Another one from my deep cuts dating back to February of '09.
All right, so we are coming close to the Spring practice in the SEC. The recruiting is complete, except for the recruits who are prima-donnas or are too scared to compete for a position, so for the most part we are set to play Fall ball.
In this article we will attempt to only deal with SEC first big games of the season. Not all games will be attempted on this go around but just a few that will get us salivating.
Lets start with UT. They have been the soup du jour for a month and we all know why. Bad publicity is better than no publicity, you think?
The Vols will host UCLA as their second game of the season. After a humbling loss to the Bruins last year in the Rose Bowl UT will be looking for some payback. The word on the street is that UCLA's offense will be deplorable and their defense will barely muster past subpar last year performances. And, what about UT's offense? They were 115th in total offense in '08. UCLA was 111th.
The Bruin's defense will have to show up to win this game and put a late stop on UT's offense. What most people are forgetting here is that Norm Chow, the mentor of Kiffin at SC, is the OC at UCLA. Chow took a 5-7 SC team to 6-6 his first year and then 11-2 his second year.
Oh, and he also coached against Monte Kiffin's defense while an OC at the Titans. So, that is why I pick UCLA to win this and call it UT's first big game. Sorry Florida, this is not your big game partner.
Speaking of Florida their first big game will be at the Swamp against UT. Just kidding, we know this will be a big game only because a certain head coach's public remarks.
Florida, in my opinion, has one of the easiest schedules in the conference. Well, anything is easy when you return all 11 defensive starters and your purpose for living, Mr. Timothy Tebow. Most of the nation believes that we are looking at a back to back National Championship team. However they must first endure the test of Death Valley.
UF's first big challenging game of the season will be at LSU. Luckily for them CBS Sports still holds the contract which means this will be a day game. CBS gets the pick of the litter and I would say this game beats the Bama at Ole Miss game.
That being said the Gators will be bolstered by slaughtering so many opponents in the previous weeks that it will be child's play when they come to Red Stick. Not to mention, UT's old DC, John Chavis, whom they have been able to overcome as of late, is now the DC at LSU.
Wait a second, update to this article. CBS has a double header this day with the Tide and Ole Miss tentatively taking the 2:30pm slot and moving UF at LSU up to 7pm. A night game!
This UF-LSU matchup appears to be a blood bath, however, the bath will be given to UF! Chavis is no slouch. He will utilize a very talented and deep defense to hamper the Tebow express. I know, LSU lost five D starters, but they will be ready for Tebow. This will be a revenge game for '08. And, after the Peach Bowl appearance, Jefferson will step up and play even better quarterbacking.
Rueben Randle, Brandon Lafell, and Charles Scott will give the UF defense a lot of trouble. Wait... what? Did I mention that UF had all 11 defensive starters returning? Uh-oh, I may have made a mistake on this game. And, there is one more thing that I failed to mention and that was......…
...… LSU goes to UGA the week before and UF has a biweek. Cue The Price Is Right "you lost" music right now.
Well, since we are here lets talk about Georgia. Right out of the gates they go into enemy territory to play the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Stillwater. This is going to be a game. UGA loses key players at QB, RB, WR and CB. However, their O-line remains in tact.
As for OSU, the Cowboys don't lose but a couple of O-line starters and keep their talented QB, Zac Robinson, and WR, Dez Bryant. Oh, I forgot something, all conference running back Kendall Hunter returns as well. But, with a 93rd ranked total defense for '08 OSU may find some problems.
The break down on this is that UGA's defensive discipline has got to get better. Now whether that can happen by this first game I doubt it. Penalties will once again cost UGA in this high scoring game. OSU wins this one and the Dawgs head back to Athens to lick their wounds.
As for another big out of conference game, the Tide takes on Virginia Tech at the Chic-Fil-A College Kick Off. This game should be interesting. I had a fellow blogger say that this was about coaching. At first I didn't buy it but now I may start to believe it.
Va Tech comes off a rallying season to not only win their conference but also take care of their Bowl opponent. Confidence is definitely high after an upswing finish to the season.
Alabama's pendulum swings the exact opposite way. Losing the SEC championship game and then getting manhandle in the Sugar Bowl was not what the Tide had in mind. I guess they didn't really know how packed that sand was!
Bama loses just about everybody on the offensive side of the ball. You name it and it is gone. But, there is a silver lining in every dark cloud, if you can find it. The Tide return 9 starting defensive players and add a couple of highly touted defensive players. They also recruited a Juco OL and the No. 1 incoming O-lineman in the country in D.J. Fluker. Oh, and the No. 1 running back, Trent Richardson.
The O-line and QB will be Bama's Achilles heel. They have the talent but do they have the true skills? This is where the coaching comes to play. How well will OC McElwain teach the QB? How well will Joe Pendry coach the offensive line? How many times has Va Tech come out lately in a big game opener and blown it? How bad was Clemson supposed to beat Alabama last year?
The same thing will be said of this game. The Tide's defense keeps them in it and, surprisingly, their running game works the Va Tech starting DTs. Alabama wins and the Kool-Aid is drank!
Onto Auburn, where do we start? It seems that every game this year will be a big game for the Tigers. After a dismal 5-7 season and a whole new coaching staff expectations are high,... medium,... low... it depends on which fan you speak with.
Auburn's first big game will be West Virginia, though it shouldn't be because WVU loses everybody on offense. Nonetheless, this a redemption game. Last year on a cold West Virginia Thursday night it appeared that Tommy Tubberville had the Mountaineers exactly where he wanted them, between him and the corner the Tigers were turning. The problem is that the corner went from 90 degrees to 360 degrees, full circle.
With WVU losing its entire starting offensive line and quarterback there is very little hope that they could over come the Tigers defense that early in the season, and don't say Noel Devine. On the other hand what does Auburn have offensively? Not much, but it will be enough and with home field advantage the Tigers will gain a victory.
Lets get back to LSU. Even though UF's first big game will be against LSU it is not so for the Bengal Tigers. Miles will be looking for some action between the hedges, and he will get some. After last years defensive struggles the Tigers need some redemption.
With no Moreno or Stafford in the back field and only Caleb King to hand off to, LSU becomes more stout on the defensive side. And, with returning starter DBs for LSU, A.J. Green is going to find his work cut out for him.
Unfortunately, the Dawgs will suffer another loss for the season unless Coach Miles becomes "The Mad Hatter." Overconfident by this win the Tigers roll back into Death Valley for the UF game. Cue the music!
Since we are on LSU and it appears that LSU is a big time game for everybody lets bring up Vanderbilt. The Commodores head to the Bayou and then leave the Bayou.
Speaking of Vanderbilt, didn't they beat Mississippi last season? I believe so. Therefore lets bring in an SEC West 2009 favorite, Ole Miss.
After an interestingly swinging 2008 season Houston Nutt has the Rebels poised for a dance in the SECCG. With returning QB Javen Snead, RB Cordera Eason and WR Dexter McCluster, O-Miss looks to challenge anyone from the West, or East. Therefore, their first big test will come in the form of "East" against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Why the Gamecocks and not the Tide? Because, the Gamecocks beat the Rebels last year at home. And, if you are truly going to be a contender then you need to vanquish the opponent who overtook your confidence the year before at home.
But, don't worry. Spurrier has a QB issue and always will. There was only one Wuerffel and there will always only be one Wuerffel for Steve. Now even more bad news for Spurrier, the six top ten CBs he got in recruiting will not stop the passing game like he thinks they will. And, with losing 5 offensive and 6 defensive starters, just like in the UGA game, the Gamecocks will struggle on both sides of the ball and lose. Oh, did I mention that South Carolina's first big game was against Georgia? Well, it is.
I'm running out of characters so let us be brief. Kentucky's first big game will be against UF. Losing seven defensive starters will cripple them for this game but look for them to have an upset at a later date. I said look, don't bank on it. Same goes for Vandy.
I want us now to reflect on a wonderful baseball game that was played in the fall of 2008 on the football field of Mississippi State. You know it, we all know it. It was possibly the ugliest game of the year. A 3-2 victory for the Auburn Tigers was not only astounding but rather humiliating. And, it proved to be so over the course of the year.
Well, now the Bulldogs have a chance to get some payback. This will be the second game of the season and Dan Mullen can coach a spread. But, Gus Malzahn can also coach a spread. However, "D" comes before "G" and that is that. Upset central.
Arkansas, where do we begin. You upset LSU, Auburn and Tulsa last year. Are those upsets? Your first big challenge is UGA. Razors return 11 D-starters and replace a QB and 2 O-line. This game is at Arkansas? Sorry UGA, it isn't your year. The Hogs upset the Dawgs.