It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing these for 99 days, but here we are. There is now 1 day till the college football season truly starts. On today’s countdown we forget about the numbers and talk all about the upcoming weekend.
Technically the SEC football season started last night with Arkansas’ 49-7 beatdown of Florida A&M. Indiana even gave Ohio State a game for three quarters, but that was all just a taste. SEC Football is played on Saturdays, and tomorrow is truly the first day of the college football season.
SEC teams tend to open the season with an FCS team or a lower-tier FBS program, but not this year. Five SEC teams are opening the season against a Power 5 opponent, while LSU, Georgia are opening the season with BYU and Appalachian State, two of the better non-Power 5 programs in the country. And Kentucky is going to Hattiesburg to face a Southern Miss team that beat them last year.
Not every team in the SEC is playing a big-time season opener. Auburn will likely roll over Georgia Southern. Mississippi State should take care of Charleston Southern, although they were upset by South Alabama in last year’s season opener. And speaking of the Jaguars of South Alabama, they will face Ole Miss this season, and even with everything surrounding the Rebels’ program, that should be a victory.
Missouri and Vanderbilt open the season against in-state programs Missouri State and Middle Tennessee State. The Commodores are actually going to travel to Murfreesboro to take on the Blue Raiders.
So here’s what I think about the best SEC football games of the week.
NC State @ South Carolina – 3:00 – ESPN
The Wolfpack went 7-6 last season with a win over Vanderbilt in the bowl game. South Carolina returns 10 starters on what I expect to be an improved offense this season. And Williams-Brice Stadium is always a hostile environment.
- South Carolina 26, NC State 16
*(11) Michigan vs. (17) Florida – 3:30 – ABC
Michigan returns five starters from last season, the fewest returning starters of anyone in the entire country. But Florida has 10 players suspended for this game and a quarterback making his first career start. There’s a lot of uncertainty with both teams, but there’s just too much negativity surrounding the Florida program.
- Michigan 21, Florida 13
Kentucky @ Southern Miss – 4:00 – CBSSN
In a rare occurence, Kentucky is going on the road to take on Southern Miss from Conference USA. The Golden Eagles actually beat the Wildcats 44-35 last season in Lexington. Kentucky is a trendy pick to make some noise in the SEC East, but this is not going to be an easy win.
- Kentucky 30, Southern Miss 24
Appalachian State @ Georgia – 6:15 – ESPN
A lot of people are talking about Georgia being on upset alert, but that’s the thing, there’s too many people talking about it. Georgia knows what people are saying. They know how tough the Mountaineers played Tennessee last season, and they know what they did to Michigan 10 years ago. Appalachian State is a solid team, but Georgia has too much talent.
- Georgia 27, Appalachian State 13
*(3) Florida State vs. (1) Alabama – 8:00 – ABC
This might be the most anticipated season-opening matchup in college football history. Florida State is loaded with talent, but Alabama is always loaded with talent. I can’t bet against Nick Saban in big games. This should be an instant-classic.
- Alabama 27, Florida State 23
*BYU vs. (13) LSU – 9:30 – ESPN
These two teams were supposed to play in NRG Stadium in Houston, but Hurricane Harvey forced the game to be moved to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. It will be Matt Canada’s first game calling the plays for the Tigers, and I think their offense will be firing on all cylinders.
- LSU 34, BYU 16
More from Southbound and Down
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- SEC football: 14 players on 2020 Sporting News preseason All-American list
- UGA football: Redcoat Band drops ‘Tara’s Theme’ from repertoire
- College football playoff: Why the SEC will send two teams in 2020
(Sunday) Texas A&M @ UCLA – 7:30 – FOX
There isn’t as much hype around either of these teams coming into the season, but which ever team wins this game will likely jump into the top 25. Kevin Sumlin’s seat is getting hotter and hotter, and traveling to the West Coast will provide for a tough test.
- UCLA 38, Texas A&M 30
(Monday) *Georgia Tech vs. (25) Tennessee – 8:00 – ESPN
Georgia Tech is a pesky opponent. They don’t recruit well and they run a 1950’s offense, but somehow it works. You have to be disciplined to defend the Yellow Jackets’ triple option. But when teams have an extra time to prepare for this offense, they usually get the best of the, but this will not be an easy win.
- Tennessee 37, Georgia Tech 31
It’s great to have SEC football back. We’ve waited 100 days for this, and there will be three straight days of football this weekend. Gotta love college football season.