SEC Media Days are underway in Hoover, Alabama but here on Crystal Ball Run we get our Crystal Ball out and look towards the actual games on the field.
Unlike most seasons there is an abundance of quality non-conference games being played by the SEC in 2013, so much so it was impossible to mix them in with the conference games as well. So, since everything is done bigger and better in the SEC we're breaking up the games and giving you a look at what's about to transpire in and out of conference.
So, we'll start the list with our look at the ten best non-conference games for the SEC.
10. Arkansas State at Auburn (Sept. 7) – Nothing like a newly hired head coach taking on his former team to make for some dramatic television or in person viewing, huh? That's exactly what happens in week two of the college football season when Gus Malzahn's old Red Wolves bunch comes a calling to the home of his new head coaching gig at Auburn. Arkansas State has been a high quality team for a few years now and while they lose star QB Ryan Petrino it should be a good challenge for an Auburn team looking to return to the upper half of the SEC West.
9. Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky (Aug. 31) – Oh come on, like you don't want to see Mark Stoops vs. Bobby Petrino happen? That's what this game offers, well that and Kentucky looking to kick off the new Stoops era with a win over a Hilltoppers team that beat them last season. It may not be the most sexy of matchups, but it promises to tell us quite a bit about both of these teams heading into new eras. Plus this game takes place at LP Field in Nashville, so there's the whole NFL stadium factor and the neutral site that should make this usually not that interesting matchup interesting.
8. Tennessee at Oregon (Sept. 14) – While the expectations for these two teams are vastly different this game should be a good measuring stick for two head coaches in brand new positions. While Butch Jones has the experience as a head coach before, he's never experienced what the pressures of leading an SEC team and fanbase that expects to win a lot. Oregon's Mark Helfrich has never been a head coach anywhere and while he's been groomed as an offensive mind he's still taking over for a guy who revolutionized offensive play at the collegiate level. This game may not end up being that close, given the vastly different states of the rosters, but don't count out any SEC team with the right combo of good talent and better coaching.
7. Ole Miss at Texas (Oct. 19) – Hugh Freeze has killed it on the recruiting trail over the past year and a half, but this test early on in the season will tell the Rebels a whole hell of a lot about where they stand. Hopes in Oxford are high that Ole Miss can make the move to the upper half of the conference and while this isn't a game against an SEC foe it is a game against a team expected to compete for a conference crown of it's own and that makes this a huge measuring stick type of game. A win over the Longhorns and the rest of the nation will take notice. Lose this one and well, they will be who we all thought they would be.
6. LSU vs. TCU (Aug. 31) – Another SEC vs. Big 12 matchup and this one is all about bragging rights and measuring where you are at. TCU has a legit shot at winning the Big 12 in their 2nd year in the league and the Bayou Bengals are clearly a favorite in the SEC West division. This clash should just be pure fun to watch for those who don't have a routing interest. After all it's just two teams with high flying offenses and really solid defenses as well clashing on a neutral field to help open the college football season.
5. South Carolina vs. North Carolina (Aug. 29) – The flagship schools of these two border rivals get together to begin the season and for South Carolina it's vitally important to get the season off on the right foot, knowing what is ahead of them straight out of the gate. This game is also one of the ones that kicks off the season for everyone and will be in primetime on ESPN from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Both of these teams are similar in what they lose and return and that means two teams looking for an identity in 2013. These two teams haven't met since 2007 and the Tar Heels lead the series 34-18-4.
4. Florida at Miami (Sept. 7) - Do we really need to tell you why this game is on the list? Seriously? If the Hurricanes want any chance of getting on the national picture Duke Johnson and the rest of the Canes better win this contest against their bitter in-state rivals from down south. Florida has a pretty brutal schedule and if they want to win an SEC championship winning games against big teams on the road is huge and that's exactly what they'll be doing this time around.
3. Georgia at Clemson (Aug. 31) – We've talked about Clemson book ending their schedule with two of the three biggest contenders for the SEC East crown, but for the Bulldogs this is make or break right out of the gate. This won't be an easy contest at all and it'll be a fun QB matchup as well with Aaron Murray taking on Tajh Boyd. Both have different skill sets and that's another reason to love this matchup. It's all or nothing in week one for both of these teams, whom have not only conference title, but national title on their minds.
2. Florida State at Florida – (Nov. 30) – Wide Right anyone? While the conference standing of both of these teams will be decided by this time this game has the potential to have some last week of the regular season drama in it. If both are undefeated going into this game or even have suffered just one loss this game could have huge implications on the national title picture to say the lest.
1. Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 30) – The Palmetto State battle is bitter, bitter, bitter and if there's a game that is more like the crazy crap you see in the SEC it's this matchup between the two state schools of South Carolina. If both of their seasons go as the fans and some pundits think this could be a matchup between two teams that will play for their conference titles the next week and if that's true than look for this game to also have some big time meaning on the national scale. Either way this is the most meaningful and entertaining game the SEC plays out of conference on a year in and year out basis.