So we are some where around 120 days until college football kicks off. That should make you happy. Only four more months to go. And those are summer months, so time flies when you are having fun.
As we creep up into the season I want to take a brief look at each SEC school's first big conference matchup. Those being the games that either decide division roles or top to bottom placement in the pecking order.
Some of these games may be later in the year and some may not be the big game for both teams. Nonetheless, they will mean something for both sides.
Mississippi State at Auburn. This is a pivotal game for both schools and whether the Auburn fans like it or not, this is more crucial for them to win compared to the Bulldogs. The Tigers have to come out swinging in order to prove that Cam Newton wasn't the reason for the season. The Mullenites must make their imprint that the last couple of games of 2010 were not a fluke.
With the loss of four-fifths of Auburn's offensive line, replacing the Heisman winner and Butkus award winner the Tigers only advantage is home-field. Dan Mullen is a proven coach and showed as much in his last loss to Gene Chizik. This is a close one because of inexperience on the plains, but I got to give the nod to Auburn. This win will bolster the Tigers' confidence.
South Carolina at Georgia. These two teams have had a battle royal over the past few years. Playing between the hedges has never been easy for the Gamecocks but they have won there in the past. Georgia is looking to rebound from a dismal 2010 season and if they want to make it back to the top then it starts here.
The Gamecocks come off their best season since 1984 and their first trip to the SEC conference championship game. This game could mean a return trip for them to Atlanta. But, with quarterback dilemmas and a changing of the offensive guard, Marcus Lattimore may find it hard run like he did at the last meeting of these two teams. I'll go with the Dawgs on this one.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt. What a debacle of a season for the Right Reverend Nutt! Beaten by Vandy at home just added insult to injury last season. Well, it is time for the Rebel Black Bear fans to start thumping their chests. The Commodores don't have the edge this year...they really didn't have it last year. With a new coaching staff and some locker room rah-rah speech the 'Dores need to win this to get their second victory on the season. I expect some confidence but a reverse outcome from last season. Ole Miss by 14.
Tennessee at Florida. A huge game for Derek Dooley. After becoming head coach of the Volunteers, Dooley let loose of his composure at the presser and shouted from the podium that he couldn't wait to sing Rocky Top after beating the Gators. Oh, he didn't? It must have been some other coach I'm thinking of.
After losing to the Gators for the last six years it is imperative that Dooley best Muschamp. Not only will it give the Vols a very much needed boost in the East race, but it will also serve as Dooley's coming out party. The Vols return most of their veteran offensive line along with a gun-slinging quarterback while the Gators lose most of their veteran offensive line, great secondary starters and return a less than pee-shooter quarterback. The Vols get their first win at Florida since 2003.
Florida at Kentucky. After the loss to Tennessee the Gators travel to the Blue Grass State. This game is big for both teams for one reason and one reason only. It puts each one back on the track to winning. Florida fans can except a loss to UT after beating them for six years in a row. However, Florida hasn't lost to Kentucky since 1986 and to do so now would most certainly be a hex on the season.
Florida needs this win to build confidence against what could be a monster team in Alabama that is showing up the very next week in the Swamp. The Wildcats need this shot in the arm before their impending visit to Red Stick. However, it is more important for Florida to win this game in order to make the Muschamp hire look respectable. Florida takes it and moves forward.
Arkansas at Alabama. After taking a good lead in the last meeting between these two in Fayatteville the Hogs relinquished the hold with what now could only be deemed as mallet to the head syndrome. Key interceptions in that game tell the tale of good fortune. And at the Hog's den the fortune was to be had by the Tide.
This game is for the the march to all the western marbles and Arkansas has full intentions of leading that march. They need a signature win more than any other team in the league at this point. The problem for this Bobby P team is they have not been battle tested and will face one the most dominant defensive teams in the nation. At Bryant Denny I have to say the Razorbacks will get picked off one to many times. And good fortune rides with the Tide again.
LSU at Alabama. I know what you are thinking. Yes, this game is played at the beginning of November. And yes, it is the most important first big conference game of the season for both of these teams. Why? Because prognosticators say the SEC championship game will be played on this date in order to determine which of these programs will move on to the BCS national championship game.
Yes, LSU plays some great competition before this game against a weaker Pac 12 opponent in the Oregon Ducks. Yes, Bama plays some great competition before this game against a weaker Big 10, 11, or 12 opponent in the Penn State Nittany Lions. But nothing each of these teams faced before will be like what they face on this date.
Strong defense and potentially great offenses will collide in Bryant Denny Stadium and when the dust settles the victor will be in the driver's seat to speed to the finish line. Both teams have an off week to prepare for this game. And both can beat each other on any given Saturday at home or away. This Saturday belongs to the Tide at home.