“It’s a unique thing. It’s like playing against your brother. I don’t think anybody who plays in that game can ever forget it. It just doesn’t matter much where it’s played or what somebody’s record is. It’s so intense and tough, but at the same time, it’s family” – Pat Dye Photo courtesy of Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
There was a lot of hype going into the week last week. The SEC was starting up and there were a number of big games slated. Last week did not disappoint. The upsets, comebacks, and record breaking performances last week have me hungry for more. The first couple of weeks of this college football felt like we were sleepwalking. Then last week happened and everything has changed. The excitement and anticipation is back. The suspense, heartbreak and overwhelming joy have all returned. Now, it really feels like college football.
Here in the Palmetto State, the #1 Clemson Tigers get back on the field after having the week off last week as they host Virginia in Death Valley. The Cavaliers won their season opener a week ago against Duke, although the Cavs lived dangerously close to losing early on but were able to pull away late. The Gamecocks of South Carolina travel down to “The Swamp” to take on Kyle Trask and a Gators offense that just decimated Ole Miss a week ago. While the Gamecocks were only a couple of plays and mistakes away from pulling off an upset over Tennessee last week in Columbia, the Gamecocks defense are going up against a different beast this week. The young defense for SC will be no match for this high powered Gators attack.
Out in the Big 12, Oklahoma will try to rebound from their second half debacle against Kansas State by hitting the road to take on an Iowa State team coming off a win. QB Spencer Rattler will have to have a better performance this week against the Cyclones than he did back on Saturday.
Texas made an incredible comeback against Texas Tech last week to stay undefeated. This week the Longhorns will host a down TCU program. The bugaboo for Texas is, and has been, the defense. TCU has offensive weapons and will push the Horns to their limit, but I suspect that Sam Elhinger and the offense will outpace the Frogs offense.
In the SEC, the big time match-ups continue into this week. Lesser games this week include Mississippi State, still celebrating their record setting performance against LSU, will host poor little Arkansas, who surrendered a halftime lead to Georgia. Ole Miss, whose offense will be their saving grace this year, heads to Kentucky. And then LSU, licking their wounds and who are still trying to figure out how to stop K.J. Costello, will take on a Vanderbilt team that gave Texas A&M all they could handle last week. The Commodores will hope their offense will actually show up.
And then there are the big match-ups, that both feature teams from the state of Alabama. First up, the Crimson Tide take on Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa for their home opener. The Tide looked cleaned and polished (at least their first team did) versus a not so good Missouri team last week. The Tide feature a young defense with a number of new faces, but don’t be fooled, this defense will be one of the best in the nation this year. The Tide offense is scary good with guys like Najee Harris and Jaylen Waddle. Mac Jones is no joke either, but he is definitely more of a game manager than Tua ever was.
For Texas A&M, I’m not really sure what to say. I don’t believe the defense will be the problem for the Aggies. A&M fans, and I’m sure Jimbo Fisher, really hoped that QB Kellen Mond would show that he was much improved this year, but the opening game nail biter to Vandy has me worried about this offense. The one bright spot for the Aggies offense is running back Isaiah Spiller. If the Aggies can get him going against this young Tide defense, then maybe they can shock the world. Don’t hold your breath.
And then there is the Top 10 battle between two heated SEC rivals, Georgia and Auburn.
“The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry”
When you think of a classic college football rivalry, one might think of “The Iron Bowl” or “The Game” maybe even Army-Navy. However, there are few that match the history, passion and hatred of that of the rivalry between Auburn and Georgia. The Dawgs and Tigers have been clobbering each other since 1892 when the teams first met at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, GA. Since then, these two Deep South institutions have met on the field 123 more times with only one single break in the rivalry (the two teams did not play in 1943).
This rivalry has been fraught with high stress and memorable moments. In 1980, a true freshman running back from Wrightsville, GA by the name of Herschel Walker helped the No. 1 ranked Bulldogs prevail over their bitter rivals on the road in Auburn. Two years later, Walker would go head-to-head with a Freshman running back from Auburn. You might have heard of him – Bo Jackson. This would be the only meeting between the two great backs in college. Walker and the Bulldogs would claim the victory and push Walker towards winning the Heisman Trophy.
In the modern era of the rivalry, there have been a number of nail biting, jaw dropping finishes and performances. In 2002, with both teams ranked in the Top 25, it was Georgia trailing with just over a minute left in regulation until David Greene hit Michael Johnson for a 19 yard game winning touchdown. In 2005, on the road at Sanford Stadium, the #15 ranked Tigers put their hopes in place kicker John Vaughn, who knocked through a 20 yard field goal with :06 seconds left to play.
However, the most memorable moment in the history of the rivalry came in 2013. After going up 27-7 in the first half, the Tigers would let the lead slip away as QB Aaron Murray led the Dawgs to 21 straight, unanswered points in the fourth quarter to give Georgia a 38-37 lead with just over a minute and a half. Auburn took the ball, gained a first down and then were pushed to a 4th and 19 with :36 seconds left. All they had was on play to keep their hopes alive. One play was all Auburn needed. QB Nick Marshall took the snap, dropped back and heaved the ball deep down the middle of the field. The pass was tipped by two Georgia defenders and miraculously floated, much to his surprise, into the hands of receiver Ricardo Lewis. Lewis would waltz into the endzone untouched to win the game on a 73 yard touchdown. The play, that would later become over shadowed that year by “The Kick Six”, would go on to be known as “The Miracle at Jordan-Hare”.
Georgia-Auburn is one of the most underrated, intense rivalries in all of college football. The teams have met a total of 124 times, with Georgia holding a slim four game lead in the series, thanks to 14 victories since 2002 including eight of the past ten meetings. On Saturday night, the rivalry is once again renewed as the two will square off in Athens, GA. Both teams will enter play ranked in the Top 10 and coming off season opening wins a week ago.
A week ago, the Bulldogs found themselves in a position that shocked the entire college football world, trailing Arkansas at the half. After a miserable offensive performance in the first have that netted the Dawgs just 5 total points, Kirby Smart pulled the hook on starting quarterback D’Wan Mathis in favor of freshman back-up Stetson Bennett IV. Bennett, along with their stingy defense, led the Dawgs to 32 unanswered second half points and an eventual 37-10 win over the Razorbacks. For many, the opening season win was disappointing and rather worrisome. The Dawgs offense will face a tougher task than they did last week against Arkansas.
On the other side, Auburn opened their 2020 season with a much tougher opponent than the rival Bulldogs. Auburn hosted #23 ranked Kentucky at Jorand-Hare last Saturday afternoon. The game was an offensive struggle for both teams as the Tigers went to the half with a one point 8-7 lead after a 100 yard pick six was called back for a targeting penalty. Sophomore QB Bo Nix found finally started to find his rhythm in the second half, finding wide receiver Seth Williams for two touchdowns. Auburn would go on to win 29-13, though the final score does not accurately represent how close this game was. Nix and the Auburn offense will need to figure out how to consistently move the ball this week as Georgia’s defense is much stingier than that of the Wildcats.
Saturday night is setting up to be another historic match-up between these two schools. The stage is set for the 125th meeting in “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry”.
Week Five Predictions
Last week was a great week for me overall. Going 8-2 a week ago, the one game I wish I could take back was the NC State/Virginia Tech game. I had the Wolfpack winning in an upset, but as the game went on, I realized I greatly over estimated the Wolfpack and greatly underestimated the Hokies. This week, I’ll to keep my momentum going. Here a few of this week’s match-ups to watch.
Navy (-7) @ Air Force – 6:00 PM – CBSSN
The 2020 season did not start the way that Navy had imagined when they go absolutely boat raced at home versus BYU. Give credit to the Midshipmen, however, because they were able to follow up that embarrassment with an amazing comeback victory over Tulane a couple of weeks later. Now, Navy is riding a little momentum as they get set to take on service academy rival Air Force. This will be the first time we see the Falcons this season and I have a number of questions about. The Falcons were very good last year, especially on offense, but start quarterback Donald Hammond III will not be back this season after problems between him and the academy. The Falcons come in riding an eight game winning streak dating all the way back to October 5th when they lost at Navy. I believe the win at Tulane has sparked this Midshipmen offense and will that will carry them to a win over their rivals. The Mids take the win.
John – Air Force
Cameron – Navy
#25 Memphis (-2.5) @ SMU – 3:30 PM – ESPN 2
Memphis has had SMU’s number of recent. The Tigers are riding a six game winning streak in the series against their conference foe. The Mustangs have not beaten Memphis since a 34-29 win back in 2013. Last year’s showdown featured the two teams ranked in the Top 25. The Mustangs and Tigers lit up the scoreboard all year last year and their matchup was no different as Memphis edged out SMU in 54-48 win at home. Coming into this year’s contest, SMU hasn’t looked much different from last year. Shane Buechele returns for the Mustangs at quarterback and has already put up over 800 passing yards through three games. The “Pony Express” is averaging 48 points and over 550 yards per game on offense. For Memphis, the last time the Tigers took the field was nearly a month ago, a 37-24 win over Arkansas State back on September 5th. I’m worried that the extended time off for the Tigers might be an issue for them. Rustiness might be a problem. I sense another high scoring game, but I’m going with SMU to steal a win at home over the #25 ranked Tigers.
John – Memphis
Cameron – SMU
South Carolina @ #3 Florida (-17.5) – NOON – ESPN
The Gamecocks defense has a tough task in front of them this week. This Florida offense is not the Florida offenses of old. Kyle Trask can sling it around and he has a number of playmakers in which he can get the ball to. While South Carolina did play a good game against Tennessee last week, Kyle Trask isn’t Jarrett Guarantano. On the flip side, the Florida defense was rather disappointing last week, giving up over 600 yards of offense and 35 points to Ole Miss. South Carolina was able to do some good things on offense against Tennessee, especially through the air. If the Gamecocks can strike and punch Florida in the mouth early, they might have a shot to keep it close, but ultimately I think Florida wins and wins comfortably.
John – Florida
Cameron – Florida
Virginia @ #1 Clemson (-28) – 8:00 PM – ACCN
After having a bye week, the #1 ranked Tigers get back at Saturday night against a Virginia team coming off a rather lackluster start to their 2020 season. The Cavaliers offense couldn’t get things going until the fourth quarter and were able to pull away from a not so good Duke team late. The offense for the Cavs looks a lot different than they did last year with Bryce Perkins. Brennan Armstrong is more of a drop back passer and not much of runner. On defense, Virginia lost some key pieces from last year’s team and have take a bit of step back. On the flip side, Clemson’s defense has, so far this season, looked better than the defense of last year. Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers offense has been clicking and running like well oiled machine. The Tigers have been putting up a bunch of yards and points on their opponents this season and I expect that trend to continue on Saturday night. Virginia might have some success early on, but I’m betting on this one being over with by the half.
John – Clemson
Cameron – Clemson
#12 Texas A&M @ #2 Alabama (-17.5) – 3:30 PM – CBS
Jimbo Fisher and his Texas A&M Aggies are still scratching their heads after last week’s abysmal performance against Vanderbilt. While the Aggies did end up winning, Kellen Mond was again disappointing, the running game never got going and the Aggies had to grit out a 17-12 win at home against the Commodores. Vanderbilt is not very good offensively, so I’m not really sure exactly how good this A&M defense is. We will find out Saturday afternoon when they have to travel Tuscaloosa to take on the Tide. Alabama rolled to a nice win over Missouri last week, jumping on the Tigers early. The Bama offense is still just as explosive as they have been over the last couple of years. Their defense is still rather young, but the starters really looked good. However, the big question for the Tide is once again their depth on defense. When the backups came in, Missouri started having a lot of success on offense. If A&M can figure out the offense and get Alabama on their heels, then maybe they will have a shot, but I highly doubt that will happen. Tide rolls big.
John – Alabama
Cameron – Alabama
#7 Auburn @ #4 Georgia (-6.5) – 7:30 PM – ESPN
This could very well be a defensive battle. Both defenses are really good, while both offenses struggled at times in their openers last week. Georgia looked better in the second half when Stetson Bennett IV came in at quarterback. However, I am concerned for Georgia because of the inexperience at that position. The good news for the Dawgs is that transfer QB J.T. Daniels has been cleared to play by team doctors, but at what percent health-wise will he be at come Saturday night. Without some experience at quarterback, I’m not confident at the Bulldogs chances against a really good Auburn defense. For the Tigers, Bo Nix and the Auburn offense really started to find their rhythm late in the game against Kentucky. Can they carry that over to this week against a much better defense? Nix looked rusty early on in the game last week, but made some nice throws down the stretch and receiver Seth Williams had a breakout performance snagging two incredible touchdown catches. Auburn, however, struggled to find any sort of run game last week which ended up being their biggest weakness. This is going to be a knockout, drag out type heavyweight fight between these two bitter rivals, but I’m taking the Tigers to edge out the Dawgs in a close, low scoring game.
John – Auburn
Cameron – Auburn
You can catch all of our predications and analysis for this upcoming week by going over to the podcast page and listening to last nights episode. Make sure to click on the Twitter follow button down below and head over to Facebook and like our page and share us with your friends and family. Give us your thoughts on this week’s slate of game by commenting down below as well. You can catch us live on Podbean every Thursday and Sunday night.