Everything You Need to Know About the New-Look SEC
The college football season is only two days away from kicking off and one of the first matchups of the year will be between two SEC teams (South Carolina and Vanderbilt).
If you have been hiding under a rock for the last several months, the SEC has undergone a facelift during the offseason. With conference realignment being a very popular topic as of late, the SEC decided to add two teams to their already stacked conference.
This makes scheduling a little confusing and changes a few things that you may not be aware of.
With the season just days away, here is everything you need to know about the SEC for the 2012 season.
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First season: 1890
Head coach: Gary Pinkel
Last season’s record: 8-5
Accomplishments: 15 conference titles, three division titles and 11 All-Americans
Missouri returns 13 starters from last season, including one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in James Franklin. The Tigers had the ninth best rushing offense last season and a defense that was ranked 44th in scoring allowed. They managed to knock off two ranked teams last season in Texas and Texas A&M, and lost four of their five games by 10 points or less.
Texas A&M Aggies
First season: 1894
Head coach: Kevin Sumlin
Last season’s record: 7-6
Accomplishments: 18 conference titles, three national titles, one Heisman Trophy winner and 21 All-Americans
The Aggies have a new head coach in Kevin Sumlin and return 14 starters from last year's squad. What makes this team so interesting is the fact the defense led the country with 51 sacks, while the offensive line only allowed nine sacks—second best in all of college football. Much like the Tigers, the Aggies lost five of their seven games by seven points or less last season.
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Despite Missouri being one of the westernmost teams in the entire conference, the Tigers are now a member of the SEC East. This means the Texas A&M Aggies have moved to the brutal SEC West, adding another competitive team to arguably the best division in all of college football.
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The conference schedule will include eight games. Six of those will be played against division opponents, while the remaining two will be played against members of the opposite division.
"It's reminiscent of 1992, when Arkansas and South Carolina (joined)," said commissioner Mike Slive. "The league had to go through exactly the same process, so what happens really is that in the short term, there's some difficulty but over time traditions build and the rivalries build and they develop. So I anticipate that over time, we will be as cohesive and as strong as we have been when we were eight, when we went to 10 and then to 12."
The cross-division rivals will include Arkansas-Missouri, Florida-LSU, Ole Miss-Vanderbilt, Auburn-Georgia, Kentucky-Mississippi State, Alabama-Tennessee and Texas A&M-South Carolina. The other non-division game will rotate on a yearly basis every six years.
This may be the format for the 2012 season, but things may end up changing by year as there are still a few that are not happy with the scheduling format of the non-division opponents.
"The non-divisional opponents should just be rotated," said LSU Director of Athletics Joe Alleva. "It's the fairest and most equitable way to do it. Anybody who doesn't vote that way is simply voting in the best interests of their institution, not the best interests of the conference. That's my opinion."
SEC Executive Associate Commissioner Mark Womack also said that this is something the conference will continue to look into as the years play out (via Jon Solomon of al.com).
"I think we'll continue to monitor all aspects of the conference scheduling process as we go forward," Womack said.
While this may give us more headaches in the near future, at least we have a good understanding of what things look like right now in 2012.
Top Rivalries in 2012
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Georgia vs. Florida (In Jacksonville, FL)
The Bulldogs are the pick of many to return to the SEC Championship game, but don't sleep on the Florida Gators either. Sure, the offense was absolutely terrible last year, but returning 10 starters from a top 10 defense isn't too shabby. And besides—this is considered the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." How can you not be excited?
Auburn at Alabama
Alabama destroyed the Tigers last year—winning by a score of 42-14—but you can bet Auburn will be much better off in 2012. They return nine starters on the defensive side of the ball and should be more efficient on offense led by dual-threat quarterback Kiehl Frazier. Taking a trip to Tuscaloosa is never easy, but this is the Iron Bowl, where anything can happen.
LSU at Arkansas
We will talk about this game a little bit more in the "key game" section, but this is also one of the more underrated rivalries in the conference. These two teams usually provide an entertaining matchup every year, and the winner receives a large Golden Boot trophy. How cool is that? What makes this matchup more special in 2012 is that the winner will have a huge advantage in the Western division.
Georgia at Auburn
The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has been played a total of 115 times, with Auburn leading by a narrow 54-53-8 record. The battle is always intense and the game is usually close. With both squads returning the majority of their starters and having huge expectations, this should be another great matchup to add to the historic rivalry.
Key Games in 2012
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LSU at Arkansas
The Tigers gave the Arkansas Razorbacks a severe beat down last season, but Arkansas now has running back Knile Davis in their backfield. They also return quarterback Tyler Wilson, the leader of this high-powered offensive team. With the game taking place in Fayetteville, there is a good chance we see a different result this time around.
Alabama at LSU
This will be the third time these two teams have met in the past year and you can bet that the Tigers have revenge on their mind after losing the national championship. LSU will likely be an even better team now that they have an actual quarterback in Zach Mettenberger, but Nick Saban's clubs are always up to the challenge.
Georgia at South Carolina
Many think that the winner of the SEC will come out of the West division, but don't sleep on these two powerhouse SEC teams from the East. Georgia is loaded on both sides of the ball and have arguably the best quarterback in the conference in Aaron Murray. South Carolina also returns many key players from last season and will get a healthy Marcus Lattimore in the backfield. The outcome of this game could determine who reaches the SEC Championship.
Alabama at Arkansas
If you haven't figured it out by now, the West division is loaded with great teams and practically every game that involves Alabama, LSU and Arkansas is must see television. Arkansas lost badly to Alabama as well last season, but for the exact same reasons they have a shot at knocking off LSU, the Crimson Tide should be worried.