Few entities in sports wear the bull's-eye on their backs more proudly than the college football programs in the SEC.
What has for years been heralded as the nation’s top conference prides itself on unveiling new banners and increasing space in the trophy cases for new hardware.
The 2014 season promises to provide one of the toughest challenges for SEC dominance, though. In case you haven’t noticed, the Pac-12 is very good and loaded with returning quarterback talent, only ramping up the competition for top conference honors. Stanford, Oregon and UCLA should be among the national elite teams. The middle class is just as tough, with teams like Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington making life out west difficult.
The Big Ten has three legitimate Top 10 contenders as well in Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin.
Furthermore, the departure of several key quarterbacks—Alabama’s AJ McCarron, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Georgia’s Aaron Murray, to name three—leaves the SEC relying on either new quarterbacks to produce right away or new teams to step up to carry the conference banner.
Teams like Florida, Mississippi State and Ole Miss—all of which return quarterbacks—need to improve for the league to maintain its reign over public opinion.
Today we examine 10 nonconference games critical in the SEC’s quest to remain the consensus pick as the nation’s top football conference.
We determined these games by considering the likelihood of a loss, what that loss would mean in the big picture to the conference and when and where the game is played.