In the West, college football is nothing but a tourist attraction, with the exception of a few schools.
In the North, it's "cool," but not sacred. In the Midwest, people live and breathe football.
But only in the South is college football more important than a matter of life or death.
SEC fans are the most passionate fans in American sports. From Auburn to Florida to Georgia to LSU to Alabama to South Carolina, stadiums are packed with raucous fans who demand to win.
If it doesn't happen, the pain doesn't go away for a while.
The SEC, of course, is under the radar to nobody. In 2006, Florida won the BCS National Championship Game over Ohio State.
What looked like simply a normal national title actually sparked a historic run. That 2006 Florida win started a five-year streak of BCS titles for the SEC.
In 2007, LSU beat Ohio State for the crystal ball. In 2008, Florida slowed down the red-hot Oklahoma Sooners to claim the crown.
In 2009, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide of Alabama rolled through Texas for the national title.
In 2010, the Auburn Tigers knocked off the Oregon Ducks to claim a title of their own.
It's often said that winning the SEC is harder than winning the national title.
Who do I believe the champion will be this year? Continue to find out my complete SEC predictions.
Mississippi State at Auburn
Following the Cam Newton fiasco, it's safe to say these two teams have some newfound hate for each other.
The Bulldogs fell just short to the eventual national champions last year in Starkville but will get their chance to beat Auburn this time.
Auburn has to replace over 30 players, including their Heisman QB, All-American DT and OT, two most productive wide receivers, most of the offensive line and most of the defense.
However, with the game being in Auburn and with this being an early-season game, I think the Tigers send their folks home very happy.
Auburn 45, Mississippi State 20
South Carolina at Georgia
South Carolina hits the road to take on the Georgia Bulldogs in maybe the most important game of the SEC East this year.
The winner will be the favorite to get to Atlanta and will have momentum. The loser will lose momentum and may stumble through the season, picking up losses by the bunches.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt needs a big year in 2011 to avoid being fired. The Gamecocks are out to prove that they're serious SEC contenders, rather than one-year wonders who lost the SEC title game against Auburn by 39.
While it's in Athens, I think South Carolina is simply better in every aspect.
South Carolina 23, Georgia 10
LSU at Mississippi State (Thursday)
Mississippi State not only has to play at Auburn before hosting LSU, but it doesn't even have a whole week to prepare for the Tigers.
While LSU plays Northwestern State in Week 2, Mississippi State plays Auburn on the Plains and then must face LSU five days later.
Both teams have momentum and will start in the preseason top 25, but I think LSU is just too good. They'll send the home folks early in this nationally televised clash.
LSU 27, Mississippi State 3
Tennessee at Florida
Tennessee is looking to get a huge monkey off its back—or should I say, a huge Gator.
The Vols have a long losing streak in this rivalry, and playing in the Swamp is no easy task.
Tennessee will be a much better squad in 2011 than they were in 2010, while Florida is in year one of the Will Muschamp regime.
It will be a very close game, but Tennessee will have to wait one more year to snap the streak.
Florida 24, Tennessee 20
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
The Commodores have won two of the last three against the Ole Miss Rebels, including a dominant 28-14 win in Oxford last year.
Both of these teams are...well, let's just say they aren't good.
Vandy has a new head man and Ole Miss, unfortunately, is once again led by whom I think is the worst coach in the SEC (yes, I said worst) in Houston Nutt.
Both teams will look equally terrible in this game, but Vandy wins in OT.
Vanderbilt 17, Ole Miss 10 (OT)
Vanderbilt at South Carolina
Let's see: You have the preseason SEC East favorite against the preseason SEC bottomfeeder.
There are upsets in the SEC sometimes, but this isn't one of them.
In Williams-Brice, Vandy won't have the horses to stay with Spurrier's Gamecocks.
South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 13
Georgia at Ole Miss
This is an automatic win for the Bulldogs, right? Richt's on the hotseat, they need to do anything possible to get back in the SEC East race, etc.
As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!"
I like Ole Miss to win for its home crowd. After this game, Mark Richt's hot seat will be hotter than ever.
Ole Miss 41, Georgia 26
Florida at Kentucky
Florida hasn't lost a game to Kentucky in over 20 years and conventional wisdom says this won't change.
However, it is in Lexington, it's Muschamp's first year and, despite losing Randall Cobb, Kentucky should be improved.
It'll be close, but I think Florida wins going away.
Florida 31, Kentucky 18
Arkansas at Alabama
This early SEC West clash features the Crimson Tide and the Razorbacks, two teams who played an instant classic last year.
Arkansas has to replace Ryan Mallett at QB, but the WR corp is arguably the best in the nation and Tyler Wilson has a huge arm.
Alabama loses QB Greg McElroy and currently is having a QB competition, but Nick Saban's squad is just as loaded as usual.
In Bryant-Denny, with Arkansas's defense being susceptible...I can't pick Arkansas to win.
Alabama 37, Arkansas 21
Kentucky at LSU
This looks like a total mismatch. It's in Baton Rouge. Likely at night. LSU is a national title contender, and while improved, Kentucky isn't improved enough to win in these conditions.
It may be close for a half at most, but the Bayou Bengals should run away with this one.
LSU 35, Kentucky 10
Mississippi State at Georgia
Georgia seeks revenge for their bad loss last year to Mississippi State, and this game in Sanford Stadium could do the trick.
These are two even teams that, by my calculations, will be in some serious trouble coming in.
Both teams need to win this game. Sorry, Georgia, but for the second year in a row, the maroon Dogs have their day.
Mississippi State 32, Georgia 27
Auburn at South Carolina
Here is the rematch of last year's SEC Championship Game, which went to Auburn, 56-17.
Auburn won't look like the team they were last year when they roll into Columbia thanks to an entirely new starting lineup, but the Tigers are still talented.
South Carolina is a better team than they were in 2010, but I still think Auburn is more talented than the Gamecocks.
The reigning champs win their seventh straight game over South Carolina, but it will be close.
Auburn 35, South Carolina 29 (OT)
Alabama at Florida
While all signs point to an Alabama win here (seeing as they're better than they were in 2010 and the 2010 team won this game 31-6), it's being played in the Swamp, always a difficult place to win.
Still, I think this year's Florida team is more of a project than a contender.
2012 will be good for the Gators. But in 2011, the Crimson Tide will be the superior of the two.
Alabama 28, Florida 20
Kentucky at South Carolina
Both teams will come in licking their wounds after tough games against SEC Tigers, but the wounds will likely be bigger for Kentucky.
Last year, Kentucky upset the Gamecocks after trailing by 18, but this year the game is in Columbia. I think last year will be a motivation for South Carolina.
South Carolina 31, Kentucky 17
Vanderbilt at Alabama
I can't even discuss how Vanderbilt has a chance without laughing.
Alabama 45, Vanderbilt 3
Georgia at Tennessee
Tennessee is much improved from 2010 and will look to avenge a 41-14 loss to the Bulldogs last year.
My predictions have Georgia being in free-fall here, and I think it will continue.
Tennessee wins in front of its home crowd and beats Georgia.
Tennessee 44, Georgia 21
Auburn at Arkansas
After going 14-0 last year, the Tigers enter this game with a 20-game winning streak dating back to the 2010 Outback Bowl win over Northwestern.
However, Arkansas has home-field advantage and a strong offensive attack with Bobby Petrino.
Tyler Wilson picks Auburn apart and puts a huge dent in Auburn's hopes of winning its second straight BCS National Championship.
Arkansas 41, Auburn 38
Florida at LSU
LSU plays host to the Gators of Florida in what will surely be an electric atmosphere in Death Valley.
Last time here in 2009, Florida won 13-3, but there are so many differences about these two squads.
LSU beat Florida last year, and thanks to home-field advantage and experience, I think they'll get the best of their Sunshine State rivals for the second straight year.
LSU 24, Florida 14
Alabama at Ole Miss
Outside of this being at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, everything points to Alabama winning this game.
The Tide has the talent and coaching edge, not to mention Nick Saban has a 4-0 record against Houston Nutt since being hired by Alabama.
The last two years, Alabama has won this game by an average margin of 16 points. This year's game will go the same route.
Alabama 23, Ole Miss 6
LSU at Tennessee
This is an interesting game. Tennessee nearly beat LSU last year and is improved, and they have home-field advantage in Knoxville.
LSU is more talented and both of these coaches are eccentric, to say the very least.
It will be a thriller, but in the end LSU remains perfect in SEC play.
LSU 20, Tennessee 17
South Carolina at Mississippi State
The Gamecocks and Bulldogs clash in this game in Starkville, always a tough place to play.
South Carolina is more talented for sure, but Mullen has built a good program at Mississippi State, turning perennial losers into preseason contenders.
I think USC is a better team all-around though and they will deliver Mississippi State their ninth loss in 17 home games under Dan Mullen.
South Carolina 35, Mississippi State 20
Georgia at Vanderbilt
Georgia finally finds an SEC opponent where they have the edge physically and mentally.
Despite the fact it's in Nashville, look for Georgia to win this game.
Georgia 31, Vanderbilt 10
Florida at Auburn
The reigning champions, Auburn, play host to the Gators of Florida in a game featuring three of the past five BCS National Champions.
It's in Jordan-Hare Stadium, a very tough place to play, and the Gators have lost their past two games here.
It should be a close game, but thanks to home-field advantage and Will Muschamp's inexperience as a head coach, I look for the Tigers to win their third straight game against Florida.
Auburn 30, Florida 24
Arkansas at Ole Miss
In what has become known as the "Houston Nutt Bowl," Ole Miss has won two of three against Arkansas since the embattled coach took over, but the Hogs beat Ole Miss last year 38-24 in a game heavily affected by weather.
Whether or not there's bad weather (...what?), Arkansas will take over Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Arkansas 52, Ole Miss 35
Tennessee at Alabama
Since Nick Saban took over at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has dominated this series, going 4-0 and winning by less than 20 just once (a 12-10 thriller).
Tennessee has the tools this year to stay within 31 (the margin Alabama won by in Neyland last year). With some luck they can even win this game, but I don't like their chances in this case.
Alabama 21, Tennessee 13
Auburn at LSU
This battle of SEC Tigers is known for its close nature, as six of the past seven meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Last year, Auburn ran for 440 yards against LSU, but most of the line blocking that day is gone. The game is in Baton Rouge, too, so LSU should win.
But it will be decided late as usual because it's LSU vs. Auburn—dang it!
LSU 24, Auburn 23
Ole Miss at Auburn
Auburn won't be as good in 2011 as they were in 2010. They're better than Ole Miss, though.
Auburn 56, Ole Miss 21
Arkansas at Vanderbilt
Vandy could keep this game close for a half, but eventually Bobby Petrino's offense will take over and steamroll Vandy.
Vanderbilt's really, honestly trying, but the fact of the matter is, they aren't that good.
Arkansas 48, Vanderbilt 17
Mississippi State at Kentucky
Since arriving at Mississippi State, Dan Mullen is 2-0 against the Wildcats. However, while MSU has the talent and coaching edge here, Kentucky's always good for some upsets, especially in Lexington.
I like the 'Cats!
Kentucky 30, Mississippi 28
South Carolina at Tennessee
This is a really interesting game. Tennessee is a dark horse SEC contender while South Carolina is preseason favorite in the SEC East.
USC won last year, but this year it's in Knoxville. In a back-and-forth game, I see the Gamecocks pulling it out.
South Carolina 26, Tennessee 21
Florida vs. Georgia (Jacksonville, Florida)
Once again we're at the dandy known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail....Thing.
Thanks, technicalities. I don't owe you one.
Anyways, Georgia is just 3-18 in their past 21 against Florida, and I think that after this game it will be 3-19. Florida is just too talented for the Dawgs.
Florida 35, Georgia 28
Vanderbilt at Florida
While Vanderbilt may be able to keep it close for a quarter or so, Florida is better coached and far more talented. Not to mention the game is at the Swamp.
It should be all Florida here.
Florida 38, Vanderbilt 7
South Carolina at Arkansas
These two teams are relatively new to the SEC, as they both joined the league in 1992. While both have appeared in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, neither has won the SEC crown.
Both of these teams have firepower to work with, but in the end I like the Razorbacks to win their third consecutive game over the Gamecocks.
Arkansas 35, South Carolina 33
Ole Miss at Kentucky
While Ole Miss struggled mightily in 2010, they did demolish Kentucky 42-35 in a game that was more one-sided than the score would show.
However, while little is expected of Ole Miss, Kentucky is expected to improve. To make their sixth straight bowl, they must protect home turf.
I expect them to do just that in this case.
Kentucky 34, Ole Miss 17
LSU at Alabama
According to my predictions, both of these teams come into this Bryant-Denny showdown with a perfect SEC record.
Both schools are talented, and while conventional wisdom says Alabama has the coaching edge, remember that Les Miles has beaten Saban's Tide twice since he became Alabama's head man in 2007, including their 24-21 win last year.
This will be a thrilling game centered on defense, and this game will need OT.
But I think LSU marches on, becoming the last unbeaten team in the SEC.
LSU 23, Alabama 20 (OT)
Tennessee at Arkansas
Riding their win over the Gamecocks of South Carolina, the Razorbacks play at home again against an SEC East foe.
Tennessee, whose record doesn't indicate their actual ability, comes in looking for some momentum.
Last year, the Vols won four straight games in November to make a bowl game, and they'll come into this game with seven consecutive wins in the month of November.
I think that number increases as the Vols upset the Hogs.
Tennessee 21, Arkansas 20
Kentucky at Vanderbilt
The Commodores host the Wildcats in this battle of the SEC East's perennial losers.
I wouldn't expect a sell-out crowd, but I believe this will be a good, old-fashioned defensive game.
I think Joker Philips's Cats win.
Kentucky 17, Vanderbilt 7
Auburn at Georgia
After losing four straight in the series, the Tigers rebounded last year with a 49-31 beatdown of the Dawgs on the Plains.
However, now the game shifts back to Athens and the crowd will be fired up to knock off the reigning national champions.
However, while many are picking Georgia in the preseason to win this game, I think Auburn, despite being inexperienced, has the talent edge and the coaching edge.
It'll be close for a half, but the home-field won't keep Auburn from running over Georgia.
Auburn 37, Georgia 14
Florida at South Carolina
Last year, the Gamecocks destroyed the Gators in the Swamp 36-14 behind Marcus Lattimore's gigantic game.
This year it's in Columbia and, while Florida's defensive players will be motivated by the shellacking Lattimore put on them the previous year, I don't think it will help.
Lattimore runs for over 200 yards again and the Gamecocks win.
Congratulations, South Carolina, you're going to the SEC Championship Game!
South Carolina 24, Florida 17
Alabama at Mississippi State
After losing to the Bulldogs in 2007, Saban's Alabama squads have handled Mississippi State for three years in a row, winning by an average score of about 31-7 (using rounding).
Despite the fact it's in Starkville—which seemingly automatically means this game will be close for a half—Alabama is better coached and far more talented.
The Crimson Tide rolls.
Alabama 31, Mississippi State 3
LSU at Ole Miss
The Magnolia Bowl has provided some instant classics since Houston Nutt took over the Rebels in 2008.
He's 2-1 against LSU, but the Tigers won a wild 43-36 game last year. This year the game is back in Oxford, which was a house of horrors last time LSU visited.
While this game will be too close for comfort, Ole Miss doesn't have the horses to keep up with LSU in this defensive-minded battle.
LSU 21, Ole Miss 13
Vanderbilt at Tennessee
This interstate rivalry has been controlled by Tennessee the past few decades, as the Volunteers have won 27 of the last 28 against Vanderbilt.
With this game being in Neyland against an improved Tennessee squad, I don't see Vanderbilt winning this football game.
Tennessee 27, Vanderbilt 9
Kentucky at Georgia
Georgia played one of their best games of 2010 against Kentucky, winning 44-31 behind a dominant running attack.
This game is in Athens and Georgia is more talented.
Coaching might be equally bad, but the talent will give Georgia their first home win over Kentucky since 2007.
Georgia 34, Kentucky 24
Mississippi State at Arkansas
Mississippi State, who has lost 14 of the last 16 games against Arkansas, must travel to Fayetteville to face the Hogs and their explosive offense.
In the final home game of the season, I expect Arkansas to give Mississippi State a good kick in the teeth.
Arkansas 49, Mississippi State 21
Arkansas at LSU (Friday)
The Razorbacks, who have won three of the last four against LSU, must face the Tigers in Baton Rouge.
While coaching edge is up in the air, remember that LSU is far more talented than Arkansas. Also, Death Valley is such a tough place to play for visitors.
While Arkansas will keep it close, expect the Tigers to pull away late.
Congratulations, LSU, you're going to the SEC Championship Game!
LSU 38, Arkansas 28
Ole Miss at Mississippi State
After Mississippi State's 31-23 Egg Bowl win last season, head coach Dan Mullen told his players that Mississippi State "will never lose to Ole Miss again."
While those are some pretty strong words, nobody would be surprised if a Houston Nutt team never beats a Dan Mullen team.
I mean, Mullen is 2-0 against Ole Miss. I think it will pretty easily become 3-0 after this game.
Mississippi State 28, Ole Miss 13
Tennessee at Kentucky
"Oh, yes, they call it the streak!"
These are not only the lyrics of a Ray Stevens song, but it is also the song Tennessee fans have been singing after the Kentucky game for 26 years in a row.
That's right—Kentucky hasn't beaten the Volunteers in their last 26 tries.
However, this is in Lexington, and this streak couldn't possibly go on longer...could it?
I'm picking the Kentucky Wildcats to beat the Tennessee Volunteers. The streak dies!
Kentucky 28, Tennessee 24
Alabama at Auburn
The two fiercest rivals in college football—and maybe all of American sports—meet in Jordan-Hare for Iron Bowl No. 76!
These two teams have won the last two BCS National Championships and Heisman Trophies (Alabama in 2009, Auburn in 2010).
Meanwhile, the hate between the two teams is at an all-time high, ranging from Auburn blogger Jeffrey Lee's apparently unfounded accusations against Alabama to an Alabama fan poisoning the oaks at Toomer's Corner, a popular party-spot for Auburn fans after sporting event victories.
In this game, Auburn will be simply a spoiler, but they benefit from having this game played at Jordan-Hare.
In the past two years, the winner of this game has averaged trailing by 18 points in the first half!
If this game were in Tuscaloosa, I would pick the Tide by double-digits, but I think Auburn protects home turf again, beating the Crimson Tide in yet another Chizik vs. Saban thriller.
Auburn 29, Alabama 24
|SEC West standings||Conference record|
|1. LSU Tigers||8-0|
|2. Auburn Tigers||6-2|
|3. Alabama Crimson Tide||6-2|
|4. Arkansas Razorbacks||5-3|
|5. Mississippi State||2-6|
|6. Ole Miss Rebels||1-7|
|SEC East standings||Conference record|
|1. South Carolina Gamecocks||6-2|
|2. Florida Gators||4-4|
|3. Kentucky Wildcats||4-4|
|4. Tennessee Volunteers||3-5|
|5. Georgia Bulldogs||2-6|
|6. Vanderbilt Commodores||1-7|
In this corner...weighing in at 8-0...SEC Western Division Champions...the LSU Tiiiiiigerssss!
The Bayou Bengals come in with a perfect SEC record of 8-0 and find themselves a game away from their third consecutive trip to the BCS National Championship Game when it's being played in New Orleans.
The Tigers have a solid offense and a strong defense coming in.
And in this corner...weighing in at 6-2...SEC Eastern Division Champions...The South Carolina Gaaaaaaamecooooocks!
Spurrier's team makes its second consecutive trip to the SEC Championship Game, looking to erase the painful memories of a 56-17 beatdown they suffered in last year's SEC title game against the Tigers of the Auburn variety.
The team's defense is strong in the front seven. Despite some coverage deficiencies, the offensive duo of Lattimore and Jeffrey make this offense one of the SEC's best.
After falling behind 17-6 after three quarters, LSU rebounds in the fourth with two touchdowns to win their second SEC title under Les Miles!
LSU beats South Carolina 18-17 to win the Southeastern Conference.