10 Most Anticipated Matchups on 2014 SEC Schedule

Randy ChambersAnalyst IAugust 22, 2013

10 Most Anticipated Matchups on 2014 SEC Schedule

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    Before you sit down and begin enjoying the upcoming college football season, it's time to take a quick glance at the 2014 SEC football schedule.

    That's right, the SEC released the 2014 conference schedule, and it includes the dates of the matchups and all that jazz. Just make sure you don't confuse these games with the ones that will kick off in a couple of weeks.

    Which games are the most anticipated? 

    Besides actually having to pay attention to Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, a lot of the contests to look forward to will remain the same as this season.

10. Auburn at Georgia

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    When: Nov. 15

    The "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry" has lost some of its edge, as Georgia won the last two meetings by a combined 76 points. It also doesn't help that Georgia won six of the last seven meetings.

    But Auburn is on track to quickly bounce back under head coach Gus Malzahn. He helped put together a fabulous 2013 recruiting class and has gotten off to a wonderful start for 2014. Malzahn may have also found the next star Auburn quarterback in Nick Marshall, whom some are already comparing to 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton.

    Georgia may have a completely different team next season once quarterback Aaron Murray graduates, but Hutson Mason is one of the top backup quarterbacks in the country. Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will stick around for another season, and the defense is full of underclassmen who will gain a lot more experience.

    This SEC rivalry will be worth watching for the first time in a couple of years.

9. Vanderbilt at Kentucky

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    When: Sept. 27 

    The outcome of Vanderbilt and Kentucky will play a vital role in the SEC East.

    It's easy to think this will be a race to the bottom of the division, but both of these programs are on the rise. 

    Vanderbilt continues to knock on the door under head coach James Franklin. The team ended last season ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 1948 and somehow keeps improving its win total without elite players. Even then, the Commodores do have a good quarterback in Patton Robinette.

    Kentucky has made major strides in recruiting under new head coach Mark Stoops. Some of the key additions include defensive end Za'Darius Smith and athlete Marcus McWilson of the 2013 class, although the big splash was when 2014 4-star quarterback Drew Barker committed.

    Believe it or not, Kentucky and Vanderbilt are no longer hanging out in the basement of the SEC.

8. Texas A&M at Alabama

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    When: Oct. 18

    Texas A&M vs. Alabama has a chance to be the most intriguing SEC matchup for a second straight season, but the future of quarterback Johnny Manziel remains up in the air.

    Will he be suspended by the NCAA for allegations of receiving payments for autographs? Will he leave early for the NFL draft?

    This matchup will be the most exciting if Manziel returns for his redshirt junior season, but the Aggies likely won't be so fortunate, as he may very well bolt for the next level.

    Still, this has quickly become an interesting SEC West rivalry, and it should remain just that. Manziel could be replaced by 5-star quarterback Kyle Allen, and he'll have more than enough weapons around him, including wide receivers Ricky Seals-Jones and JaQuay Williams.

    Alabama is, well, Alabama, and it will continue to be a national championship contender.

    Regardless of what happens with Manziel, this will still be a great matchup that helps decide the SEC West.

7. Ole Miss at Arkansas

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    When: Nov. 22

    It won't take head coach Bret Bielema long to turn Arkansas into a respectable program.

    He's already recruited elite players who will contribute right away in running back Alex Collins, cornerback Carroll Washington and tight end Hunter Henry of the 2013 class. The 2014 recruiting class has also gotten off to a fast start with the additions of quarterback Rafe Peavey, defensive lineman Bijhon Jackson and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor.

    Arkansas will surprise some folks this year and will be a decent team in Bielema's second season.

    With Hugh Freeze calling the shots, Ole Miss soon will be an SEC contender. The team was already loaded with talent, but a recruiting class for the books in 2013 helps give the Rebels an extra push in the right direction. Not to mention Bo Wallace has the potential to become one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC.

    The last two meetings have been decided by one possession, and this SEC matchup is between two teams clearly built for tremendous future success.

6. Florida at Tennessee

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    When: Oct. 4

    When both teams are at their peak, the Florida-Tennessee rivalry is one of the best in the country. In the 11 meetings from 1996 to 2006, 10 were decided by 14 or fewer points. Both schools are beginning to climb back on top, and they can make this rivalry interesting once again.

    Florida proved itself last season by winning 11 games and qualifying for a bid in the BCS Sugar Bowl. With one of the nation's top coaching staffs and remarkable recruiting classes, the Gators should also remain in the national championship picture.

    Tennessee is going to lose possibly its entire starting offensive line, but head coach Butch Jones has done a great job recruiting, and he landed several 2014 recruits who will be able to play immediately. Folks in Tennessee are once again excited about college football, and the feeling is that a change is finally going to come for the Volunteers.

    Tennessee still has a lot of work to do, but this rivalry will soon return to its glory days.

5. Georgia at South Carolina

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    When: Sept. 13

    There's no question Georgia is going to remain an SEC contender after this season. But what about South Carolina? The Gamecocks are sure to lose several quality players, including quarterback Connor Shaw and defensive ends Chaz Sutton and Jadeveon Clowney.

    However, seven of the last nine meetings between these two teams were decided by fewer than two touchdowns. Even if South Carolina won't be as talented as it is this season, this SEC East rivalry is sure to be worth watching and will play a key role in who wins the division.

    South Carolina has also done a solid job of recruiting offensive players. Running back David Williams of the 2013 class and wide receiver Shaq Davidson and tight end Kevin Crosby of the 2014 class will help the program remain relevant.

    This meeting should still be circled on your calendar.

4. Florida at Alabama

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    When: Sept. 20

    Oh, these two schools meet again.

    A few years ago, Florida and Alabama gave college football fans classic SEC Championship Games that turned out be chess matches between Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. Alabama has since controlled the rivalry by winning the last three meetings, but Florida is quickly catching up to where it was five years ago.

    Florida is extremely young on defense and has a truckload of talent coming in due to recruiting. Plenty of 2013 recruits will play this season and likely start next year, including cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, running back Kelvin Taylor and linebacker Alex Anzalone.

    Alabama, of course, isn't going anywhere. But it's clear it will soon have company from an SEC East powerhouse. It won't be surprising if this is just the first meeting between the two teams next season, as another SEC Championship clash is long overdue.

3. Florida vs. Georgia

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    When: Nov. 1

    This is the SEC rivalry that never seems to get old.

    Regardless of how these teams look on paper, they always manage to provide great entertainment when they meet in Jacksonville, Fla. After all, eight of the last 11 meetings were decided by one possession. Georgia has also done a nice job of holding its own in those games, winning three of the last six.

    With the recruiting job both schools have done and both coaching staffs looking sharp, neither program is going away anytime soon. Georgia and Florida will continue to chase national championship goals, and this meeting will continue to help determine who wins the SEC East.

    Gather around. Another Georgia-Florida matchup is must-see television.

2. Auburn at Alabama

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    When: Nov. 29

    When was the last time you looked forward to the Iron Bowl?

    These days, only Alabama fans take pleasure in seeing Auburn lose by four or more touchdowns. The Crimson Tide won three of the last five meetings by 28 or more points and will likely do the same this season.

    But everything must eventually come to an end.

    Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn has his work cut out for him, and it will take more than two years to build a championship contender. But that doesn't mean the Tigers won't be competitive heading into the second year of the rebuild.

    By then, he should have enough offensive talent around quarterback Nick Marshall to put pressure on defenses. He'll also have an impressive defensive line that will include 2013 recruits Montravius Adams, Elijah Daniel and Carl Lawson.

    The gap between Auburn and Alabama won't be as wide heading into next season.

1. Alabama at LSU

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    When: Nov. 8

    Ah, the real SEC West rivalry.

    This meeting seems to have SEC championship and national championship implications every season, and six of the last seven games were decided by fewer than 10 points.

    Every college football fan is in for a treat when Alabama and LSU share the field. These teams play the same physical football and are chasing the same crystal football dream. Elite player matches up with elite player. Veteran coach matches wits with veteran coach.

    Another thing that is nearly guaranteed is that both schools will remain the cream of the crop in the SEC. Alabama won three of the last four national championships, while LSU won at least 10 games in six of the last eight years.

    Every team in the country eventually disappoints, but these two programs haven't let anyone down for nearly a decade.