The last time an SEC team hit the field in a real game, Deshaun Watson ripped the hearts out of Alabama fans and Clemson prevented an "S-E-C" chant from breaking out at Raymond James Stadium in January.

If that's going to change, it needs to start now because a poor Week 1 showing will only widen the gap between the two conferences. Alabama plays Florida State, Tennessee battles Georgia Tech, Texas A&M visits UCLA, and Florida's battle with Michigan headline the Week 1 slate for the SEC. How will it shake out?

Main courses

No. 1 Alabama (-7) vs. No. 3 Florida State in Atlanta

All eyes in this game will be on Alabama's front seven against Florida State's mediocre offensive line, but the key to the game goes beyond that. Francois doesn't get rattled and will keep his cool in the face of pressure Saturday night. The Tide will punch back, but won't get too creative offensively unless they have to. The game will be played in the 20s and kicking woes that have plagued Alabama during fall camp will cost them in the fourth quarter. Pick: Florida State (+7)

No. 17 Florida vs. No. 11 Michigan (-3.5) in Arlington, Texas

Call me crazy, but Florida coach Jim McElwain is playing coy with his quarterback position. Franks will hit multiple receivers with big plays, including Josh Hammond, Tyrie Cleveland and Freddie Swain, and force a relatively inexperienced Michigan offense out of its comfort zone in a game that'll be a bit higher scoring than you probably expect. Pick: Florida (+3.5)

LSU coach Ed Orgeron needs to have his team ready for Week 1. USATSI

Strong cocktails

No. 13 LSU (-16) vs. BYU in New Orleans

If you watched BYU struggle with Portland State during Week Zero, you already know that the Cougars wide receivers aren't going to concern Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda all that much. Because of that, expect pressure, turnovers and LSU's offense to get set up in good situations. When they can, new offensive coordinator Matt Canada will experiment a bit in the passing game. How much success he and quarterback Danny Etling have in that department will determine whether this is a blowout or a close game. Etling will make some mistakes, but LSU will pull away in the fourth. Pick: BYU (+16)

Texas A&M at UCLA (-3.5)

  • SportsLine game forecaster
  • Welcome to the hot seat bowl
  • Texas A&M's defense will bring the heat on Rosen
  • Aggies' running game will seal it

While Alabama-Florida State draws Week 1 headlines, Sunday night's tilt between UCLA and Texas A&M is far more intriguing for coaching reasons. The losing coach's seat will go from hot to scorching and that coach will be UCLA's Jim Mora. The new A&M 3-4 defense look will create confusion with coordinator John Chavis bringing heat from everywhere, forcing Bruins QB Josh Rosen into a few mistakes. The Aggies will capitalize on those mistakes, and the running game will put it away late. Pick: Texas A&M (+3.5)

No. 25 Tennessee (-3) vs. Georgia Tech

With a new quarterback taking the snaps for the Volunteers -- likely Quinten Dormady -- coach Butch Jones' crew will keep it simple, run often with John Kelly and hope that its defense benefits from extra time to prepare for Georgia Tech's triple option. That time will help, but the loss of linebacker Darrin Kirkland and absence of recently-departed defensive end Derek Barnett will allow the Yellow Jackets to hit a few big plays. Not enough, though. Dormady leads a late drive and a field goal wins it at the gun. Pick: Tennessee (-3)

NC State (-5) vs. South Carolina in Charlotte, North Carolina

The Belk College Kickoff in Charlotte is flying under the radar on opening weekend, but it is one of the more intriguing games on the schedule. South Carolina's offense is loaded with quarterback Jake Bentley, wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards and tight end Hayden Hurst returning. That offense will hit a big play late and stun a good NC State defense led by lineman Bradley ChubbPick: South Carolina (+5)

Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham USATSI


Georgia Southern at No. 12 Auburn (-34)

Don't be fooled into thinking that this is the same Georgia Southern program from 2014 that found immediate success in the FBS. It's not. The Eagles went 5-7 last year and lost its two primary offensive weapons. Auburn's defense will dominate, the offense will be a delicious flavor of vanilla, and coach Gus Malzahn will keep Stidham under wraps till Week 2 at Clemson. Pick: Georgia Southern (+34)

Appalachian State at No. 15 Georgia (-14.5)

Ask Michigan and Tennessee how scary Appalachian State can be to start the season -- the stories will be R-rated. With that said, Georgia's defense will hold the Mountaineers in check and give coach Kirby Smart the chance to take some shots with the offense. Smart knows that the running game is in good hands with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, but the Bulldogs have to stretch the field if they're going to contend for a playoff spot. Some of those shots will hit, but don't be surprised if it's tight for a little while. Pick: Georgia (-14.5)

South Alabama at Ole Miss (-23.5)

  • SportsLine game forecaster
  • There will be speed bumps for coach Matt Luke
  • Rebels' offense will be legit
  • Defense will be an issue, though

Game 1 of the Matt Luke era at Ole Miss comes against the same South Alabama program that upset Mississippi State in Week 1 last year. The Rebels won't suffer from the same fate. Expect a ton of points in this one as Rebels QB Shea Patterson and his talented group of wide receivers find the end zone often and the Rebel defense -- which is nowhere near as talented as it has been in the past -- goes through some growing pains. Pick: South Alabama (+23.5)

Kentucky (-10.5) at Southern Mississippi

  • SportsLine game forecaster
  • Tough test for Kentucky's defense
  • How will the offense click with a full year of refinement?
  • You don't just walk into "The Rock" and expect to cruise

This is a dangerous road game for a middle-of-the-road SEC team against a potent Group of Five team that would love nothing more than to make a statement at their own place. Kentucky's defense, while experienced, will struggle with the potent Golden Eagles offense. But Wildcats running back Benny Snell will put the game away in the fourth quarter and allow coach Mark Stoops and his Wildcats to get out of Hattiesburg with a hard-fought, close win. Pick: Southern Miss (+10.5)

Vanderbilt (-3.5) at Middle Tennessee

This is a very dangerous trip down the road from Nashville to Murfreesboro for the Commodores. MTSU QB Brent Stockstill makes that potent offense click, and will force coach Derek Mason's crew into a shootout. In order for the 'Dores to keep up, QB Kyle Shurmur will have to find some weapons outside to complement Ralph Webb and the running game. Pick: Vanderbilt (-3.5)

Side dishes

There are no lines available for the games below.

Florida A&M at ArkansasThis will be a nice tuneup for the Razorbacks, as they get a test run with their new 3-4 defense vs. the Rattlers prior to next weekend's tilt with TCU. Devwah Whaley will get comfortable as the No. 1 tailback in Dan Enos' offense, and the new defensive scheme will shine, as linemen McTelvin Agim and Bijhon Jackson will live in the backfield. This one gets sideways in a hurry.

Missouri State at MissouriMissouri State won't pose much of a threat to Mizzou, but the Tigers do need to show more tenacity in the trenches on the defensive side of the ball if they intend to get back to SEC East relevancy. That should happen against a Bears team that isn't equipped to put up much of a challenge. Drew Lock and Co. will light up the scoreboard and the Tigers will cruise as Barry Odom looks to rebound after Year 1.

Charleston Southern at Mississippi State: The Buccaneers were a playoff team in FCS last year and will hang around for a while before Bulldogs QB Nick Fitzgerald and his offense take control and make things sideways late. Communication is key. Todd Grantham's defense has been known to be complicated at times, so expect a few communication breakdowns early for MSU. Those will be worked out, Fitzgerald will light it up and help the Bulldogs avoid another Week 1 letdown.