SEC football preview, Week 1: Georgia, Clemson battle in (the other) Death Valley

Scott Cunningham

The SEC slate got off to a rousing start on Thursday night with South Carolina, Vandy and Ole Miss taking the field. Here’s what the rest of the conference will be up to on Saturday. Games are listed in order of general watchability.

The opening night of SEC football was so exciting Thursday, Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews lost his lunch on the field. If the first two games of the week were that good, think of how thrilling the weekend should be!

(All times listed are Central.)

Georgia @ Clemson: 7 p.m., ABC

Georgia is expected to make a serious run at a crystal ball this year, and an opening win at Clemson would certainly send a message to the rest of the conference. Clemson's Sammy Watkins will probably do Sammy Watkins things, but Georgia brings back a lot of pieces from a team that was an obvious spike to stop the clock away from the BCS title game last season. Related note: Until I am more clear on the College and Magnolia profanity policies, I'd do well to avoid writing about Dabo Swinney.

The pick: Grown men who bark in public

LSU "@" TCU: 8 p.m., ESPN

TCU is a well-coached football team that inexplicably finds itself in every game, no matter how good its opponent is. I don't buy into the "LSU is down" talk one bit, but I think TCU manages to make Les Miles uncomfortable in the fourth quarter. They're playing this one at the JerryDome in Dallas, so it should be a fun game to watch.

The pick: Open-finger-clapping enthusiasts

Mississippi St. "@" Oklahoma St.: 2:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

It doesn't feel like many Auburn fans really hate Mississippi State as much as we should. You guys do remember the role that the Bulldogs played in "CamGate," correct? You've experienced a game day teeming with those damned cowbells, yes? Regardless, Okie State had three (!) quarterbacks throw for at least 1,000 yards last year. If the Bulldogs' secondary doesn't step up, it could be a long day for CLANGA at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

The pick: T-Boone Pickens

Alabama "@" Virginia Tech: 4:30 p.m., ESPN

This has the potential to get ugly in a hurry. The only reason Auburn fans would want to watch this game is if they had some kind of misguided bitterness toward Scot Loeffler and wanted to glean enjoyment from watching his offense get absolutely throttled by the Tide defense. If that describes you, you should probably take some deep breaths and watch some Netflix instead.

The pick: Sauron

Toledo @ Florida: 11:21 a.m., ESPN3

At first glance, this seems like a typical opening week cupcake game for an SEC giant, but you should know that Toledo is sneaky good. The Rockets return their top passer, rusher and receiver from a team that won nine games last year. Florida's offense may be erratic again, but the Gators' talent on defense alone should be more than enough to win this one -- just don't be surprised if this is a competitive game at halftime.

The pick: Coach Boom

Rice @ Texas A&M: 12 p.m., ESPN

The Owls started last season by losing five of their first six games, and then finished by winning six of their last seven. Johnny Manziel is suspended for the first half. Shouldn't really matter which Rice team shows up, so long as Manziel doesn't get framed for murder between now and the second-half kickoff. #SOURCES.

The pick: The market value of Manziel-signed memorabilia

Kentucky @ Western Kentucky: 6 p.m., ESPNews

The Hilltoppers beat Kentucky last year when their rising star head coach Willie Taggart dialed up a perfect double pass for a two-point conversion conversion in OT. I'm sure Big Blue Nation will have revenge on its mind. Or basketball. Probably just basketball.

The pick: Big Red

Louisiana-Lafayette @ Arkansas: 3 p.m., ESPN3

In addition to having the one of the greatest team names in all of college athletics, the Ragin' Cajuns have been known to scare some of the big boys of college football. You may remember that Florida had to score 14 points in the final 1:42 of regulation to beat ULL last season -- including a blocked punt that was returned for the winning touchdown as time expired. Arkansas should be able to out-talent these guys, but would anything Arkansas does poorly surprise you at this point?

The pick: This lady

Austin Peay @ Tennessee: 5 p.m., ESPN3

Austin Peay was the Tennessee governor who signed the Butler Act into law, which prohibited public schools from teaching the theory of evolution -- which then led to the world famous Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tenn. That is much more interesting that this game will be.

The pick: fluorescent orange

Murray State @ Missouri: 6 p.m., ESPN3

Missouri is looking to bounce bazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

(Sorry, I nodded off while trying to write a preview for this game. You should probably just try to avoid it. Let's just say that Missouri will probably win.)

The pick: Mizzou

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