2012 Fearless Predictions
Week 1 - Part 2
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- FREE EXPERT COLLEGE FOOTBALL SELECTIONS
- South Carolina at Vanderbilt, & More
- North Texas at LSU, & More
- Missouri, Ole Miss & Miss State
- Clemson vs. Auburn
- NC State vs. Tennessee
- Michigan vs. Alabama
South Carolina (0-0) vs. Vanderbilt (0-0) August 30, 7:00, ESPN
Here’s The Deal: There’s nothing like hitting the ground running. The 2012 season kicks off with the biggest and most important game on Thursday night with the SEC East race getting underway. Of course, no one outside of the Commodore coaching staff actually believes that Vandy will play a big role in the loaded conference, but this is a veteran team with enough talent and enough weapons to start out the year with a statement. In 2008 South Carolina came to Nashville to start the SEC season fresh off a blowout win over a good NC State team and left with a 24-17 loss. This Vandy team is good enough to throw a curveball before the season gets rolling.
South Carolina can’t afford to blow the Vandy game. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Commodores are better and they’re going to be dangerous, but they’re still the Commodores and any team thinking about winning the SEC title – especially with huge games against Missouri, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Arkansas still to deal with on the slate – can’t miss against the East’s relative lightweight. The Gamecocks are good enough to win the SEC East and could beat anyone in the West on the right day, meaning they’re good enough to make a run for the BCS championship if everything breaks right. That only works, though, by starting out with a tougher-than-it-looks road win.
Why South Carolina Might Win: The Gamecock defensive front should spend the evening renting space in the Vanderbilt backfield. There isn’t a better pair of ends in college football than Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, and while the pass rush wasn’t always dominant last season with these two on the outside, they shouldn’t have too many problems against a shaky Vanderbilt line. Wesley Johnson is a nice left tackle who’ll win his share of battles, but the USC defense will be too quick and too active. In the opening game of the season with little time to prepare, it’s easy to tell the defense to pin its ears back and get to the quarterback. Clowney and Taylor should do that without much of a problem. But if Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers gets time …
Why Vanderbilt Might Win: The chances might be there to come up with a decent passing day. South Carolina was second in the nation in pass defense last year and held Vandy to just 73 yards in a 21-3 win, but there are few issues in a secondary that has to replace three starters. There’s plenty of talent and potential to work around veteran safety D.J. Swearinger, but top corner Akeem Auguste is out with a leg injury. No, Rodgers won’t throw for 300 yards, but if he can connect on a few third down plays and do just enough to help out the ground game, in what should be a low scoring game, Vandy might have a shot.
What To Watch Out For: Is Marcus Lattimore really back to form? From all indications, the superstar South Carolina junior is healthy and looking fine coming off a knee injury that knocked him out of the second half of last season, but he hasn’t had a full year to recover and there’s obviously a night-and-day difference between going full-tilt in practice and getting popped in a game. He was held to 77 yards and a score by the Commodores last year.
Also trying to come back from injury are Vandy running backs Zac Stacy and Warren Norman. Stacy led the team with 1,193 yards on the way to second-team All-SEC honors, but he was dinged up a bit this summer and missed time for an undisclosed reason. Meanwhile, Norman returns after missing over a year recovering from a knee injury. The Commodore backfield is talented, but it has to be productive against a wall of a defensive front.
What Will Happen: Vandy will come up with more than the 77 yards of total offense it cranked out last year, and it will keep it close for a half, but the improved passing from USC quarterback Connor Shaw will take advantage of a retooled Commodore secondary to lead a balanced attack and a good opening day win.
CFN Prediction: South Carolina 27 … Vanderbilt 10
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) South Carolina -7; O/U: 47
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 3
Buffalo (0-0) vs. Georgia (0-0) Sept. 1, 12:00, SEC Network
Here’s The Deal: The season can’t get here fast enough for these two. Georgia has had a long offseason of suspensions and ugly headlines, most notably losing star running back Isaiah Crowell, and now there’s just one game of tune-up time before diving into SEC play going to Missouri next in what should be an emotional conference opener. Meanwhile, arguably Buffalo’s biggest strength, linebacker, has suddenly become a major issue with one of the MAC’s best players, Khalil Mack, suspended a game for violating team rules and with starter Jaleel Verser and key reserve Wonderful Monds gone with academic problems. Even so, this is supposed to be a bounce-back season for the Bulls after an ugly 3-9 campaign. UB’s fun will probably have to wait until next week when it faces Morgan State, but a decent showing against the Dawgs would do wonders after an ugly campaign.
Why Buffalo Might Win: Is it possible Georgia could be looking ahead to Mizzou? There aren’t a slew of tough battles in the first half of the schedule, so it might be tempting for the Dawgs to mentally be in Columbia already. That might seem like a stretch considering it’s the season opener, but with so many key players suspended in the secondary and with a few kinks needing to be worked out on the offensive line, there might be a chance that the veteran Bulls won’t be intimidated by the surroundings. Offensively, four starters are back on the line and Brandon Oliver will be one of the best running backs the Georgia defense will face this year, however …
Why Georgia Might Win: There won’t be any room for Oliver to move. There might be a few concerns in the secondary and there could be a few kinks to work out, but the Georgia defensive front seven will be a brick wall. The Bull offense was great at running the ball last season, but the stats were a bit misleading with huge days against Akron and other MAC teams pumping things up. Buffalo’s offensive interior will be collapsed time and again by John Jenkins and the Dawg defensive tackles, while Jarvis Jones and the linebacking corps will focus on Oliver like a laser and make the Bulls win through the air. That means the production from the UB QB needs to be enormous, putting the pressure on …
What To Watch Out For: Junior Alex Zordich. He will be the main man after serving as a top backup to senior Jerry Davis and beating out good-looking redshirt freshman Joe Licata. He stepped in as a freshman and threw just one touchdown pass with six picks, and last year he connected on just 42% of his throws in a limited time. At 6-2 and 224 pounds he’s a big passer with enough mobility be accounted for as a runner, but he has to be more accurate.
All eyes will be on the Georgia running back situation with Crowell gone. Likely getting most of the early work will be Ken Malcome, a 6-0, 226-pound banger who started twice but ran for just 174 yards in six games late in the year. He almost left the team after getting just one carry in the first nine games, but he gradually saw his workload increase and now he appears to be ready to be the main man coming off a strong spring.
What Will Happen: The Dawgs will have no problems whatsoever with a Bull team that will struggle to get anything going offensively and will have huge problems in the secondary against Aaron Murray, who’ll be pinpoint accurate on the way to an efficient and effective game.
CFN Prediction: Georgia 44 … Buffalo 10
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Georgia -38; O/U: 53.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 1.5
Bowling Green (0-0) at Florida (0-0) Sept. 1, 3:30, ESPN
Here’s The Deal: After a tumultuous and disappointing first year under Will Muschamp, Florida has to get off to a hot start and must get the offense kicked into high gear. With road games at Texas A&M and Tennessee over the next two weeks, the O that finished 105th in the nation last season has to figure out its quarterback situation, get the running game going and start to score again. However, Bowling Green isn’t necessarily going to be a layup.
Florida might return ten starters on defense, but so does a Falcon team that had some nice moments last season. The offense has plenty of weapons to mount a bit of a challenge, and the special teams, led by punter Brian Schmiedebusch, are terrific. But this is still Bowling Green going into The Swamp, and all the focus will be on Florida to see if it can come out roaring. Even with a few blowouts to start last season the attack was a bit sluggish at times. This year, the team will be looking to come out sharp on offense and effective on defense, flexing a little bit of muscle to show that the program is back on track. With the tough games coming up, a bad game will set off panic sirens.
Why Bowling Green Might Win: Is the Florida offense finally going to start working on a regular basis? The attack that failed to break the 26-point mark against an FBS team over the final eight tries last year might be returning with plenty of experience, but there’s little proven firepower and a ton of question marks. The Falcons have a decent enough linebacking corps to keep the pedestrian Florida ground game in check, while quarterback Matt Schilz and a strong offensive line should be able to hold their own at times against a good defensive front. More than anything else, Bowling Green needs to win the turnover battle, and Florida was 113th in the nation in turnover margin. The problem, though, is that …
Why Florida Might Win: Bowling Green was 116th. Even with a good-looking young running back in Anthon Samuel, the Falcons are going to be one-dimensional against a loaded defense that should come out roaring. Last year’s defense was uneven, but going into this season the veterans are expected to ramp things up a bit after an intense offseason and with more expectations heaped on. Across the board this is a good Gator team with no real weaknesses and a huge strength on the defensive front. The Bowling Green offensive line might be experienced and solid, but it’s about to be in for a very bad day.
What To Watch Out For: Who’s going to play quarterback for the Gators? As it turns out, both Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel will get their chances. The coaching staff couldn’t make up its mind between the two after an entire offseason, so the two quarterbacks will alternate by quarter to try finding one who’ll stand out. Brissett is a 6-3, 229-pound talent who wasn’t quite an elite of the elite recruit last year, but was good enough to see time when John Brantley went down. Predictably, for a first year player, he struggled completing just 46% of his passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions, but he showed off some running skills with two scores. On the flip side, Driskel wasn’t quite expected to be another Tim Tebow when he came in last year, but he was considered by many to be the top quarterback prospect in the country. The hype and promise were through the roof as a possible perfect fit for what the new Gator offense wants to do. At 6-4 and 232 pounds he has NFL size, a next-level arm, and just enough mobility to not be a stick in the mud. A bomber with great touch on his short-to-midrange throws, he has all the tools but he needs time and needs more seasoning.
What Will Happen: The Florida offense still won’t be nearly as crisp as it needs to be, but against the Falcons, the defense will shine and should be strong enough to take away any drama. It won’t be the performance Gator fans have been waiting for, but it will be an easy first week.
CFN Prediction: Florida 41 … Bowling Green 14
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Florida -29; O/U: 48
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 2