South Carolina at Vanderbilt
Why South Carolina will Win: The Gamecocks only return 11 overall starters to last years 3-9 team, that saw Steve Spurrier retire and the Gamecocks turn to another former Florida head coach in Will Muschamp. If there is one thing that Muschamp is good at, it is improving defenses. South Carolina luckily will get to test out the Muschamp defense against one of the SEC’s worst offenses from a year ago. Linebacker Skai Moore has led the Gamecocks in tackles each of his first three years in Columbia and will look to have a big game against a Vanderbilt offensive line that only returns one starter. If pressure can be put on a faulty Vanderbilt offense, the Gamecocks could look to steal a game in Nashville.
Why Vanderbilt will Win: The Vanderbilt linebacker core is REALLY good. Oren Burks and Zach Cunningham are two of the best in the SEC. One of the Gamecock’s biggest weaknesses is the quarterback position and with the talent of Commodore DT Nifae Lealao along with the strong linebackers, the Gamecocks will be forced to pass the ball. On the offensive side of the ball, Ralph Webb will be returning at running back after having back-to-back record breaking seasons. The receiving core is getting better by the day and looks to make a large improvement from last year’s squad.
Gorm’s Guess: Vanderbilt 21 South Carolina 10- While both teams have question marks at the quarterback position, defensively these two teams are two of the more underrated in the SEC. With that being said, the Vanderbilt offense is better than the South Carolina offense and will have more success against the South Carolina defense. This one very well could go either way, but the ‘Dores should take this one.
#1 Alabama vs. #20 USC (Arlington)
Why Alabama will Win: The defending National Champions look to continue their streak from last season. Other than the starting QB position, the Alabama offense is loaded. Wide Receivers, Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley look to be one of the SEC’s best crews. Of course the Tide have to replace Heisman trophy winner, Derrick Henry, but will be able to fill that void easily with Sophomore Bo Scarbrough and a name Kentucky fans know well, Damien Harris. This is without mentioning the Alabama defense will possibly be one of the best in the nation.
Why USC will win: The Trojan offense is going to be good. Simple enough. The Trojans return 9 starters on offense, including All-American WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. The entire OL returns from a team that went 8-6 last season. Almost the entire secondary returns for the Trojans and against an Alabama offense that is having its’ third different starting QB in as many years. The Alabama front seven only returns two players against a potent USC rushing attack. If the Trojans can move the ball against the Bama front seven, the Crimson Tide could be on Upset Alert already.
Gorm’s Guess: Alabama 38 USC 24- The fact of the matter is, the Alabama offense is a lot better than the Trojan defense. USC will not be able to stop the Alabama offense, no matter who lines up behind center.
Louisiana Tech at Arkansas
Why LA Tech will Win: The Bulldogs will bring an offense that is going to pass the ball into Fayetteville. LA Tech is having to replace, former Florida QB Jeff Driskel and RB Kenneth Dixon, both who will go down as greats in Bulldog history. The main weakness of the Arkansas defense, plays right into the hands of the Bulldogs. Arkansas ranked 116th in the nation defending the pass last season, while the Bulldogs ranked 13th throwing the ball. The receiving core of Carlos Henderson, Trent Taylor and Alfred Smith are one of the top trios in Conference USA. If the LA Tech offensive line can slow down the Arkansas pass rush, the Bulldogs could steal this one.
Why Arkansas will win: While the Arkansas secondary has its’ question marks, the Razorback front seven is really good. Headlined by DE Deatrich Wise Jr. this front seven should have no issues pressuring a weak LA Tech OL. The Razorback offense will have a new quarterback in Austin Allen (younger brother of Brandon Allen) and new starting RB in Kody Walker. If the Arkansas offense can move the ball against a shaky Bulldog defense, this one could very well be a blow out.
Gorm’s Guess: Arkansas 34 LA Tech 13: On paper, this has some signs of a possible upset. With that being said, I can’t see it happening. The Bulldog defense has too many question marks going into the season opener.
#2 Clemson at Auburn
Why Clemson will win: The defending National Runners-Up return 13 total starters from last seasons 14-1 team. This includes Heisman trophy favorite Deshaun Watson, who threw for 4,104 yards and rushed for 1,105 yards. Watson welcomes back three of his top targets and RB Wayne Gallman. All signs point to Clemson making another run at the College Football Playoff this season with an overall lackluster non-conference schedule. This game should be a win as Auburn’s offense leaves a lot of questions to be answered.
Why Auburn will win: Jordan-Hare Stadium is one of the toughest stadiums in all of College Football to win in. The atmosphere will get to Clemson and try to fluster a defense that lost 8 starters to last year’s team. This will play right into the advantage of Auburn, who has one of the more unique running back tandems in the SEC. The offensive line of Auburn, headlined by guards, Braden Smith and Alex Kozan, will help open holes for this Auburn offense to run wild.
Gorm’s Guess: Clemson 45 Auburn 28: As bad as I would like for Auburn to pull of the upset, it just won’t happen. The Clemson offense is going to be REALLY good and the Auburn defense has a lot of question marks with new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
UMass at #25 Florida
Why UMass will win: Running Back, Marquis Young, is extremely talented, as he rushed for over 1,000 yards in his freshman season. The Minutemen will need to have a HUGE overall game to take down the Gators in the Swamp.
Why Florida will win: The Gator offense will dominate the Minutemen. The Gator defense will dominate the Minutemen. It is that simple. The Gators are better at every position and are playing at home, where they usually dominate.
Gorm’s Guess: Florida 56 UMass 3: This game will just not be close. The Gators will boast one of the SEC’s best defenses against what may go down as one of the worst offenses. This game is Florida’s tune up for a big game against the Cats in Week 2.
#22 North Carolina at #18 Georgia (Atlanta)
Why North Carolina will win: The Tar Heels return 16 total starters from last season’s 11-3 team. All-ACC running back Elijah Hood is back along with an outstanding receiving core. This offense should definitely test a Georgia defense that does have some question marks after losing 5 members of their front seven last season. The Tar Heels return one of the best secondary’s in all of college football and they should be able to test a first-time starting quarterback in Jacob Eason.
Why Georgia will win: The Kirby Smart era is finally here and Bulldog fans are excited. If Nick Chubb joins the backfield with Sony Michel, the Bulldogs will be able to run all over a North Carolina defense that finished 121st in the nation. The key to whether Georgia will not only be successful in this game, but successful for the entire year will be focused on whether than can get consistency out of the quarterback position.
Gorm’s Guess: Georgia 24 North Carolina 21: The Kirby Smart era will get off to a success as the Georgia offense should be able to have success against the Tar Heels.
#5 LSU at Wisconsin (Green Bay)
Why LSU will win: Leonard Fournette returns along with 17 other starters on both sides of the ball. This LSU team has all the signs to compete for an SEC title. New Defensive Coordinator David Aranda will look to improve an already talented LSU defense. As mentioned, Leonard Fournette should play even though he has been battling a knee injury for most of camp. Quarterback Brandon Harris will look to have more consistency this season and will be a major key on if the Tigers can win in Green Bay.
Why Wisconsin will win: For the third straight season, the Badgers open with an SEC opponent. They have not faired well, losing both games (LSU in 2014 and Alabama in 2015), but played both of those games in SEC territory. This one is played in one that on Sunday’s is one of the most hostile NFL environments in Lambeau Field. The Badger defense returns 4 starters, from last year’s team that finished in the top 10 in every major category. The front seven has all signs to be as dominate, if not more dominate than last year’s team. This should stop an LSU offense that is primarily centered around Leonard Fournette. On offense, RB Corey Clement returns after missing 9 games last season. He will provide a major boost to a below average offense.
Gorm’s Guess: LSU 31 Wisconsin 24: This will be a great game. A key story line of this game is LSU defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda, who spent the previous 3 seasons at Wisconsin. This will prove to be beneficial to the Tigers as they will be able to break down the Wisconsin defense. That and Leonard Fournette is arguably the most dominant offensive player in the SEC. For these reasons, the Tigers will be able to take some steam off of Les Miles supposed hot seat.
South Alabama at Mississippi State
Why South Alabama will win: The Jaguar offense has a lot of potential. All of that is centered around whether sophomore Quarterback, Dallas Davis will be able to take control of the offense. Tight End Gerald Everett is one of the best players in the Sun Belt and is one of the top NFL prospects on the team. Defensively, the linebackers and secondary will lead the team. They should be able to slow down the Mississippi State passing attack.
Why Mississippi State will win: The Bulldogs will turn to a new starting quarterback following the graduation of Dak Prescott. The Mississippi State offense will not be the strong suit, but defensively they look to improve on last year’s team. Unlike the Jaguars, the front seven of Mississippi State is going to be its’ strength, which in turn should slow down the main weapon of the Jaguars. The secondary leaves some major question marks, but luckily it should not mean much when it comes to playing a weak Jaguar team.
Gorm’s Guess: Mississippi State 45 South Alabama 7: While the Bulldogs are entering a rebuilding year, they are still much better than South Alabama. Defensively, the Bulldogs will be able to stop a very one-dimensional offense.
Missouri at West Virginia
Why Missouri will win: The Missouri defense will continue to be the strong suit of the team. They return all but three starters and have one of the best defensive lines in the nation. Offensively, new Head Coach Barry Odom, brought in Josh Heupal, an Oklahoma assistant, to try and revitalize a bad offense from a year ago. QB Drew Lock returns and will look to improve on his freshman season. He will have talented targets to throw to and will hope to improve.
Why West Virginia will win: Quarterback Skyler Howard returns to an offense that flourished last season. (Probably due to the loss of Shannon Dawson) He also returns four starters on the offensive line. RB Rushel Shell will take the reigns and look to add another facet to the powerful Mountaineer offense. Defensively, the Mountaineers will look to replace seven starters. The major question mark is at linebacker, but without much of a Mizzou offense, this should not be a major worry Week One.
Gorm’s Guess: West Virginia 38 Missouri 21: The Mountaineer offense is extremely good and will look to attack the Missouri defense. If the Missouri defensive line can find a way to pressure Skyler Howard, then this game could be closer than advertised.
Appalachian State at #9 Tennessee
Why Appalachian State will win: The Mountaineers return 15 starters (6 offense and 9 defense) from last year’s 11-2 team. Running back will be a major strength as Marcus Cox returns to the fold after rushing for more than 1,400 yards a season ago. This should provide a major test for the Volunteer defensive line that has a lot of question marks going into this season. Defensively, they look to improve on last years impressive defense. Linebackers Eric Boggs and John Law, who combined for 176 tackles last season, return for another season. Overall, the Mountaineers have to find a way to stop Joshua Dobbs and have to be able to run the football with success to even have a chance at the upset.
Why Tennessee will win: Joshua Dobbs is one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC and he is joined by a Tennessee team that lost only 5 total starters. The Vols had a rough start to last season, losing to Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas all at the end of the game. Luckily, this game will not be one of those games. The only main question mark is in the secondary with only one returning starter. With all of that being said, the Vols should not have to worry about this one.
Gorm’s Guess: Tennessee 42 Appalachian State 14: This will be a game that is close at the half. The Mountaineers are a good enough team to keep up, but not for four quarters. The Vols are by far the better team and will prove it.
#16 UCLA at Texas A&M
Why UCLA will win: Quarterback Josh Rosen has been ranked by multiple groups as being the most NFL ready quarterback in the nation. Other than Rosen, the main strength of the Bruins is probably their secondary. Safety Randall Goforth is showing signs of a breakout senior year and could cause issues for A&M quarterback Trevor Knight. An underrated defensive line will give a questionable Aggie offensive line fits.
Why Texas A&M will win: This game is quite possibly the most important game in the Kevin Sumlin era. The Aggies lose? Fans will start chomping at the bit to see the success that Sumlin showed during the Manziel years. A win? It would be key for Sumlin to try and revitalize the fans in favor of him. DE Myles Garrett is one of the best players in the country and should have a field day against a rough Bruin offensive line. Offensively, the Aggies turn to, Oklahoma transfer, Trevor Knight and running back Keith Ford to try and attack the Bruin defense.
Gorm’s Guess: Texas A&M 24 UCLA 21: If this game was played anywhere other than College Station, I’d easily take the Bruins. With that being said, I think the fans will help lead the Aggies to an early season upset.
#4 Florida State vs. #11 Ole Miss (Orlando)
Why Florida State will win: Defensively, the Seminoles are one of the more well rounded teams in college football. Florida State has two of the better pass rushers in DeMarcus Walker and Josh Sweat. Along with a great defense, the ‘Noles bring in one of the most talented running backs in the ACC in Dalvin Cook. The Seminoles will have to be sure to find a stronger passing attack and not have to rely heavily on Cook. Redshirt Freshman, Deondre Francois, will look to spread out the offense against a talented but young Ole Miss defense.
Why Ole Miss will win: East Mississippi Community College Alum, Chad Kelly is back for his senior season and looks to improve on his numbers from last season. Kelly threw for over 4,000 yards and rushed for over 500 combining for 41 touchdowns. Even though he lost receivers LaQuon Treadwell and Cody Core, he still has plenty of weapons. Damore’ea Stringfellow and Quincy Adeboyejo will head the receiving core for the Rebels. Defensively, the Rebels have to replace a lot, but do have a lot of talent with edge rushers Marquis Haynes and Fadol Brown.
Gorm’s Guess: Florida State 35 Ole Miss 31: Quarterback Chad Kelly will be able to keep the Rebels in this game, but the question marks on the Ole Miss offensive line plays right into the hands of the Seminoles defense. This game will come down to one defense having to make a big stop on a late drive and the more likely to do that is the Seminoles.
Other Games of the Week
#3 Oklahoma at #15 Houston
Why Oklahoma will win: Quarterback Baker Mayfield is extremely talented and should be able to dominate a rough Houston secondary. The Sooners have a dominating running back tandem with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. If there is a defensive line talented enough to stop Greg Ward Jr. it would be the Sooner defensive front. They must find a way to slow him down and make him one dimensional. If that happens, the Sooners could win this one by double digits.
Why Houston will win: Like Oklahoma, the Cougars bring forth an extremely talented quarterback in Greg Ward Jr. The Cougars welcome in transfer RB Duke Catalon who should be able to take some pressure off of Ward Jr.’s shoulders. Defensively, Houston forces turnovers and a lot of them. In fact, they lead the FBS by forcing 108 turnovers since 2013. Also, the Oklahoma offensive line is not good. If the Cougars can pressure Mayfield and force him into turnovers. They could pull off the upset.
Gorm’s Guess: Oklahoma 44 Houston 38: This is one of the best non-conference game this season. Houston will be fired up for this game and will perform. With that being said, the Sooner defense should be able to take away the Cougar rushing attack and in turn slow down the offense.
#10 Notre Dame at Texas
Why Notre Dame will win: The Fighting Irish have a question mark at the quarterback position, but it definitely isn’t a bad one. They have two quarterbacks who very well could start this game. DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire could both start and win this game against the Longhorns. Even though they only return 4 starters, the defense could be better than last year. They of course will be tasked with slowing down an improving Longhorn offense.
Why Texas will win: Charlie Strong must win this game. In two years, Strong has only won 11 games and Longhorn fans are starting to get antsy. The big question mark for Texas lies at the quarterback position. True Freshman, Shane Buechele is the projected starter, but starting a true freshman against a good defensive front could pose problems for the Longhorns. Luckily, Texas has an extremely talented offensive line that should be able to stop the Irish’s pass rush.
Gorm’s Guess: Notre Dame 38 Texas 17: While this will be closer than last year’s beatdown in South Bend. The question mark at quarterback for Texas leaves a lot of questions to ask.
Boston College vs. Georgia Tech (Dublin, Ireland)
Why Boston College will win: The Eagles return 8 starters from last year’s defense that finished as the best in the nation. The major question for the Eagles is offensively. Patrick Towles will take over the reigns of the Eagle offense. He, like at Kentucky, has a good running back to take some pressure off of him. Jon Hillman rushed for over 800 yards in his freshman season.
Why Georgia Tech will win: The Yellow Jackets bring in the option attack and pose an interesting test for the Boston College defense. They bring in a rushing attack that ranked in the top ten in the nation a year ago. Defensively, Georgia Tech does not have much to show. Their defense isn’t bad, but it really isn’t good.
Gorm’s Guess: Boston College 17 Georgia Tech 14: I gotta stick with Patrick Towles here. This game being in Ireland could play a big role in which team takes control, because of that you have to see which team has the better defense. The Eagles will lean onto the defense and Towles will do enough to get their first conference win since 2014.
Charlotte at #19 Louisville
Why Charlotte will win: Well, the offense has big play potential that could cause the Cards difficulty. Also, the 49ers have NOTHING to lose in this game. This mentality can either be helpful, or cause more mistakes.
Why Louisville will win: Kentucky fans learned the hard way that Lamar Jackson is really good. Kentucky could not find a way to stop the read option effect that Jackson brought and the 49ers sure won’t either. Defensively, the Cards have multiple future NFL players that will be able to absolutely dominate Charlotte.
Gorm’s Guess: Louisville 56 Charlotte 10: Louisville will absolutely dominate this game. As much as it disappoints me to admit, the Cards are going to be really good and could possibly compete for an ACC championship.