The Rating Game: Ranking the SEC as the 2013 season opens

Alabama coach Nick Saban (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt) Show caption
Alabama coach Nick Saban (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt)

Ranking the Southeastern Conference’s 14 teams as the 2013 season arrives:

1. Alabama (13-1 in 2012)

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer says Bama has no weakness. Is the Tide at least ticklish?

2. South Carolina (11-2)

If Jadeveon Clowney sends a Carolina blue UNC helmet flying into the sky, will it be hard to see?

3. Georgia (11-2)

If the Bulldogs survive the Palmetto State two-step (Clemson, South Carolina), they should be No. 1.

4. Florida (11-2)

The Gators open with Toledo. They should let Bob Toledo QB a quarter to keep it fresh.

5. LSU (10-3)

Any LSU fans caught tailgating inside giant replay screens will be asked to vamoose from AT&T Stadium.

6. Texas A&M (11-2)

A Johnny Manziel autographed copy of The Rating Game is available on our website.

7. Ole Miss (7-6)

Rebels-Commodores on Thursday night is a big game. No, really, it is.

8. Vanderbilt (9-4)

VU Math department trying to compute what a second straight winning season would mean.

9. Mississippi State (8-5)

State’s favored to find SEC West cellar. Oklahoma State’s favored to win Big 12.

10. Missouri (5-7)

Rating Game probably has misplaced faith in Mizzou, but it should start 1-0.

11. Auburn (3-9)

The Gus Malzahn era opens with a pirate’s clash against Mike Leach and Wazzu.

12. Arkansas (4-8)

Hogs remember ULM loss last year and that ULL should have won at Florida.

13. Tennessee (5-7)

At least the Butch Jones era will open with a feel-good smackdown of Austin Peay.

14. Kentucky (2-10)

Lot of good buzz about the Wildcats this offseason, but someone has to be last.

This week’s schedule

Thursday

n North Carolina at No. 6 South Carolina, 5 p.m. (ESPN)

  • Ole Miss at Vanderbilt, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday

  • No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU, 8 p.m. (ESPN)@
  • Toledo at No. 10 Florida, 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network)
  • Rice at No. 7 Texas A&M, noon (ESPN)
  • Mississippi State vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m. (ABC/ESPN2)#
  • UL-Lafayette at Arkansas, 3 p.m. (FSN)
  • No. 1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN)%
  • Austin Peay at Tennessee, 5 p.m. (PPV)
  • Washington State at Auburn, 5 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky, 6 p.m. (ESPNews)*
  • Murray State at Missouri, 6 p.m. (PPV)
  • No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson, 7 p.m. (ABC)

@ — at Arlington, Texas; # — at Houston; % — at Atlanta; * — at Nashville, Tenn.

Game of the week

No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson, 7 p.m. Saturday (ABC): The first Saturday night of the season wraps up with fireworks in a matchup that has all the trappings of an offensive shootout. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will fill the night sky over the “other” Death Valley with points and passing aplenty. It helps that neither defense is expected to be any good, especially to start the season.

Around the SEC

LSU is trying to extend its BCS record nonconference regular-season winning streak to 42 games. … Georgia and Clemson’s campuses are only 80 miles apart, but the border rivals haven’t played since 2003. … The SEC Network’s official launch date is Aug. 21, 2014. Until then, some SEC games will have one final go round on pay-per-view — like Austin Peay-Tennessee and Murray State-Missouri.