Dec 15, 2018 (Akademos, Inc.)
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  Week One SEC Predictions

Auburn begins its 2016 season by hosting second-ranked Clemson Saturday night at 8 pm at Jordan-Hare Stadium on ESPN. Auburn leads the all-time series 34-13-2. The two teams last played in 2012 with Clemson winning a close contest 26-19.

Clemson at Auburn

Auburn hopes to improve on its 7-6 overall record and 2-6 in conference play from a year ago.

Head coach Gus Malzahn finally named Sean White as the starter under center on Aug. 25. As a true freshman in 2015, White completed 58 percent of his passes for 1,166 yards and one touchdown in seven games.

White will to try to help turn an offense around that struggled during the 2015 season. Auburn averaged 27.5 ppg and 370 total ypg.

The passing game, which averaged 173.6 ypg, will look to newcomers Kyle Davis, Nate Craig-Myers and Eli Stove, along with veterans Marcus Davis and Tony Stevens to improve on those numbers from a year ago.

In 2015, Davis had 30 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown while Stevens had 177 yards and a touchdown.

On the ground, Auburn averaged 196.4 ypg. The Tigers will have a new look in the backfield with both Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson gone from the team.

Kerryon Johnson will get the bulk of the carries after rushing for 208 yards last year with three touchdowns, mostly from the wildcat position. Joining Johnson will be H-backs Chandler Cox and Kamryn Pettway, and incoming freshman Malik Miller.

On the offensive line, tackles Austin Golson and Robert Leff, center Xavier Dampeer, along with guards Braden Smith and Alex Kozan will play a crucial role in protecting the quarterback and hopefully open huge holes for Auburn's running backs.

On the defensive side, new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele takes over a unit that allowed 26 ppg, 182.7 ypg on the ground, 222.5 ypg through the air and 405.2 total yards a year ago.

Auburn is loaded with depth along the defensive line with seniors Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams leading the way. In 2015, Lawson played in only seven games but finished the season with 17 tackles, including three for a loss and a sack. Adams had 44 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks.

Freshman Marlon Davidson and sophomore Dontavious Russell are the other starters along the line. Russell recorded 42 tackles and 4 sacks last year.

Poised to see plenty of playing time as backups along the line are seniors Devaroe Lawrence and Maurice Swain, and sophomores Jeff Holland and Byron Cowart.

The linebacker position will have a new look for the first time in several seasons after both Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy graduated. Tre Williams looks to be the leader of the group after a solid 2015 campaign saw him record 55 tackles, including four for a loss, in 12 games. Williams is expected to start at MLB with T.J. Neal at Strong-side and Darrell Williams at weak-side.

In the secondary, Rudy Ford returns and will start at nickel after leading the team with 118 tackles a year ago.

Last year as a freshman, Carlton Davis appeared in all 13 games, recorded 56 tackles and hauled in three interceptions. He will start at one of the cornerback spots along with Javaris Davis at the other.

At strong safety, Stephen Roberts has been suspended leaving Tray Matthews to start and Nick Ruffin gets the nod at free safety.

On special teams, Daniel Carlson handles the kicking duties with Kevin Phillips starting at punter. Marcus Davis won the job to handle punt returns with Rudy Ford and Kerryon Johnson set to return kickoffs.

Dabo Swinney's squad comes to Jordan-Hare after finishing 2015 14-1 overall and 8-0 in the ACC. Clemson scored 38.5 ppg and averaged 514.5 yards of total offense.

Clemson returns 12 starters from last year, including quarterback Deshaun Watson. As a sophomore, Watson was 333 of 491 passing for 4,104 yards with 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. On the ground, the talented quarterback had 283 carries for 1,105 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Clemson's other offensive weapons include running back Wayne Gallman and receiver Artavis Scott. Last season, Gallman had 283 carries for 1,527 yards and 13 touchdowns. Scott had 93 receptions for 901 yards and six touchdowns. Also back is receiver Deon Cain, with 34 receptions for 582 yards and five touchdowns.

On defense, Clemson gave up 21.7 ppg and allowed 313 ypg. Some of the top performers returning from last year's team include linebacker Ben Boulware with 82 tackles and cornerback Cordrea Tankersley with 48 tackles. Boulware also recorded 3.5 sacks and Tankersley hauled in five interceptions.

Prediction: Clemson 34-10.

Appalachian St at Tennessee

Prediction: Tennessee 50-7.

South Carolina at Vanderbilt

Prediction: Vandy 21-14.

South Alabama at Miss St

Prediction: Miss St 38-6.

Missouri at West Virginia

Prediction: West Virginia 34-17.

LSU at Wisconsin

Prediction: LSU 24-10.

UCLA at Texas A&M

Prediction: Texas A&M 31-20.

LA Tech at Arkansas

Prediction: Aransas 41-21.

Georgia at North Carolina

Prediction: North Carolina 24-20.

UMass at Florida

Prediction: Florida 45-3.

Southern Miss at Kentucky

Prediction: Kentucky 34-20.

USC vs Alabama

Prediction: Alabama 27-10.

Ole Miss at Florida State

Prediction: Florida St 35-14.


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