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SEC Preview and Predictions: Week 2

It’s always nice to get off to a clean start for a season, and now the Predictions Dept. turns its attention to a Week 2 slate of games that feature quite a few more contests that could go either way. Alabama-Texas is the headliner, but Auburn-Cal and Mississippi State-Arizona will bear watching, as might Ole Miss heading to New Orleans to take on Tulane.

Last week’s record: 14-0 (100.0%)
Season record: 15-0 (100.0%)

Florida needs something good to happen this week, and especially needs to grow some confidence in its offense. The 24-11 loss to Utah in Week 1 wasn’t just a loss, it was a bad one, and suddenly, confidence in Billy Napier has reached a nadir. Napier has a lot to fight against that was not of his own making; specifically, Florida just doesn’t have enough talent on its roster, and that’s going to be a problem for Napier or any other coach that might replace him. Napier’s primary problem, though, is that he’s not going to get the time to fix it if he keeps putting up performances like the one against Utah. Florida was picked by TideFans.com/NARCAS to finish at 5-7 at now even that win total looks a bit optimistic. It’s imperative not to just beat McNeese, but do it convincingly.
Florida 45
McNeese St. 10

See our extended previewBama depth chart

Congrats, Ball State, you just opened your season with a 30-point defeat at the hands of Kentucky. Your reward: You get to go to Athens to face Georgia next. At least Indiana State is the opponent for Week 3.
Georgia 52
Ball State 7

The Wildcats didn’t shuffle slowly out of the gate like they often do, putting away Ball State the way they were predicted to. We’re not going to learn anything substantive about Kentucky this week, as this is a glorified scrimmage. But Kentucky is often a team evaluated by not what it does well, but what it doesn’t. A strong, well-rounded victory here would suggest good things are on the horizon, but if UK plays with its food a bit and just sneaks out with a win, it might confirm the fears of some observers that this team is headed back to the middle of the pack.
Kentucky 45
E. Kentucky 10

This game will be an excellent reference point not just for the MTSU program, but for Alabama as well. MTSU was never a threat to beat Alabama in the opener, but Alabama completely shut down what looked like a solid mid-tier team on paper by a 56-7 score. If MTSU is able to get close to Missouri and keep the margins small, it will be just more evidence that Alabama is getting back on the track of dominance. Missouri opened with a win over South Dakota, but it wasn’t the kind of blowout that it probably should have been. The Tigers need to show more life on offense this week.
Missouri 34

Lesser South Carolina teams have struggled against regional pushovers like Furman and Wofford before, and this game almost gets down into trap-game talk. Furman blew out Tennessee Tech in its opener, while South Carolina put up nearly the level of performance against North Carolina that most people were expecting to see. Furman could very well catch the Gamecocks napping, at least early, but Carolina should still win comfortably.
South Carolina 42
Furman 24

Aside from getting Joe Milton’s passing fully on track, the only interesting thing about this game is going to be where Tennessee’s point total eventually winds up. Peay is terrible.
Tennessee 59
Austin Peay 7

This may be the hardest game to pick on the list this week, because we just don’t have enough information yet about either team. Vanderbilt is 2-0 but didn’t overwhelm either of its first two opponents; Wake Forest won its opener over Elon, but by only a score of 37-17. Vanderbilt probably has the better quarterback here in Ken Seals, but Wake Forest has a better overall offensive system and is also hosting this game, which may provide just enough of an edge to get the Demon Deacons over the top.
Wake Forest 27
Vanderbilt 20

A 56-6 loss in the opener didn’t do Kent State any favors if it wanted to pull off a shocker against Arkansas. As it is, the Golden Flashes are left to lick their wounds and wonder what went wrong, while Arkansas continues to restructure its offense around power concepts and use Kent State as fodder in the process.
Arkansas 49
Kent State 10

Nothing about this matchup makes sense. Auburn heads out to the west coast in Week 2 for the weirdest of intersectional games while still trying to make the transition from the Bryan Harsin staff to one led by Hugh Freeze. Cal smoked its opening opponent, North Texas, which was not a surprising outcome but may have been a surprise in how definitive the win was. Auburn took a bit to get going against UMass, but eventually won big, although UMass would struggle to have a winning season at the FCS level, so just how good was that win, anyway? Cal is playing to save head coach Justin Wilcox’s job, and while the Golden Bears are coming off a 4-8 season, several of those losses were by less than one score. This one could go either way, especially while Auburn is still feeling its way around with Freeze in charge. If Auburn’s defense can’t make a few stops, Cal could easily win a track meet-type of game.
Auburn 38
California 35

The loss to Florida State was ugly last week. LSU didn’t just lose, it lost with a measure of finality. The Tigers are still good enough to win the SEC West, but Brian Kelly needs to shore up the back end of the defense while also identifying a few difference-makers who can stand out from the pack and lead this team. Grambling will offer no measurable resistance.
LSU 55
Grambling 14

These two old foes meet in New Orleans, and both are ranked. What is this, 1965 or something? Tulane’s program has succeeded almost against all evidence that it shouldn’t, and if the prognosticators are correct, these are two even teams. Most likely, though, Ole Miss will be able to ride a physical running game to victory while enjoying a team-wide physical advantage on both sides of the ball. Still, Tulane head coach Willie Fritz has built a stable program in New Orleans, and the Green Wave hold the edge at quarterback. This one will be interesting.
Ole Miss 37
Tulane 35

Neither team is in a particularly stable place right now; this will be Mississippi State’s first real test for the Zach Arnett regime, while Arizona’s Jedd Fisch may be entering his last season in Tucson. If the Wildcats can’t somehow get over the .500 mark, it will be hard for Fisch – who has won just 8 games in a little over 4 seasons – to continue in the role. What will be interesting here is this is a pure strength-on-strength, weakness-on-weakness matchup. Arizona figures to have one of the best offenses in the PAC-12 this year, but also its worst defense. Mississippi State’s defense commands respect, but the offense – outside of QB Will Rogers – is undergoing great transition under Arnett. Can the Bulldogs score, and can Arizona stop them? Or the reverse?
Mississippi St. 27
Arizona 24

Miami opened with a win over … Miami (of Ohio). Mario Cristobal – or more accurately, Cristobal with the support of a cadre of NIL-hungry superfans – are trying to bring back the Hurricane program of the 80s and/or the late 90s/early 2000s, which at the time leaned heavily on gob-smacking talent, albeit alongside questionable ethics and more than a little bit of alleged payola. Texas A&M, meanwhile, has the SEC’s most interesting roadshow at the moment in the form of head coach Jimbo Fisher and his new right-hand man on offense, Bob Petrino. There are so many subtexts and old ghosts in this matchup, Crockett and Tubbs need to be present to investigate them all. Texas A&M’s offense will take some time to course-correct, and it may be too early to expect them to go toe-to-toe with Miami, which is itself opening up the offense and doing it behind an established quarterback, Tyler Van Dyke, who reportedly gave strong consideration to transferring to Alabama over the offseason. Whatever happens in this game, it will be entertaining.
Miami 27
Texas A&M 21

Follow Jess Nicholas on X @ TideFansJessN

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