SEC preview and predictions – Week 1
By Jess Nicholas
TideFans.com Editor-in-Chief
Sept. 1, 2009

Last season’s record: 68-29 (70.1%)


The 2009 SEC football season kicks off this week with a mixed slate of games, some very good (Alabama-Virginia Tech, Georgia-Oklahoma State) and some forgettable games meant simply to pad athletic department coffers. Let’s take a look at the games happening around the conference.

GEORGIA SOUTHERN at FLORIDA
Speaking of coffer-filling games, this is one of them. The defending national champion Florida Gators open their season by hosting a team that won’t stay within 50 points. The object of this game is not to get Tim Tebow hurt. Everything else is just gravy.
Florida 62
Ga. Southern 7


ALABAMA vs. VIRGINIA TECH (Atlanta, Ga.)
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GEORGIA at OKLAHOMA STATE
Georgia suffers from horrible timing in this one, as QB Matthew Stafford is gone but most of Oklahoma State’s playmakers remain. Worse yet, the game is in Oklahoma. New Bulldog quarterback Joe Cox could go a long way towards snuffing out criticism if he can just minimize mistakes in this game and not be the reason Georgia goes down in defeat. Georgia figures to be a rare underdog in this one.
Oklahoma St. 27
Georgia 17


MIAMI-OHIO vs. KENTUCKY (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Why this game is being played at a neutral site is beyond logic. Kentucky isn’t going to gain much by being “showcased” against a mid-level MAC team. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, this also turns into a trap game because of a host of injured players on the UK sideline. Look for this one to be closer than most expect.
Kentucky 23
Miami-OH 17


SOUTH CAROLINA at NORTH CAROLINA STATE
The Gamecocks get a firm test out of the chute in 2009 by traveling across state lines to face an improving North Carolina State Wolfpack team. South Carolina’s schedule is not easy in 2009, so every win is crucial to the team’s postseason chances. It’s imperative the Gamecocks get off to a quick start by taking care of their ACC foe.
South Carolina 23
NC State 17


WESTERN KENTUCKY at TENNESSEE
2009 will be Western Kentucky’s first year as a full member of the NCAA’s Division-IA. Tennessee is raring to go under new head coach Lane Kiffin, so the amount of emotion on the field in Knoxville ought to be pretty high despite the misbalanced matchup.
Tennessee 40
W. Kentucky 10


WESTERN CAROLINA at VANDERBILT
Never thought you’d see this writing in print: “The Commodores are strong favorites and a big win is expected.”
Vanderbilt 41
W. Carolina 7


MISSOURI STATE at ARKANSAS (Little Rock, Ark.)
Bob Petrino’s newly developed air show gets its first test as Arkansas hosts an overmatched Missouri State squad. Look for Ryan Mallett to have a career day throwing the ball against a Swiss cheese secondary.
Arkansas 55
Missouri St. 14


LOUISIANA TECH at AUBURN
Auburn draws this week’s upset special, a game Louisiana Tech team led by Derek Dooley. The Tigers are reeling from several preseason injuries to its defense, while the Bulldogs could be one of the mid-major upset busters. This one figures to be a lot closer than any Auburn fan wants to see.
Auburn 24
Louisiana Tech 21


LOUISIANA STATE at WASHINGTON
LSU travels to Washington to take on the once-proud Huskies, who are in full rebuilding mode at the moment. Washington figures to give LSU a good game until the difference in depth takes over. This will be an excellent game for LSU’s Jordan Jefferson to get comfortable at quarterback before the bulk of the SEC season starts.
LSU 38
Washington 17


MISSISSIPPI at MEMPHIS
Ole Miss travels to Memphis for its traditional opener. The Tigers don’t figure to be in the same ballpark as the Rebels, talent-wise, but this series has had some screwy endings over the years. If Ole Miss gets caught napping here, the expected Cinderella season could turn into a pumpkin before it even gets truly started.
Ole Miss 27
Memphis 17


JACKSON STATE at MISSISSIPPI STATE
MSU gets a soft opener in Dan Mullen’s debut as head coach. Look for the Bulldogs to put up massive amounts of yardage and points and convince themselves that the spread-option attack is ready to roll in Starkville – until a SEC game arrives on the schedule, anyway.
Mississippi St. 40
Jackson State 10