This week's panel - @cocky4ever, @Mizzou_Fan, @UAdan and yours truly, @ HobnailedBoots .
So without further adieu, let us get to the picks for the weekend's big games -
(Games marked with an asterisk indicate a neutral site)
North Carolina @ South Carolina (Thursday, 9/29, 6:00 PM ET, ESPN)
Mizzou_Fan: I don't think this game will be close. South Carolina is better on both sides of the ball and this one is at home. USC wins 24-17.
cocky4ever: Losing two All Americans from the offense will hurt a unit that depended on it’s offense to win games last season. Returning two starters to the O-line and going up against one of the best D-lines in the country….in one of the tougher places to play in college football(SC is 19-2 at W-B over the last 3 years). If the offense doesn’t put up points they’ll have to rely on a defense that was 56th in total defense last year and doesn’t bring back it’s two best players. It won’t be a good night for the Tarheels in Columbia. USC wins.
UADan: The Gamecock hype machine is off the charts entering 2013 - talks of a National Championship and potential Heisman Trophy run by defensive sensation Jadeveon Clowney are certainly warranted. But in comes an upstart North Carolina program, a team that won the ACC Coastal Division a season ago and should be much improved on the defensive side of the ball returning 7 starters. Connor Shaw might be the most underrated player in the SEC, but this one won't necessarily be easygoing for four quarters. In the end, though, the Gamecocks have too much physicality in the trenches for the Tar Heels to stick around. Look for Spurrier's bunch to turn a semi-close game into a cozy victory by the 4th quarter. South Carolina 33, North Carolina 14.
HobnailedBoots: I think folks are overlooking this one. I've seen a lot of predictions for a big victory here for Carolina, but I think this could be a very legitimate Tar Heel football team in year two of the Fedora regime. The heels went 8-4 last season with wins over Miami, VT, UVA, NCST and Maryland. They lost some talent on offense but a guy as creative as Larry Fedora can make some things happen, especially in week one against a Carolina team that we've seen slow out of the gate on Thursday night openers in the past. I'll call this one for the Gamecocks, but by a much narrower margin than the casual observer might predict. USC 24, UNC 20
Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State* (3:30 PM ET, ABC)
Mizzou_Fan: This game will be much closer than most peopel expect. Mississippi State will put up a good showing and the game will come down to the wire. Oklahoma State wins 21-17.
cocky4ever: OK St. will field one of the best WR corps in the country. MSU returns one starter from their defensive backfield. Doesn’t bode well for the Bulldogs. Like the other Bulldogs, their best bet this week will be to rely on their ground game to keep the other team’s offense off the field. The good news is that they return a SR RB who went for over 1,000 yards last season. The bad news is that they won’t have much of a passing threat to keep Ok State’s defense honest. The Bulldogs will be able to slow down the Cowboys for a while, but with that offense it doesn’t take long. The Cowboys start running away with it towards the end.
UADan: Mississippi State is looking to rebound from a disappointing 2012 campaign in which the Dan Mullen Era took a step in the wrong direction for the first time. Unfortunately, it'll be tough sledding for them as they visit Houston to take on Mike Gundy's Cowboys, a team that should contend for the Big 12 Championship. LaDarious Perkins, one of the conference's most underappreciated runners, will get his yards against an Oklahoma State defense that isn't used to physical ground attacks. But the real problem here for the Bulldogs is that they were not terribly impressive last year at affecting the QB on defense, and they'll be matched up against an offense that is known for churning out big numbers under center. Oklahoma State 31, Mississippi State 20.
HobnailedBoots: I don't see a lot of hope here for MSU. They lack the offensive firepower to keep up with a team like OSU in a shootout, and even the great defenses will tire if they're on the field too long. The Bullydog's best bet is going to be to try and control the tempo of the game and disrupt the Cowboys' high-paced offense, but ultimately I think OSU wins this one fairly easily.
Ole Miss @ Vanderbilt (Thursday, 9/29, 9:15 PM ET, ESPN)
Mizzou_Fan: I am truly on the fence with this game. I think Ole Miss is teh better team but Franklin always has his team ready week 1. I would not be surprised if either team wins and if either wins handily. I'm going to go with Ole Miss 27-24.
cocky4ever: ***author's note*** At the time of the posting of this article, this panelist had yet to submit his pick for this game. Just like a gamecock. Came up JUST short.
UADan: Make no mistake about it, these two teams are trending in the right direction under impressive coaching jobs from James Franklin and Hugh Freeze, so this game serves as a tipping point. Who is the "true" contender? Franklin's squad always seems to rise to the occasion and play well in marquee-type games, but Ole Miss has more star-power. I'm a believer in the Rebel Air Raid. Bo Wallace has one of the best receiving units in the conference, and I just don't think the Vandy D will be able to limit the big plays consistently for 60 minutes. It'll be a nailbiter for the first 50 minutes, but then we'll see that home run potential from the Ole Miss offense. Ole Miss 28, Vanderbilt 17.
HobnailedBoots: I find myself asking the same question in regards to both of these teams as the season draws near - "are these guys for real?" Huge Freeze certainly has generated a buzz in Oxford over the off-season with his recruiting, and James Franklin created a lot of buzz with the Commodores' 9-4 season a year ago. I feel right now though that Franklin and Vandy have actually shown me something while Freeze and Ole Miss right now are still largely just hype. Until I actually see the recruiting stars show up in the scoreboard for the Rebels, I'm sticking with the horse I've seen run, and that's Vandy. Commodores 24, Rebels 14.
LSU vs. TCU* (9:00 PM ET, ESPN)
Mizzou_Fan: I think LSU should win this one. They are an all around better team. Only way I see TCU getting the win is with some dumb play calling from Les Miles. LSU wins 28-17.
cocky4ever: With both teams known for fielding great defenses and so-so offenses, this one will almost certainly be a defensive struggle. Will LSU’s stable of backs be able to move the ball against a team that ranked 10th in rushing defense last season? From that unit TCU brings back 9 starters, including the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. But I expect the physicality of LSU to eventually overwhelm the undersized and outgunned Horned Frogs. The final score won’t be indicative of how much LSU actually takes over in the 2nd half, but LSU fans will be nervously watching to make sure Les Miles doesn’t pull one of his usual gaffes.
UADan: The showdown in Dallas features two defensive stalwarts in the LSU Tigers and the TCU Horned Frogs. Les Miles and Gary Patterson emphasize stopping the run to force offenses to be one-dimensional, so whichever QB can take on that role successfully will give his team the best chance to win. I'm normally on the fence when it comes to two-quarterback systems, but TCU has quite a battle playing out between Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin and I'm not sure that the uncertainty is going to bode well for them against a team as talented as LSU. Keep in mind also that defensive star Devonte Fields is suspended (and that LSU RB Jeremy Hill is not), and I think LSU will be able to finally establish that ground attack when it matters most - at the end. LSU 27, TCU 16.
HobnailedBoots: I may be going against conventional wisdom here, but I think the Horned Frogs may just match up well enough against LSU to beat them. The Tigers forte has not been offense as of late, though the new OC may change all that (we'll have to see). Gary Patterson's squad is known for good defensive play, just as the tigers are, and the Frogs are returning nine starters on that side of the ball (fifteen overall). But where I think TCU has an edge is with a talented QB/RB combo, whereas I still doubt Zach Mettenberger as the kind of QB he was once hoped to be. If this were Death Valley on a Saturday night, it'd be no contest, but at a neutral site which will be almost a home game for TCU, I'm going to stick my neck out and pick the Horned Frogs in an upset, 27-23.
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech* (5:30 PM ET, ESPN)
Mizzou_Fan: Alabama will walk all over VA Tech. The Tide will be way too good for the Hokies. Bama wins by however much Saban wants.
cocky4ever: Not sure what the hell was going on in Blacksburg last season, but it wasn’t pretty. They’ll probably pick up right where they left off. With an O-line that has 36 starts BETWEEN ALL OF THEM(and both tackles being first time starters at the position) it doesn’t bode well for a team trying to find it’s groove on offense. Toss in the fact that they’ll be doing it against what’s sure to be one of the best defensive teams yet again, and it’ll probably get downright ugly. By the end of the game even some of the Bama fans will probably feel bad for the big guys. Tech’s defense may slow down the Tide for a while, but with their offense failing to find momentum the short field and shortness of breath will become too much for the Hokies.
UADan: The defending National Champions kick off the season in the Georgia Dome against a proud Virginia Tech program coached by legendary Frank Beamer. However, these ain't your daddy's Hokies. Long gone are the nearly-guaranteed 10-win seasons that we're used to seeing out of Blacksburg. Logan Thomas is a nice talent at QB, but he loses his top receivers from last year to graduation and his top runner due to injury. Not a good formula for success against a Nick Saban defense. The Crimson Tide offense, meanwhile, might be more explosive than it's been in ages. AJ McCarron has a bevy of weapons to work with. While Tech's defensive front seven should be solid, their young secondary will have trouble to keep up with the Tide wideouts. Big plays for 'Bama. Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 10
HobnailedBoots: I was trying to come up with something insightful to say about this one, but frankly there's not much to say. Before last year I would have blathered on about how Frank Beamer squads are always solid because of defense and special teams, but after last year's pitiful season, I'm not sure that at age 66 Frank Beamer has the mojo to field one of his vintage teams anymore. Let me put it this way - when I visit a Hokie blog to do research and even they are saying that they'd have to play a perfect game and Bama would have to play down for them to win.... it's not giving me any reason to give them a chance. Bama rolls, 41-10.
Georgia @ Clemson (8:00 PM ET, ABC)
Mizzou_Fan: This one should be a great game. Both teams have amazing offenses and questionable defenses. It will definitely be a shootout. I think that the combination of Murray and Gurley will be too much for Clemson. The Dawgs take this one, 41-35
cocky4ever: Losing their best DB will hurt the Dawgs in this one. Add that to the long list of NFL type talent that the Dawgs are trying to replace and it could make for a tough time trying to slow down the Clemson offense. Their best chance of doing that will be to keep Clemson’s offense on the sideline. They have the O-line and RBs to do it, but will they have enough worked out to get it done in that environment in the first week of the season? I don’t think so. If it was at home, or if the Dawgs had their best DB for the game I’d feel better about the Dawgs chances. It just seems like a lot to ask from a team right out of the gate when you consider all of the circumstances.
UADan: In what's sure to be one of the most electrifying games of the 2013 season, the Georgia Bulldogs travel to Death Valley renew an old rivalry versus Clemson in a prime-time matchup of two top 10 squads. With the firepower of these two offenses, this is destined to be a barnburner. Both the Dawgs and Tigers are stacked with skill players. However, at the center of the spotlight will be the two senior signalcallers: Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd. Both Murray and Boyd were among the 11 most efficient QBs in the country last year, although they also both were 1-2 among those 11 QBs in interceptions thrown. They'll both make plays, but the one who comes out the winner here is probably the one who makes fewer mistakes in crunch time. It's almost a coin flip-type of game, but I'm going with the Dawgs - barely - to force Boyd into one too many mistakes in the 4th quarter with their track record of being opportunistic on defense under Todd Grantham. Georgia 38, Clemson 35.
HobnailedBoots: The story line for this one has pretty much been set for months now. "Two great offenses," yada yada yada. True enough, both teams will field offenses expected to be among the elite in the country. Contrary to popular belief though, I do not see this game turning into a 100 point barn burner. Georgia is going to try and run the ball up and down the field as much as they can and take advantage of their elite back in Todd Gurley and a veteran offensive line that will have a significant size advantage over Clemson. It may look a lot like what Alabama has been known for doing. Secondary has been a much talked about concern for Georgia around these parts, however Clemson's concerns in that same area are arguably a bigger deal. The key to this game may be the Georgia defensive edge. If they can pressure Tajh Boyd, any weaknesses in the secondary may become a moot point. If they can't, it might be a long night for the Dawgs. I think the Georgia D is full of names that you don't know yet, but will very soon. Dawgs win, 35-24.
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Edited by HobnailedBoots, 27 August 2013 - 05:38 PM.