It's finally upon us! College football begins this week, with a lot of games on Thursday, a lot more on Saturday and the Tennessee Volunteers open at home on Sunday night. I have always had some success picking SEC games, (Unless I choose winners based upon my heart rather than my brain) so I decided this year to do it once again. Here we go for week number one:
Temple at Vanderbilt: The Commodores will still be pretty good, though a bowl game will be hard to find this season. Vandy went to a bowl for three straight years under Coach James Franklin, but the talent level drops off a bit in Coach Derek Mason's first year as Franklin is now at Penn State trying to restore the Nittany Lions to national prominence. Temple should be better than the 2-10 mark the Owls put together in 2013, but Vandy should still win a close game in Nashville. Vandy 23 Temple 14.
Boise State vs Ole Miss (Atlanta Georgia Dome): This not the same Boise State team from just five seasons ago. The Broncos are still playing marquee match ups, and after winning three in a row, Boise has now lost two straight, including a 38-6 loss at Washington last season. At the same time, this is also not the same Ole Miss team from five seasons ago. The Johnny Rebs should be very good and could even challenge for the SEC West. Ole Miss should handle Boise State by at least 2-3 touchdowns. Ole Miss 31 Boise State 14.
Texas A&M at South Carolina: There are more question marks surrounding the Aggies than there are surrounding the Gamecocks; mainly at quarterback. Unless Coach Kevin Sumlin has signed the second coming of Johnny Unitas, there is no way that his quarterback can equal Johnny Manziel. On the other hand, this could be as good as any team that Coach Steve Spurrier has had at South Carolina. This could still be a good game however, but not that close. USC wins by two touchdowns. South Carolina 33 Texas A&M 17.
Idaho at Florida: While most SEC teams are opening against quality opponents, the Florida Gators open with Idaho. Should be a pretty easy time for the Gators in the "Swamp". Florida 52 Idaho 6.
U.T. Martin at Kentucky: The Wildcats won't beat many people in Coach Mike Stoops' second season, but they will beat the Skyhawks handily at Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky 48 U.T. Martin 14.
West Virginia vs Alabama (Atlanta Georgia Dome) Even though 'Bama should be a little bit down the Crimson Tide is still among the two or three best teams in the country. They are slight favorites to win the tough SEC West and they're big favorites to whip the Mountaineers on Saturday. Keep in mind that Alabama is also on a two game losing skid from last year. (Auburn and Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl) This is a new year however and Coach Saban will have the Tide ready to roll. Alabama 44 West Virginia 10.
Arkansas at Auburn: Arkansas is still a pretty bad football team and Auburn is very, very good. That doesn't bode well for the Hogs in their season opener. Nick Marshall and company should get all they want and then some against the Razorbacks. Auburn 55 Arkansas 20.
Southern Mississippi at Mississippi State: The Bulldogs should be a pretty good football team in 2014, but they may struggle a bit in their season opener. Though they should prevail, their cross-state rivals could give them fits. Mississippi State 27 Southern Miss 17.
Wisconsin vs LSU (Houston, TX) Neutral field for the Bengal Tigers especially against good competition could make this game one of the big opening week match ups. I'm going against my heart in this one, which is usually the right thing to do. The Badgers will score the win against LSU in a low scoring contest.
Wisconsin 24 LSU 17.
South Dakota at Missouri: As the Tigers try to duplicate their amazing run to the SEC East title and the SEC Championship Game a year ago, this opener in Columbus will have nothing to do it. No pressure at all for Mizzou as the Tigers will roll handily. Missouri 42 South Dakota 13.
Clemson at Georgia: Georgia should be really good again, and even though Clemson should also be a good team, they will be much better by mid-season. The Bulldogs are a nine point pick in this one, and when you add in the "revenge" factor from Clemson's win a year ago in the Palmetto state, Georgia is a clear-cut choice. Not so fast.....the Bulldogs will win, but it will be scary in Athens. Georgia 24 Clemson 21.
Utah State at Tennessee: Utah State will be coming to Knoxville as a confident football team, and they should be. They won nine games last year and they have no pressure at all. Tennessee on the other hand has a lot of pressure. They can ill afford a loss to open the season if they have any shot at all of winning at least six games and going to a bowl game. The Vols should be a better team than they were a year ago, and I still stand by my pick of seven wins and a bowl for the Big Orange. Tennessee 30 Utah State 23.
Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.
His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.
He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.
In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have four grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, DellaMae and CoraLee.
To contact Randy: firstname.lastname@example.org