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SEC Fearless Predictions, Sept. 1
Posted Aug 21, 2007

There's no knocking the SEC in week one for its non-conference schedule (O.K., maybe a little ripping). Auburn has a tough battle with Kansas State, Georgia might get all it can handle with Oklahoma State, and in the marquee matchup of the weekend, Jonathan Hefney and Tennessee will take on California.

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

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week One, Part 2

SEC Fearless Predictions Sept. 8 | Sept. 15Sept. 22 | Sept. 29 
Oct. 6Oct. 13 | Oct. 20Oct. 27 | Nov. 3Nov. 10 | Nov. 17Nov. 24Dec. 1 

SEC Game of the Week

Tennessee at California 8:00 PM ABC Saturday, September 1st
Why to watch: The only game of the opening weekend featuring Top 25 teams is a rematch of last year’s 35-18 Tennessee win that was even worse than the score indicated.  If there’s such a thing as a must-win situation in Week One, this is it for Cal, who despite blowing out Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl, is still looking for national respect, at least from the SEC folk.  Even without RB Marshawn Lynch, the Bear offense will again be prolific behind big junior QB Nate Longshore and one of the most dangerous receiving corps in America.  After excelling as a spare part for years, 5-8 Justin Forsett gets a grand stage to show that he’s not too small to carry the load in the running game.  Cal won’t be the only team with something to prove in Berkeley as Tennessee has to start showing it’s Tennessee again.  Without an SEC title since 1998 and with barely a hint of any noise in the national title race since winning it all almost a decade ago, the natives are getting restless.  The Vols are light on star power in 2007, which is why plenty of first-year players will contribute and QB Erik Ainge is being counted on to have the best season of his up-and-down college career. 
Why Tennessee might win: Cal can score, but can it stop a quality SEC opponent from going up and down the field?  This is the Bears’ first game without defensive stars Brandon Mebane, Desmond Bishop, and Daymeion Hughes, something that won’t be lost on Ainge as he begins implementing UT’s new no-huddle offense.  Cal is green at corner and suspect up front, which means lots of time for Ainge and enough running room for Arian Foster to keep the Bear offense in hibernation.  This is still Tennessee, and there are still plenty of NFL caliber athletes, even if they’re not household names quite yet.  
Why Cal might win: Last September, Tennessee had the dynamite receivers and Cal had the secondary that was still in diapers.  This year, the roles are reversed.  The Vols’ first test with three new starters in the defensive backfield comes against the quartet of Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, Robert Jordan, and tight end Craig Stevens, which combined for 168 receptions in 2006.  Tennessee is also very soft in the middle, so look for Alex Mack to create space for Forsett and James Montgomery, while displaying why he’s one of the nation’s premier centers.      
Who to watch: Last September, then-freshman CB Syd’Quan Thompson became the poster boy for Cal’s loss to UT, getting burned repeatedly by Robert Meachem and Jayson Swain.  Today, he’s one of the emotional leaders of the defense, who’ll be on a mission to shut down a Volunteer receiving corps that’s a far cry from last year’s group.  Also worth within will be the matchup of Tennessee’s Britton Colquitt and Cal’s DeSean Jackson, the SEC’s best punter and the nation’s premier punt returner, respectively.                        
What will happen: After getting embarrassed and knocked down a peg a year ago, Cal will get revenge on Tennessee in one of the biggest wins of the Jeff Tedford era.  The Vols will get their yards, making heavy use of TEs Chris Smith and Brad Cottam, but it won’t be enough with the Bear offense clicking.  Jackson will crank out a highlight reel play that’ll ignite the home crowd and earn him some early Heisman attention in a thrilling, game that’ll be as good as advertised. 
CFN Prediction: California 30 … Tennessee 24 ... Line: California -5.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 4.5
Final Score: 


SEC Thursday, August 30

LSU at Mississippi State 8:00 PM ESPN
Why to Watch: The SEC season starts before September for two teams expected to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. While LSU is projected by many to play for the national title, Mississippi State is considered a near-lock to finish last in the West, but a Bulldog upset would certainly change all that, and send shockwaves throughout the college football world. Even a close game might change things up for the Tigers as far as a national perspective. LSU has won 14 of the last 15 meetings between the two, while winning the last six by a combined score of 208 to 43. MSU is hoping a good running game and solid defense can be enough to overcome the LSU blinding speed and athleticism, while the Tigers are hoping to get the apparent mismatch over with as soon as possible before dealing with Virginia Tech next week.
Why LSU Might Win: It shouldn't take too many points to put the game away. A double-digit lead of any kind should end it. This isn't an explosive MSU offense, and while it has a ton of returning experience, it needs big plays and short fields to crank out points against the stingy Tiger defense. If LSU doesn't screw up and make a ton of mistakes, MSU will have to try to run the ball to move the offense, and that will be next to impossible against Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and one of the nation's best lines.
Why Mississippi State Might Win: MSU's defense has to come up with a whale of a performance and hope LSU isn't sharp out of the gate. Remember, there aren't any preseason games in college football, so with an offense like LSU's with several new parts, even though QB Matt Flynn is experienced, it's unlikely the machine will be humming. MSU has a veteran O line that won't push around the LSU front four, but it should be just good enough to not be dominated.
Who to Watch: All eyes will be on LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, who's hailed by some as an offensive genius, and others as an overhyped coach who was at the helm when Oregon's offense went into the tank over the second half of last year. Unlike last year when the Tigers had the big bomber in JaMarcus Russell able to put the ball anywhere on the field he wanted to, there will be more option, more quick timing plays, and more of an emphasis on all-around playmaking from the quarterback. If Flynn and the attack isn't sharp right away, most will blame the coaches. For MSU, the running back duo of Anthony Dixon and Robert Elliott has to control the tempo and keep the pressure off Michael Henig and the passing game. If the Bulldogs don't run for at least 175 yards, they can't win.
What Will Happen: An inspired first half from MSU will get the crowd into the game and make LSU fans nervous, but the Tiger defense will take over in the second half while Early Doucet and the speedy receivers will come up with at least two big plays against the green MSU corners.
CFN Prediction: LSU 31 ... Mississippi State 13
... Line: LSU -17
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 2.5
Final Score: 

SEC Saturday, September 1

Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky 6:00 PM
Why to Watch: Get the machine warmed up. That's the goal for a high-octane Kentucky team over the next two weeks against Eastern Kentucky and Kent State before the showdown with Louisville and the SEC opener at Arkansas. There's a big buzz around the UK offense and all the SEC stars, and now they have to show right away that last year wasn't a fluke. EKU wasn't bad last year and now welcomes back 14 starters. The Colonels have a good enough passing offense to potentially make this a blast of an offensive show.
Why Eastern Kentucky Might Win: The only chance EKU has of pulling this off, or even being close, is if the Kentucky secondary hasn't improved since last year and QB Josh Greco can get off early. While he's not a dynamic passer, the senior came up with a few nice games last season and managed to limit his mistakes as the year went on. The Wildcat pass defense won't be great, and the run D will be worse, so don't expect the Colonels to be shut down.
Why Kentucky Might Win: The EKU offense isn't nearly explosive enough to keep up if the Wildcats get going early. The defense is replacing five key starters, including two in the secondary, UK's Andre Woodson should have few problems bombing away. He should get plenty of time to operate considering EKU won't generate much in the way of pressure.
Who to Watch: Woodson went from fighting for his job at the beginning of last year to being considered by some to be the top NFL quarterback prospect for the 2008 draft. He's big and mobile with a live arm and a great command of the offense, and now he has to prove he can produce with the spotlight on. Every throw and every play from here on out will be scrutinized and overanalyzed, and he can't come out slow against an inferior defense. Also, watch out for the return game. With kickoffs now starting on the 30, there will be plenty of chances for EKU's Davin Walker, who averaged 25.4 yard per try last year, and UK's Keenan Burton to come up with some highlight reel returns.
What Will Happen: Bombs away. EKU will come up with its share of offensive big plays, but they'll come after the fact. UK will come out roaring with Woodson having the type of razor-sharp game that'll set the tone for the early part of the season.
CFN Prediction: Kentucky 45 ... Eastern Kentucky 20
... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 1
Final Score: 

Western Carolina at Alabama 6:00 PM

Why to Watch: No, Alabama hasn't already won three national titles under Nick Saban. Tide fans have gone nuts with excitement for the upcoming season, and now they'll finally get something to enjoy against a horrifically overmatches Western Carolina team. This is part one of a two-game early September money-march for the Catamounts with a trip to Georgia to get blown out in a few weeks, but they'll look to be more than just a sacrificial lamb for at least a quarter.
Why Western Carolina Might Win: There's no truth to the rumor that the Catamounts will come out dressed in Auburn uniforms. This is a better team than last year's 2-9 record might indicate, with a slew of players returning healthy, especially on the line, after a rash of injuries killed the season. Alabama is going to try to do a little experimenting to get the running game going before the SEC opener at Vanderbilt, so there's a chance it won't be humming on all cylinders early on. Fortunately for Bama ...
Why Alabama Might Win: ... WCU didn't stop anyone from running last year, and it won't be drastically better to start the year. With all five starters returning to the Bama O line, this is the game to get everyone in sync and come up with the running attack that was absent throughout last year. The passing game will be there and won't need too much work, so look for a grinding game with a few backs making some big noise.
Who to Watch: Major Applewhite. While he still looks like a college kid and he still might be the best quarterback on the team, he's the Bama offensive coordinator and will tinker with the overall formula for the first few games to try to kick-start the running game. Saban would prefer to win by pounding the ball and playing great defense, but the Tide strength is in the passing attack. QB John Parker Wilson needs to use this like a preseason game to get ready for Vandy (who's better than you think).
What Will Happen: The horror. The horror. This won't be pretty as the Tide should be able to call its shot.
CFN Prediction: Alabama 45 ... Western Carolina 0
... Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 1
Final Score: 

UL Lafayette at South Carolina  7:00 PM

Why to Watch: UL Lafayette is just good enough to give South Carolina a battle. Things have gotten interesting after the Gamecocks suspended three players, CB Chris Hall, RB Bobby Wallace, and most importantly, QB Blake Mitchell, because he skipped classes, for the opener. Considering USC has the SEC opener at Georgia next week, the last thing it needed was to be without its starting quarterback in what's supposed to be a tune-up game. The Ragin' Cajuns are hoping it'll be more than that, with one of the nation's most productive running games. While an upset is asking for way too much, this might be an entertaining game for far longer than USC fans might like.
Why UL Lafayette Might Win: The concern early on for South Carolina is a lousy offensive line that needs to be far more physical and has to get a push for the running game. That might be a problem against a ULL defensive front that should be stout, at times, against the run. ULL's problem should be in the secondary, but if the USC passing game isn't quite clicking without Mitchell, the green defensive backs should be able to get by. On the flip side ...
Why South Carolina Might Win: ... there's no need whatsoever for the Gamecocks to worry about the ULL passing game. While the Ragin' Cajuns have experience at receiver, they need to run, run, and run some more to have a shot. That's not likely to happen against Jasper Brinkley and a tremendous linebacking corps that should keep Tyrell Fenroy, Deon Wallace and the ground game from getting on track. Yeah, Mitchell might not be starting, but that doesn't mean backup Chris Smelley shouldn't be able to dink and dunk his way to a big game against the bend-but-don't-break defense.
Who to Watch: While Mitchell appears to still be on is way to a big season, many are ready for redshirt freshman Chris Smelley, a top recruit two years ago, to get his feet wet and take over full-time. He's not all that big, but he has a live arm and has all the tools to be a great Steve Spurrier-molded passer. Mitchell should still be the number one guy when he gets back, but Smelley could use this opportunity to close the gap. For ULL, the star to watch is junior RB Tyrell Fenroy, who cranked out back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with 23 touchdowns. While he's not a big back, he's a tough workhorse.
What Will Happen: South Carolina isn't going to come through with a blowout, but if Smelley can be efficient and limit his mistakes, he should be able to keep the offense moving and come away with a relatively comfortable win. The defense has to do its part by keeping the ULL ground attack from controlling the tempo. Early on, it will.
CFN Prediction:
South Carolina 30 ... UL Lafayette 13 ... Line: South Carolina -29
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 1.5
Final Score: 

Ole Miss at Memphis  3:30 PM

Why to Watch: While you wouldn't ever think of Ole Miss vs. Memphis as being a scintillating showdown, these two have arguably come up with the most competitive series of early games in college football over the last few years. Ole Miss has won the last two by a total of seven points, while Memphis came up with good wins in the previous two games. With Missouri, at Vanderbilt, Florida and at Georgia to follow, the Rebels can't afford to slip, while Memphis, coming off an awful 2-10 season, can get off to a huge start with a relatively easy next seven games.
Why Ole Miss Might Win: The Rebel defensive line could dominate. While the production wasn't there last year, the talent has slowly gotten into place with several very good recruiting classes bringing size on the inside and talent on the outside. The Memphis offensive line should be an issue for the first few games, so if the Rebels have a strong defensive gameplan, this could be a low scoring game like it'll need it to be.
Why Memphis Might Win: Will the Rebels have a passing game? The Tigers' biggest weakness in last year's disaster was the porous pass defense, but the nation's 116th rated pass efficiency defense likely won't be tested by an Ole Miss air attack that doesn't have any real weapons and is still trying to establish the starting quarterback. The defensive front seven should be able to load up everyone and their sister against the run to stop BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Who to Watch: And the starting Ole Miss quarterback will be ... ? Brent Schaeffer, Seth Adams and Michael Herrick are all in the hunt to get the nod, with Adams likely to be the number one. Herrick, a redshirt freshman, was in the race for the number two job until a late summer practice, when the coaching staff made him the number three. Schaeffer, the starter throughout last year, has had major problems with his accuracy, but he improved this off-season, especially late, and is back in the running.
What Will Happen: Don't expect much in the way of offensive fireworks. Like it's been for the last few years, it'll be a close game with the team that comes up with the big break getting the victory. The Rebel lines will end up being the difference, but Memphis will have its chances to pull off the win.
CFN Prediction: Ole Miss 19 ... Memphis 14
... Line: Ole Miss -2.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hef wants you to take his place on The Girls Next Door, but you can’t because you have to watch this game - 1 Cavemen) ... 2.5
Final Score: 

SEC Fearless Predictions, Week One, Part 2

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