The start of the college football season is finally here. Below you’ll find my record predictions for every team followed by the Week 1 schedule with analysis and my prediction.
Here are my season predictions in the SEC and for the BCS National Championship.
Georgia 7-1 (10-2)
South Carolina 7-1 (10-2)
Florida 6-2 (9-3)
Missouri 2-6 (6-6)
Vanderbilt 2-6 (6-6)
Tennessee 2-6 (5-7)
Kentucky 0-8 (3-9)
Alabama 8-0 (12-0)
LSU 6-2 (10-2)
Texas A&M 5-3 (9-3)
Ole Miss 5-3 (8-4)
Mississippi State 3-5 (6-6)
Auburn 2-6 (6-6)
Arkansas 1-7 (4-8)
SEC Championship: Alabama over Georgia
BCS National Championship: Alabama over Stanford
The SEC kicks things off in its quest for the conference’s 8th straight national championship and 10th in the 15 years of the BCS.
Here’s the schedule of games for SEC teams this week including some notes, opinions and my final score prediction. I’ll keep track of my record and post it each week.
THURSDAY, AUG. 29
North Carolina (8-4) at South Carolina (11-2)
6 p.m. ET • ESPN
Columbia, S.C. • Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)
Series: UNC leads, 34-17-4
Vinny’s Vibe: All eyes will be on Jadeveon Clowney for South Carolina. Will he make spectacular plays like the memorable Outback Bowl play? Will he play hard every down? Will he get hurt? Will teams have a better scheme to limit his effectiveness? Will Larry Fedora dare just single block him and not change what they do just for him as he suggested at ACC Media Days? SC has some injuries at WR. I think the two QB system with Shaw and Thompson will work for the Gamecocks. Sophomore RB Mike Davis is under the radar a bit but he was a highly recruited back that they really like and will have a really good season. South Carolina has won 4-straight Thursday night games. North Carolina continues to improve and should be good again this year. Senior QB Bryn Renner is outstanding. The Tar Heels will challenge the Gamecocks but come up short.
South Carolina 31 North Carolina 17
Ole Miss (7-6) vs. Vanderbilt (9-4)
8:15 p.m. CT • ESPN
Nashville, Tenn. • Vanderbilt Stadium (40,550)
Series: UM leads, 47-38-2
Vinny’s Vibe: This game is really interesting and ultra-important to both of these two teams. Vandy opened as the favorite but the rape case at Vanderbilt including the loss of WR Chris Boyd has flipped the spread to Ole Miss. In addition, Ole Miss has had a really productive camp. The number-one overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche is not only going to start at DE as a true freshmen but he’s been unblockable according to coaches and teammates. The Rebels should be better on D. Offensively, it starts and ends with QB Bo Wallace. He’s improved throughout camp and everyone says he’s healthy. The Rebels have a stable of young running backs that could emerge this year. Look for the names Mark Dodson and I’Tavius Mathers. Who knows what you’re going to get from Vanderbilt after the off-season scandal. VU loses its top rusher Zac Stacy, but still has some solid and different type backs. Not having Boyd is a blow even though WR Jonathan Krause is an experienced replacement. The key for Vandy is the play of QB Austyn-Carta Samuels who’s received mixed reviews but has arm strength and experience. The Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss WR) vs. Andre Hal (CB Vanderbilt) is going to be fun to watch and a key in this game.
Ole Miss 28 Vanderbilt 24
SATURDAY, AUG. 31
Toledo (9-4) at Florida (11-2)
12:21 p.m. ET • SEC Network
Gainesville, Fla. • Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field (88,548)
Series: First Meeting
Vinny’s Vibe: This will be the first game Toledo has played against an SEC team. They’ll do it again next week at Missouri. The last two season-opening MAC opponents in Gainesville, Bowling Green and Miami (OH), have helped make the Gators look bad. Toledo is better than you think and better than either of those two previous teams were when they arrived at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Toledo is one of the favorites again in the MAC. 33-year old Matt Campbell is the second-youngest head coach in the country. RB David Fluellen is one of four all-conferences players returning on offense. Toledo has eight players from the state of Florida that will be jacked-up to play in their home state. Florida will be without at least five starters due to injuries and the suspension of LB Antonio Morrison. We’ll all be looking for development in Jeff Driskel’s game. Will the defense live-up to the billing and the loads of 5-star talent? I think this season the answer is yes on the defense. This game though could be a bit of a struggle for Florida.
Florida 27 Toledo 10
Rice (7-6) at Texas A&M (11-2)
Noon CT • ESPN
College Station, Texas • Kyle Field (83,002)
Series: A&M leads, 50-27-2
Vinny’s Vibe: Johnny Manziel is suspended for the first half of the game. Either junior Matt Joekel or talented true freshman Kenny Hill. Hill’s dad, Ken, played 14 seasons in MLB for the Cardinals and the Rangers. This will be a good opportunity to give a back-up some playing time without risk of losing the game. The Aggies are loaded at RB. Kevin Sumlin offenses have ranked 1, 2 or 3 in the nation in four of the last five seasons at Texas A&M and previously at Houston. Rice is a much- improved program, but will be without three key players, two to injury and one to a suspension.
Texas A&M 42 Rice 17
Mississippi State (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State (8-5)
2:30 p.m. CT • ABC/ESPN2
Houston, Texas • Reliant Stadium (71,054)
Series: Tied, 2-2
Vinny’s Vibe: Oklahoma State is the last Big 12 team Mississippi State has defeated. That was in 1999. Mississippi State has lost 5-straight games against ranked teams in their opening game. QB Tyler Russell will take more snaps under center. Dan Mullen is molding the offense to his skill-set more than ever. Russell needs to take that next step for the program to take the next step. Miss State has underrated team speed at WR and in their secondary. Oklahoma State’s passing offense and fast pace will really challenge that young secondary. The Cowboys offense will be too much for the Bulldogs in Houston.
Oklahoma State 45 Mississippi State 31
Louisiana-Lafayette (9-4) at Arkansas (4-8)
3 p.m. CT • FSN
Fayetteville, Ark. • Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (72,000)
Series: ARK leads, 4-0
Vinny’s Vibe: So much is not just new in Fayetteville, but drastically different. The head coach, the style of play, the personnel, the expectations entering the season and much more. Bret Bielema brings his swagger, bravado and terrific resume to the SEC. Arkansas is the only team in the SEC, and one of only three in the entire country, replacing its 2012 leader in passing, rushing, receiving and tackles. How will the Bielema (rushing) and OC Jim Chaney (passing) styles mesh on offense? Sometimes, it works great, other times it blows-up in your face. Arkansas saw that first hand with the Nutt/Malzahn combo. QB Brandon Allen must be as good as Bobby Petrino thought he could be when he brought him to Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been hit hard by injuries in camp. Watch for 5-star true freshman RB Alex Collins. He has the tools to join the continued series of impact freshmen RBs that live-up to their recruiting rankings right out of the gate. The Ragin’ Cajuns are dangerous. This team might be the Sun Belt’s best team. The players will not be intimidated. I still like the Razorbacks to wear down “Louisiana” in the end.
Arkansas 31 Louisiana-Lafayette 23
Alabama (12-1) vs. Virginia Tech (7-6)
4:30 p.m. CT • ESPN
Atlanta, Ga. • Georgia Dome (71,147)
Series: UA leads, 11-1
Vinny’s Vibe: Virginia Tech will be without five players due to injury in this game. The most significant loss is big-time CB Antone Exum. He was likely going to draw coverage assignment on superstar Bama WR Amari Cooper. Va Tech is not the power it was a few years ago. Alabama is ridiculously loaded again. The offense is so deep at the skill positions, except QB. They’re pretty good at starter though. There are new faces on the offensive line, but there’s no shortage of talent that’s moved-up. The line will get better as the year goes on. Alabama has loses on defense from a year ago but many of the new starters have played meaningful snaps in specific roles. The Hokies and inconsistent starting QB Logan Thomas won’t threaten the youth on defense in this one. Last year’s champs win going away.
Alabama 41 Virginia Tech 14
Austin Peay (2-9) at Tennessee (5-7)
6 p.m. ET • Tennessee PPV
Knoxville, Tenn. • Neyland Stadium (102,455)
Series: First Meeting
Vinny’s Vibe: Butch Jones makes his debut as Tennessee head football coach. He has done a spectacular job as the coach and CEO of this program before walking the sidelines in game 1. He’s connected with the fans in impressive fashion. Don’t call a game against FCS opponent meaningless. The value that Jones puts into every practice and every moment means that a real game situation in evaluating his team and individuals has plenty of meaning. If the Vols struggle in this game, won’t that mean panic buttons will be smashed immediately afterwards? No worries. That won’t happen. I spoke with first-year Austin Peay head coach this week about the game. Listen to that interview here.
Tennessee 59 Austin Peay 6
Washington State (3-9) at Auburn (3-9)
6 p.m. CT • ESPNU
Auburn, Ala. • Jordan-Hare Stadium (87,451)
Series: AU leads, 1-0
Vinny’s Vibe: The HPC (Head Pirate Coach) brings the Cougs to SEC Country down to Auburn. Gus Malzahn’s debut season as Auburn head coach comes with rising expectations and excitement. How excited are the fans? How about a nation’s best spring game crowd of 83,401. Malzahn named talented JUCO transfer Nick Marshall as starting QB. He’s a dual threat quarterback that has all the tools to succeed in this offense. Keep an eye on JUCO transfer RB Cameron Artis-Payne who could give the Tigers a terrific 2-back attack with Tre Mason. Washington State will throw it around a lot but won’t have the physicality to go four quarters with Auburn.
Auburn 40 Washington State 20
Western Kentucky (7-6) vs. Kentucky (2-10)
7 p.m. ET • ESPNews
Nashville, Tenn. • LP Field (69,143)
Series: UK leads, 3-1
Vinny’s Vibe: Mark Stoops has Big Blue Nation fired-up. What he’s doing in recruiting is truly incredible, and absolutely unprecedented at UK. Problem is that recruiting talent can’t get here soon enough. This team is thin, lacking in playmakers and doesn’t have the personnel to effectively run OC Neal Brown’s Air Raid offense. The QB situation is unsettled. RB Josh Clemons is lost for the year. The defense has some beef up front and a tackling machine in LB Avery Williamson, but nowhere near the level of talent it needs. Bobby Petrino begins WKU’s SEC tour with this match-up in Nashville. Hard to say what kind of immediate impact Petrino can have on these players. There is some talent leftover from the well-coached teams under Willie Taggart.
Kentucky 17 Western Kentucky 13
Murray State (8-5) at Missouri (5-7)
6 p.m. CT • Missouri PPV
Columbia, Mo. • Faurot Field / Memorial Stadium (71,004)
Series: MO leads, 1-0
Vinny’s Vibe: Missouri typically destroys FCS opponents. I wouldn’t expect anything different. There are plenty of things to watch for however. Will QB James Franklin look like he did two years ago? Will RB Henry Josey look healthy and back to old form after missing last season with a knee injury? How will the offensive line look with so many guys back from injury? Will playmakers be found on defense?
Missouri 56 Murray State 7
Georgia (12-2) at Clemson (11-2)
8 p.m. ET • ABC
Clemson, S.C. • Memorial Stadium (81,500)
Series: UGA leads, 41-17-4
Vinny’s Vibe: This is the best game in all of college football in this opening weekend. Both teams will score over 35 points. Both teams have smart, experienced and elite quarterbacks in Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd. Clemson is so fast and talented at the skill positions led by WR Sammy Watkins. Georgia is going to be spectacular on offense with a balanced attack, and one of college football’s best players in RB Todd Gurley. Can Clemson get pressure on Aaron Murray? Will Georgia’s secondary get lit-up by the passing offense and pace of Clemson’s offense, especially without DB Josh Harvey-Clemons. I think Clemson’s special teams will make one more play at home and beat the Bulldogs, even though late in the year I think Georgia will be regarded as the better team.
Clemson 45 Georgia 42
LSU (10-3) vs. TCU (7-6)
8 p.m. CT • ESPN
Arlington, Texas • AT&T Stadium (86,798)
Series: LSU leads, 5-2-1
Vinny’s Vibe: LSU has won 10-straight season openers. LSU is 31-0 under Les Miles in non-conference games. LSU has lost a lot of talent on defense from last season. The Tigers have played a lot of defensive linemen and defensive backs, so new starters won’t be stepping on the field for the first time. Plus, DC John Chavis likes his guys. He and the team love the fact that many aren’t expecting much from LSU this season. I want to see an improved Zach Mettenberger at QB. Many eyes will be on RB Jeremy Hill after his legal trouble and team vote bringing him back. LSU will be without offensive lineman Josh Williford due to a concussion. Gary Patterson gets talented QB Casey Pachall back after his off-the-field issues a year ago. Star DE Devonte Fields is suspended for TCU. Plus two Horned Frogs starters, RT and MLB, quit the team during camp. The fourth quarter will separate these two teams. I like LSU.
LSU 26 TCU 20
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