I touched on this one in a Q&A I did over at The Saturday Edge. I see South Carolina as a team that should contend head to head with Georgia for the SEC East. That being said, it took the Gamecocks defense a while to get going last year and this year they lose some key cogs to that defense and their defensive coordinator. If you remember the Gamecocks first game last year, they almost lost to East Carolina before they righted the ship and put some points on the board. Vanderbilt should be good on offense this year but they will take a step back on defense as they lose their four best players.
If Vanderbilt can beat South Carolina in 2012, the most likely spot would be in the first game of the season as Marcus Lattimore gets his first test coming back from injury. Vanderbilt was also very stingy last year under new coach James "The Milf Hunter" Franklin in home games so this game will be closer then you would expect.
Who doesn't want to see Mike Leach debut his new team? Will they find instant success, will it be a train wreck that will need to be worked out or will they be somewhere in between? In addition to this being Leach's first game with Wazzu it is also against a BYU team that finished 10-3 last year but only beat two teams with winning records. An added storyline is that Mike Leach got his bachelor's degree at BYU before moving on to law school.
On paper this might not sound that intriguing. But think about it as a game within a game. NCSU DB David Amerson had 13 INTs last year. Tennessee's strength with Tyler Bray has been throwing the football and they have some really good wideouts in Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. If Tennessee loses this game then Derek Dooley might be be engulfed in flames by his bright orange plants and NCSU suddenly becomes a sleeper pick in the ACC.
The mid-major bully must rebuild as they lost a ton of starters and senior leadership this past season. In fact, Boise comes into this game as the 118th most experienced team in the FBS (they were #17 heading into last season). An added storyline is Boise's schedule, which outside of this game is ridiculously easy. This will be the only game all year where Boise should come in where they have a fear of losing. Michigan State is stocked on defense and they will have one of the top defenses in the Nation this year. The big question is how will Andrew Maxwell replace Kirk Cousins and we know that Chris Petersen will have some tricks up his sleeves.
This is a re-match from last years game that vaulted Clemson into the National spotlight and put a stop to Auburn's winning streak. Auburn has made changes on the offensive and defensive side of the football. How will they perform under Brian Van Gorder and Scott Loeffler? How will Clemson respond from their drubbing at the hands of West Virginia? Interested? I am.
And the Main Event....two historical powerhouses that both finished in the final 12 of the AP Poll last year (with one of them winning the National Champion...which one was it again?). Alabama replaces a ton of stars on the defensive side of the football and they lose Trent Richardson. How will their replacements fare in their first game out of the shoot? Michigan came back to life last year but were they a function of their schedule? Who doesn't want to see Denard Robinson against a Nick Saban defense, especially when it's at Jerry World!
Get more great college football analysis over at College Football Zealots.