2010 SEC Football Schedules: Defining Game for Each Team
In every football season, there is always that one defining moment or game that determines if the year will be judged as a success or failure.
Often times heartbreaking losses send a team into a downward spiral. For teams who can battle back from that adversity, it shows the toughness and resilience of a solid program.
Recently, moments like Tim Tebow's speech following the loss to Ole Miss or Terrence Cody's blocked kick against Tennessee have served as great examples of season-changing events in the SEC.
Here are the games that will define the season of each team in the SEC.
Nov. 20th vs. Tennessee
Coming off an 0-8 season in the SEC last year, Vanderbilt looks to rebuild again in 2010. The Commodores return only nine total starters from last season, and their entire offensive line will feature new starters.
Expect Vanderbilt to struggle again this year, but its game late in the season with in-state rival Tennessee could give it great momentum into building for 2011.
Any in-state game is important for recruiting battles, and an upset over the Volunteers will help springboard the Vanderbilt program into the offseason.
Nov. 27th at Ole Miss
One of the keys to building a solid program in college football is controlling your state. The Bulldogs took a huge step in that aspect last year by beating Ole Miss by two touchdowns in Starkville.
Mississippi State's schedule simply does not set up well for it to make a bowl this year. The Bulldogs must travel to LSU, Houston, Florida, and Alabama this fall.
Since they are unlikely to win any of those contests, this last road game against their in-state rival will only be crucial for recruiting purposes and in-state pride.
Sept. 25th vs. Fresno State
I know this isn't a conference game, but the Rebels' date with Fresno State will be a great indicator on how the rest of their season will play out.
Fresno State always gives the big schools fits. It took Wisconsin to double overtime in Madison last year and beat Illinois on the road.
Ole Miss should be 3-0 leading into this game, and a 4-0 start would go a long way in securing a bowl berth for an offense that returns only one true starter.
October 9th vs. Auburn
Kentucky will be returning home after starting its SEC schedule with two road games against Florida and Ole Miss.
This date with Auburn will begin a three game homestand that will be crucial to the Wildcats' hopes of reaching a fifth consecutive bowl. Following their game against the Tigers, Kentucky faces South Carolina and Georgia while finishing up the season with four more very winnable games.
If the Wildcats are able to repeat their success from last year over Auburn, they will be carrying a lot of momentum into the second half of the season.
Sept. 18th vs. Florida
Tennessee starts over once again in 2010 under new head coach Derek Dooley. The Volunteers will be inexperienced along the offensive line and at quarterback, but they will be looking to spring an upset against the Gators in each team's SEC opener.
New Florida quarterback John Brantley will be making his first road start in Knoxville, and Tennessee will be looking to force some mistakes against the inexperienced quarterback.
Tennessee nearly pulled off a shocker in the Swamp last season, and it will be looking to finish the job this September.
Sept 4th vs. North Carolina - at Atlanta
The Tar Heels have been pegged as a dark-horse favorite to win the ACC Coastal division this year. North Carolina returns nine starters on a defense that ranked sixth nationally in total defense.
Both teams struggled on offense last year, so this should be a defensive battle in the Dome.
LSU will need to come out clicking on all cylinders if it wants to leave with a victory. The Tigers also face West Virginia in non-conference play, and they must win at least one before starting the always brutal SEC schedule.
September 18th vs. Arkansas
Although Georgia defeated Arkansas on the road last year, many analysts have made Arkansas a trendy pick to challenge Alabama for SEC supremacy in 2010.
Georgia's defense will be tested early and often by Arkansas' Ryan Mallett. Mallett is arguably the nation's best returning quarterback, and he will be going up against a Bulldog defense that ranked 10th in the SEC in terms of scoring last year.
Last year's game between these two saw a total of 93 points scored, and I expect a similar kind of shootout to occur once again.
For Georgia, a victory over Arkansas will prove that it has forgotten about its five-loss season from 2009, and that the team is ready to challenge Florida in the East once again.
Nov. 26th at Alabama
Auburn has a great opportunity to make some serious noise in the West this season. Its schedule works out great until it travels to Tuscaloosa for the last game of the regular season.
Aside from that, the Tigers get South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, and LSU all at home. If they protect their home field, the Tigers could be playing for a trip to the SEC title game when they take on their in-state rivals.
The Iron Bowl is always an important game for Auburn, and it should carry even more weight in 2010. The Tigers have traditionally played very well in Tuscaloosa, and this will definitely be the defining moment of their 2010 campaign.
Nov. 6th vs. Arkansas
This game will feature two teams who are expecting breakout seasons in 2010. It will also showcase two of the conference's best quarterbacks in Ryan Mallett and Stephen Garcia.
South Carolina lost by 17 points at Arkansas last year. However, it returns seven starters on each side of the ball, and Garcia should improve after an underwhelming 2009 campaign.
If Alabama or Florida falter along the way in the SEC, the winner of this game could gain an inside track on overtaking either team in the SEC standings.
Sept. 25th vs. Alabama
If Arkansas can take care of business on the road against Georgia, this game could be the deciding factor in whether or not the Razorbacks will play for an SEC championship in 2010.
Although it will still have tough road games against Auburn and South Carolina in addition to its rivalry game against LSU, Arkansas should be talented enough to win all three of those games.
That is why this date with the Crimson Tide is so important. They were steamrolled in Tuscaloosa last year while losing by 28 points, so they better be ready to play this year.
Bobby Petrino's high flying offense returns nine starters from a group that ranked ninth nationally in points per game at 36.
If Arkansas can get past Alabama with a 4-0 record, it has the potential to roll to a West division title, but the Razorbacks also have the potential to fall apart after a potentially very disheartening loss.
This game should tell us all we need to know about Arkansas football in 2010.
October 2nd at Alabama
The Gators will be seeking revenge for last year's loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
Although the Gators lost many players to the NFL last year, they are still one of the most talented teams in the country. Quarterback John Brantley will replace Tim Tebow, and he will benefit from having an offensive line that returns four starters.
Barring an early season upset, the Gators should be undefeated leading up to the Alabama game, and the winner of this one will be considered the favorite to win the SEC title in December.
Sept. 18th at Duke
October 2nd vs. Florida
Alabama will have already been tested twice prior to its date with Florida. With games against Penn State and at Arkansas before taking on Florida, Alabama will certainly be prepared for a rematch of the SEC title game.
Alabama's defense returns only one true starter on defense while its offense returns eight. Florida has plenty of weapons to challenge the inexperienced defense.
However, in the end it will be too much Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson for Florida to handle, and the Crimson Tide will be rolling to another SEC West title after a victory over the Gators.