Around the SEC

Ah, opening weekend. It's (almost) here and the SEC has some great match ups on deck. The three biggest match ups this weekend are Florida vs Cal State Fullerton; Ole Miss vs TCU; and Vanderbilt vs Stanford. Here's the Full Slate for Friday:

SEC TeamOpponent
Floridavs Cal State Fullerton
Georgiavs Presbyterian
Kentuckyat Wofford
South Carolinavs VMI
Tennesseevs Northern Illinois
Auburnvs Missouri
Alabamavs Florida Atlantic
Arkansasvs Villanova
LSUvs Air Force
Ole Missat TCU
Vanderbiltat Stanford
Mississippi Statevs Washington State

Florida vs CSUF: One of the top games of the weekend. The Gators will try to improve on a program best 53-19 record last year and an impressive rotation of Hudson Randall, Karsten Whitson, and Brian Johnson should be the key. This is the first meeting between the two schools and will be the first for new CSUF Titans Head Coach Rick Vanderhook (his predecesor Dave Serrano is now at Tennessee). The Titans have brought home four NCAA titles (1979, 1984, 1995, 2004), made 16 trips to the College World Series, totaled 33 NCAA Regional appearances, earned 10 Super Regional berths and captured 25 conference championships since beginning their program in 1975. It's College Baseball Royalty versus 2012's Favorite Team. AUPPL PREDICTION: UF 2-1

Georgia vs Presbyterian: The Bulldogs get a nice tuneup with the visiting Blue Hose and own an 8-0 mark all time against the Boys from Clinton, South Carolina. They shouldn't be tested too much this weekend, but one thing to watch out for is Michael Palazzone and an injury revamped rotation. Tyler Maloof (the 18 save closer) is sidelined until Match, so previous #3 starter Blake Dieterich moves to the bullpen and Taylor Hicks make his Red and Black debut on Sunday. AUPPL PREDICTION: UGA 3-0

Kentucky vs Wofford (Tournament): The Big Blue has to prove themselves. First order of business is taking care of the teams it SHOULD beat. Thankfully, they have 3 of those opponents in the Update/Wofford Tournament in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The Wildcats will face Wofford, Eastern Michigan, and South Carolina-Upstate in a three game mini-tournament. The Wildcats will open the campaign in South Carolina for the fourth consecutive season, also making season-opening trips to Coastal Carolina and the College of Charleston. UK owns a 57-31-3 all-time record in season openers, with a loss at No. 20 COC last year snapping a school-record seven-game winning streak. UK opened up the 2009-10 seasons in Myrtle Beach, facing Coastal Carolina and opened up the 2007 season at Furman in Greenville. AUPPL PREDICTION: UK 3-0

Alabama vs Florida Atlantic:The Tide face the Blue Wave in a pretty intriguing match up, if just for the fact that both of these teams have a little bit of history. UA and FAU met three times during the 2002 season, with the Crimson Tide winning two of the three games. The series against FAU will mark the first time the two schools have played a three-game series. UA posted an 8-3 win over the Owls in the Hormel Foods Classic at the Metrodome. The teams met later in the season when they squared off in the finals of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional. UA won the first game, 7-2, before the Owls defeated the Tide, 6-5, in the deciding game. Florida Atlantic enters the season with 20 returning players and 15 newcomers. FAU posted a 32-25 record in 2011 and finished tied for fourth in the Sun Belt Conference with a 17-13 record. The Owls return two starting position players and three starting pitchers. Head coach John McCormack is in his fourth season and has a 99-75 overall record in three years. Last season, FAU posted a .297 team batting average, with 35 home runs. On the pitching side, the Owls had a 4.58 team ERA, while holding opponents to a .283 average. AUPPL Prediction: UA 2-1

South Carolina vs VMI: The Defending National Champions will have a celebratory opener as the Keydets come to town. Several pre-game festivities are planned for Opening Day at Carolina Stadium before the South Carolina and VMI baseball game on Friday. The South Carolina National Guard Band will perform the National Anthem with military representatives presenting the colors and the United States flag. It also will play a mini-concert behind the batter's eye near the main entrance when gates open at 1:30 p.m. In recognition of the back-to-back National Championships, there will be a brief video as well as the raising of the National Championship flag. 2010 College World Series Most Outstanding Player Jackie Bradley Jr. and 2011 College World Series Most Outstanding Player Scott Wingo will throw out ceremonial first pitches to former catchers Robert Beary and Brady Thomas. Those players will be accompanied by National Championship teammates Bryan Harper, Peter Mooney, Adrian Morales, Steven Neff andJohn Taylor .Baseball is at a fever pitch in Columbia this weekend and fans are hungry for as much baseball as popular. South Carolina set a record for season tickets sold this year with a total of 5,580 sold in the preseason, surpassing the previous record of 5,414 set last year. South Carolina's total attendance of 297,279 for 40 games last year at Carolina Stadium was second highest in the country. The Gamecocks own a 92-19 (.829) record since opening the facility on Feb. 21, 2009. AUPPL Prediction: USC 3-0

Vanderbilt vs Stanford: The 'Dores travel to Palo Alto is another big marquee matchup. The Cardinal come in as the #3 Team in America and has one of the best pitchers in baseball with RHP Mark Appel. Vandy has some firepower of their own. The matchup I'm looking forward to most is the Saturday one. Talented Freshman recruit RHP Tyler Beede will make his Black and Gold debut. Beede was a first round pick (and the only one to NOT sign with his club) for the Toronto Blue Jays and headlined Baseball America's #1 Ranked Recruiting Class. Vandy will be replacing a ton of talent but they will restock just fine. They do have four Freshman All-Americans on their roster. AUPPL Prediction: Stanford 2-1

Tennessee vs Northern Illinois: The Dave Serrano era begins in Knoxville. That's really all that can be said about this less than prime time matchup. Serrano himself hasn't really focused on the Huskies: "It's about what we do. I haven't even looked at their stuff. I know they're going two left-handers Friday, Saturday and throwing a right-hander on Sunday. They're probably coming out of colder weather than we have, but it's not about what they do. It's about what we do." UT will probably not face a serious test until February 28th against Middle Tennessee. AUPPL Prediction: UT 3-0

Arkansas vs Villanova: The SEC West Favorites will take on 'Nova in another Sunshine matchup. One thing to look for is how the Razorbacks replace their entire outfield. Each of the outfield regulars for the Razorbacks from last season were drafted in the 2011 MLB Draft. Collin Kuhn and Kyle Robinsonwere each drafted by the Chicago White Sox with Kuhn going in the 17th round and Robinson in the 28th round. Jarrod McKinney was a 31st round selection of the Houston Astros. AUPPL Prediction: Arkansas 3-0

Ole Miss vs TCU: If you have to watch one game of this series, keep an eye on the Friday matchup where Rebel starter Bobby Wahl take the hill. Wahl is a key cog for UM this year: Sophomore right-hander Bobby Wahl makes his first weekend start for the Rebels and only the second start of his career when he takes the mound on Friday night against TCU. Wahl served primarily as a closer in his freshman campaign, working 30.0 innings and combining for two shutouts. He made 18 appearances in 2011 with his lone start coming against Arkansas State on February 23 in a season-long 4.0 innings of work and took no decision. Wahl also picked up four saves on the season and was named SEC Freshman of the Week after picking up a pair of saves in a series sweep against Kentucky. This is a Top 25 Matchup and TCU Probably needs a good distraction after all the mess with the football team. It is the first meeting between the two teams since the 2009 season when weather cancelled two of the three games in the series. Ole Miss dropped the first game 13-19 on Friday night. Ole Miss last played at TCU in the 2008 season, going 1-2 in a three-game series with the Horned Frogs. AUPPL Prediction: TCU 2-1

Mississippi State vs Washington State: The Bulldogs were a pleasant surprise in 2011, making it to a Super Regional and a #15 Ranking. The key for MSU will be its pitching as the Maroon returns 14 pitchers lead by preseason All-American Caleb Reed (12 Saves/ 1.55 ERA). Sophomore right-hander Ben Bracewell (Chelsea, Ala.) will open on the mound for the Bulldogs. It will be the first career start for Bracewell, who made 17 relief appearances as a freshman in 2010 before redshirting last spring. The Cougars, from the Pac-12 Conference, have tabbed sophomore righty J.D. Leckendy for starting mound duty Friday. AUPPL Prediction: MSU 2-1

LSU in LSU Tournament: The Bengals will try to fight some nasty weather headed to Baton Rouge and will face an odd series where they take on Air Force twice and Alcorn State (who comes to Auburn next) once. There is a fun "student meets teacher" matchup with Air Force Head Coach Mike Kazlausky, who played for three years under LSU Skipper Paul Mainieri at AFA and also served as an assistant coach with Manieri for two years. AUPPL Prediction: LSU 3-0


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