Losses in our Arkansas and Florida matchups kept the first week around the Prediction Dept.’s historical average, with the losses balanced by hitting the LSU-Florida State game correctly and picking the Tennessee-Ball State score exactly. This week, Alabama-Texas is the prime matchup for conference teams by far, with only two or three other games even close to being interesting. Best of the rest will certainly be Kentucky-Florida.
Week 1 record: 12-2 (85.7%)
Season record: 12-3 (80.0%)
KENTUCKY at FLORIDA
Florida’s opening win over a top-10 opponent could go a long way to lifting the Gator program into contending status. The Gators forced a late turnover to seal the game, but the real bright spot for the Gators was how well they seemed to match up to a Utah program that has been heavily built on the foundation of its lines of scrimmage. Kentucky had its usual slow start against a non-conference team in the opener before pulling away later in the game; what the Wildcats lack in this game may be the ability match up to Florida in the trenches. Kentucky has a big edge at quarterback, but the Gators look competitive everywhere else. Take the home team.
ALABAMA at TEXAS
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SAMFORD at GEORGIA
In a battle of Bulldogs, Samford is most certainly of the French variety.
MISSOURI at KANSAS STATE
Kansas State opened up with a 34-0 win, but it was over South Dakota, meaning there’s no way to tell anything about the legitimacy of the Wildcat program from that one. The best thing that can be said about KSU (other than it returns talented RB Deuce Vaughn) is that the Wildcats play very sound football on both sides of the ball and have a lot of returning experience. Missouri, who knows. The Tigers beat Louisiana Tech 52-24 in the opener but it took some fireworks to pull it off. Kansas State, meanwhile, threw for fewer than 100 yards and didn’t try to show much. If this one is going to come down to athletes, take Missouri … but Kansas State is a more disciplined team.
SOUTH CAROLINA at ARKANSAS
A poor man’s Kentucky-Florida, South Carolina takes a one-QB-nobody-else team to Arkansas, which held off a talented Cincinnati team impressively in the opener. South Carolina, as predicted, slogged around against Georgia State for three quarters before pulling away late. Arkansas missed some opportunities against Cincinnati, and you never know what you’re going to get from QB K.J. Jefferson, but the Razorbacks are playing a team that struggled to run the ball against GSU and appears to lack playmakers.
South Carolina 24
TENNESSEE at PITTSBURGH
Pitt comes into this game ranked 17th in the country, a bit of a surprise given what the Panthers lost after the 2021 season concluded. Kedon Slovis had a good first outing at quarterback against West Virginia, taking over for Kenny Pickett, now in the NFL – but he as also sacked five times, a bit of a surprise given the Panthers return all five starters on the OL, all of them seniors. Tennessee destroyed a pitiful Ball State team, so it’s going to be hard to get a like-for-like comparison going here, as West Virginia was the far superior Week 1 opponent for either of these teams. The question is going to be whether Pitt can stop Tennessee’s offense. The defense’s performance against West Virginia as on the good side of OK, to be expected given what the Panthers returned, but the unit is top-heavy toward stars and the secondary was the weak link on last year’s team.
WAKE FOREST at VANDERBILT
It’s hard to tell what Vanderbilt has, as the Commodores opened with perhaps the two weakest possible opponents of any team. Hawaii got obliterated by the ‘Dores, and then lost big to Western Kentucky. Wake, meanwhile, was rather ho-hum in its opener against VMI, but does return most of its offense from a year ago. What it may not return is QB Sam Hartman, who is not confirmed to be available for this game. Backup QB Mitch Griffis had a nice opener, but again, it was against VMI. We’ll be interested to see how Vanderbilt fares against the Wake Forest defense, which was weak a year ago and resulted in a change of defensive coordinators. Vanderbilt has put up big numbers through its first two games, but you could probably combine Hawaii and VMI and not be up to the four-fifths line of talent the Commodores will face against Wake Forest.
Wake Forest 31
SAN JOSE STATE at AUBURN
San Jose State comes into the game 1-0 after just a 21-17 win over FCS Portland State. The Spartans ran 29 times for just 49 yards, and QB Chevan Cordeiro completed just half his passes. Welcome to 2-0, Auburn.
San Jose State 10
SOUTHERN at LOUISIANA STATE
The last-second loss to Florida State was about as LSU as LSU could get in the first week under Brian Kelly. Southern will give the Tigers no problems, a good thing this week especially as LSU’s psyche has to be in the dumpster. Mississippi State is next, so it’s imperative LSU win convincingly here as well as keep everyone healthy.
CENTRAL ARKANSAS at MISSISSIPPI
Lost in the discussion of more high-profile SEC games from the first week was the fact Ole Miss struggled to be a bad Troy team. Central Arkansas is a step down even from that, but it’s time for the Rebel offense to get clicking. Ole Miss believes it is a contender in the SEC West; unless the Troy game was an anomaly, the Rebels aren’t.
Ole Miss 55
Central Arkansas 7
MISSISSIPPI STATE at ARIZONA
Arizona was 1-11 a season ago and was thought to be in the middle of a rebuilding effort when the 2022 season began. But the Wildcats clocked San Diego State, which had beaten them by 24 points at home the year prior, and now there is hope that Jedd Fisch can expedite the rebuilding process. Fisch is a curious case as a head coach: He never played the game growing up, but rose to the level of New England Patriots’ QB coach after a circuitous path. The San Diego State win was huge, because there were plenty of questions regarding his candidacy for this job. Attracting Washington State transfer QB Jayden de Laura was a big get for Arizona, and it paid off quickly in the win over San Diego State. Mississippi State should still win this game, but all of a sudden there are reasons to be concerned – not the least of which is a cross-country trip to get to the venue.
Mississippi St. 38
APPALACHIAN STATE at TEXAS A&M
Suddenly this game doesn’t look half bad. Appalachian State fell 64-61 to North Carolina last week and proved it could score on anyone, although North Carolina’s defense is fairly atrocious. Texas A&M shut out Sam Houston State, but did so with a bland offense that underachieved. It’s not enough for us to elevate this game to an Upset Special, but Texas A&M won’t be able to sleepwalk through this. Look out for ASU QB Chase Brice.
Texas A&M 45
Appalachian State 31
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN