Can Bama repeat this scene again against LSU? Is it the top contest of 2013?
(Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports)
The SEC schedule is jam packed, so much so that we had to create two separate top ten lists, one for the non conference and one for in conference. Earlier this week we previewed the top ten non-conference games facing SEC teams this year and today it's finally time to unveil the top conference games of 2013.
One thing is for sure, this list wasn't simple and easy to come up with to say the least. There's a legit case for at least double the list of games mattering, but in the end the games we've picked come down to importance to the conference picture, the teams' stature within the league, and ultimately the games' likely importance on the national landscape as well.
So, without further stalling here are the top ten SEC games for the 2013 season!!
10. Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Nov. 28): I've heard this whole Egg Bowl game on Thanksgiving night is one of the craziest games to attend in college football. Well, in 2013 it could also be a chance for the winner to make a real statement of contention in the SEC West. Hugh Freeze killed it on the recruiting trail and there is a lot of buzz surrounding the program, however that buzz should be tempered with the fact that it's not realistic to think that group makes that big of an impact in their first season in Oxford. For Mississippi State it could be Dan Mullen's put up or shut up year in Starkville. Sure, he went to the Gator Bowl last season, but the Bulldogs couldn't beat anyone of the top tier teams. Needless to say there could be an immense amount of pressure for both coaches to win this game and frankly it could be bowl game eligibility for one that's on the line in the final regular season showdown between these bitter rivals.
9. Alabama at Auburn (Nov. 30): Yes, this game may not have big time implications and Auburn could be, well… Auburn and thus not be in the picture for a bowl game or a division title, but this game is still one of the greatest rivalries in college sports. Therefore it makes this list no matter what. However, on the flip side this game could mean a whole lot to both teams' futures for the 2013 season. Knowing how tight the SEC West race is likely to be it could be that the Tide can't afford to slip up against their rivals and still make it to Atlanta. It could also be that Auburn needs this game to rise to or above .500 in the first year of the Gus Malzhan era. Sitting here in July we just don't know the significance of this game and that's why it's this low on the list, but could be much bigger than we think right now.
8. Vanderbilt at Tennessee (Nov. 23): This game doesn't receive a lot of press, but if you're Butch Jones and you want to be the big dogs of the state again you need to make a statement in this game. For the past few years the Commodores have been the cream of the crop in Tennessee when the chips are all stacked up at the end of the season and that doesn't sit well with the Vol faithful to say the least. For Vandy there will be no Jordan Rodgers taking snaps and that has lead a lot of people to believe this team may slip a bit. However, James Franklin's coaching ability has been amazing and this matchup could really be a bellwether as to where these two programs are heading. Chances are the fates of these two teams will already be known in the SEC, but bragging rights and bowl games could be on the line as well. In the end this game's ultimate significance is all about setting the tone for Butch Davis' tenure in Knoxville – a loss here will be unacceptable to a group of fans as rabid as any in the SEC.
7. Texas A&M at Arkansas (Sept. 28): While this won't be the Aggies first rodeo of the 2013 season inside their division it is the debut of one Bret Bielema at Arkansas. All eyes will be on this matchup if for no other reason than to see exactly where this new look Hogs team is going to be in Bielema's first go around. A good showing against a powerful Aggies squad bodes well for Woo Pig Sooie, however if they lose and lose badly you've got to wonder what kind of tone will it set for the rest of the season in Fayetteville. Luckily this game is at home and that should help matters. As for the Aggies, this could be an underestimated test and with national title hopes on their mind (a.k.a winning the SEC West) any slip up in conference is perhaps one too many – so naturally this game will be important to them too.
6. Florida vs. South Carolina (Nov. 16): Neither of these two teams went to the SEC Championship game and both have those aspirations to start off 2013, however don't for one second think that come Nov. 16th the 'Ole Ball Coach will let his team forget the ass-kicking the Gators gave them last year that prevented a trip to Atlanta or a BCS bowl game of their own. These two teams are legit contenders and for the Gamecocks this is their final chance to control their destiny in the SEC. If they win against Georgia in a game further up our rankings than this game also takes on some big time significance. Chances are UF comes into this one needing a win badly to get back in the race or to control the division since this will be just two weeks after the "World's Largest Cocktail Party."
5. LSU at Georgia (Sept. 28): This inter-divisional contest comes at a huge make or break time for both of these teams in the SEC. For Georgia it's their 2nd SEC contest and since the opener is against another title contender there's the risk of an 0-2 start which wouldn't be good. However, there is the thought of a 2-0 start and a chance to really control their destiny to Atlanta again. However, for Les Miles' crew it'll be their first real SEC test and yes Auburn fans I just said that. Needless to say getting off on the wrong foot against one of the two SEC East contenders you play wouldn't be helpful to making a trip back to the Peach State for anything other than the Chick-fil-A Bowl again….
4. Florida vs. Georgia (Nov. 20): What's not to love about everything surrounding the only true neutral site game in the SEC regulars season? We know that this game will have major implications for both teams' hopes of a Top 10 national ranking and the SEC East title race as well. One thing we do know is we're likely to get a good game out of Jacksonville, as these two teams have split the last 6 meetings 3-3 and the average margin of victory over the past three contests has been just five points. Could the winner of this game cement their SEC title game place? It could very well happen should these two teams also take care of the Gamecocks as well.
3. LSU at Alabama (Nov. 9): A lot will already be known about these two teams and chances are this game is a knock out game, meaning the loser is out of the SEC West title race for good. That's a lot of pressure on just one game, but welcome to the gauntlet that is the SEC West. It's also the matchup of the last four National Champions and don't think for a second LSU will forget that they lost out on one of those titles to the Tide or that they've won just one of the last five regular season meetings between each other. Add in the whole Mad Hatter vs. the Genius angle between Les Miles and Nick Saban and it's safe to say this game is going to be kicked up a notch or ten.
2. South Carolina at Georgia (Sept. 7): The Gamecocks sure don't have it easy to start or end their season, but after taking on rival North Carolina they get to turn around and take on border rival Georgia the very next week. Jadeveon Clowney versus Aaron Murray and that Georgia offensive line alone is worth the price of admission. While it's only week two of the season the entirety of the college football nation will be looking at this game to see who emerges as the favorite to win the SEC East. For South Carolina it's their chance to tell the CFB world that they aren't going to fold and that they are indeed true contenders for a conference title, even without Marcus Latimore in the fold. For Georgia it's their chance to show that last season wasn't a fluke and that they still own the SEC East. Couple it with our No. 1 game and you have one hell of a set of games to watch for in week two of the season.
1. Alabama at Texas A&M (Sept. 7): Week two of the season will set the tone for the rest of the way for both of these two gridiron combatants. Of course, there's the whole revenge factor for the Tide, who's only loss was to the Aggies last year. However, don't expect Saban to play that angle up – he's just not that kind of guy. Off the field the Aggies and their fans have been playing up their win from a season ago, even coining the joke – "What do the moon and the Aggies have in common?" "We both control the Tide." Of equal importance is the fact that these two are likely contenders for the SEC West and thus a top 5 ranking. Stakes will be high early on, but for the loser things really get desperate to win out the rest of the way in order to likely stay within striking distance of a division title. Hell, then there's the whole A.J. McCarron vs. Johnny Football angle too. Simply, there's so much to like surrounding this game on and off the field that it's almost set up for a Hollywood type ending.