Gamecocks to roll in Thursday night opener

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The best thing about the preseason is that everybody's unbeaten, even those of us who dare to pick college football games. Here's my stab at Week 1 in the SEC:


South Carolina 31, N.C. State 17: Quarterback Tommy Beecher makes his first career start for the Gamecocks, and Steve Spurrier Jr. makes his play-calling debut in Columbia. I'm still going to have to see that to believe it. What I do believe is that South Carolina will shred N.C. State's defense, which was next to last in the ACC a year ago.

Vanderbilt 21, Miami (Ohio) 17: Vanderbilt defensive end Broderick Stewart says the Commodores will have the fastest defense in the SEC, hands-down. The fastest defense in the SEC ought to be good enough to win at Miami (Ohio), right?


Clemson 31, Alabama 21: The expectations are pretty lofty at Clemson this season. That hasn't always been a good mix for the Tigers. This game will be tight for a while, but Alabama's inexperience and lack of depth on defense will get the Crimson Tide in the fourth quarter.

Ole Miss 34, Memphis 20: The Rebels are going to have to make due without their best two defensive linemen these first few weeks. But Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty, the Rebels have themselves a quarterback in Jevan Snead, and you better not blink when freshman tailback Enrique Davis gets the ball. He can scoot.

Miss. State 23, Louisiana Tech 17: This one has trap game written all over it for the Bulldogs, who may be without starting left offensive tackle Derek Sherrod. Star safety Derek Pegues is already out due to a one-game suspension. Ultimately, quarterback Wesley Carroll will make enough plays for the Bulldogs to gut it out on the road.

Florida 48, Hawaii 13: With so many players out for Florida, the Gators will get a chance to showcase some of those new faces we've been hearing about: Chris Rainey, Jeffrey Demps, Deonte Thompson and Emmanuel Moody.

Auburn 34, Louisiana-Monroe 10: Finally, the Auburn players get to fight somebody other than themselves. Well, at least in the football sense. I just get the feel that this is Auburn's year. If the spread offense is a good fit and one of the quarterbacks comes through, look out.

LSU 24, Appalachian State 10: We've heard the "We have great respect for Appalachian State" mantra coming out of the LSU camp all week. The truth is that the Tigers think they will win this game easily if they play their game. I still think it might be close for a while.

Georgia 42, Georgia Southern 17: At least the Bulldogs will get one breather in a schedule that looks more ominous every time I glance at it. The most underrated part of this team is its defense. You want fast and menacing? Watch the Bulldogs on defense this season.

Arkansas 35, Western Illinois: 13: The Bobby Petrino era begins in the Ozarks. He's happy to be back in college football and likes his chances at Arkansas. He'll need at least one more recruiting class, though, before Arkansas is a factor in the West. The Hogs will still score plenty of points this season.


Louisville 24, Kentucky 20: The one thing Rich Brooks hasn't been able to do at Kentucky is consistently beat Louisville. In fact, the Wildcats won last season for the first time since Brooks arrived in Lexington. There are just too many unanswered questions on offense for the Wildcats for me to pick them on the road in this first game.


Tennessee 30, UCLA 17: Tennessee didn't fare very well when it had to go all the way across the country to open the season a year ago. But this is a UCLA team that's been rocked with injuries. In short, if the Vols truly are a contender in the East this season, this is a game they should win going away.