Rating game

Preseason rating of the 14 Southeastern Conference teams:

1. SOUTH CAROLINA

Three straight 11-win seasons have S.C. poised for the big time.

2. ALABAMA

Unsettled QBs, suspension of LB Trey DePriest. Is this The Process?

3. AUBURN

The question for the Tigers is always: Can they sustain success?

4. GEORGIA

Hutson Mason, hand off to Todd Gurley. Repeat. Repeat again.

5. LSU

So much talent, so much youth in key spots, so little time to grow up.

6. OLE MISS

Rebels now within firing range of the Death Star. Will The Force be with them?

7. FLORIDA

Taking the middle road with a highly unpredictable Gators team.

8. MISSOURI

Few taking Mizzou seriously again. Could be a mistake.

9. MISSISSIPPI STATE

In Dak Prescott they trust in StarkVegas. Is he up to the task?

10. TEXAS A&M

Hard not to expect the Aggies to regress without Johnny Football.

11. VANDERBILT

The ’Dores have just enough momentum to make another bowl.

12. TENNESSEE

Murderous road slate for Vols: OU, Georgia, Ole Miss, S.Carolina.

13. ARKANSAS

Hogs should be improved, but in the SEC West may be hard to tell.

14. KENTUCKY

UK should be improved, but in the SEC East may be hard to tell.

Game of the Week

No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina

5 p.m. (SEC Network)

It’s not just that this a compelling matchup for an SEC opener, it’s the first football game on the SEC Network. The focus will be on how well Dylan Thompson handles the quarterback for South Carolina after replacing Connor Shaw, and how the Gamecocks can compensate for the departure of Jadeveon Clowney (sophomores Gerald Davis and Darius English will try to fill Clowney’s cleats at defensive end). For the Aggies, facing the brave new post-Johnny Manziel world may be more daunting than it was joining the SEC two years ago. Sophomore Kenny Hill gets the nod behind center, but it’s the A&M defense that has to improve the most after allowing 222.3 yards per game rushing in 2013. South Carolina running back Mike Davis (rib injury) is probable.

Around the SEC

LSU is playing a game in Houston for the first time since a 24-10 victory at Rice on Sept. 17, 1983. ... This will be the first-ever meeting in football between South Carolina and Texas A&M, who are now each other’s permanent cross-divisional opponent. ... South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is seeking his 200th win at SEC schools (S.C. and Florida). ... Arkansas has lost 12 straight SEC games dating to a 49-7 win over Kentucky on Oct. 13, 2012. ... Since 2006, the SEC has the nation’s best nonconference record among all conferences (387-86, 81.8 percent).

-- Scott Rabalais