With summer coming to an end and fall hot on its heels, college football has finally returned for its 150th season. Week one of the season is filled with many highly anticipated matchups, several of which will feature teams of the Southeastern Conference. Here are some notable games kicking off 2019 in college football’s premier conference.
No. 16 Auburn vs. No. 11 Oregon
Saturday, Aug. 31 – AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas
7:30 p.m. on ABC
In their first meeting since the 2010 BCS Championship, both teams are looking to return to the national prominence they held. The Tigers and the Ducks both underwhelmed in 2018, coming off of an 8-5 and 9-4 record, respectively. But, they hold the belief that this could be the season that returns them to the forefront of college football. Auburn features an imposing defensive front that will be very difficult to rush against, as well as an experienced secondary with elite speed and play-making ability. Offensively, the Tigers will start true freshman Bo Nix at quarterback, and this game will be a big test for him. Oregon, on the other hand, has an elite quarterback returning in senior Justin Herbert alongside one of the strongest offensive lines in the country. The Ducks’ defense will need to hit hard in the trenches, and the offense will need to force a shootout in order to come out on top. Watch for the Tiger defense to limit the ground game and harass Justin Herbert. They will prove to be the overcoming factor in this close match-up.
Prediction: Auburn 24, Oregon 21
No. 2 Alabama vs. Duke
Saturday, Aug. 31 – Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, Georgia
2:30 p.m. on ABC
Alabama, the reigning SEC champion and runner-up in the national title game, will face Duke in their first appearance since their shocking blowout defeat at the hands of Clemson last season. This game should be a lopsided affair, but it will be interesting to see how the Crimson Tide respond to their perceived vulnerability. Alabama returns Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback as he looks to lead his team to another title run. Offensively, the Tide could be even stronger in 2019 with a more seasoned unit, while defensively they have restocked with overwhelming depth. Duke, however, will be filling the shoes of first round NFL Draft pick Daniel Jones at quarterback. Senior Quentin Harris will get the start, but he is leading a unit that returns only five starters. Defensively, the Blue Devils will need a perfect game to compete with the Tide. Look for Alabama to overwhelm Duke early and throughout the game on the way to a blowout.
Prediction: Alabama 54, Duke 10
Ole Miss at Memphis
Saturday, Aug. 31 – Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium – Memphis, Tennessee
11:00 a.m. on ABC
This game has all the makings of a high-scoring shootout, as both teams step onto the field rather evenly matched. Ole Miss was one of the most productive offensive units in college football in 2018. They have a tall order to fill, however, needing to replace quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and an NFL-caliber receiving corps. Redshirt freshman Matt Corral will start at quarterback after seeing good production in his short time on the field last season. Expect the Rebels to remain an offensive power and be a huge factor in Saturday’s game. Mississippi’s defense, however, was abysmal last season and will need to step up in a big way if they hope to limit the Tiger offense. Memphis, on the other hand, is rather similar to Ole Miss in regards to high offensive production and limited defense. The Tigers are an American Athletic Conference powerhouse, but may struggle at times against SEC talent. Look for a shootout with the game coming down to the final minutes.
Prediction: Ole Miss 42, Memphis 38
No. 3 Georgia at Vanderbilt
Saturday, Aug. 31 – Vanderbilt Stadium – Nashville, Tennessee
6:30 p.m. on SECN
The SEC’s first conference game of the season will be a divisional showdown in the East. Both teams enter the game with something to prove, as Georgia hopes to win the SEC like they did in 2017, while Vanderbilt wishes to make a name for itself in the conference. The Bulldogs enter as the heavy favorite, led by junior quarterback Jake Fromm. They have an exceptional ground game and talent on all sides of the ball. Vanderbilt will see either senior Riley Neal or junior Deuce Wallace lead the team at quarterback. It has threats in the receiving corps and in senior running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn. The Commodores lack a defensive presence though, and they will not be able to match up with the Bulldogs. Look for a potentially close game early on, but Georgia will find separation before halftime en route to a blowout.
Prediction: Georgia 41, Vanderbilt 14