The 2017 college football season is almost here, and with its arrival comes the usual Week 1 assortment of tantalizing nonconference games. The SEC is part of several fine matchups.
Rather than churn out the standard predictions column, SEC Country turned to its still functional Xbox 360 in order to gain a firmer grasp on how pairings for this weekend might shake out.
NCAA Football 14 is the last college football video game released by EA Sports after the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit killed that franchise. It’s more than four years old, but a group of dedicated fans has (sort of) kept the series alive for the past few years by manually updating the in-game rosters. They’ve done this with surprising accuracy, and every single FBS program is part of the update. Alabama has Jalen Hurts, LSU has Derrius Guice, Texas A&M has Christian Kirk and so on. ( The player ratings are suspect in some cases, but this is the best we have for now.)
So, with technology at our disposal, SEC Country simulated the six best Week 1 matchups and recorded the results. Here’s how each SEC squad fared:
No. 1 Alabama vs No. 3 Florida State (Georgia Dome*)
- Alabama team ratings: 97 overall, 97 offense, 99 defense
- Top Alabama players: Minkah Fitzpatrick (98), Calvin Ridley (97), Jonah Williams (97)
- Florida State team ratings: 91 overall, 88 offense, 97 defense
- Top FSU players: Derwin James (98), Tarvarus McFadden (95), Josh Sweat (90)
- Hurts throws a 60-yard bomb to Ridley on the opening drive of the game.
- Both teams trade punts until Crimson Tide linebacker Anfernee Jennings recovers a fumble and houses it.
- Deondre Francois responds by hitting passes of 23 and 20 yards, but the ‘Noles are forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal.
- Hurts finds Ridley again, this time for a 45-yard score.
- The Bo Scarbrough train begins picking up some steam and gets Alabama down to the FSU goal line; the Tide are stopped there and kick a field goal.
- FSU goes three and out on its next two drives, while Alabama scores another 10 unanswered points. By halftime, Nick Saban’s juggernaut holds a commanding 34-3 lead.
- Things devolve from there for the Seminoles, as their offense fails to find any room against the Alabama defense. By the time the fourth quarter rolls around, Tua Tagovailoa is in at quarterback; he goes 5 for 5 passing with 2 touchdowns.
FINAL: Alabama 65, Florida State 17
- Hurts: 19 of 30, 322 yards, 4 TDs
- Scarbrough: 25 carries, 105 yards, TD
- Ridley: 7 catches, 162 yards, 3 TDs
- Alabama: 550 yards of total offense
- Florida State: 4 turnovers
Texas A&M at UCLA (Rose Bowl)
- Texas A&M team ratings: 86 overall, 86 offense, 87 defense
- Top Texas A&M players: Kirk (98), Erik McCoy (89), Kingsley Keke (88)
- UCLA team ratings: 90 overall, 91 offense, 90 overall
- Top UCLA players: JJ Molson (89), Josh Rosen (88), Soso Jamabo (87)
- Rosen completes a 21-yard pass on third down and, with the help of a few key Jamabo runs, marches UCLA down the field to a quick 7-0 lead.
- Nick Starkel is sacked on third down, ending A&M’s first offensive possession of the game, and the Aggies go three and out on their next two drives.
- Rosen hits passes of 30 and 31 yards before Jamabo punches in a rushing touchdown, putting UCLA up, 14-0.
- Starkel counters, connecting with Kirk and Jhamon Ausbon before finding Trayveon Williams for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
- UCLA boots a short field goal. Otherwise, the half ends uneventfully, with both teams trading several punts.
- The Bruins begin the second half by orchestrating another long offensive drive that culminates in another Rosen touchdown pass.
- Texas A&M fumbles on its next possession, resulting in a UCLA field goal.
- Starkel is intercepted. On the following Aggies drive, Kevin Sumlin opts to go for it on fourth down, and Starkel delivers with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Kirk.
- UCLA kicks two more field goals to put A&M away for good; Starkel hits a garbage-time touchdown pass.
FINAL: UCLA 33, Texas A&M 21
- Rosen: 21 of 36, 254 yards, 2 TDs
- Jamabo: 37 carries, 142 yards, TD
- Starkel: 19 of 33, 272 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 3 sacks
- Williams: 11 carries, 21 yards
- Kirk: 13 catches, 184 yards
No. 25 Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech (Georgia Dome*)
- Tennessee team ratings: 86 overall, 83 offense, 88 defense
- Tennessee top players: Darrin Kirkland (89), Jauan Jennings (89), Jonathan Kongbo (85)
- Georgia Tech team ratings: 79 overall, 77 offense, 82 defense
- Georgia Tech top players: Dedrick Mills (91), Parker Braun (90), Will Bryan (88)
- Georgia Tech recovers a fumble on the opening kickoff and turns that into a 28-yard field goal.
- Quinten Dormady answers by hitting Josh Smith on a 25-yard, third-down completion. He then finds Tyler Byrd for a 33-yard score.
- After a Georgia Tech three and out, Dormady keeps the momentum going with another productive touchdown drive capped by a 9-yard scoring toss to Smith.
- Tech and the Vols both hit field goals; Aaron Medley connects from 51 yards out.
- Tennessee fumbles on its own goal line, and Georgia Tech scores from 1 yard out on the following play, cutting the Vols lead to 17-13 before halftime.
- The Yellow Jackets open the second half by marching down to the Tennessee 4-yard line, then settle for another field goal.
- Georgia Tech wears down the Tennessee defense and grinds its way into the end zone on a 10-yard Matthew Jordan touchdown pass. The two-point conversion attempt is no good. Tech leads, 22-17.
- Tennessee answers with another masterful drive from Dormady, who completes passes to Byrd, Jennings and Marquez Callaway. The Vols go for two and also fail.
- Tennessee cornerback Emmanuel Moseley intercepts Jordan at midfield. The Vols run down the clock to 0:45.
- Jordan hits a 36-yard pass, and then on fourth-and-15 gains another 32 yards through the air, but time expires as Tech lines up for the potential game-winning field goal attempt.
- Thus, Tennessee wins in the most Tennessee way imaginable.
FINAL: Tennessee 23, Georgia Tech 22
- Dormady: 18 of 39, 261 yards, 3 TDs
- John Kelly: 10 carries, 26 yards
- Georgia Tech: 201 yards rushing, 387 total yards of offense
BYU vs No. 13 LSU (NRG Stadium)
- LSU team ratings: 91 overall, 91 offense, 90 defense
- LSU top players: Arden Key (98), Guice (98), Will Clapp (91)
- BYU team ratings: 83 overall, 84 offense, 80 defense
- BYU top players: Tanner Mangum (87), Squally Canada (84), Rhett Almond (80)
- LSU scores a quick touchdown on the opening drive. Guice reels off a 19-yard run, while Danny Etling hits two passes of 15-plus yards.
- The Tigers recover a pair of BYU fumbles, thanks to K’Lavon Chaisson and Rashard Lawrence, and turn those into 14 more points and an early 21-0 lead.
- After another three and out, BYU finally shows life as Mangum guides the Cougars down the field and Canada punches in a touchdown run.
- Etling hits D.J. Chark on a 6-yard scoring toss just before halftime arrives. It’s 28-7, LSU.
- Early in the second half, Etling is intercepted, and BYU capitalizes with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Mangum.
- LSU hits a 43-yard field goal.
- After a Tigers field goal, Etling throws another interception — this time deep in LSU territory — that the Cougars turn into another seven points.
- Etling is intercepted for a third time, and Mangum cuts the LSU lead to three points in the fourth quarter.
- The Tigers respond by authoring a punishing, clock-killing drive led by Guice, who scores an 8-yard touchdown to put BYU away for good.
FINAL: LSU 38, BYU 28
- Etling: 16 of 29, 234 yards, TD, 3 INTs
- Guice: 34 carries, 156 yards, 3 TD
- Chark: 8 recs, 111 yards
- LSU: 3 sacks (2 by Ed Alexander)
- BYU: 393 total yards offense
No. 17 Florida vs No. 11 Michigan (AT&T Stadium)
- Florida team ratings: 91 overall, 90 offense, 92 defense
- Florida top players: Duke Dawson (94), Antonio Callaway** (94), Johnny Townsend (90)
- Michigan team ratings: 88 overall, 90 offense, 88 defense
- Michigan top players: Rashan Gary (95), Wilton Speight (88), Ben Bredeson (88)
- Michigan takes a quick 10-point lead, thanks in part to a 41-yard touchdown pass from Speight, while Florida goes three and out on its first two drives.
- Florida gets Jordan Scarlett going and he fuels a Gators touchdown drive that ends with Malik Zaire finding Brandon Powell from 12 yards out.
- Both teams continue trading points. Zaire hits Dre Massey on a 24-yard touchdown pass just before halftime to give Florida a 21-20 lead.
- Scarlett scores 3 more touchdowns (2 rushing, 1 receiving) as the Gators produce 21 unanswered points to open the second half.
- Michigan eventually responds, reeling off touchdown drives on consecutive possessions, but it’s too little, too late as Florida recovers an onside kick attempt with less than a minute left in the game.
FINAL: Florida 42, Michigan 35
- Zaire: 22 of 36, 302 yards, 5 TDs
- Scarlett: 29 carries, 91 yards, 11 broken tackles
North Carolina State vs South Carolina (Bank of America Stadium)
- South Carolina team ratings: 83 overall, 83 offense, 85 defense
- South Carolina top players: Skai Moore (90), Hayden Hurst (86), Deebo Samuel (84)
- N.C. State team ratings: 88 overall, 88 offense, 88 defense
- N.C. State top players: Jaylen Samuels (91), Tony Adams (91), Bradley Chubb (91)
- South Carolina orchestrates a long, methodical touchdown drive on the opening possession. Mon Denson punches in a touchdown run from 3 yards out.
- N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley answers with a pair of first-half touchdown passes, covering 13 and 32 yards, to put the Wolfpack up, 14-7. A field goal gives them a 17-7 advantage entering halftime.
- The Gamecocks offense can’t get anything going, while Finley tosses another touchdown pass. Jake Bentley scores in garbage time as this snoozer mercifully comes to an end.
FINAL: NC State 30, South Carolina 14
- Bentley: 20 of 38, 207 yards, 1 TD
- Ty’Son Williams: 8 carries, 32 yards
- South Carolina: 3 sacks
- Finely: 26 of 41, 380 yards, 3 TDs
Projected SEC record, according to NCAA 14: 4-2
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