The Sea of Blue group chat is blowing up this week as excitement builds for the first week of the college football season as all 14 SEC teams will be in action this week.
That means “talking season” is officially over as the SEC rolls into Week 1 with six teams ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll in Alabama (1), Georgia (3), Texas A&M (6), Arkansas (19), Kentucky (20) and Ole Miss (21).
This year, our staff writers will share weekly SEC picks in what we’re calling “Big Blue Pick ‘Em” with a champion to be crowned at the end of the season. Who knows, we might even create our own traveling trophy - “2022 Big Blue Pick ‘Em Champion” would look pretty sweet in someone’s home office.
Of course, our top priority is to provide you with the very best Kentucky Wildcat football coverage, so be sure to share your picks with us each week in the comments section, follow our social media pages, and let us know what we should cover this season as the Wildcats try to break the glass ceiling and win the SEC East in 2022.
So let’s get to it - here’s your SEC football guide for Week 1.
As expected, all seven Sea of Blue staffers this week have Kentucky beating Miami (OH) on Saturday at Kroger Field. However, fans should know that this is not your typical cakewalk of a season opener as the RedHawks are a strong mid-major program who have been picked to win the MAC’s East Division this season.
Coach Chuck Martin is entering his ninth year with a standout quarterback in Brett Gabbert, brother to NFL QB Blaine Gabbert, who threw for 2,648 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. This could be an issue for an unproven Kentucky secondary if Gabbert has too much time in the pocket so pressure up front will be one of the keys to a Wildcat victory.
The Rich Scangarello era will also begin on Saturday as a new-look offense will do its best San Francisco 49ers impression despite the loss of standout running back Chris Rodriguez who will miss Week 1. Look for Will Levis to find the end zone a bunch against the RedHawks, both through the air and on the ground, as Kentucky needs some good vibes rolling into Week 2 at Florida.
Game of the Week - No. 11 Oregon at No. 3 Georgia
The marquee game to watch this week is Oregon at Georgia as Coach Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs take the field for the first time since knocking off Alabama 33-18 in the national title game. Here are just a few of the storylines to follow:
Tough Opening Line: Georgia heads into Saturday’s neutral site matchup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as a 17.5-point favorite over a team that enters 2022 ranked No. 11 in the AP Poll. Georgia seems to be a lock for the win, but it’s a tough betting line for a game between two highly ranked teams in a season opener, so I’m not sure if the Stetson Bennett-led Bulldogs can cover the spread in Week 1. Tickets have been hard to come by for this one as the game has been officially sold out since mid-July.
A Smart Hire: New Oregon Coach Dan Lanning will be facing his old boss, Kirby Smart, in his head coaching debut this week after spending the past three seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. A two-time finalist for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach, Lanning put together the best defense in all of college football the last three seasons with last year’s national title team considered one of the best of all-time, giving up an average of just 6.9 points per game and only 16 touchdowns for the year.
Bo Knows The SEC: Former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix returns to SEC action this week as he won the starting job at Oregon after hitting the transfer portal in December. A three-year starter at Auburn, Nix was the first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener for the Tigers since 1946 on his way to winning SEC Freshman of the Year in 2019. He finished his Auburn career with 7,251 passing yards and 39 touchdowns.
Upset Special - No. 7 Utah at Florida
Beware of the Swamp: If you’re looking for an upset in Week 1, then keep on eye on the Florida Gators, who will host a ranked team to kick off the 2022 season. No. 7 Utah has been picked to repeat as Pac-12 champions with many giving the Utes a shot at advancing to the college football playoffs. But it’s certain to be a steamy night in The Swamp as SEC pride will be on the line in Billy Napier’s debut for the Gators. Reports out of fall camp in Gainesville have included some big-time buzz around sophomore Antony Richardson, an elite dual-threat quarterback who just might heat things up on Saturday to pull off the upset.
Things to Know for Week 1
Chasing The Bear: Saturday just might be a full circle moment for Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops who earned his very first UK victory in a 41-7 over Miami (OH) during the 2013 season. A win on Saturday against the RedHawks would tie legendary coach Bear Bryant for most career UK coaching wins with 60.
A Fresh Start: Two other conference coaches - Brian Kelly (LSU) and Billy Napier (Florida) - make their respective coaching debuts this week. Kelly, who spent 12 seasons at Notre Dame, signed a 10-year contract in December for a reported $95 million in base salary. Napier, former coach at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is a two-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year, who’s expected to lead the Gators back to national prominence. Former Kentucky assistant Jon Sumrall will also be making his head coaching debut when Troy plays at Ole Miss this week.
Under Wraps: Two SEC schools - Ole Miss and LSU - have yet to name a starting quarterback for the 2022 season. LSU coach Brian Kelly has someone in mind (Jayden Daniels or Garrett Nussmeier) , but has opted to keep things under wraps until kick off. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is expected to make a game day decision between USC transfer Jaxson Dart and Luke Altmeyer as the Rebels try to replace Matt Corral.
Sound Bites: Kiffin, one of the best quotes in all of college football, has been in rare form during fall camp, finding the team’s new punter “in a frat house” with the addition of Charlie Pollock, a 6-foot-1, 250-pounder, who has game experience with Nevada in 2020. Kiffin also has new dog, a Labrador retriever named Juice, that has become the unofficial mascot for Ole Miss football. Juice Kiffin currently has 22K followers on Twitter at @JuiceKiffin.
It’s going to be a fun weekend as games are on tap for Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday so get settled in and watch your favorite SEC teams take care of business.
SEC Football TV Schedule Week 1
- Ball State at Tennessee (7:00 pm on SEC Network)
- Louisiana Tech at Missouri (8:00 pm on ESPNU)
- Sam Houston State at No. 6 Texas A&M (12:00 pm on SEC Network)
- No. 11 Oregon at No. 3 Georgia (3:30 pm on ABC)
- No. 23 Cincinnati at No. 19 Arkansas (3:30 pm on ESPN)
- Troy at No. 21 Ole Miss (4:00 pm on SEC Network)
- No. 7 Utah at Florida (7:00 p.m. on ESPN)
- Miami (OH) at No. 20 Kentucky (7:00 pm on SEC Network+ | ESPN+)
- Mercer at Auburn (7:00 pm on SEC Network + | ESPN+)
- Elon at Vanderbilt (7:00 pm on SEC Network+ | ESPN+)
- Utah State at No. 1 Alabama (7:30 pm on SEC Network)
- Memphis at Mississippi State (7:30 pm on ESPNU)
- Georgia State at South Carolina (7:30 pm on SEC Network+ | ESPN+)
Sunday, September 4th
- Florida State at LSU (7:30 pm on ABC)