10 Best Games to Look Forward to in the SEC This Year
With barely over a month to go until the college football kickoff you can feel the excitement in the air. Fans are counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until they see the first game.
For fans like me, we can hardly wait just to see South Carolina play N.C. State that Thursday night!
This is going to be a preview of the top 10 games that are going to take place in the SEC, the best conference in college football, and how I think that each team will finish in the SEC East and West.
10. Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Vols
This game could go one of two ways. It will either be a defensive battle between to good defenses, or Tim Tebow will make Lane Kiffin eat his words for saying that they would go to the swamp and beat the defending national champions when he was first hired several months ago.
Offensively, this game falls on the shoulders of of Tennessees running backs Montario Hardesty and Bryce Brown. They will have to get the running game going to have any chance to open up the passing game.
Florida's secondary, and defense as a whole for that matter, returns every starter from a year ago when they kept Tennessee to 6 points.
Brandon Spikes and Ryan Stamper will make things extremely difficult on Crompton again this year if Gerald Jones doesn't get the ball in his hands to make a big play.
Unfortunately for UT fans i don't think that Crompton is going to have much time to get the ball down field to make many big plays which in return is going to be their downfall in this game.
The real key for UT is going to be not turning the ball over deep in their own territory and to not kick the ball to Brandon James when they have to punt.
Florida may not have much luck in this game moving the ball against this stout UT defense much like last year. Eric Berry and Rico McCoy return and will look to get to Tim Tebow and pressure him into making some bad decisions.
Tennessee won't give Tebow much of a window to make long passes so Florida will have to get Emanuel Moody and Chris Rainey to run the ball down Tennessee's throat in a hope to get some creases to hit Cooper or Nelson for a big play.
Overall, I don't like this matchup again for UT especially since it is at "The Swamp" this year.
Since Urban Meyer has had pictures of UT football on every one of the Gators lockers, i don't think that UT will come away with a win. I do believe that it will be a good game and not a blowout. Florida 28-10.
9. Georgia Bulldogs vs. Tennessee Vols
This game will decide who finishes 2nd in the SEC East. Neither team has just enough to dethrown the Gators, but this will still make for a great hard hitting game to watch.
Georgia's offense will be better than most people think even with the departure of Stafford and Moreno.
The whole offensive line is back and has more experience along with A.J. Green and Caleb King. These factors should help keep first year starter Joe Cox on his feet instead of on his back. This will be a huge test to see if Georgia can hang with Florida this year.
If they can put some points up against this UT defense, then they might be able to hang with the Gators. I dont think that Georgia will be able to put up even as many points as they did last year against UT so don't look for a high scoring game.
UT's offense will be facing a defense that is out to prove that they are better then a unit that gave up more than 24 points a contest last year.
Atkins and Battle are back on the defensive front and hope to get to Crompton and cause some trouble with the UT running game. Then if UT can contain the front four, they will have to find someone to block Curran and Gamble. If Georgia can stop the Vols running attack before it starts, this is going to be a defensive game that won't yeild many points.
Both teams are going to have to find an offense this year and probably won't be in too many games that are going to be high scoring. I pick Georgia to scrape by in this one. Georgia 17-14.
8. Ole Miss Rebels vs. Tennessee Vols
This SEC matchup should be an interesting game to watch. Jevan Snead vs. the UT defense and the struggling UT offense against a stingy Ole Miss defense.
UT's offense will have a hard time running against this Ole Miss defense that ranked 4th in the country last year only allowing 85 yards a game. With Ole Miss returning 8 starters to this same defense it looks to be a long day for the UT offense.
The Vol offense is going to have to give Crompton a chance to get the ball to Gerald Jones and try to pick apart the Ole Miss secondary that allowed a staggering 220 yards a game.
UT will have to find a way to keep Greg Hardy out of the backfield to Crompton the time he is going to need to get the ball out of his hands and into Jones'.
Ole Miss is giong to have their hands full trying to keep Wes Brown and Rico McCoy out of the backfield. UT may only have 5 starters returning on defense, but it is the heart of that "D" that is back.
UT was 4th in the nation against the pass and that is what Ole Miss is going to have to rely on to win not having a proven back to count on to help relieve some pressure on Snead.
I think that UT's defense will be able to stop Ole Miss' running game and have enough to stop their passing game. UT 21-17.
7. Auburn Tigers @ Georgia Bulldogs
This game doesn't matter which team is ranked and which one is not. The "oldest rivalry in the south" will be no different this year.
Auburn's defense will have to worry about stopping A.J. Green to stay within reach of winning. The Tiger defense was good against the pass last year and with Antonio Coleman returning it looks to improve on their 19th overall rating against it. Their biggest concern will be trying to slow down Caleb King.
Auburn allowed 139 yards a game and since Georgia returns the whole starting offensive line this is only going to help the Bulldogs' cause.
The Auburn offense is a different story. They had one of the worst overall offenses in the nation last year ranking 104th. They also ranked 110th in scoring offense.
Even if Georgia does have a defense that is as bad as last year, I don't believe that Auburn's offense can move the ball against them.
The only way that the Tigers have a chance is if Ben Tate can make some big plays and if Kodi Burns can be a much better quarterback then he has in the past.
Auburn's defense will keep this game close, but in the end it will be their offense that will give the game away. Georgia 10-7.
6. Georgia Bulldogs vs. LSU Tigers
Last years matchup was a onesided manslaughter. Georgia did whatever they wanted against a horrid LSU defense. The Tigers will still have that game in their minds when they make a trip down to Athens.
LSU's defense is out to prove that last year was a fluke. They allowed 52 points against a pretty good Bulldog offense. This years Bulldog offense is nowhere near as explosive and the Tiger defense should be improved enough to make this a much closer game.
Their Linebackers are back as well as cornerbacks but are having to replace their safeties. The Tigers did good against the run, in general, last year but not so much against the pass. If A.J. Green is able to get open it will make for a long day for LSU again.
The Tiger offense should be better this year as well. With Jordan Jefferson leading them instead of Jarrett Lee they should be more of a force to be reconned with.
Jefferson showed a glimpse of what Tiger fans might be able to expect when he and the rest of the Tigers dismantled the Yellow Jackets in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
If he can avoid turning the ball over LSU will get revenge against one of the teams that embarrassed them last season.
LSU will definitely be a better team than a year ago. Jordan Jefferson will be the key to them having a successful offense. LSU wins 31-17.
5. Alabama Crimson Tide @ Ole Miss Rebels
This is one of the few games that will decide who wins the SEC Western division. Alabama barely survived a second half push by the Rebels. Of course, the Tide was without "Mount Cody" the second half of the game due to a leg injury.
This will be one of the toughest defenses that Jevan Snead will face this year. Alabama was ranked as the 3rd best defense in all of the land last season and return 8 starters. With the depth that 'Bama has now, they won't tire as the game progresses like they did last year in a couple of different games.
If the Rebels are to have a chance they are going to have to strike early and often against this defense. Snead will have to hope that their offensive line can hold off Cody, Deadrick and the insane amount of linebackers that Alabama will throw at them.
Most likely Alabama's defense will win this battle and pressure Snead into making some costly mistakes.
Once again Ole Miss' secondary will have a tall test before them. Julio Jones is enough to drive any defense crazy. On top of Jones though, the Rebels will have to find someone fast enough to cover Marquis Maze and newcomers Michael Bowman and Kendall Kelly.
Mix in the stable of running backs that Alabama has accumulated and it could be the Rebel's first loss of the season. Greg Hardy will be counted on to help stop the running attack and force Alabama into being one dimensional.
Alabama has too many weapons for Ole Miss to have to account for. Especially since Ole Miss was 81st against the pass last year. Alabama wins 17-13 in another close game between division rivals.
4. Florida Gators vs. Georgia Bulldogs
Formerly known as "The World's Largest Cocktail Party", this heated rivalry normally is a closer game than last years. Florida annihilated the Bulldogs on national television with no mercy because of the personal foul the Georgia received when the whole team "wasn't" told to go onto the field and celebrate after a touchdown.
Tim Tebow will be looking to light up the Georgia defense much like last years matchup. Florida probably would have put up more points if they had wanted to against the Bulldogs but settled for a meager 49 instead.
Willie Martinez, Georgia's defensive coordinator, will have to have a better game plan to slow down Florida's spread offense or it will be another blowout.
Battle and Atkins are going to have to attack the right side of the Gator offensive line where they will have a new tackle and center in hopes to get to Tebow.
Florida's defense returned all of their starters that completely shut down Stafford and the rest of Georgia's offense. The Gators will probably have much of the same game plan to stop them again.
If Cox can stand in the pocket long enough to find a hole in the middle of the field, they might have a little success in moving the ball and keeping the Florida offense on the sidelines.
Florida has too much experience and speed for Georgia to win this game. They will have to wait another year, when Tebow leaves, to have a chance at beating the Gators again. Florida wins 35-17.
3. LSU Tigers @ Ole Miss Rebels
Another game that LSU is looking to make up this time around. The Rebels went to "Death Valley" and kept the Tiger offense to 13 points and their 4th loss. LSU will look to return the favor as they travel to Oxford.
Ole Miss will be running into an improved defense as I mentioned in earlier slides. With the departure of Michael Oher, the left side of the line will have to stop Charles Alexander from breaking up the middle and causing trouble with Sneed and the rushing attack.
LSU will be trying to blitz Jevan all day long getting off of his game plan and forcing him to have to make perfect throws the entire game. Although he is a good quarterback, no one can do that all game.
Ole Miss' secondary, again, will be terrorized by Jefferson.
Lee, much like he did in other games, gave the game to the Rebels with bad decisions passes. Jefferson alone should help balance this Tiger offense enough to allow Scott to run the ball and freeing up Brandon Lafell.
If Jefferson tries to do too much himself, like run the ball too much, this Rebel defense that was so good against the run last year will take over the game and defeat the Tigers again.
Ole Miss will be in much of the same boat all year trying to produce against great defenses. They will also come up empty most of those times. LSU wins 17-10.
2. Alabama Crimson Tide vs. LSU Tigers
Last years game had to have overtime to decide the winner of what has come to be known as the "Saban Bowl". Once again Jarrett Lee was the MVP of the defense throwing the interception that would seal the game.
Alabama's defense will need to show up in a big way. They will have to stop Charles Scott and force Jefferson to beat them. The Tide's defense is good enough to send LSU home with a bitter taste in their mouths if they can accomplish this.
It will be a great matchup between Cody and Ciron Black to see who will be triumphant.
Alabama's offense will have an equally hard task in trying to move against this Tiger defense. Mark Ingram, Roy Upchurch, and Trent Richardson will each need to have a good game to help out McElroy in getting the ball to Jones or get Colin Peek involved to mix things up.
McElroy is much better than he gets credit for and this should be one of those games where he can show off his passing ability as well as his elusiveness.
This will be the game, I beleive, that will ultimately decide who plays the Florida Gators in the SEC championship game. Alabama wins 28-17.
1. Florida Gators @ LSU Tigers
This game is the game that i believe will be the best game in the SEC in the regular season. This game last year was the first of 3 blowout losses that the Tigers suffered in '08. This should be one of the hardest hitting games we will see.
LSU's Chavis had a good plan as UT's defensive coordinator to halt the Gator's offense somewhat. He will need that same plan to help the Tigers pull off the upset. LSU has the speed to hang with the Gator offense, so if they really are better this year it could very well happen.
The safeties will have to keep an eye out for Nelson and Cooper to prevent the long pass that Florida likes to sneak in.
Jeff Demps won't have a whole lot of room to move so the rush attack will have to take advantage of every opportunity.
LSU's offense will have to depend on Jefferson being able to handle the pressure that Urban Meyer is going to bring on defense. Brandon Spikes will be there to seal up the middle of the field, so it will be Lafell's job to get open along the sidelines.
Joe Haden will make that near impossible though. Lafell does have the size advantage so he may become Jefferson's new best friend and main target.
Florida killing LSU last season and then having to travel to "Death Valley" this year has all the makings of an upset. I'm going with that pick. LSU 24-21 with a last second field goal to win it.
Here's how I believe the SEC is going to end up:
1. Florida Gators(11-1)(7-1)- only loss coming to LSU Tigers
2. Georgia Bulldogs(9-3)(6-2)- losses coming to LSU Tigers and Florida Gators
3. Tennessee Vols(9-3)(5-3)- losses to Florida Gators, Alabama Crimson Tide, and Georgia Bulldogs
4. Vanderbilt Commodores(6-6)(3-5)- beating Mississippi State Bulldogs, South Carolina Gamecocks, and Kentucky Wildcats
5. South Carolina Gamecocks(5-7)(1-7)- only SEC win coming against Kentucky Wildcats
6. Kentucky Wildcats(5-7)(1-7)- only win in SEC will be Mississippi State Bulldogs
1. Alabama Crimson Tide(12-0)(8-0)- better team than last years squad
2. LSU Tigers(11-1)(7-1)- only SEC loss coming to Alabama Crimson Tide
3. Ole Miss Rebels(9-3)(5-3)- SEC losses to Alabama Crimson Tide, LSU Tigers, and Tennessee Vols.
4. Auburn Tigers(7-5)(3-5)- SEC wins against Mississippi State Bulldogs, Arkansas Razorbacks, and Kentucky Wildcats.
5. Arkansas Razorbacks(6-6)(2-6)- wins against Mississippi State Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks.
6. Mississippi State Bulldogs(3-9)(0-8)- will be the worst team in the SEC.
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Florida Gators- Alabama wins the championship game over Florida 30-24.