While Week Two of the college football season still finds many SEC teams playing tuneups against weaker opponents, this year it also features an important non-conference rematch, an interesting east/west rotation game, and an early date between two brand new coaches to compliment the annual divisional rivalry that always sets the tone for these two teams:
GAME OF THE WEEK
South Carolina at Georgia
In terms of what to expect, few SEC contests have offered as much predicitability as this rivalry over the last five years:
- 2004: Georgia 20 - South Carolina 16
- 2005: Georgia 17 - South Carolina 15
- 2006: Georgia 18 - South Carolina 0
- 2007: South Carolina 16 - Georgia 12
- 2008: Georgia 14 - South Carolina 7
So yeah...take the under. While Stephen Garcia will almost certainly still be trying to prove himself to the Carolina faithful, Georgia has no rest until mid-October: we'll look at each of these games as we go, but how about this for the most difficult opening half of the season: at Oklahoma State, vs South Carolina, at Arkansas, vs Arizona State, vs LSU, at Tennessee. Georgia could play well and still leave Mark Richt feeling a little toasty before Columbus Day.
Between the opener in Stillwater and the absence of Stafford and Moreno (and what Chris Low called the biggest no-show of the spring of any SEC player for Caleb King), there's no reason to think that this year's installment of Carolina/UGA will break the trend of the last five years. And between the average margin of victory and the fact that SC won the last time out in Athens (a game that had a hand in costing Georgia a chance at the National Championship), no reason to think that Carolina can't get it done. Could Georgia start 0-2?
OTHER GAMES OF INTEREST
Mississippi State at Auburn
Vanderbilt at LSU
UCLA at Tennessee
Instant opportunity for Dan Mullen and Gene Chizik down on The Plains, and only one of them can seize it. Any win is a big win for Mississippi State, and after last season I'm sure the Tigers will feel likewise until they return to some sense of normalcy. Still, said normalcy is the reason Chizik has a ton more to lose in this encounter, especially considering he'll face West Virginia the following week and has a date with Lane Kiffin in Knoxville two weeks later. You don't want to lose to the other new guys in this league, and Chizik and Nick Saban are the only ones who'll see all of them this year.
Hey look, Vanderbilt gets to be included in a sentence with the word "interesting" in it! One bowl appearance will get you this far in a game that's also the first SEC opportunity in Baton Rouge for John Chavis, who's well versed at stopping Vanderbilt. If Vandy wants to stay relevant, they need to at least stay close in this game; the schedule just isn't as friendly as it was last season for these guys - the SEC West rotation sends LSU and Ole Miss their way in consecutive weeks.
And then there's the rematch of the game that started it all for Lane Kiffin in Knoxville - will he thank Rick Neuheisel in the pregame handshake for allowing him to have this opportunity? The Vols have an opening schedule that will raise the bar by a factor of 10 each time out, from Western Kentucky to UCLA to The Swamp in three weeks. The Bruins bring back plenty of players from the team that beat the Vols last year, but lost their defensive coordinator and will be giving it a go with someone other than Kevin Craft at quarterback...which is good and bad depending on how you look at a guy throwing four interceptions in a winning effort. Redshirt freshman Kevin Prince is expected to get the nod to start the season (against San Diego State) - aside from a similar Craft-like blowup, expect him to take the snaps in Knoxville as well. Tennessee fans are going to cut Lane Kiffin some slack - we think - but probably not for losing this one.
THE REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Troy at Florida
FIU at Alabama
SE Louisiana at Ole Miss
(Bye Week: Arkansas, Kentucky)