Below are the 10 SEC games that are must-see this football season. They are listed (from 1 to 10) in the order that I think they will impact the SEC Championship Game.
10. Georgia at Auburn (November 16)
With only three weeks to go, Georgia could very likely be fighting for a spot in Atlanta. Auburn could ruin any dreams the Bulldogs have back-to-back SEC Championship appearances. The Tigers are sure to be improved from last year, and Jordan-Hare Stadium can provide an intimidating atmosphere for favored opponents.
9. Florida at LSU (October 12)
This game has been the source of quite a few scheduling comments in recent week from SEC head coaches. Whether or not the LSU/Florida series will continue is not an issue, though, when the two teams meet on the field. If Georgia can get by LSU and Florida can get a win over Tennessee, these two will likely meet undefeated.
8. Alabama at Mississippi State (November 16)
We know Alabama will be tested on the road against Texas A&M and at home against LSU. But if there was ever a slip-up game, it would have to be the road game against Mississippi State. One reason for that is the fact that it comes the week after the always physically draining LSU game, which is when Alabama suffered its only loss last season.
7. Florida at Missouri (October 19)
A disappointing first season in the SEC leaves many forgetting about Missouri this year. Under the leadership of senior quarterback James Franklin, I think the Tigers will be significantly improved from last season. Can they challenge for a division title? Time will tell, but I would say probably not this year. However, I do expect them to win a game or two against teams from the upper echelon of the league. Florida fits that bill perfectly. After a road trip to LSU, the Gators will undoubtedly be drained. I think this is one Missouri will have circled.
6. Texas A&M at LSU (November 23)
Texas A&M suffered one of its only two losses at home against LSU a year ago by a narrow 24-19 margin. Last season, the two met in mid-October when the divisional race was still very much up for grabs. It will be a different story this year as the two will play on the second-to-last week of the season. If Alabama loses to one or both of these two, there’s a great chance that this game will be loaded with SEC Championship implications.
5. Georgia vs Florida (November 2)
This is always an intense rivalry game. The winner of this game has gone on to represent the eastern division in the SEC Championship Game four out of the past five years. While Florida has won 15 out of the last 20 meetings, Georgia enjoys a two-year winning streak on the Gators. In addition to all of the other subplots, this is a big game for the head coaches of each school. Both fan bases have difficulty swallowing a loss to the other. Expect this year to be no different.
4. Alabama at Texas A&M (September 14)
This is the game that everyone is pointing to as the most pivotal SEC West matchup of 2012. I heard one commentator say the game will reach the sort of hype that surrounded the LSU/Alabama ‘Game of the Century’ in 2011. I don’t know if it’s that important, especially since it’s in early September, but the winner will certainly be in fine shape to contend for the divisional championship. It has already been announced that ESPN’s “College Gameday” will be present and CBS will televise the contest in its traditional afternoon time-slot. If Alabama can survive the Virginia Tech game and Texas A&M gan get past Rice and Sam Houston State, expect a fever pitch for an entire week around College Station.
3. South Carolina at Georgia (September 7)
Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina team has not enjoyed the scheduling breaks over the past several seasons that its counterparts in Athens have. That changes this year as Georgia has to play LSU and Auburn from the west, while South Carolina plays Mississippi State and Arkansas. That means this game will be of tremendous significance. If the Gamecocks can make it four in a row over the Bulldogs, they would be in a more than capable position to win the SEC East.
2. LSU at Georgia (September 28)
This is where the scheduling fortunes change for Georgia. For the past couple of years, Mark Richt’s team has not had to play Alabama or LSU from the west. Three things will help Georgia in this contest. First, LSU will have to play Auburn the week before while Georgia’s opponent is North Texas. Second, the game being in Athens is an obvious advantage. And third, you can bet Aaron Murray has not forgotten the SEC Championship Game from 2011 when Georgia held LSU to zero first downs in the first half, only to see the Tigers crush them in the second period. That game ended 42-0. All things considered, it will be a tough one for LSU to win.
1. LSU at Alabama (November 9)
This one always seems to possess a little extra excitement. With four out of the last six BCS Championships coming from this game, there are always national implications. This year, the game is played in Bryant-Denny. While you may think that’s an advantage for Alabama, the Tide is 1-5 in the last six meetings in Tuscaloosa. In fact, this series has historically been dominated by the visiting team. I would not be surprised to see that again this year. After an off week, expect Les Miles’ Tigers to be more than ready to go when they suit up on November 9th.