Week 1 SEC: Clemson-UGA, Idaho-Fla & More

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 29, 2014


Week 1 SEC Fearless Predictions: Clemson at Georgia, Idaho at Florida & More


- Week 1 SEC Fearless Predictions: Texas A&M at South Carolina, Ole Miss vs. Boise State & More
- Week 1 SEC Fearless Predictions: West Virginia vs. Alabama, Arkansas vs. Auburn & More
- Week 1 SEC Fearless Predictions: Clemson at Georgia, Idaho at Florida & More
- Week 1 SEC Fearless Predictions: Wisconsin vs. LSU, Utah State at Tennessee & More

Clemson (0-0) at Georgia (0-0) Aug. 30, 5:30, ESPN

Here's The Deal: The only problem when the season kicks off with a really, really good game is the memory – it tends to get lost in the shuffle as the year goes on. Last year’s 38-35 Clemson thriller over Georgia was one of the best games of the 2013 season, and it set the tone for the Tigers as a possible national title contender right up until Florida State happened. Georgia managed to rebound and beat South Carolina, but it was never healthy after the opener. This season, the Bulldogs have enough talent and experience to be in the thick of the SEC and national championship chases all season long, but they’re always good enough to do that. This year, and with this rematch, they have a chance to set the tone that this year might be different.

This is the 59th meeting all-time between the two schools with the first coming in 1902 – at 36-0 Clemson win. Georgia lost the following year, too, 29-0, and just like in 1903, the next game is against South Carolina. If the Dawgs are good enough to start out 2-0, they’ll be good enough to beat anyone and everyone else on the schedule – at that’s where the bar will be set. Meanwhile, this is Clemson’s shot to show that there really is life without Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. The Tigers get South Carolina at the end of the year, but next week they get to scrimmage against South Carolina State before getting a week off to prepare for the Seminoles. For a reloading team, and an ACC that needs to show it’s more than just FSU, beating Georgia in Athens would be terrific for the overall resume.

Can this be anywhere near the classic that last year’s was? It’s a lot to live up to, but these two are good enough to do it.

Why Clemson Might Win: Has Georgia figured out its secondary situation fast enough to hold up? There might not be a Boyd or Watkins anymore, and it was RB Rodrick McDowell who turned out to be the real killer, but Clemson has to try to start throwing and throwing some more right out of the gate. The Georgia linebacking corps might be the best in the country, and the front seven will dare Cole Stoudt to win the game through the air – he has to come through. He has the size and the live arm to tag a Georgia defensive backfield that gave up almost 3,000 yards including 270 to Boyd. There’s talent at defensive back, but it’s going to be trial by fire.
Why Georgia Might Win: Turn the dogs – and the Dawgs – loose. Pass protection was a big issue for the Tigers last season allowing 34 sacks, and with a new quarterback under center, the line has to be air-tight right away with a new left tackle and young depth. Georgia cranked out 33 sacks last season and should push for 40 with an NFL group of linebackers able to fly all over the field. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt knows how to dial up the pressure, and with an entire offseason to prepare, he’s going to be creative.
Who To Watch Out For: The new starting quarterbacks – Stoudt for Clemson and Hutson Mason, who’s sort of new, for Georgia – but this is the nationally televised chance for the superstars to shine. Georgia’s Todd Gurley destroyed the Tigers for 154 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries, while Clemson’s next-level pass rusher, Vic Beasley, came up with two sacks. The NFL scouts will be breaking down tape of both players throughout the next seven months.
What’s Going To Happen: It’s not going to be last year’s shootout, but it’ll still be fun. The Georgia defensive front will keep Clemson from controlling the game on the ground this time around, and Stoudt won’t be Boyd. Georgia’s offense will be efficient, effective and methodical on the way to a sound, solid win.
Prediction: Georgia 34 … Clemson 17
Line: Georgia -7.5 o/u: 55.5
Must Watch Factor: (5 Every. Simpsons. Ever. (Up until Part 1 of “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” – 1 Every. Simpsons. Ever. (Everything after Part 2 of “Who Shot Mr. Burns?) … 4

Idaho (0-0) at Florida (0-0) Aug. 30, 3:30

Here's The Deal: How does a team desperate for more offensive punch look good right away? Schedule Idaho. It’s not like the Florida attack will give any glimpses of what it might become be beating up the poor Vandals, but if it doesn’t dominate and doesn’t put up some big numbers, the spotlight will be on the Eastern Michigan game next week to be much, much better. The Gators need to look the part, while Idaho simply has to find something to build off of. Paul Petrino’s team went 1-11 last year with one of the nation’s least-efficient offenses and worst defenses. There’s experience, but is there enough talent to make this interesting for a half? If it’s still a game going into the third quarter, it’ll be a big storyline.
Why Idaho Might Win: It’s a new year with a new team and far more healthy bodies than there were at the end of last year, but the offense wasn’t exactly humming when Jeff Driskel and company were at close to full strength. If there’s any sputtering and coughing early on, Idaho has to take advantage. The offense line isn’t going to shove the talented Gator defensive front around, but center Mike Marboe leads a front five that returns all of its starters – it might be able to hold its own if absolutely needed. However …
Why Florida Might Win: Good luck against the Florida D line. Will experience translate into production for the Vandal offensive front? This is the same Idaho O line that almost got the quarterbacks killed. The pass protection was non-existent last year allowing a whopping 52 sacks on the season and 106 tackles for loss. Florida might still have question marks on offense, but the defense should be sound from the start and shouldn’t have any issues getting behind the line. Be shocked if the Vandal offense goes anywhere.
Who To Watch Out For: Okay, Mr. Driskel. Game on. After getting knocked out for the year early on with a broken leg, Driskel had to sit and watch the Florida offense go from bad to horrendous with no passing game and with nothing much happening down the field. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper knows how to generate a passing offense, but can he get Driskel to make big plays and be a better, sharper passer? The Idaho secondary won’t be that much better after finishing second-to-last in the nation in passing yards allowed – this needs to be a big-time day for No. 6.
What’s Going To Happen: Watch out for a jacked up and angry Gator team to come up with something special defensively. The offense will still have its kinks to work out, but it’ll be brutally effective with the running game, and yes, there will be a big pass play of over 50 yards.
Prediction: Florida 52 … Idaho 6
Line: Florida -35 o/u: 51
Must Watch Factor: (5 Every. Simpsons. Ever. (Up until Part 1 of “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” – 1 Every. Simpsons. Ever. (Everything after Part 2 of “Who Shot Mr. Burns?) … 1.5

Southern Miss (0-0) at Mississippi State (0-0) Aug. 30, 7:30, SEC Network

Here's The Deal: Expectations are very high for Mississippi State, which has the right mix of talent to be Dan Mullen’s best team in six years. This is a big year for the coach, who’s banking on his kids breaking through and nudging a little higher in the rugged SEC West pecking order. The Bulldogs’ first hurdle will be Southern Miss, which is will play its neighbor to the north for the first time since 1990. The Golden Eagles finished 2013 with a win to snap a 23-game losing streak, but they’re a long way from being a factor again in Conference USA.
Why Southern Miss Might Win: The Golden Eagles can’t help but be improved in 2014. It’s Todd Monken’s second year at the helm, and a bunch of injured players are back to complement returning starters. Southern Miss could exploit a retooled Bulldog O-line from the inside with high-motor tackles Adam Williams and Rakeem Nunez-Roches.
Why Mississippi State Might Win: The defense will suffocate Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens. And QB Dak Prescott is one of the better-kept secrets outside the SEC. An iffy Golden Eagle O-line will have its hands full trying to contain DT Chris Jones and LB Benardrick McKinney, among others. Prescott will pick up where he left off, maximizing the playmaking ability of WR Jameon Lewis.
Who To Watch Out For: You want a better idea of the Bulldogs’ ceiling in 2014? Monitor the running game. RB LaDarius Perkins is gone, as are three of last year’s starting blockers. Mullen wants help for Prescott, specifically in the form of Josh Robinson, who’s expected to be the feature back.
What’s Going To Happen: Mississippi State is a confident and talented team that won’t look past any of the first three layups that precede the Sept. 20 trip to Baton Rouge. While Southern Miss will be better this fall, it lacks the bodies to compete with the balance and overall physicality of the blue-collar Bulldogs.
Prediction: Mississippi State 47 … Southern Miss 10
Line: Mississippi State -30.5; O/U: 55.5
Must Watch Factor: 5 Every. Simpsons. Ever. (Up until Part 1 of “Who Shot Mr. Burns?”) – 1 Every. Simpsons. Ever. (Everything after Part 2 of “Who Shot Mr. Burns?") … 2

- Week 1 SEC Fearless Predictions: Texas A&M at South Carolina, Ole Miss vs. Boise State & More
- Week 1 SEC Fearless Predictions: West Virginia vs. Alabama, Arkansas vs. Auburn & More
- Week 1 SEC Fearless Predictions: Clemson at Georgia, Idaho at Florida & More
- Week 1 SEC Fearless Predictions: Wisconsin vs. LSU, Utah State at Tennessee & More