Its no secret that the SEC lays claim to the last five BCS National Championships. Not since the 2005 season (2006 Rose Bowl) has a team from a different league won. This year Alabama and LSU both figure to be right in the thick of things. Last year's preseason prognosis was similar, but Auburn rode its transcendent star and a nasty defense to National Championship season. This year's SEC dark horse could be Arkansas, Auburn or South Carolina, though Arkansas might see itself as another co-favorite.
Of course college football, and even the SEC, isn't just about National Championships. There are always dozens of plotlines weaving their way in and out of a typical season. Some involve modest hopes; a winning record or merely bowl eligibility. Others involve saving a head man's job, a senior quarterback's shot at redemption or simply beating a long time rival. However your team's season breaks down, there is almost always something to play for and, especially in the SEC, there is almost always a reason to watch.
After the jump, we'll look at some SEC games that will have us glued to our sets or in the stands in 2011.
LSU v. Oregon 8:00p.m. (all times Eastern)
LSU kicks off the season with a top 5 clash at the House That Jerry Built. The Hat and his crew have their work cut out for them. With road trips to Alabama and Arkansas, they have by far the hardest three games of any team in the country. The Tigers could legitimately lose this game and play for a national title, but I wouldn't count on it. Oregon lost very little off of a team that played for all the marbles in 2010.
Boise St. v. Georgia 8:00p.m.
Georgia has a chance to make a statement in what is essentially a home game against a big name foe. Mark Richt could probably breathe a lot easier if the Bulldogs figured out a way to pull this out.
Alabama at Penn St. 3:30p.m.
Joe Pa and his broken hip comes into the season ranked 25th in the USA Today poll. Alabama should be able to handle this one, but obviously it is a tough early roadster that could easily derail title hopes.
Louisville at Kentucky 7:00p.m.
Crucial game for the Cats on so many levels. (I say this each year)
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt 12:21p.m.
As I've mentioned before in this space, the loser of this game figures to have a long year.
Arkansas at Alabama TBA
This game will certainly have a role in deciding who represents the West in the SEC Championship game. It could very well help determine who will play in the BCS Bowls, including the National Championship.
Alabama at Florida 8:00p.m. (unconfirmed)
Will Muschamp stands a very good chance of arriving to this game 4-0 in his first season in Gainesville. A win here would be huge for him and his program, especially at the beginning of a brutal three game stretch that takes them to LSU and Auburn the next two weeks. A win at The Swamp could really set the tone for this program. A loss here would be tough for Alabama, as it has many more tough games to play thereafter.
Florida at LSU TBA
No question, the Iron Bowl is the quintessential southern football game. But when I think of Florida going to LSU, something makes we want to drink seven Blackened Voodoo's while eating grilled alligator, watch football, then get up the next morning and eat something I kill with my bare hands, preferably a huge catfish, which I then pour hot sauce on.
South Carolina at Mississippi State TBA
If you want to be an elite team, the kind that challenges for national titles, you have to beat good teams on the road. It is what separates the men from the boys in the SEC. Conversely, if you want to be a very good team, the kind that challenges for BCS and New Year's Day Bowls, you have to beat all comers on your home field. Dan Mullen and Steve Spurrier are passing one another on the career escalator. This should be a gem.
Florida v. Georgia (Jacksonville, FL) 3:30p.m.
More sundresses, whisky and 4.4 speed than any fan deserves. Before I die, I'm making it down there for this.
LSU at Alabama TBA
The "on paper" game of the year in the SEC could be a de facto national quarterfinal.
Tennessee at Vanderbilt TBA
With a number of SEC teams take on non-conference foes in the regular season's penultimate week, here is a game with smaller consequences than some we've mentioned, but interesting nonetheless. By this time, it is likely that Tennessee will be mounting a late season run for bowl eligibility. A win against The 'Dores will probably be a pretty important piece of that puzzle. For Vandy, this is one of 2-3 winnable SEC games on the schedule. It would be a great place to earn some respectability to build on.
Arkansas at LSU 2:30p.m.
The weekend after Thanksgiving has eclipsed New Year's Eve/Day as the biggest 48 hours in college football. One great game after another unfolds until everything is crystallized for the conference championships the following weekend. Like the other two games in the Alabama, Arkansas, LSU round robin, this one figures to have at least some national impact.
Alabama at Auburn TBA
I assume this one needs no explanation.
Tennessee at Kentucky TBA
UT tries to make it twenty-seven in a row over the Wildcats. Tennessee is almost always playing for something, be it a shot in the SEC title game, a retiring coach's pride or a spot in a bowl game at this point. As for Kentucky, it has so often slipped in its effort to climb the SEC bowl ladder by night's end.
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