With the last four national champions to hoist the crystal ball in January all reigning from the Southeastern Conference, it's hard for college football fans of any background to ignore the insanity of SEC football in the fall. These Saturday congregations most closely resemble a trip to the Thunderdome..."Two men enter, one man leaves." The unforgiving Bowl Championship Series creates a season-long sense of urgency, making each of these conference bouts a legitimate, early playoff round towards this off-season's bragging rights.
Not only does the SEC's inter-conference play ring with excitement, but there is plenty of non-conference matches look forward to. Last season, LSU held on for a tight win at Washington, while Georgia suffered a close loss to a Top 10 Oklahoma State squad.
SEC competition was no exception...South Carolina tripped up Ole Miss when the Rebels were just breaking the Top 10, Kentucky traveled to Auburn and beat the Tigers for the first time since 1966...heck, even Tennessee came within a blocked field goal of beating the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide on their home turf.
This season holds many interesting match ups, including Alabama-Penn State, Auburn-Clemson and Arkansas-Texas A&M. So what SEC teams will trip up and potentially lose the chance to play for the national championship? What underdogs will catch a giant napping? Let's find out...
Anyone remember California's visit to Neyland Stadium in 2006? The Golden Bears were ranked #9 and looking to challenge for the national title. Tennessee was coming off a 5-6 season, one of the most disappointing in the program's history. Cal's open date with the Volunteers was expected to be a tough road test for a more than prepared team.
Boy what an understatement.
Call it jet-lag, but the Golden Bears were a dud in the first half, as the Volunteers reached a 35-3 lead by the end of the third quarter.
Now it's 2010 and a more talented Oregon Ducks squad is visiting Knoxville in a fresh Pac-10/SEC series. The Ducks are without quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was released after off-field issues. An inexperienced Nate Costa is expected to start at QB, much like a fresh Nate Longshore did for Cal in 2006.
Let's take another trip down memory lane...remember Oregon's worst loss last year? It was a 19-8 loss at Boise State in Week One; the fewest points the Ducks would score in a game all year. The Bronco's defense was coached by Justin Wilcox, now the DC at Tennessee...
Granted, the Ducks will get a warm-up game against New Mexico at home before traveling to Knoxville. Yet, if they're smart, they'll take a page out of California's book and buy some plane tickets a few restful days in advance...
Last year, a talented Gamecocks team was able to dethrone a rising Ole Miss squad ranked No. 4 with a 16-10 win in Columbia. Steve Spurrier's sixth year at the helm will include a visit from the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide on October 11th.
The game, which is at home for the Gamecocks, will be a golden opportunity for an upset. Many experts are calling this Spurrier's greatest team assembled at USC yet, with a talented defense and the first veteran quarterback of the Spurrier era in Stephen Garcia.
The Tide rolls into Williams-Brice stadium following a home bout with the Florida Gators and before a trip to Ole Miss. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks will enter this contest fresh off a bye week. Few expect the Tide to go undefeated in SEC play a third year in a row, so if there's a trap game on their schedule, this is it.
West Virginia visited Auburn last year, scaring the Tigers by jumping out to a 21-10 first quarter lead, including two scores by the speedy Noel Devine. Although Auburn managed to defend its home turf and pull out a 41-30 win, Tigers fans will tell you that the Mountaineers are dangerous.
The Mountaineers are an offensive machine, to put it lightly, compiling 509 yards against Auburn last year, but in 2010, they'll be facing a new set of Tigers from the SEC.
A 9-4 record in 2009, including an Outback Bowl loss to Penn State, has bayou fans grumbling. The Tigers haven't shown the same offensive firepower since the Nick Saban regime, averaging a measly 24.85 points last season. If the LSU defense, which returns only four starters, cannot find its rhythm by this Week Four match up, look out for the boys from West Virginia to run away with this upset.
Dan Mullen is leading this team in the right direction; just listen to the cowbells. (That is if the NCAA keeps allowing them, God forbid.)
Last year, the Bulldogs put up a strong home stand against Florida, trailing only three points going into the fourth quarter.Additionally, State managed wins over Ole Miss and Kentucky, with a narrow four-point loss to LSU.
With a strong defense returning, including Pernell McPhee and Fletcher Cox on one of the best line's in the conference, whatever freshman quarterback Mark Richt decides to start, he will be faced thrown into a tough environment in Starksville come Week Four contest.
To make matters tougher, the Bulldogs face South Carolina in Columbia and Arkansas at home before taking to the road for this one. To be fair, MSU will be returning from a road trip to LSU.
Bet you can guess what the longest active winning streak between two opponents is in the nation... (now that you're looking at this slide.)
Since 1984, the Wildcats have lost every game played against the Volunteers on the gridiron. That means, not a single player on the UK roster was alive the last time Kentucky defeated the Big Orange.
With the Volunteers' program in a state of chaos following the departure of one-year head coach Lane Kiffin, a poor coaching hire that followed a 5-7 final season under long time coach Philip Fulmer. The program has lost a plethora of recruits and is replacing its top quarterback, running back, entire offensive line and star All-American defensive back Eric Berry.
If the Wildcats ever had a chance, this is it...
Led by senior quarterback Mike Hartline, the Wildcats will be reconstructing their own team under first year head coach Joker Philips. Some might not call this an upset, with the direction the Volunteers program has been heading the last two years. But with the loss streak, any fan in blue will tell you it'd be a miracle of a win.