Even for the SEC, this first week of games features a stunning collection of cream puffs.
The league, as a whole, has gotten better when it comes to scheduling at least one marquee nonconference opponent per season.
But this opening weekend? The SEC has outdone itself this time.
Here are three bits of advice that might help your football experience:
Take a calculator to the game. You’re going to need it to keep up with all the points.
Make sure you have the full roster that includes all the walk-ons. Otherwise, you won’t have a clue who’s in the game in the second half.
Make sure your tailgate spot is relatively close to the stadium. There’s nothing like a cold pop to snap you back to life after a fourth quarter that looks like something straight out of a spring game.
Seriously, outside of Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, it’s difficult to pinpoint what we might find out about SEC teams this first week.
If you like glorified scrimmages at $40 and $50 a head, then you’re going to have a blast this weekend.
If not, then you might want to tread lightly.
Seven of the SEC’s 12 opponents this week didn’t have a winning record last season.
Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee will be trying to get a leg up in the Ohio Valley Conference race, as all three teams open the season against FCS opponents from the OVC.
Auburn and Georgia dip into the Sun Belt Conference ranks with tilts against Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette, while Florida will test out the MAC (Miami, Ohio) and Alabama the WAC (San Jose State).
Nothing against any of these teams, and it’s not unheard of for one of the little guys to spring an upset.
Appalachian State sent Michigan reeling to open the 2007 season. That same season, Louisiana-Monroe shocked Alabama. Louisiana Tech knocked off Mississippi State to open the 2008 season, and Wyoming took down Tennessee later that season.
So it can happen.
It’s just with so many mismatches on paper this first week in the SEC, it’s going to be hard to draw any iron-clad conclusions about the questions we’ve all been asking these last six months.
If Florida quarterback John Brantley throws five touchdown passes, what does that really mean?
If Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray looks like a seasoned veteran in the pocket, how excited does the Dawg Nation get with South Carolina and Arkansas coming up the next two weeks?
If Arkansas’ defense looks like the next coming of the Steel Curtain, is that an indication that the Hogs are improved enough on defense to make a run in the SEC?
And what about that new-look Alabama secondary? If the Crimson Tide blanket receivers and intercept two or three passes, does that mean they’re poised to do the same to Ryan Mallett and the Hogs at the end of September?
“Honestly, when you’ve been beating on each other for a month, it doesn’t matter who you play. You just want to get out there and play somebody other than yourselves,” LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson said.
LSU faces North Carolina this Saturday in the SEC’s marquee matchup in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game (ABC, 8 p.m. ET). The Tigers are the only SEC team facing a nationally ranked opponent this first week.
South Carolina opens the season Thursday night at home against Southern Miss, while Kentucky and Vanderbilt also have tough openers on Saturday. The Wildcats visit arch-rival Louisville, and the Commodores play host to Northwestern.
After that, who knows what we’ll get from the rest of the matchups involving SEC teams this first week?
Obviously, coaches see it a little differently.
Take Florida, for instance. There have already been several comparisons to the 2007 season when the Gators lost a bunch of key players from their 2006 national championship team and wound up losing four games.
Florida coach Urban Meyer has some of those same questions entering this season, but he also thinks he has better answers.
“There’s a lot of questions, but we’re returning a lot of guys that we’re anxious to see play as opposed to ’07,” Meyer said. “We actually knew what we were dealing with and we weren’t that excited about it (in 2007).
“We’re real excited about this group.”