The best of the SEC West are going to have their hands full in Week 1 of the 2016 NCAA football season. Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M will all face tough non-conference foes, most notably from the Pac-12 and ACC. Who (if any) can escape Week 1 unscathed? Read on below for our overview of the marquee Week 1 matchups featuring SEC teams.
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2016 NCAA Football SEC Week 1 Picks
Saturday, September 3
LSU (-10) vs. Wisconsin (+10) (3:30 PM ET)
Fournette was instrumental in LSU going 7-0 to start last season. Only Alabama’s otherworldly defense was able to significantly slow him down. He, along with the Tigers’ own talent-laden defense – now led by former Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda – are the team’s two main strengths. Quarterback Brandon Harris is the team’s biggest question mark, but he should have the sizable edge in both talent and experience over his Wisconsin counterpart, Bart Houston.
Writer’s Prediction: Wisconsin can’t score enough points on LSU to keep it close. Take the Tigers to cover as -10 favorites.
UCLA (+3) at Texas A&M (-3) (3:30 PM ET)
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen led the Bruins to an 8-4 season as a freshman, and is widely tipped for stardom in his sophomore season. He loses a large chunk of his receiving corps from last season, but his offensive line should still be very good. The Bruins also boast an excellent secondary, and will welcome Eddie Vanderdoes back to the interior of their defensive line.
Texas A&M similarly went 8-4 last season, but both of their quarterbacks transferred out of the program. Graduate transfer Trevor Knight will have the experience to lead the offense, though, and will have some very good receiving weapons to work with. However, the defense’s ability to rush Rosen will be the Aggies biggest strength against UCLA. The excellent Myles Garrett has posted 22.5 sacks over his first two seasons at College Station.
Writer’s Prediction: Garrett makes Rosen’s life miserable as Texas A&M (-3) takes the opening week win at home.
Alabama (-11.5) vs. USC (+11.5) (8:00 PM ET)
Alabama once again experienced a lot of attrition from its national title-winning team, but once again, there’s more than enough talent to take their place. The Tide were first in run defense and tied for second in scoring defense last season, and should remain one of most dominant defensive units in the country. And regardless of who starts at quarterback, they won’t veer too far from their run-first offense, especially at the start of the season.
On the flip side, USC boasts a host of excellent skill position talent which return from last season’s 8-5 campaign, but has a new quarterback in Max Browne. The Trojans also have a terrific secondary, but one that might be called upon as often by Alabama. Instead, USC’s front seven and its ability to slow down the Tide on the ground will be the crucial aspect of this matchup.
Writer’s Prediction: Alabama beats up on Browne and the Trojans offense. Take the Tide (-11.5) to cover pretty comfortably.
Clemson (-7.5) at Auburn (+7.5) (9:00 PM ET)
Clemson came oh-so-close to winning the national championship last season. Star quarterback and +350 Heisman favorite Deshaun Watson is still around, though, and he’s ready to lead the Tigers in another run to the title. He’ll have excellent skill position talent surrounding him to put points on the board. However, the defense – and the D-line in particular – is pretty depleted this season after the departures of their key personnel.
Meanwhile, Auburn is still reeling from a very disappointing 6-6 season in 2015. But they’ll get to start the season at home, and the pressure won’t be on them. Sean White is still a major question mark at quarterback, and the dismissal of top rusher Jovon Robinson will hurt an already limited offense. But Auburn has two very good lines that will battle in the trenches and grind all game long.
Writer’s Prediction: Clemson (-7.5) has too many weapons on offense, and manages to cover on the road against Auburn.
Monday, September 5
Ole Miss (+4.5) vs. Florida State (-4.5) (8:00 PM ET)
Ole Miss has arguably the best quarterback in the SEC: Chad Kelly. The senior was red-hot in non-conference play last season, albeit against much, much weaker opposition. He should still have a deep receiving corps at his disposal this season despite the loss of Laquon Treadwell. The defense is also expected to be pretty decent, especially up front.
Florida State, on the other hand, will start a freshman in Deondre Francois at quarterback. On the bright side, though, the Noles are pretty much stacked in just about every other position on the field. Star running back Dalvin Cook, a +1,000 Heisman candidate, can help ease the pressure off of Francois. Meanwhile, the defense remains stacked with studs and playmakers like Derwin James.
Writer’s Prediction: FSU’s defense swarms Kelly as the Noles (-4.5) roll to a comfortable win over Ole Miss.
|Thurs, Sept. 1||Appalachian State (+20.5) at Tennessee (-20.5)||60.0|
|Sat, Sept. 3||South Carolina (+4.5) at Vanderbilt (-4.5)||43.0|
|South Alabama (+26) at Mississippi State (-26)||54.5|
|Missouri (+10) at West Virginia (-10)||50.5|
|UCLA (+3) at Texas A&M (-3)||53.5|
|LSU (-10) at Wisconsin (+10)||44.5|
|Louisiana Tech (+26) at Arkansas (-26)||52.0|
|North Carolina (+3) vs. Georgia (-3)||56.0|
|Southern Mississippi (+6.5) at Kentucky (-6.5)||63.5|
|Massachusetts (+36.5) at Florida (-36.5)||50.5|
|USC (+11.5) vs. Alabama (-11.5)||53.5|
|Clemson (-7.5) at Auburn (+7.5)||62.5|
|Mon, Sept. 5||Ole Miss (+4.5) vs. Florida State (-4.5)||57.0|
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