Chaos, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary is “complete disorder and confusion.” While this doesn’t completely describe Week One of SEC football, maybe a synonym like disarray might be a good way to define college football in general in this 2020 COVID-19 environment and at the same time cover conference play in the SEC.
Usually a conference that prides itself on defense, the conference flexed its offensive might in a big way Saturday; thus the term disarray. Seven teams scored at least 29 points in their conference openers.
Ole Miss hung 35 on Florida, which in turn hung 51 on the Rebels. The LSU-Mississippi State game turned into a shootout with the Dawgs pulling the upset 44-34 in Baton Rouge. Georgia, behind its fourth-string quarterback, scored 37 points. Alabama cruised to 38 points, while Tennessee posted 31 in Columbia against South Carolina.
Last week, this fearless prognosticator went 5-2 with his predictions (predictions in bold).
Auburn 29, Kentucky 13
Miss. State 44, LSU 34
Georgia 37, Arkansas 10
Florida 51, Ole Miss 35
Texas A&M 17, Vandy 12
Alabama 38, Missouri 19
Tennessee 31, South Carolina 27
South Carolina at Florida: The Gators’ Kyle Trask threw six touchdown passes against Ole Miss, four of them to Kyle Watts, who looked like a Madden cheat code player himself. The Gators’ tight end had eight catches for 170 yards. Now I’m not saying Krask and Watts put up the same numbers against the South Carolina defense, but they will have pretty good nights respectively. This game is a must-win scenario for USC and coach Will Muschamp. If the Cocks fall to 0-2, the hot seat gets that much hotter and the buzzards will begin circling the carcass. The Gators have too much firepower in the Swamp. I’ll take Florida to go to 2-0.
PREDICTION: Gators 38, Gamecocks 20
Missouri at Tennessee: The Tigers’ new head coach Eliah Drinkwitz had a tough SEC baptism facing the road grader that is Alabama. Drinkwitz and the Tigers should find the sledding a little easier in Knoxville. Drinkwitz coached at what we mountain folk call “across the mountain” in Boone, North Carolina at AAC power Appalachian State, so he is familiar with the Vols. The Vols will come in feeling confident after a big win at South Carolina and rightfully so. Show Me will come in looking to prove themselves against a ranked foe. Something about this game smells like an upset to me. So what the hay.
PREDICTION: Show Me 30, Rocky Top 28
Texas A&M at Alabama: This matchup is probably the biggest game in the SEC this weekend. It’s time to put up or shut up for the Aggies. When A&M coach Jimbo Fisher was hired in College Station (for seven years and $49 million), the program pointed to his third season as the season the Aggies became an SEC powerhouse. After defeating a Vanderbilt squad Saturday, Gig Em’ has the Tide in their sights. The bad news is the Tide is getting things going once again toward a national championship run. If I have learned anything, it’s don’t pick against Nick Saban and the Tide at home, especially in a big game. It’s the Tide in this one relatively comfortably.
PREDICTION: Bama 36, Aggies 18
Auburn (1-0) at Georgia (1-0): This is a big game between the hedges in Athens. If Tiger signal caller Bo Nix has the time to make plays as he did against Kentucky, War Eagle wins this one. But not so fast, my friend. The Dawgs may have found their quarterback in Stetson Bennett IV, a former walk-on who came off the bench to spark UGA’s offense versus Arkansas. Give me Georgia’s defense coming up big late to close the game.
PREDICTION: Georgia 34, Auburn 26
LSU at Vanderbilt: Oh poor Vandy. Coming off a tight loss at Texas A&M where the Commodores gave a great account of themselves, Vanderbilt welcomes an angry Tiger squad to Music City. I will give coach Derek Mason credit. His guys play hard and don’t give up anything without a fight. Vandy will scrap and claw for 60 minutes against the Bayou Bengals. I just don’t think the Dores have the firepower to pull the upset. In a closer one than many might think, I’ll take the Tigers to get their first win.
PREDICTION: LSU 35, Vandy 14
Arkansas at Mississippi State: The Air Raid is officially in the SEC in a big way. The Dawgs’ KJ Costello looked like a video game quarterback in the bayou. All he did was throw for 623 yards on 36 completions and five touchdowns. Kudos go to “The Pirate," MSU ball coach Mike Leach, for putting in this type of offense in such a short time to prepare for the season. While Arkansas is improved and competing under new head coach Sam Pittman, look for Costello and Leach to put up more obscene numbers in Starkville to go to 2-0.
PREDICTION: MSU 52, Hogs 21
Ole Miss at Kentucky: And, finally, the Fightin’ Lane Kiffin’s visit the LEX for a matchup with the Cats. Both squads come off losses but had their moments of success against quality SEC foes. Rebel quarterback threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns against Florida and the offense had 613 yards for the game. The issue though is the Ole Miss defense which got gashed for 642 yards and should provide opportunities for the Kentucky offense to make some plays. The Cats will be prepared for the matchup. Look for UK to play to their strengths -- ball control and power football. I think the Cats will make enough plays late to win their first SEC game in a wild one.
PREDICTION: Cats 35, Rebels 31
Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist from Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and at A Sea of Blue, KySportsStyle.com Magazine and HarlanCountySports.com.