take a large step forward under his stewardship, and the loss to North Carolina, a 2-9 program in 2018, stung badly. Not only that, but QB Jake Bentley was hurt in the game and is now out indefinitely with a foot injury. There’s a lot to work on this week, and given South Carolina’s remaining schedule, the Gamecocks are probably going to have to upset someone to get bowl-eligible. Taking care of business against a team that lost 46-13 to Furman in the opener is step one.
South Carolina 38
Charleston So. 13

BRIGHAM YOUNG at TENNESSEE
BYU got snuffed in its opener by rival Utah, 30-12, and while that would usually mean something to Tennessee’s chances … how in the world do the Vols get over losing to Georgia State? Statistically, the Volunteers are better than BYU, especially in regards to offensive prowess. BYU looked like a borderline D-1 program against Utah, but, well … so did Tennessee against Georgia State. There’s just no way to properly account for the kind of loss Tennessee suffered. Compared to that game, every other contest on the Volunteers’ schedule looks like a loss, but certainly Tennessee can’t go 0-12. Right? Right?
Tennessee 17
BYU 16

VANDERBILT at PURDUE
No one expected Vanderbilt to beat Georgia in the opener, and the Commodores didn’t. But few people were expecting Purdue to lose to Nevada on a last-second field goal in its opener, yet the Boilermakers did. If there’s any unexpected bad news for Vanderbilt coming out of its opening game, it’s that the offense – which was already in rebuilding mode – looked worse than expected. Defensively, Vanderbilt was given a break by Georgia essentially calling a base offensive scheme for four quarters so as not to show any secrets to future opponents. Purdue’s loss was far more emotionally damaging given the circumstances, but a bright spot for the Boilermakers was the prowess its passing game showed. Purdue came out of the game ranked 5th in the country in passing, and Vanderbilt is rebuilding its secondary along with its offense. We picked Vandy in the preseason but it takes faith to stick with that pick here.
Vanderbilt 27
Purdue 24

ARKANSAS at MISSISSIPPI
Ole Miss lost to Memphis in its opener, looking horrific in the process. Arkansas comes into this game 1-0, but that doesn’t mean the Razorbacks looked any less horrific against Portland State in its opener. These may be the two worst teams in the SEC in 2019, and this game probably represents each team’s best chance to get a conference victory. It’s hard to tell much righbt now beyond the fact both teams stink. Take Arkansas because of the better defensive talent.
Arkansas 17
Ole Miss 16

TULANE at AUBURN
Don’t look now, but Tulane ripped Florida International in its opener and featured a balanced offense that never really was stopped. Head coach Willie Fritz has steadily improved the Green Wave over his three years at the helm and has a 171-90 career record as a coach. He’ll be in line for Power 5 jobs at the end of the year if Tulane continues to show respectability against tougher opponents. Auburn is coming off a last-minute win over Oregon in its opener, and while the defense eventually came around in that game and held off the Ducks’ offense long enough for the Auburn offense to get enough chances to win, Auburn is not a complete team and needs to show improvement when it has the ball. Tulane’s defense probably can’t stop Auburn enough times to make a difference in this game, but this is one of those trap games where Auburn could get into some trouble if it just expects nothing out of its opponent.
Auburn 40
Tulane 21

LOUISIANA STATE at TEXAS
This matchup has a lot going for it, namely the matchup of Texas QB Sam Ehlinger against LSU’s secondary, one of the best in the country. There’s not much from either team’s opener that will have any bearing on the outcome of this game; the real question is whether Texas has made enough progress in reshaping the identity of its program where it can compete with tough-guy teams like LSU. Texas can be much more explosive offensively than LSU can, thanks to superior talent at quarterback and the skill positions. But LSU is better on the lines and probably has the better defense overall. We picked Texas in the preseason and still like the pick, but LSU had a more cohesive opener than we were expecting.
Texas 27
LSU 24

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Southern Miss was once the spoiler program for the entire Southeast, but in recent years the Golden Eagles have not been able to maintain the level of success they put up in previous years. A ho-hum opener against Alcorn State didn’t really inspire a lot of fear, either. Mississippi State’s opener against Louisiana went according to plan, and most expect a comfortable, if not overwhelming win this week as well. The Bulldogs aren’t going to be the flashiest team in the SEC this year, but if the defense comes around a bit, there is room to move up in the bowl pecking order given the struggles of SEC East teams. Keeping things going with a win over Southern Miss is paramount.
Mississippi St. 29
Southern Miss 14

TEXAS A&M at CLEMSON
We’ve saved the best for last, and this game might be the most competitive left on Clemson’s schedule. The Tigers will have a clear path to the College Football Playoff with a win here, because the rest of Clemson’s schedule – if it doesn’t peak this week with Texas A&M, it will next week against Syracuse – is a joke. Texas A&M beat Texas State in the opener, but didn’t impress. If this game was in College Station rather than in Clemson, we’d feel better about A&M’s chances anyway, because Clemson is rebuilding its defense and hasn’t been tested yet. Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond can be dangerous when he’s on, but that isn’t often enough. The real problem for A&M is a pass defense that has too many Swiss cheese characteristics trying to stop a Tiger offense led by Trevor Lawrence. A Texas A&M win here rebalances things across college football. A Clemson offense paves the way for an undefeated Tiger program to hold onto the top seed in the College Football Playoffs likely for the duration of the season.
Clemson 35
Texas A&M 21

Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN

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