SEC Week 2 Preview
By Kendall Webb
SEC Special Contributor
You’re going to have to wait just a little bit longer to hear from Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
While Aggies’ head coach Kevin Sumlin insists that Manziel didn’t ignore him during last week’s game when he dressed his quarterback down on the sideline following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, he is banning the quarterback from speaking to the media for now acknowledging that Manziel’s own actions are responsible for the extra scrutiny he is facing in the media right now. Sumlin says Manziel will speak to the media when the time is right, but that he and other officials have determined that now is not the right time.
So you’ll have to wait a little longer to hear from college football’s most scrutinized player who hasn’t so much as tweeted since the initial report broke on August 4 that he was under investigation for possibly selling his autograph. One thing that is not in question is Manziel’s continued impact on the field. With the Aggies leading just 28-21 at the half while the A&M quarterback served a first-half suspension stemming from the autograph investigation, it was Manziel who sparked his team to victory with three touchdown passes in the second half. This week he’ll return to his starting role when FCS opponent Sam Houston State comes to town, and he should make quick work of the Bearkats.
Opening Weekend Recap
We went 11-2 on the picks in a week where there were plenty of one-sided matchups. So what did we get right? Well, we picked South Carolina over North Carolina by at least 10, and the Gamecocks did win by 17. We said don’t be surprised if Toledo stayed within 14-17 of Florida, and they lost by 18. We figured a half without Manziel would make it hard for Texas A&M to cover a 28-point spread, and we took Rice to beat the spread and it came through as the Aggies won by just 21.
And we took Oklahoma State to beat Mississippi State comfortably at home, and a 21-3 finish in favor of the Cowboys certainly was a comfortable win. We also took Alabama to blow out Virginia Tech, and the Crimson Tide did just that in a 35-10 win. And finally, we picked Western Kentucky to upset Kentucky again in Nashville.
The ones we missed were close. We said expect Vandy and Ole Miss to play a game similar to last year’s exciting game, and that’s exactly how it played out with the teams trading shots into the final minute. Unfortunately, we took Vandy, but it was Ole Miss pulling away on a long-touchdown run late to steal the win in Nashville. We also took Georgia in a nail biter over Clemson, but it actually was Clemson that won the game 38-35 after securing a late onside kick to seal the deal. All in all, not a bad week at all.
This Coming Weekend
Alabama takes a week off to prepare for next Saturday’s big tilt in Nashville, but the other 13 SEC teams will be in action on Saturday.
The story line says it all – Kentucky will have to come to play every week as Western Kentucky showed last Saturday in Nashville, or the Wildcats will be in danger of losing. That being said, they should win this game at home in Lexington. The RedHawks were beaten 52-14 by a middle-of-the-road Marshall squad last weekend, and the Wildcats should have a solid talent advantage at most positions.
PREDICTION: Kentucky breaks into the win column by a comfortable margin of at least two to three touchdowns.
I’ve got Florida ranked pretty high, and maybe too high. This is a good chance, however, for either of these teams to get a win over a ranked opponent and boost their standing with voters this week. For Florida, it would be a big road win, and would get most voters a little closer to where we’ve got the Gators ranked. In fact, our preseason ranking is based on a Florida win here at Miami, and they get sophomore running back Matt Jones back from injury this week to help the cause. Miami is hoping to have its own sophomore running back Duke Johnson back after he missed most of the second half of last week’s opener vs. Florida Atlantic after suffering an injury.
PREDICTION: It’s the last scheduled meeting between these two occasionally bitter in-state rivals, and it’s hard to picture a scenario where the series will continue outside of the occasional home-and-home series if the SEC goes to a nine-game conference schedule. But the fact it is the last scheduled one at this time indicates these two rivals will probably leave it all on the field. We expect a bruising contest, and we’re thinking a defensive-oriented tussle where 20 points might win it. We’ll go with Florida in a close one.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Tennessee Volunteers
12:21 ET Saturday, September 7 (ESPN GamePlan)
STORYLINE: Bobby Petrino’s SEC experience vs. Tennessee’s talent advantage
Bobby Petrino showed real quick last week that he’s capable of making a difference at Western Kentucky, and this game is more interesting than it would first appear. We don’t know much about Butch Jones’ Volunteers, yet, but we do know that Petrino knows Tennessee and the SEC well and will find a few holes (and there’s plenty to choose from) on film to exploit. If the Hilltoppers are successful at that, then this game goes well into the second half with upset potential.
PREDICTION: Of course, Jones and Company will have plenty to exploit as well, and we expect Tennessee will find enough points to stay out in front most of the day. Petrino’s troops will have to stay in the game by outscheming the Vols, and in the end we think Tennessee will find a way to get it done. Anything in the 10-17 range wouldn’t surprise us, and of course, the spread is running dead center in the middle of that at about -13.5 in favor of the Vols. Don’t touch it.
Last week was a tall order for the Bulldogs who had to travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma to face the Big 12 favorites without any actual game prep. Not surprisingly, it turned out to be too much too soon, but this week the Bulldogs get to stay at home in Starkville and take on FCS opponent Alcorn State.
PREDICTION: This is no more than a glorified practice, and the Bulldogs will run the Braves off the field in a rout.
Toledo Rockets at Missouri Tigers
3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, September 7 (ESPNU)
STORYLINE: Tigers have to beware of the upset
This game should scare the daylights out of the Missouri Tigers as it has upset potential all over it. Toledo was pretty pesky at times against Florida as we expected, and they are loaded with experience at all the skill positions. We don’t know much about this Missouri squad, yet, but something tells us they better watch out.
PREDICTION: Maybe we like Toledo too much, but they stayed within 18 of Florida at the Swamp, and they are running about a 17-point underdog in this one. I think they can beat that spread, but in the end, we’ll stick with Missouri to find a way to win it just because they have the potential to score so many points.
Samford Bulldogs at Arkansas Razorbacks
7 p.m. ET Saturday, September 7 (ESPN Gameplan)
STORYLINE: A breather for Bielema’s boys
Arkansas didn’t have many problems in a 34-14 rout over a pretty good Louisiana-Lafayette program last Saturday. They won’t have any problems against FCS member Samford either.
PREDICTION: Arkansas will win comfortably in Little Rock Saturday.
Honestly, this is comparable to all the SEC vs. FCS matchups this week even though UAB is technically a FBS program. The only real question is how bad does it get, and does Jeremy Hill play a role in it?
PREDICTION: Pick your score. It can be that bad if Miles wants it to be, and there’s a very real possibility they’ll cover the five-touchdown spread.
Southeast Missouri St. Redhawks at Ole Miss Rebels
7 p.m. ET Saturday, September 7 (ESPN Gameplan)
STORYLINE: Practice on Saturday
No offense to Southeast Missouri St., but Hugh Freeze has this Ole Miss thing working and the FCS Redhawks don’t stand a chance.
PREDICTION: Don’t be stunned if Ole Miss comes out a little slow early, however. The Vandy game was draining – heck it was even emotionally exhausting to watch as a fan with no rooting interest for either team – and the Rebels might be sleepwalking a little early. But the Rebels in sleepwalk mode are still quite a bit better than Southeast Missouri, and they’ll win this one in a blowout.
Sam Houston is the two-time defending FCS runner-up, and they do have a lot of talent. But not enough to compete with a Heisman winner like Johnny Manziel who still appears to have ‘it’ when he’s on the field. If only he had a little more self-control to go with ‘it.’
PREDICTION: Kevin Sumlin alternately defended and chastised his star this week saying Manziel didn’t ignore him when he jumped his case on the sideline last week and then benched him. But he did reiterate that Manziel brings a lot of this on himself. We agree, and the only really interesting side note to this game is – do we see a more subdued Johnny Football, or do we see the same rebel we saw the last week?
This is actually an interesting matchup featuring Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn against many of the players he coached last year at Arkansas State. It’s tempting to think that is an advantage for Malzahn, but then again, the Arkansas State players know his playbook and tendencies as well.
PREDICTION: In the end, however, Auburn should have the talent advantage. They’ve struggled in some of these games against lesser opponents recently, however, and it’s unclear yet if this will carry over to the Malzahn era. We think this could be a competitive game well into the second half, but we will take the Tigers at home.
Exhausting. And I was sitting on the couch. That’s how it felt, however, to watch Vandy’s crazy last-minute loss to Ole Miss last weekend, and you have to figure it hit the Commodores pretty hard to lose it right at the end. But James Franklin is a great motivator, and the good news is, FCS opponent Austin Peay will be making the short drive from Clarksville to Nashville to provide Vandy with a chance to start over.
PREDICTION: Look, it’s a mismatch, and Franklin will have the Commodores’ attention. They’ve been through this before, and he knows how to reset expectations. They’ll run the Governors off the field, and try to create some new momentum.
It’s amazing to think Georgia’s season could already be hanging in the balance, but that’s what an opening-night loss to an ACC team will do. Granted, we think Clemson is pretty good, but of course, so is the rest of Georgia’s SEC schedule. A loss here would send the Bulldogs to 0-2, and suddenly all the conversations Mark Richt seemingly put to rest about his potential to lead Georgia to the Promiseland will be front and center yet again. This Georgia team was supposed to have a big season, and there’s no room for debate on this point – if they’re 0-2 Saturday evening, then 2013 will already be a bust in the eyes of many ‘Dawg fans.
PREDICTION: It will be a war in Athens, and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier always seems to have Georgia’s number. A lot of this game will probably boil down to Bulldogs’ quarterback Aaron Murray vs. Gamecocks’ defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. If Clowney is able to chart a path to Murray’s doorstep, then it’s going to be a long night for Murray and company. If Murray is able to make quick decisions and neutralize Clowney, then Georgia avoids being 0-2. We think they’ll do just that by winning an ugly, close game at home.
- The SEC Update (rattleandhumsports.com)