SEC Game To Watch: Week Two

Kevin C. Cox

Week one of college football is in the books. What do we have in the SEC for week 2?

You know what irritates me? A pre-season Heisman watch. You know what irritates me more? The pre-season Heisman watch candidates being listed as the Heisman leaders after the season has started and they haven't done anything.

It's very possible that Jadeveon Clowney, Braxton Miller, Johnny Manziel or AJ McCarron will win the Heisman. But three of them haven't done anything except have a sub-par game in 2013 and the other one threw 8 passes in the half that he wasn't suspended. Yet those guys are still near the top in many of the silly first-week Heisman articles written this week.

I'm against the death penalty, but perhaps we could make an exception for journalists who hype a Heisman watch before mid-October.

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In its last three games, Nebraska has played Wisconsin, Georgia and Wyoming. Over those three games, the ‘Huskers are 1-2 with a single 3-point win - over Wyoming - and have given up an average of 611 yards and 49.7 points per game. Yet they are ranked #22 and #19, respectively in the AP and USA Today polls.

This, my friends, does not compute. If Nebraska played unranked Ole Miss on a neutral field this week, I would be overjoyed to lay 14 and take the, uh, Rebel Black Bears.

***

In the brief media viewing period before Monday's practice - the only media viewing period between now and the Texas A&M game (I think) - Alabama showcased the same offensive line and same sets they used against Virginia Tech. That makes me think something is going to change.

***

Something else that irritates me? This week's SEC schedule. So let's talk about . . .

The Games

Last week we pointed out what an unusually stout slate we were favored with for opening week in the SEC. No less than three conference teams - Georgia, Mississippi St. and Kentucky - bit the dust to out-of-conference foes. That ain't too far short of the SEC's yearly quota, and Ole Miss and Vandy played an in-conference barn-burner to boot that was of higher quality than what one would normally associate with the words "Ole Miss" and "Vandy."

This week - zzzzzz - is making up for it. There are three, maybe four, interesting SEC games this week, a couple of games you could possibly watch if your life depended on it, and six absolute dogs that aren't worth the waste of internet space to write about separately.

For week one I made recommendations against the spread on two games, saying Alabama and Western Kentucky would cover, and went 2-0. For the record I said that if I had to bet on the Auburn-Washington St. game I'd go with the Plainsmen, but I also said that if I had my druthers I wouldn't bet, so I'm sticking with the 2-0. I'll also give myself props for predicting that Clowney would fizzle. I missed by picking a big score in the Mississippi St.-Oklahoma St. game - at least I got the winner right - and by picking Georgia to beat Clemson.

Alabama vs. Bye

This week's opponent did not lose a single starter from 2012, and is without an identifiable weakness. We're pessimistic about this one.

South Carolina at Georgia -3.5

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This is the game of the week, not just in the SEC but nationally. The media is focusing on whether Jadeveon Clowney can rebound from an "off week" where he "took plays off," and whether Aaron Murray can "win the big game." The Dogs are trying to prevent the 'Cocks from stiffing them a fourth straight time, including in last year's embarrassing 35-7 rout.

Georgia's offensive line is relatively veteran but gave up four sacks last week to a Clemson defense that is not considered among the nation's elite. Georgia got a baptism of fire, but it wasn't the best prep for this week's affair: South Carolina is the anti-Clemson, with a physical but unexplosive offense and an all-around stout defense.

Everything seemingly favors South Carolina: momentum, the injuries to Georgia stars Todd Gurley (who will play but likely at less than 100%) and Malcolm Mitchell (out for the season), the matchups that led to last year's Dawg-crushing, and Spurrier's lifetime 15-5 record against Georgia. The Gamecocks are loaded this year on both sides of the ball, and if the OBC is ever to win another championship 2013 is the year.

But it says here he'll never win another championship. I'm getting a vibe that the psych factors line up in favor of Georgia and their senior quarterback, in front of the home field and aching for revenge for last year and redemption from last week. You might think the air was let out of Georgia's bubble by last week's loss, but it's more likely that the Clemson win will make South Carolina come in a little complacent.

There is no smart bet on this game, but I'm thinking Georgia pulls it out and the SEC East will be well and truly messed up from the get-go.

Western Kentucky at Tennessee -13.5

Tennessee wacked Austin Peay 45-0 last week, but what does that mean? Nothing, my friends. Austin Peay is absolutely horrible: Eastern Illinois beat them 65-15 last year, so the question of whether Butch Jones can turn that inside-of-the-pumpkin-colored program around remains very much open.

Jones has a scary test facing him this week. Western Kentucky is loaded on offense and coached by one of the top offensive minds in college football, and the Hilltoppers handled Kentucky with ease last week on a neutral field. The Vols' new coach has everything to lose and very little to gain this week, and if he knows what's up, he will be game-planning this one within an inch of his life.

Take Western Kentucky and the points, and don't look back. I'm inclined to say Tennessee will win a nail-biter, but that spread is definitely excessive.

Florida -3 at Miami

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This could be the last two times these teams play unless they meet for the BCS Championshahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Well, that was a fun cheap shot, but Florida could actually be a top team if they can just get one . . . good . . . quarterback. Which they didn't have last year - or last week.

Jeff Driskel was at least good enough to beat Toledo in week 1, and while the Gators were uninspired and uninspiring in victory, the return of Loucheiz Purifoy and four other suspended players will give Florida a shot in the arm. A shot in the arm will be enough: since moving to the ACC in 2004, Miami has become, guess what, an ACC team. Take Florida and give the points. 3 ain't enough.

Arkansas St. at Auburn -11

Auburn struggled last week to put away the hapless Washington St. Cougars. Arkansas St. was one of the top teams in the Sun Belt last year, which should put 'em right in Auburn's neighborhood.

Arkansas State's mascot is a "Red Wolf," which so far as I know is a fictional beast, much like the quality post-Cam quarterback in Auburn. The "Red Wolves" cleaned up on Arkansas-Pine Bluff last week to the tune of 62-11.

Don't be surprised if this one is competitive--that line is probably fairly accurate. If you're an Auburn fan - I crack myself up, really I do - well, for all you Auburn fans, if Auburn gets good quarterback play this weekend, even against Arkansas St., maybe 2013 won't be as disastrous as 2012. So far, though. . . .

Miami of Ohio at Kentucky -17

Kentucky may not be the top team in the SEC, but this week they are entertaining a team that just lost 52-14 to Marshall, giving up 591 yards in the process. Don't hold getting drilled by Western Kentucky too harshly against the new Joker Phillips regime; that could happen to a lot of teams.

I'd lay the points in this one. If I'm wrong, and Joker's offense isn't funny this week, it could be a looooong season in Lexington.

Toledo at Missouri -17

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Toledo hung around and hung around against a listless Florida team last week, but they were never really in the game. Missouri tuned up with a 58-14 pasting of FCS foe Murray St.

The Tigers had a disappointing 5-7 SEC debut in 2012 and lost their best player, defensive end Sheldon Richardson. But veteran quarterback James Franklin returns, and should be healthy after struggling with a bad shoulder and assorted other injuries last year, and the buzz is that phenom Doriel Beckham-Green is ready to show why he was 2012's top-rated high school prospect.

The Tigers also return seven starters on the other side of the ball. Missouri should score, but can they hold the Mudhens, whose offense was shot down by Florida last week, in check? It's a good question, and I wouldn't bet on either team against a spread that looks pretty accurate.

Alcorn St. at Mississippi St. -43.5, Samford at Arkansas -32, UAB at LSU -35, SE Missouri St. at Ole Miss - 50.5, Sam Houston St. at Texas A&M -42, Austin Peay at Vanderbilt -48

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Awooooo. These games are dogs. Average spread: 41.5. If your social life is so pitiful and your cable coverage so inadequate that you are forced to watch one of these howlers, feel free to lay $10 on either team just to make it interesting, but if you are fond of money I would not recommend an investment-quality wager on any of these games.

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