SEC Week One Fearless Predictions, Part 2
Posted Aug 30, 2006

Previews and predictions for all the week one SEC games.

East  Florida | Georgia | Kentucky | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt 
West Alabama | Arkansas | Auburn | LSU | Ole Miss | Miss State

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week One

Washington State at Auburn  7:45 pm EST ESPN2  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to watch: Auburn and Washington State meet for the first time in an intriguing out-of-conference match up. There are about a dozen programs with a legitimate shot for a national championship in 2006, and Auburn is one of them with a power running game behind Kenny Irons, a precise mid-range passing attack, and one of the fastest defenses in the country.  Their lack of beef on the defensive side of the ball could haunt them down the road, but not against a Wazzu team that relies more on finesse. SEC fans might bristle at this, but Auburn looks an awful lot like a (gasp!) Pac 10 team. That's not a bad thing. For Washington State, it’s a pivotal year for head coach Bill Doba after posting back-to-back sub-.500 seasons highlighted by a strange 2005 with several close losses. When it’s clicking, Alex Brink-to-Jason Hill is one of the most dangerous quick strike connections in college football.      
Why Washington State might win: The passing game remains the Cougar calling card, however, Doba believes his team will be able to run the ball on an Auburn defense that’s soft in the middle after losing T.J. Jackson and Wayne Dickens to graduation.  It will not be easy replacing RB Jerome Harrison, but Wazzu showed it could run block in 2005. Successor DeMaundray Woolridge is a 5-8, 230-pound fire hydrant who flattens defenders. It doesn't bode well for Tiger fans to play such a strong team early; Auburn has lost three of its last four openers.           
Why Auburn might win: A Washington State defense that allowed 37 points a game in conference play last year would love nothing more than to ease into the 2006 season with a building block game.  They won’t have that luxury.  The passing of Brandon Cox, combined with the Tigers’ endless supply of quality backs will be way too much for a Cougar D with twice as many questions as answers. The problem last year in the opener against Georgia Tech was a lack of experience in the offensive backfield. That's certainly not an issue now.      
Who to watch: Auburn CB David Irons, Kenny’s big brother, vs. Hill will be one the most riveting mini-showdowns of the entire weekend.  Irons has emerged as one of the SEC’s best cover corners and Hill begins 2006 as the premier senior NFL prospect at wide receiver.  Who wins this tussle will dictate how long Washington State can keep the game interesting.                
What will happen: Auburn still feels the sting of losing at home to Georgia Tech in last year’s opener as well as the Capital One Bowl to Wisconsin. Determined to justify their pre-season hype, the Tigers will be fully focused and will outslug the Cougars with the running game. However, look for Wazzu to throw a couple of haymakers to keep things tight. 
CFN Prediction: Auburn 34 ... Washington State 20 ... Line: Auburn -15.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 3.5
Final Score: 

UL Lafayette at LSU  8 pm EST GamePlan  Saturday, September 2nd
Why to watch: These might end up being the two best teams in their respective conferences. UL Lafayette appears to be the best team in the Sun Belt with a great backfield and a fantastic running game. The key will be to stay alive over the next two weeks against LSU and Texas A&M before things lighten up in a big way with McNeese State and Eastern Michigan. LSU will win in a walk and needs to work out any and all kinks with Arizona and Auburn coming up.
Why UL Lafayette might win: The only possible shot ULL has of keeping this from being brutally ugly is if the ground game can keep the Tiger offense off the field. This is a fantastic ball control attack with RB Tyrell Fenroy and quarterbacks Jerry Babb and Michael Desormeaux all veteran runners who should be able to crank out a few decent drives. However ...
Why LSU might win: ... the zone-read offense, at least the version that the Ragin' Cajuns run, won't do much against teams with great team speed. ULL will get its runners in the open, but the speedy Tiger defensive front seven will close the gaps in a big hurry. On the other side of the ball, the ULL defensive front seven has decent size, but they're not going to hold up for more than two quarters before the LSU offensive line takes over.
Who to watch: JaMarcus Russell had better be razor sharp, or the LSU quarterback situation will get even more interesting. Russell is the most experienced quarterback in the mix, but Matt Flynn has shown he can run the attack and win and Ryan Perrilloux is a star-in-waiting. It's Russell's team, but there will be a concern if he doesn't carve up the Ragin' Cajun secondary at will.
What will happen: ULL will play well for about a quarter, and then the LSU defense will shut down the ground game and things will turn ugly.
CFN Prediction
LSU 52 ... UL Lafayette 10 ... Line: LSU -30.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 1.5 
Final Score: 

USC at Arkansas  8:45 pm EST ESPN  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to Watch: How much has Arkansas improved since last season's 70-17 Trojan pasting of the Hogs that saw 736 yards of total USC offense? The bigger national question is how far has USC fallen since losing all-time greats like Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White. This begins a brutal September for the Trojans with three road trips and a home date against Nebraska, but this is the game many think screams upset and will be a measuring stick for the national title contenders. Arkansas, with a strong defense and tremendous ground game, started to look better and better over the second half of last season and is looking at this as the chance to get on the national map. Things might not have gone well for Houston Nutt and his program over the last two seasons, but it lost four SEC games last year by a total of 13 points, lost a 22-20 thriller against Texas in 2004, and beat the Longhorns in Austin in 2003.
Why USC Might Win: Everyone knows about the personnel losses USC suffered in the offensive backfield, but the pollsters and most of the preseason prognosticators forgot about one thing: there's more to a football team than a quarterback and a running back. The receiving corps is the best in the nation, the second team linebacking corps would probably start for about 100 other teams, the defensive line will once again be a terror in opposing backfields, and there's speed and talent to burn at almost every spot. As improved as Arkansas might be, the passing game, even with more three-wide sets and an attempt at more balance under new offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, isn't good enough to pull off the upset if the Trojans slow down the ground game. However ...
Why Arkansas Might Win: ... as good as the USC defense might be, this is still mostly the same group that got steamrolled over by Texas and Fresno State. The Hog line is loaded with experience and should be among the best in the SEC. It's a big, physical group that should be able to push around the USC defensive front four as the game goes on. The pressure is all on USC to keep the train going after an epic three-year run. If this is tight late, can the Trojans come through as clutch without Leinart and Bush? This is a nasty road game for new starters to deal with.
Who to Watch: Mr. Booty, you're table's ready. New starting quarterback John David Booty came to USC as a 17-year-old and was supposed to start right off the bat as the replacement for Carson Palmer. He got dinged up, Leinart got the gig, and the rest is history. Booty has been around long enough to know the offense and be ready to hit the ground running, but there's no grace period on expectations with the NFL receiving corps he has to throw to and with likely NFL first day draft pick Mark Sanchez waiting in the wings. (By the way, Leinart won his first game as a starter in an even tougher road trip beating an Auburn 23-0 at Auburn.) At running back, Chauncey Washington and his injured hamstring will give it a go, but freshmen C.J. Gable, Emmanuel Moody, Allen Bradford and Stafon Johnson will rotate in.
What Will Happen:  The Arkansas ground game is strong enough to keep this from being another 70-17 disaster, but USC is still among the elite of the elite teams with too much speed and talent on both sides of the ball for the Hogs. The Trojans have something else they didn't have last year; a chip on their shoulder. Expect a focused team that coldly and efficiently takes care of business.
CFN Prediction: USC 27 ... Arkansas 13 ... Line: USC -8.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 4.5
Final Score: 

Memphis at Ole Miss  4:30 pm EST ESPN  Sunday, September 3rd 
Why to watch: It’s out with the old and in with the new for a pair of programs ushering in new eras in 2006.  Memphis begins life without signature star back DeAngelo Williams, but the coaches are fired up about his successor, Joseph Doss, and the quarterback situation is certain to be more stable than 2005, when injuries forced the Tigers to play most of the year with WR Maurice Avery at the helm.  Ole Miss feels it’s about to turn the corner in Ed Orgeron’s second season.  The coach has upgraded his staff and brought in former Tennessee quarterback Brent Schaeffer from the JUCO ranks to ignite his offense and get the Rebs out of their two-year funk.  All-America LB Patrick Willis leads an underrated defense that was 27th in the nation a year ago.
Why Memphis might win: Even without Williams, Memphis is going to have success on the ground with the speedy Doss to be a lesser verion of Williams. The Tigers have all-conference caliber linemen in Blake Butler and Willie Henderson to pave the way against a young Rebel D-line that has four new starters. Expect Doss to roll for his first career 100-yard day.   
Why Ole Miss might win: Aside from safety Wes Smith, the Memphis defense is an uncertain bunch that’s untested up front and vulnerable through the air.  That’s great news for an Ole Miss offense that’s installing a new pro-style attack with a major upgrade with its new quarterback, running back and offensive coordinator. Expect the Rebels to be able to match anything the Tiger offense can produce.
Who to watch
: Schaeffer is getting all the ink, but especially in the early going, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be the MVP of an offense that was sickly in 2005.  The Indiana transfer has had a terrific off-season and is being counted on to get the tough yards and spark a unit that averaged just 2.4 yards a carry last fall. The mobility and running ability of Schaeffer won't hurt the overall rushing total, but how rusty will he be?
What will happen
: In front of the home crowd, this will be a coronation of sorts for a Rebel program that’s on the rise and eager to put some of its new bells and whistles on display.  The Ole Miss offense won’t purr right away, but it'll be noticeably more creative than last season.
CFN Prediction:
Ole Miss 23 ... Memphis 17 ... Line: Ole Miss -3
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 3
Final Score: 

Kentucky at Louisville  8 pm EST ESPN  Sunday, September 3rd 
Why to watch: They still play in the same state and don’t like each other all that much, but with Louisville taking six of the last seven, this hasn’t been much of a rivalry of late and now the stakes are higher with the Cardinals considered a national title contender.  Thanks to Bobby Petrino’s offense and recruiting, the UL has become a perennial powerhouse program that finally appears ready to get over the hump and get into the BCS.  Ten months after tearing his ACL, Brian Brohm makes his return to the field, and as long as he and Michael Bush are upright, no one this side of Coral Gables will slow them down.  If Louisville stalls this fall, you’ll trace it to both lines, which must replace a ton of talent.  Kentucky and Rich Brooks face a must-win situation in 2006 needing to show some sign of life. The Cats haven’t bowled in seven years, but the schedule is conducive to six wins and the talent is deeper than last year.  RB Rafael Little would be a household name playing for any other SEC school.
Why Kentucky might win: Louisville has so much talent at the skill positions it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that both lines have been decimated by graduation.  Kentucky’s front seven is better than advertised and capable of forcing Brohm out of his comfort zone.  And if the Cards’ revamped D-line can’t get off its blocks, Little is the type of talent that can completely take over a game.          
Why Louisville might win: Louisville’s depth at receiver is no match for a Kentucky secondary that went from bad to worse when UK's top corner Bo Smith was sent packing.  The Cards have speed, size and experience, and if Brohm has time, he’ll carve up the Wildcat defense like a butcher. The Cats just decided on a starting quarterback going with Andre Woodson, who has experience, but isn't close to Brohm when it comes to controlling the game.
Who to watch: Last September, Elvis Dumervil schooled Kentucky for six sacks in a one-man parade around tackle.  There’s not another Elvis on the roster, but senior DE Zach Anderson is poised for a breakout final season and uber-recruit Deantwan Whitehead is expected to be an immediate factor. Woodson is mobile, but he's not fantastic under pressure. If he's not sharp in his decision making, he'll be on his back more of the evening.
What will happen: Don’t be surprised if there’s a layer or two of rust on Louisville.  This is Brohm’s first game back since the serious knee injury and there’ll be first-time starters on both sides of the ball.  Still, you can keep these Cardinals quiet for only so long, and a three-touchdown day from Bush will be the difference.  
CFN Prediction: Louisville 35 ... Kentucky 17 ... Line: Louisville -22.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 3
Final Score: 

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week One