Week 2 of the college football season is about to crank up around the SEC, and it includes one of the most highly anticipated out-of-conference matchups of the season and several more that could resonate not only throughout the conference, but potentially the landscape of the entire season.
No. 11 Texas will travel to No. 3 Alabama on Saturday night with revenge on its mind. The Longhorns fell to the Crimson Tide 20-19 last season in Austin, Texas, after the Tide went on a nine-play, 61-yard drive over a 1:19 span that culminated with the game-winning field goal with 10 seconds left in the game. Will this matchup match last year's drama? College football fans around the world hope so, although the blood pressure of Tide and Longhorn fans might not be able to take another thriller.
Elsewhere, No. 23 Texas A&M will look to build off an impressive performance in its 52-10 Week 1 win over New Mexico. Quarterback Conner Weigman tossed five touchdowns in the win, which has given the Aggies momentum as they look to make it two straight wins in as many years against Miami.
Let's take a spin around the SEC in this week's SEC Smothered and Covered.
Appetizer: Texas A&M looking for momentum
Last season's Texas A&M-Miami game was as exciting as watching paint dry. The Aggies jumped out to a 10-3 lead after the first quarter, and that proved to be enough in the 17-9 win in College Station, Texas. Let's all hope that Saturday's matchup is just a little bit more exciting. It probably will be because, unlike last season, Texas A&M is coming in with momentum instead of off a surprising loss like last year when it fell to Appalachian State in Week 2.
What's interesting about this one is that both of these teams are in very similar situations. The offense was the question for the Aggies coming into the season, but first-year offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino, albeit in a small sample size, has given Aggie fans hope that maybe, just maybe, the stagnant offense of old has disappeared. Miami's offense was nearly as bad last year, but the Week 1 blowout over Miami (Ohio) that saw quarterback Tyler Van Dyke complete 77.3% of his passes in Shannon Dawson's first game as the Hurricanes offensive coordinator is encouraging.
If this one is a shootout, which is quite possible, both fan bases should be excited about the future even though one will leave Hard Rock Stadium with no margin for error in the race for the College Football Playoff. But, let's be real, making the CFP is a pipe dream for both.
Main course: Airing it out in Tuscaloosa
This game is a perfect encapsulation of Occam's razor. The key to the Alabama-Texas game is centered around the most important position on the field -- quarterbacks. Specifically, Crimson Tide dual-threat weapon Jalen Milroe.
The sophomore from Katy, Texas, threw for three touchdowns, rushed for two more and looked like a luxury, not a liability, in his second career start and first as the true No. 1 on the depth chart. That was against a completely outmatched Middle Tennessee squad.
This week's game against Texas is a totally different animal.
The Longhorns' offense is loaded with weapons including quarterback Quinn Ewers and wide receiver Xavier Worthy. Ewers was lights out in last year's matchup -- his second career start -- when he threw for 134 yards before suffering an injury with 33 seconds left in the first quarter. Ewers and this Longhorns offense could be an even bigger problem for a Crimson Tide defense that has two defensive backs that left last week's game with injuries -- Malachi Moore and Jaylen Key. Saban has been vague about the status of both players throughout the week.
If this game becomes a point-per-minute shootout, Milroe will need to have the game of his life. Because of that, expect Alabama offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to call an ultra-conservative game early on.
Dessert: Ole Miss defense to be tested
No. 20 Ole Miss will travel to New Orleans to play a pesky Tulane team that won the Cotton Bowl last year. The 24th-ranked Green Wave topped South Alabama last week 37-17 in a game that featured two teams with legitimate New Year's Six bowl hopes.
Rebels' fans had to be encouraged last week when they saw their defense allow just 235 yards in the 73-7 win over Mercer. That was Mercer, though. This Tulane team -- led by quarterback Michael Pratt -- is a much different animal.
"Pratt poses a lot of problems," Kiffin said on Wednesday's teleconference. "He's super savvy, really smart, really good timing with the ball, can move around and get out of trouble. This guy is playing as well as anybody in the country."
If Ole Miss is going to contend for the SEC West, it will have to be on the heels of the defense. We will get a good gauge on what it looks like Saturday afternoon.
Straight up: 14-0 | Against the spread: 5-4
*Picks use SportsLine consensus odds and were made on Instagram since SEC Smothered & Covered starts in Week 2
Ball State at No. 1 Georgia
The Bulldogs' defense was lights out last week against UT-Martin, and it'll be more of the same this week. Offensively, they eased first-year starter Carson Beck into his new role, and I expect more of the same this weekend. Because of that, I'll take Ball State to cover. Pick: Ball State +42
No. 11 Texas at No. 3 Alabama
This will be like a heavyweight boxing matchup. Both teams will feel each other out for a quarter or so before things open up. When that happens, it'll become a battle of quarterbacks and I expect Ewers to make fewer mistakes than Milroe. Take the Horns to not only cover, but win it outright. Pick: Texas +7
No. 20 Ole Miss at No. 24 Tulane
It'll take more than a touchdown for Ole Miss tickets to cash, and I'll take my chances with that Ole Miss defense. Coordinator Pete Golding will keep Pratt in the pocket, win the battle on third down and running back Quinshon Judkins will help the Rebels pull away for a double-digit win late. Pick: Ole Miss -7.5
No. 23 Texas A&M at Miami
The offenses are dominating headlines going into this one, but it'll be the defenses that have the ultimate say in the outcome. Whether it's an old-school slugfest or a new-school shootout, the defense that doesn't give up too many explosives will take home the win. I'll take the home-standing 'Canes to force Weigman into a couple of second half mistakes to earn an outright win. Pick: Miami +4
Demon Deacons quarterback Mitch Griffis was rock solid last week in the win over Elon, and I expect more of the same. The Commodores' showed depth and conditioning issues two weeks ago, and the slow mesh offense of the Demon Deacons will be too much to overcome. Pick: Wake Forest -10
The Razorbacks came out hot last week against Western Carolina, and history will repeat itself Saturday afternoon. Hogs quarterback KJ Jefferson was money in the new offense under Dan Enos, and the duo will build off of last week in an utterly dominating performance this weekend. Pick: Arkansas -38
Middle Tennessee at Missouri
The Blue Raiders defense was dreadful last week against Alabama, but Missouri is a bit of a different animal. Tigers' quarterback Brady Cook was solid last week, but he wasn't exactly a difference-maker. Missouri's true identity this year will be its defense which will lead to some low-scoring, "ugly" affairs. In all honesty, I wouldn't bet this game at all. Since I have to, I'll take Missouri to control it from the outset but Middle Tennessee to sneak in the back door to cover. Pick: Middle Tennessee +21
Bulldogs coach Zach Arnett promised an offensive scheme change this year, and it was apparent in Game 1 that there will be more of a focus on the rushing attack. Running back Jo'Quavious Marks rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns last week. The Wildcats only gave up 78 to Northern Arizona on Saturday, but the Bulldogs will be a much more difficult animal to tame -- especially in Starkville. Pick: Mississippi State -9
Auburn at California
A ticket for the Tigers cashes with a 7-point win, and that's exactly the side to go with. Coach Hugh Freeze's use of starting quarterback Payton Thorne and backup dual-threat weapon Robby Ashford was masterful last week and I expect more of the same against the Bears. Plus, the Tigers looked stout on the line of scrimmage on both sides, which was a big question coming into the season. Pick: Auburn -6.5
SEC teams vs. FCS opponents
*No lines have been published