Alabama's attempt to atone for its agonizing 2010 Iron Bowl loss highlights this fall's SEC schedule.
The 2011 college football season is almost in sight.
Last time, we looked at some September games to start salivating over during this long, dry summer sports wasteland.
While September holds plenty of games worthy of excitement, the weekends in October and November generally define each season. So without further adieu, let’s dive in: here’s a game to plan your schedule around on each of those Saturdays.
October 1: Mississippi State at Georgia
You might want to get all your errands out of the way during the last work week of September, because the schedule is loaded this Saturday. Among many good options this week, the pick is the battle of the Bulldogs.
These teams do not play often, and this may be their most intriguing matchup since the SEC expanded in 1992. The winner is a legitimate player in their divisional race. The loser becomes a prime candidate for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Honorable Mention: Alabama at Florida: These teams have had some epic SEC title games over the years, but Florida appears to be in a rebuilding mode this year.
Arkansas v. Texas A&M: If the 10-team version of the Big 12 wants to be taken seriously, it needs to win games like this.
October 8: Florida at LSU
The Gators lost at home last year after the world’s first known one-hop fake field goal. Something tells me Florida will have something equally crazy in its arsenal when it goes for revenge.
October 15: South Carolina at Mississippi State
South Carolina is the preseason SEC East favorite mainly because they return most of the players who won the division last year, but it does not hurt that they don’t have to play Alabama or LSU this year. The rest of East will be rooting heavily for the Bulldogs in this one.
October 22: Auburn at LSU
The battle for feline supremacy wins by a narrow margin over the misdated Third Saturday in October battle, if only because Alabama has beaten Tennessee four years in a row and is favored to win a fifth.
LSU also figures to be favored but will be out to avenge last year’s loss, which will add a little intensity to the Death Valley atmosphere.
Plus, Auburn has consistently outperformed expectations under Gene Chizik, so rumors of their 2011 demise may be exaggerated. This game may be better than most of us expect.
October 29: Florida v. Georgia
Mark Richt’s future may depend on this game. Will Muschamp will face a whole lot of scrutiny if he can’t continue the Cocktail Party dominance set by his predecessors.
November 5: LSU at Alabama
The preseason script says that this will be this season’s SEC game of the year—a battle of two top five teams fighting for the inside track to the SEC’s sixth straight BCS title game appearance.
Things rarely go as scripted in the SEC, but this game should be outstanding regardless.
These are the two most talented teams in the conference and watching them go at it should make for a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
November 12: Alabama at Mississippi State
Remember last year, when Alabama trounced Florida in a super-hyped national television matchup and then got embarrassed the following week in South Carolina?
Well, let’s just say that if Alabama survives LSU, this road trip will have “trap game” written all over it.
If State can navigate the rest of its SEC schedule with one loss or less, winning this game could catapult the upstart Bulldogs into the SEC title game.
November 19: Mississippi State at Arkansas
As the lone attractive game in the worst football week of 2011, this game wins by default.
Thankfully, it has the potential for enough intrigue to carry the week on its own. The winner may be a force in the SEC West race.
And just as importantly, this could be a really good game between a pair of evenly matched teams.
November 26: Alabama at Auburn
A battle between the last two national champions automatically goes to the top of the list any week, but this game will be so intense that it may stop time itself in the state of Alabama.
Auburn wants to prove it has surpassed its former big brother as the state’s dominant program. It wants to plunge Alabama fans into the intense dejection that would accompany that status.
Just as importantly, after the attack on Toomer’s Corner this offseason, Auburn fans want the redemptive satisfaction of binging on the largest toilet paper rolling campaign the world has ever seen.
Meanwhile, a victory would be extra sweet for Alabama after last year’s second half meltdown, but Tide fans won’t breathe easy until the game is over.
All will not be right with the world until the Tide is back on top, if not of the whole nation, then at least of the state. For Alabama fans, this game can’t get here soon enough.
For football fans everywhere, neither can this fall.