"Game Week" is the rallying cry in locker rooms around the country as college football begins this week. I have always said that college football is like a never-ending novel that brings a new chapter each year. No chapter is the same and the characters often change as much as the results.
I know what you’re thinking, the Southeastern Conference has won seven in row and Alabama the last two, but the script has been different and it will be this year. I will write blog posts twice a week with notes on all the SEC Matchups on Thursday, but here's five to watch this week.
Georgia at Clemson: Plenty of offensive star power to go around in this game starting with the quarterbacks, Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd. I think the storyline to watch is how each defense performs against these high powered "O's." Georgia lost a ton of NFL talent, but they may actually have more player's depth wise that contribute. This will be key against the Tigers up-tempo offense. For Clemson, Dabo Swinney told me this may be the best front seven he has had in Death Valley. The Tigers must take away the run to have a chance.
LSU vs. TCU in Dallas: The Tigers, like Georgia, must replace a lot on defense, but they do have John “The Chief" Chavis. His experience, combined with young talent, keeps LSU from dropping too far on that side of the ball. The interesting matchup will be the new look Tigers offense against the Big 12's best defense in the Horned Frogs. This game also pits two of the best coaches in the country in Les Miles and Gary Patterson.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt: In my opinion this is the toughest game to predict all weekend. How will Vandy’s locker room hold up after the issues this summer and the suspension of wide receiver Chris Boyd? The Commodores have the better defense and that could be the difference. The Rebels may have the better quarterback, however, and that could bode well for them. I think which quarterback, Bo Wallace or Austyn Carta-Samuels, avoids mistakes, that team will win.
North Carolina at South Carolina: Maybe it's because I know both coaches so well, but I think this will be a heck of a game. South Carolina is young at linebacker and the Tar Heels have an experienced quarterback in Bryn Renner. The key for the Heels is up-tempo and throw quickly. If they have success it could slow down defensive end Jadevon Clowney. The Gamecocks should be able to run the ball successfully, but look for an improved passing game for Steve Spurrier. Third down will decide this game, so keep an eye on that stat.
Mississippi St. vs. Oklahoma St: First of all, I was stunned to see what a big underdog the Bulldogs were in this game. I am confident Dan Mullen will have his team ready, especially offensively. Tyler Russell must take care of the ball, but he also must be aggressive and take shots against a bad defense (according to 2012 stats). The Bulldog secondary will be on alert all day as the Cowboys bring one of the best offenses in the country to the opener.
This and that…
All signs point toward Johnny Manziel starting this week against Rice. It will be fun to watch, no doubt, but I’m also looking forward to seeing the new faces around him including running back Brandon Williams.
Florida will be without two starters, guard John Halpio and running back Matt Jones, against Toledo. It is also a real possibility that neither guy will play Week 2 against Miami. The Gators also lost tackle Chaz Green for the season to labrum surgery.
Tray Matthews, who had been banged up for Georgia, practiced on Monday, so he might play this week against Clemson. That would be huge for the Bulldogs secondary. He is a ball-hawking physical player that earned the starting spot in the spring.
Justin Worley was named the starter at Tennessee against Austin Peay. I would expect him to play well this week, although the talent around him is young and inexperienced. Butch Jones likes to run the ball so expect most of Worley’s passes to be play action.