Yesterday, we talked about players to watch in the SEC. Today, we’ll talk about the games themselves, and which ones are the most important.
Q. Which game will be the most impactful conference game in the SEC this year?
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I haven’t read the other responses but I’m guessing Ole Miss vs Alabama is going to be the popular answer. And that answer is not wrong. That game will likely decide the SEC West champion (although LSU could have something to say about that).
The road to the SEC East goes through Athens because that wonderful college town will be the host of the Tennessee/Georgia game in 2016. Is this the year that Butch Jones gets Tennessee to the top or will Kirby Smart take Georgia to a SEC East crown in his debut season.
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Well, you’ve got a lot of options here. Alabama has possibly the most rugged schedule in the country, starting off with Southern Cal and visiting Ole Miss, Arkansas, and LSU from their own division. Ole Miss isn’t far behind, opening with a tilt with Florida State at a neutral site and then the usual spate of SEC West characters.
The truth is, though, that both the biggest games likely occur early in the season. Look no further than Alabama at Ole Miss in September from the West and Florida at Tennessee in the east. Both figure to set the fortunes for the winners and the losers going forward, and both of those who win will definitely have put a fly in the ointment of the chances of the loser to win the division.
Alabama also visits Tennessee, while Florida gets LSU at home. Ole Miss skips both Florida and Tennessee but gets Georgia at home. Also huge games, the irony is, the SEC East could end up determining who wins the SEC West, but someone West is walking away very disappointed before mid-September when the Tide and the Rebels run into each other in Oxford, with Ole Miss looking for their third straight win over Alabama.
Without question, it’s LSU at Florida.
Make no mistake about it: this game will tell us a lot about the SEC. While LSU returns 18 starters from last season’s team, it still has a huge question mark at quarterback. This contest will help clarify whether the Tigers are good enough to move the ball on the ground against a Top 20 defense and/or how much the passing game has improved this season. How LSU performs against the Gators will provide some insight as to whether it’s a contender or pretender in the SEC West.
In addition, this game could also help provide some clarity about the overall conference race. Sure, the West division is probably the tougher of the two divisions, but are the teams at the top of the East every bit as good? This contest will shed some light on that subject, as the Gator offense – which thrived under Will Grier but struggled in his absence – faces an LSU D that will likely finish in the Top 20 in total defense this year. How Florida’s offense fares in this contest should help determine whether the East has a chance to capture its first SEC Championship since 2008.