Power Ranking Top SEC Showdowns of 2012

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2012

Power Ranking Top SEC Showdowns of 2012

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    Can you smell it in the air?

    College football season is just around the corner and that means that it's time for some of the best games in the top conference in the land, the SEC.

    Last season, for the first time in history of the BCS, we saw two teams from the SEC meet in the National Championship in Alabama and LSU.

    This year, both teams return a ton of talent, and they aren't alone. Georgia, Florida and Arkansas are among the other SEC programs who have high expectations heading into the year.

    So what can we expect to see this season?

    Let's go ahead and rank the top SEC showdowns in 2012, Bleacher Report style!

12. Florida vs. LSU

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    Who/What: LSU @ Florida

    When: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012

    Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida

    Why: These two schools have combined for three of the past six college football BCS National Championships, which explains why this is such an anticipated game every year.

    Both of these programs are known for having tremendous defenses. In fact, it could be argued that these two teams have the most speed of any teams in the country—on both sides of the ball.

    Back in the mid-2000s, this was the best game in the SEC season. Florida has taken a bit of a hit since then as Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer have moved on, but make no mistake about it, the Swamp will still be rocking and loud as ever for this classic SEC showdown in early October.

11. Arkansas vs. South Carolina

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    Who/What: Arkansas @ South Carolina

    When: Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012

    Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina

    Why: This isn't a rivalry game as these two top programs play in different divisions in the SEC. But make no mistake about it, this game has the makings of a great college football matchup.

    The Gamecocks and Razorbacks are very evenly matched, both featuring explosive offenses with dominant running games. South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore and Arkansas' Knile Davis were considered as two of the top running backs in the country last season before both suffered season-ending injuries.

    Lattimore and Davis are both projected as potential Heisman candidates heading into 2012 and the two quarterbacks in this game, Tyler Wilson and Connor Shaw, are dark horse candidates as well.

    Arkansas got the best of the Gamecocks last season in a 44-28 win. Look for this year's game feature another another offensive explosion by both teams.

10. Florida vs. Tennessee

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    Who/What: Tennessee vs. Florida

    When: Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012

    Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee

    Why: "You can't spell Citrus without U-T."

    Those were the famous words spoken by former Florida coach Steve Spurrier, referring to the Tennessee Volunteers and their ongoing heated rivalry during the mid-90s and early 2000s.

    Since Spurrier left in the early 2000s, this rivalry has lost a bit of its flair, with Florida winning the last seven contests, including a 33-23 thriller last season.

    But once again, these two teams will face each other to kick off the SEC season in what should be a heated battle. Both head coaches, Will Muschamp and Derek Dooley, are under a lot of pressure to win now after several years of mediocre football.

    Tyler Bray is one of the top quarterbacks in the land and the thought of him opening the SEC season on his home field could be just enough to turn this rivalry back in the favor of the Vols.

9. LSU vs. Auburn

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    Who/What: Auburn vs. LSU

    When: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012

    Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Alabama

    Why: Auburn ruled the SEC in 2010 and LSU ruled the SEC in 2011, before falling to Alabama in the National Championship game.

    Both teams play in the SEC West and they don't particularly like one another.

    This season, LSU is looked at as one of the preseason national title contenders, while Auburn is looking to bounce back after a mediocre 2011 season.

    If you like defensive football, this is the perfect game for you. Both defenses play a hard-nosed style of football, which leads one to believe that this should be a low-scoring, grind-it-out type of football game.

8. LSU vs. South Carolina

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    Who/What: LSU @ South Carolina

    When: Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012

    Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    Why: It's been a long time since these two SEC powerhouse programs have squared off, which makes this game that much more meaningful for both teams.

    When we think of SEC dominance over the past couple of years, you have to put LSU and Alabama on top, but South Carolina isn't that far off from being with those two programs.

    This game features arguably the best running back in the country in South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore against arguably the best backfield combination in the country in LSU's four-headed monster. Expect plenty of running and some big gains on the ground in this contest.

    This could be a sneak peek of the SEC title game.

7. Auburn vs. Georgia

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    Who/What: Georgia @ Auburn

    When: Saturday, November 10th, 2012

    Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Alabama

    Why: Welcome to the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry Game."

    These two teams bring new meaning to the word "dislike," which became evident when Uga, Georgia's famed mascot dog, went after Auburn's Robert Baker after he scored a touchdown.

    This is a rivalry that dates back to 1892, where these two teams have played one another every year expect 1917, 1918 and 1943 because of World Wars 1 and 2.

    So just how good is this rivalry?

    How about that after 115 matchups, Auburn leads the series 54-53-8. That's right, they are separated by just one game after more than a century of going at one another.

    This year should be another great chapter in what is one of the top SEC showdowns.

6. Arkansas vs. LSU

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    Who/What: LSU @ Arkansas

    When: Friday, November 23, 2012

    Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

    Why: This is an up-and-coming rivalry in college football as these two SEC powerhouse programs continue to have great battles against one another.

    This year should be much the same story as both teams are looked at as preseason National Championship contenders. The fact that this game is scheduled to be played in the last week of the regular season makes it even bigger because it will likely have huge conference championship implications.

    When you talk about top SEC showdowns, it's hard to overlook a game that features an explosive offense like Arkansas against a dominant defense like LSU.

    It is often said that defense wins championships, so does that mean LSU will come out on top in this one, even though it's being played in Fayetteville?

    We shall wait and see.

5. Alabama vs. Arkansas

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    Who/What: Alabama @ Arkansas

    When: Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012

    Where: Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas

    Why: Wow, Arkansas really lucked out this season with playing both Alabama and LSU at home.

    This is another one of those games that has picked up steam over the years because of several recent nail-biters, including a 24-20 thriller in 2010.

    Tyler Wilson is a star in the making and should be Heisman Trophy candidate when this year is all said and done. But to be a favorite, he is going to have to finally beat this Alabama team.

    This is the first SEC matchup of the year for both teams, and the winner could have a clear road until they face LSU later on in the season.

4. Florida vs. Georgia

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    Who/What: Florida vs. Georgia

    When: Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012

    Where: Everbank Field, Jacksonville, Florida

    Why: The "World's Largest Outdoor Party" will take place on Oct. 27 this year and there won't be an empty seat in the stadium as Georgia and Florida fans split the stadium in half. This is one of the top rivalries in all of college football, and is certainly a party on top of that.

    This is a game that could have huge implications in deciding which team represents the SEC East in the conference title game.

    Both of these teams are fast, both of these teams feature very strong defenses, and most importantly in an SEC showdown, both of these teams don't like one another.

    Uga vs. the Gator—Who will take the biggest bite out of his opponent?

    Only time will tell.

3. Georgia vs. South Carolina

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    Who/What: Georgia @ South Carolina

    When: Saturday, October 6th, 2012

    Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina

    Why: This is a border rivalry and a good one at that.

    Georgia and South Carolina are the favorites to win SEC East title this year, and rightfully so. The winner of this game will likely cement a spot in the SEC title game, which has huge BCS implications as well.

    But in reality, what makes a great SEC showdown is two teams that are evenly matched. To get an idea of how even these two programs are, take a look at the scores when they play one another, dating back to 2007. All five games since 2007 have been decided by 11 points or fewer.

    Now, with that type of stat, why wouldn't you be jumping out of your seat to see these two teams square off in 2012?

    I know I sure am.

2. Alabama vs. Auburn

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    Who/What: Auburn @ Alabama

    When: Saturday, November 24th, 2012

    Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

    Why: The hands-down No. 1 rivalry in the SEC will take place the last week of the regular season, which is beyond fitting for these two programs.

    When you talk about teams that don't like each other, you start and finish with Auburn and Alabama. If you don't believe me, just watch the ESPN documentary Roll Tide War Eagle.

    The documentary touches on the hatred between these two teams, including the well-known Alabama fan who was accused of poisoning Auburn's cherished Toomer's corner tree out of pure bitterness toward the university.

    This year's Iron Bowl should be another treat as it features the two last schools to win a national title.

1. LSU vs. Alabama

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    Who/What: Alabama @ LSU

    When: Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

    Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    Why: Because these are not only the two best teams in the SEC, but the best in the entire country.

    LSU and Alabama played in the two most important games in the college football season last year, and there is no reason to believe this year will be any different.

    The winner of this game will likely cement a spot in the SEC title game and possibly a national championship berth as well. Most fans expect this is to be another defensive slugfest, but with guys like Morris Claiborne, Michael Brockers, Dont'a Hightower and Dre Kirkpatrick all off to the NFL, the offenses could surprise people.

    The one thing we know for sure—this has all the makings of an awesome college football game.