Week 1 in the SEC brought a couple of thrilling finishes. But what will Week 2 offer? ESPN writers Sam Khan and Alex Scarborough break down Saturday's slate of games. Visit our college football PickCenter page for additional information on these games and many more.
Scarborough: We're back after a decent start picking games the first week of the season. Sam went 11-2, and I finished 12-1. So I get to say, "I believe I had that," on UCLA beating A&M and Tennessee beating Georgia Tech. Although, to be fair, I wasn't feeling good about either pick at halftime of those games.
With that said, let's dive into what's a pretty good slate of games in the SEC. As we did last week, let's quickly run through the non-Power 5 games. Kentucky, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Florida and Mississippi State should all be fine, right?
Louisiana Tech could give Mississippi State a scare, especially with that game on the road, but Nick Fitzgerald and that offense are too good to lose that one.
Khan: Yeah, I'll stick with the Bulldogs. Let's look at the game I'm most intrigued by: TCU at Arkansas. This game was a ton of fun last year and both quarterbacks return (Kenny Hill for TCU, Austin Allen for Arkansas). The Razorbacks will trot out a new-look defense, but both teams had cupcake games in Week 1, so it's hard to gauge where these teams are. I think Hill is going to be more consistent this year than he was a year ago and that will give the Horned Frogs the slight edge. What do you think?
Scarborough: I'm torn on this one. I see your point about Hill and I think he's capable of getting that offense to put up huge points. But I'm going to go with Arkansas here. It's not going to be pretty. The defense is probably going to give up a bunch of big plays. But Allen will throw for more than 300 yards, Devwah Whaley will have a good day and provide some balance running the ball and the defense will force a turnover late to steal the game.
How about Missouri-South Carolina? Could be another defense-is-optional game.
Khan: South Carolina. While neither defense is great, what we saw from Mizzou last week frightens me. There are no signs yet that they've improved from what was a bad defense last season. Give me the Gamecocks.
What say you?
Scarborough: Scared the heck out of me, too. I don't know how a letdown on defense like that happens Week 1 of the season. Barry Odom has his work cut out for him because Drew Lock and that offense can't be expected to score 60-plus points per game. Give me South Carolina, too. The Jake Bentley-Deebo Samuel connection is going to be fun to watch on offense this season. But I'll say this: Given South Carolina's relative youth and this being early in Will Muschamp's tenure, games like this on the road are tricky.
The game that really intrigues me other than the headliner Clemson-Auburn, which we'll get to, is Georgia traveling to Notre Dame. How concerned are you about Jake Fromm being thrust into the starting role so soon with Jacob Eason out dealing with an injury?
Khan: Very. A true freshman quarterback getting his road debut in a place like South Bend, Indiana? That's a tough ask. The Fighting Irish have a new starter, too, in Brandon Wimbush, but at least he has a start under his belt -- last week's 49-16 victory over Temple -- and home field. I'll take Notre Dame here. What about you? Do you think the Bulldogs can pull it off?
Scarborough: I like Georgia here. And I've got some numbers for why: 72. That's where Notre Dame's defense ranked nationally in rushing yards per game last season (182.4). Six backs ran for 100 or more yards against the Irish last season (Ronald Jones II, D'Onta Foreman, Bryce Love, Matthew Dayes, Jela Duncan and Gerald Holmes) and I'd wager that both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are as good or better than anyone I just mentioned. I think Fromm has a nice day, but the offense ends up going run heavy, controls the tempo of the game and puts one more nail in the coffin for Brian Kelly's tenure at Notre Dame.
Khan: That's a convincing argument. I think you're right about the run-heavy approach, which is how Kirby Smart & Co. should handle it.
OK, now onto the headliner: Auburn at Clemson. What do you think?
Scarborough: So many thoughts, Sam. So many. I think this game ultimately won't be as much about the quarterbacks as it is each defense's ability to create pressure. Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence are about as good as it gets at Clemson, but Auburn's front seven looks to be special as well. Jeff Holland could be a difference-maker at outside linebacker and Marlon Davidson is a big-time disruptor. If either team is unable to run the football, those defenses are going to pin their ears back and crush the quarterback.
It's why I'm so tempted to pick Auburn because of Kamryn Pettway coming back from suspension. But ultimately, with Kerryon Johnson a question mark to play, I don't know if I can take the risk, especially on the road. Give me Clemson in a close one.
Khan: I'm going to give in to the temptation and take Auburn. Clemson's defensive line is great, but I do think Auburn will be able to run the football. Last year, Auburn hung tight with Clemson despite the fact that the quarterback situation was a mess. This year, the Tigers have the best quarterback I think they've had since Gus Malzahn took over as head coach in Jarrett Stidham. It's why I picked Auburn to go to the playoff. Given that, I'm taking Auburn on the road in a close one.