While a complete schedule affords some free wins for a predictions service when those games are contested against lower-division, weaker teams, it only works when the SEC teams actually take care of business. Here’s looking at you, Vanderbilt. This week’s slate of games is weaker than Week 1’s was, although one intraconference matchup (Missouri against Kentucky) and a couple of mildly interesting out-of-conference games (Arkansas-Texas for one) mean fans can’t just sleep through their Saturday.
Last week’s record: 11-3 (78.6%)
Season record: 11-3 (78.6%)
FLORIDA at SOUTH FLORIDA
Jeff Scott won’t be long for this job if he keeps posting results like a 45-0 spanking at the hands of NC State last week, which followed up a 1-8 debut season in 2020. This week the Bulls get to host the Gators, but that’s about the only good news for the USF program. Florida gets to do a little targeted recruiting down Tampa way, while the Bulls get a check and maybe even another goose egg on the scoreboard.
South Florida 7
MERCER at ALABAMA
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ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM at GEORGIA
This one got mildly more interesting Wednesday when Georgia QB J.T. Daniels was downgraded to questionable due to an oblique injury. But the opponent is still UAB, and Georgia should be able to beat the Blazers with any quarterback on its roster. The real question is whether Daniels’ injury will be a long-term problem, and if so, can the Bulldogs find a savior sitting on the bench.
MISSOURI at KENTUCKY
Going off openers alone, the Wildcats looked much more complete than did the Tigers. At worst, this is the game for third place in the SEC East; depending on how Florida’s offense progresses (or doesn’t), the winner of this game has no worse than a 50/50 shot at second in the division. Missouri let Central Michigan hang around far too long last week for comfort. Kentucky, meanwhile, methodically put away ULM. The game being in Lexington can only help Kentucky’s chances.
SOUTH CAROLINA at EAST CAROLINA
Mike Houston’s debut at East Carolina didn’t go so well, as the Pirates fell to Appalachian State. We’re not in Mars Hill anymore, Mike. For Houston’s second game, he gets to host South Carolina, which opened the season with one of the most compelling storylines in college football this year: opening-game starting QB Zeb Noland had joined the team as a graduate assistant coach before injuries forced him into the lineup. Against Eastern Illinois, Noland didn’t throw for many yards, but he did pitch 4 touchdowns and kept the offense on track. It’s going to be a little more of a hill to climb against East Carolina, but the USC defense wants to prove itself and if South Carolina can’t get past ECU, regardless of the quarterback, it’s going to be a long season indeed for Shane Beamer.
South Carolina 27
East Carolina 24
PITTSBURGH at TENNESSEE
Pitt opened with a 51-7 slaughter of UMass, giving this game a bit of an added “uh-oh” factor if you’re a Volunteer. Tennessee’s opener over Bowling Green found the Vols in possession of a win, but they didn’t look dominant. It’s hard to call any margin of victory over UMass as dominant, either, but Pitt came out of that game displaying the ability to throw the ball downfield and keep defenses honest up front. Tennessee can’t sleep on this one.
VANDERBILT at COLORADO STATE
It wasn’t just that Vanderbilt lost. It wasn’t just that Vanderbilt lost to East Tennessee State. It was that Vanderbilt lost 23-3 to East Tennessee State. In its new coach’s debut game. At home. Ooof. Fortunately enough, the Commodores get to face off against a Rams team that lost by 19 to South Dakota State in its opener, making one wonder whether the bottom half of FBS is even trying. Hard to call this game now, which we picked as a Vanderbilt win in the preseason, given what we all saw in Nashville last week, but how can you be confident in either outcome after seeing the Week 1 results? Maybe the best thing to do is have ETSU play South Dakota State instead.
Colorado St. 12
TEXAS at ARKANSAS
Now here’s something to watch, especially since it’s likely going to start appearing again on annual schedules as soon as Texas joins the SEC. The Longhorns won in Steve Sarkisian’s opening game, and because Texas has been anointed as yet another “Team That Showed a Pulse So We’re Going to Make Them the Next Bama” by the national media, the only acceptable result here will be a 40-point blowout on behalf of the Longhorns. Arkansas’ opener wasn’t fantastic; the Razorbacks won, but the problems at quarterback were apparent at times and Arkansas just doesn’t have enough depth of talent yet to make a serious run at better teams. Texas may still be rebuilding, too, but the Longhorns don’t have nearly as far to go as the Hogs do.
ALABAMA STATE at AUBURN
Two cupcakes in a row to start the year for the Tigers. By this time next week, Bryan Harsin will be Curly Lambeau.
Alabama State 0
MCNEESE STATE at LOUISIANA STATE
Ed Orgeron can watch LSU put up 50-plus on McNeese and claim progress is being made if he wants. LSU’s opening loss to UCLA, a game in which some LSU players looked like they might have begun to quit on the season already, was ugly enough that incremental progress is almost irrelevant.
McNeese St. 14
AUSTIN PEAY at MISSISSIPPI
Will Lane Kiffin make it back from Covid-19 protocol to coach this week? Does it really matter?
Ole Miss 65
Austin Peay 10
NORTH CAROLINA STATE at MISSISSIPPI STATE
Potentially the best game on the board here, as NC State put away South Florida 45-0 in the opener and Mississippi State had to come from behind to beat Louisiana Tech. The hard part here is trying to figure out whose first-week opponents are any good, whose aren’t, and then throw Mike Leach and pirates and Air Raids into the mix and it unfolds like Steve Spielberg’s “1941.” Tune in, because it will make for compelling television one way or the other.
NC State 38
Mississippi St. 33
TEXAS A&M vs. COLORADO (at Denver, Colo.)
These two teams share a common thread coming out of Week 1: Neither really impressed in its opener. Texas A&M’s new quarterback, Haynes King, threw 3 interceptions, while backup Zach Calzada threw one on his only pass attempt of the game. Colorado stumbled around to a 35-7 win over FCS Northern Colorado, displaying a passing attack that made A&M’s look positively fabulous by comparison. The only way this game will be news is if Colorado finds a way to upset the Aggies, which means … it won’t make the news.
Texas A&M 44
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN