In my bow to superstition, no predictions on Alabama football. All picks to win are mine and do NOT follow Vegas lines.
Alabama vs. North Texas
No. 2 Alabama (2-0, 0-0 SEC) hosts North Texas (0-2, 0-1 Sun Belt)
7:30pm ET ■ FoxSportsSouth ■ ESPN3
Series record: Alabama leads 3-0
Saturday, Sep. 17, 2011. Fox Sports South announcers will be Bob Rathbun and Tim Couch, with Kristina Akra on the field.
Things to Look For: WR Darius Hanks – The senior receiver returns after a 2 game suspension and should be an important asset in the passing game, having equaled Marquis Maze’s receiving production in the 2010 season. QB Phillip Sims – Will the redshirt freshman have an opportunity overcome his poor outing vs. Kent State and push for more playing time from AJ McCarron? LB Courtney Upshaw – Battling a nagging hip injury, the pass rush could be impacted if Upshaw has to limit his playing time. LT Cyrus Kouandjio – Will the true freshman see meaningful playing time on an offensive line still being shuffled around? LB Trey DePriest – The true freshman may earn more playing as ILB Chris Jordan continues to battle nagging injuries. S Vinnie Sunseri – The hardest hitter on the team according to Upshaw, Sunseri has been a standout on special teams including a flying body block vs. Penn State that sprung Maze for a key 44-yard punt return.
Quotable Quote: North Texas Head Coach Dan McCarney … "We don't flinch here at North Texas. We're used to it. We embrace it.”
Auburn vs. Clemson
No. 21 Auburn (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at Clemson (2-0, 0-0 ACC)
12:00pm ET ■ ABC
Series record: Auburn leads 34-11-2
Pick to Win: Auburn by 3 points
Saturday, Sep. 17, 2011. ABC announcers will be Dave Pasch, Urban Meyer and Chris Spielman with Quint Kessenich on the field.
Another team that should have beaten Auburn last year, the overtime game was decided by an unusual penalty assessed against Clemson. But the rabbit’s foot that is Auburn football continues its improbable last-minute finishes through its first two games, and who are we to believe Saturday’s game will be any different?
In the last meeting, Clemson won both sides of the line of scrimmage. This year’s Auburn lines may be depleted but are playing stronger than Clemson’s lines. Clemson struggled mightily with lowly Wofford, only pulling ahead in the fourth quarter. And yes, it’s worse to be upstaged by Wofford than Utah State.
Clemson has also installed a new spread offense by a new offensive coordinator and replaced most of its coaching staff, including the offensive line coach. This is a rebuilding year for both teams, so expect a battle of the uglies and nonexistent defenses.
The potential is there for a blowout by Auburn, especially with OC Gus Malzahn’s ability to score points on the turn of a dime. But blowout and Auburn are not synonymous in any stretch of reality as we know it.
Quotable Quote: Birmingham News Kevin Scarbinsky spouting the Auburn party line … “[Urban] Meyer has no business working an Auburn game, there, here or anywhere. The appearance of a conflict of interest is thicker than Joe Paterno’s glasses.”
Florida vs. Tennessee
No. 16 Florida (2-0, 0-0 SEC) hosts Tennessee (2-0, 0-0 SEC)
3:30pm ET ■ CBS
Series record: Florida leads 21-19
Pick to Win: Florida by 7
Saturday, Sep. 17, 2011. CBS announcers will be Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, with Tracy Wolfson on the field.
This game opens SEC play for both teams. Tennessee hasn’t beaten Florida since 2004. Don’t expect Saturday to break the streak.
Vols quarterback Tyler Bray has been impressive with a 78% completion rate for 698 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He is now 6-1 as a returning starter with the added advantage of an offensive line that provides plenty of time to make reads.
The Gators secondary starts two true freshmen, so this game will be a test for the Florida defense that so far has held rock solid. The defensive line has been especially stout, which should prove a deterrent to Tennessee’s not-quite-developed run game.
Florida has fielded a strong rushing game, which should be able to break through the Vols defense and continue scoring at will.
It’s hard to pick against Tennessee in this game knowing that Bray may have another spectacular outing, but depth, experience and the unknown quantity of OC Charlie Weis will carry the day for the Gators.
Quotable Quote: Sporting News Matt Hayes … “Tennessee has to beat Florida to make that game mean something again."
South Carolina vs. Navy
Navy (2-0) at No. 10 South Carolina (2-0, 1-0 SEC)
5:00pm ET ■ ESPN2 ■ ESPN3
Series record: South Carolina leads 4-3
Pick to Win: Navy by 3 points
Saturday, Sep. 17, 2011. ESPN announcers will be Mike Patrick and Craig James with Jeanie Edwards on the field.
Navy leads the nation with its stout rushing, part of its triple option offense. Despite the season-ending loss last weekend of RB Aaron Santiago, the Mids have spread the ball among four other rushers with great success. And that’s not counting their dual threat quarterback.
South Carolina has an explosive rushing game, but it all lies on the shoulders of RB Marcus Lattimore. Big shoulders (and legs) to be sure, but so far the Gamecocks offense has been one-dimensional.
South Carolina has been inconsistent stopping the run, as well as in other key defensive areas. Navy will arrive prepared to play and equipped to take advantage of any mistakes by the Cocks. If South Carolina can play a penalty-free, technically sound game, it would be hard to pick against them. But … this is South Carolina, so it’s really not so hard after all.
Quotable Quote: South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier … "[W]e've got a lot of work to do, a lot of coaching. Players got to hopefully learn how to play this game or we're going to be in trouble this year."