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HomeFootball2023 FootballSEC Preview and Predictions: Week 1

SEC Preview and Predictions: Week 1

Last week’s record: 1-0 (100.0%)
Season record: 1-0 (100.0%)

FLORIDA at UTAH
The Billy Napier era got off to a promising start in 2022 when Florida beat Utah 29-26 in Gainesville to open the season. But since then, the two programs have shot off into different directions. Utah comes into this game ranked 14th in the country, while Florida lost its last three games of 2022 to close at 6-7 and until Napier proves able to restock the talent shelves, the Gators aren’t going to be on anyone’s list of contenders. Florida’s defense needs to get off on the right foot this year, and the offensive depth chart doesn’t scare anyone. Get past Utah, and the first half of the season is quite manageable, with only Tennessee on Sept. 16 looking like a sure loss. Lose here, though, and those who don’t believe Napier is the answer will feel emboldened to speak out.
Utah 31
Florida 21

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE at ALABAMA
See our extended preview!

TENNESSEE-MARTIN at GEORGIA
Georgia begins its two-time title defense by hosting UT-Martin. The only thing we’ll learn about Georgia in this game is whether the Sanford Stadium scoreboard has three digits under the home team’s score box.
Georgia 61
UT-Martin 0

BALL STATE at KENTUCKY
Ball State gets to face Georgia next week. Better get that upset out of your system this week if you can, BSU, because it’s certainly not happening next week.
Kentucky 41
Ball State 21

SOUTH DAKOTA vs. MISSOURI
The Badlands are a wonderful tourist attraction that you and your family can visit in South Dakota. This is The Badgame.
Missouri 52
S. Dakota 10

NORTH CAROLINA vs. SOUTH CAROLINA (at Charlotte, N.C.)
This is likely to be a highly entertaining game and a showcase for two elite quarterbacks, North Carolina’s Drake Maye and South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler. What it isn’t likely to be is a showcase for competent defense. Both teams have a lot to prove in this opener, but neither may be able to slow down the opposition long enough for its own offense to take control of the game flow. With the game at a neutral venue, but one that still favors the Tar Heels, it will be tough for the Gamecocks – the SEC’s most overt “momentum team” – to overcome substantial talent deficiencies on paper. The Gamecocks’ only chance is for Rattler to play flawless football and completely avoid the turnovers that have plagued him in previous years.
North Carolina 48
South Carolina 34

TENNESSEE vs. VIRGINIA (at Nashville, Tenn.)
That’s what the world was crying out for, a neutral-site matchup between the Vols and Virginia. If you like one-sided massacres, this game promises everything you could want, as the Cavaliers went 3-7 last year and are still trying to navigate a full system revamp, especially on offense. Tennessee is replacing Hendon Hooker at quarterback and will be looking to build confidence in a defense that has grown weary of constant criticism, and Virginia is a perfect canvas upon which to paint those attempts.
Tennessee 45
Virginia 20

ALABAMA A&M at VANDERBILT
Vanderbilt defeated Hawaii in Week 0 but the slim margin of victory was concerning. The Commodores should have put the Warriors away by three scores or more, but that probably shows you how down in the doldrums the ‘Dores program still is. Alabama A&M is unlikely to mount any significant challenge this week, a good thing for Vanderbilt considering the Commodores may run out of winnable games before the calendar flips over to October.
Vanderbilt 41
Alabama A&M 14

WESTERN CAROLINA at ARKANSAS
In 1984, the world was treated to a horror movie about killer hogs called “Razorback.” In 2023, Western Carolina gets a front-row seat to the sequel.
Arkansas 56
W. Carolina 10

MASSACHUSETTS at AUBURN
Hugh Freeze picked the right kind of opponent for his debut game. The list of things Auburn needs to become a contender is too long to fit in one paragraph, but Freeze has done a lot with a little in the past. Fortunately, he shouldn’t need his entire bag of tricks to win his debut on the plains, because UMass is horrible on offense and is coming off a one-win season. The Minutemen do, however, have a competent defense that tends to punch above its weight. It might be sloppy early, but Auburn should simply have too much talent to lose this one.
Auburn 34
UMass 14

LOUISIANA STATE vs. FLORIDA STATE (at Orlando, Fla.)
By far the most interesting game of the week, this game could wind up being a playoff eliminator game if the loser of this game should stumble again heading to the finish. LSU is very good in most areas but not great in any; Florida State is trying to rebound after the program had grown stagnant under Jimbo Fisher. Mike Norvell is an intriguing head coach who has drawn some comparisons to a young Nick Saban, and this starting to look like a breakout season in the making for the Seminoles. The game is in Florida State’s back yard; everything seems to be lining up. Can Florida State close the deal?
Florida State 30
LSU 24

MERCER at MISSISSIPPI
Mercer had a tune-up game in Week 0, beating North Alabama 17-7. If the Mercer defense wasn’t an illusion, it might mean Lane Kiffin’s team only scores 40 rather than 50.
Ole Miss 44
Mercer 7

SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA at MISSISSIPPI STATE
This is probably the kind of opener Mississippi State needs, as an offensive revamp is fully underway following the tragic passing of Mike Leach. Emotions will be running high in this one, with pressure to win being more substantial than it would typically be against an opponent of this level.
Mississippi St. 47
SE Louisiana 17

NEW MEXICO at TEXAS A&M
The Lobos went 2-10 last year and return only five starters from that team. After beating UTEP last Sept. 17, the Lobos didn’t only not win a game, it only scored 20 points or more once, losing 31-20 to UNLV. This might be one of the worst teams in the country in 2023.
Texas A&M 59
New Mexico 0

Follow Jess Nicholas on X at @TideFansJessN

Week 01 Info:

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