While there were some dark moments for college football the last few months, it has become increasingly clear in recent days that not only will we get a season, but also what it will look like. Last week we got Austin Peay-Central Arkansas on our TV screens, this Thursday FBS football kicks off, and a week later, ACC and Big 12 teams will take the field for the first time.
Still, nothing says college football quite like that big, Saturday afternoon, 3:30 ET kickoff in the SEC. It is college football, the game where the biggest brands and best teams play in what are routinely the most exciting and anticipated games of the season. And finally on Tuesday, we got a preview of which games will be played in that timeslot (even if CBS took the wrong game in Week 1) with the “SEC on CBS” schedule release.
The league didn’t announce games for every Saturday just yet (fOctober 10, October 24, November 21, November 28, and December 5, are undecided), but based on the games that have been announced, it’s time to rank them.
Below, we start with the worst “SEC on CBS” game and work our way down to the best at the bottom.
7. Sept. 26: Mississippi State at LSU, 3:30 pm ET
The opening weekend of the SEC slate is admittedly a little bit quiet (yeah, Georgia at Arkansas doesn’t do much for me either). And while I personally believe that Kentucky-Auburn will be a better game, you can’t really go wrong with Mississippi State at LSU.
And the reason is very simple: It’s a matchup of maybe the two most eclectic coaches in college football, Mike Leach and Ed Orgeron.
That’s right, because of all the serious things going on in the world the last six months, it kind of gotten overshadowed that, oh, right… MIKE LEACH IS IN THE SEC!!! I don’t know how much he’ll win there (because it’s hard to win at Mississippi State) but I guarantee you that he will make every press conference more entertaining and every pregame handshake with an opposing coach as uncomfortable and awkward as possible. I can only imagine Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn and Kirby Smart walking back to the sidelines after speaking to Leach for the first time, shaking their heads and saying “what’s that guy’s deal?!”
Well his deal is, he’s awesome.
And he alone will make an otherwise forgettable Week 1 game pretty entertaining.
6. Oct. 31: LSU at Auburn, 3:30 pm ET
Since the SEC announced a few weeks back that it would go to a league-only schedule, all anyone has talked about is how awesome a slate of all SEC football, all the time will be. And trust me, it will be. But what hasn’t been taken into account is that with no out of conference games, there is no chance to build up a resume, build up confidence and gets a couple wins under your belt.
Which leads me to the most fascinating thing about this SEC season that no one is talking about: Somebody has to lose these games.
That’s also why I find this game so fascinating.
While everyone loves their coach and their team right now, this game could very likely leave one fan-base very, very, VERY upset. Understand that even before this game kicks off, Auburn will have already played Georgia and LSU will have played Florida. Meaning, it’s very likely that someone will come out of this game 4-2, and potentially even 3-3 (a Kentucky upset at Auburn, anyone?). And oh, keep in mind, that both teams still have Alabama and Texas A&M on the schedule after this game, meaning the loser could be looking at a 5-5 season.
Like I said, a conference-only schedule is all fun and games… until people start losing.
And you just know one team’s message boards will be on fire after this one.
5. Oct. 3: Texas A&M at Alabama, 3:30 pm ET
You know the SEC on CBS slate is loaded when, out of the seven games that were announced Tuesday, this is the fifth best.
But make no mistake, it’s a doozy. For both teams its their first big game of the season. And for both, it will define a year where each believes they can make the College Football Playoff.
Understand that Texas A&M believes they are this year’s LSU, a team that returns essentially everyone (16 starters) off a good team a season ago. A&M finished 8-5, but all five of their losses were against teams that were ranked in the Top 10 at the time. Incredibly, four were ranked in the Top 4, and three (Alabama, Clemson and LSU) were ranked No. 1 or No. 2 when they played them. Yowzahs! This year’s schedule should be much more favorable for the Aggies, but they’ve got to win this one.
As for Alabama, you don’t need me to tell you the deal with the Tide. But, not only is Alabama its usual, crazy talented self, but also have an added chip on its shoulder after missing the playoff last year.
Make no mistake, Texas A&M is good. I’m just not sure I’d want to face Alabama in a marquee game where they feel like they have something to prove.
4. Nov. 14th: Alabama at LSU, 6:00 pm ET
Before we get back to football, notice the quirky 6:00 p.m. ET start time. Why is that, you ask? Well, only because this game will immediately follow… the third round of the Masters!!! That’s right, with the Masters pushed back six months because of the pandemic, it now means that we get a Masters/LSU-Alabama double-header.
Someone catch me, because I’m about to faint.
But back to football, and remember how I said up top that you simply don’t want to play Alabama when they have something to prove? Well, I present you, Alabama-LSU: The rematch.
Incase you’ve been living under a rock the last like 50 years, LSU-Alabama is always a big game, but this one takes on added significance. It comes after LSU went into Tuscaloosa, beat Alabama and celebrated on their field, on its way to a historic national championship a season ago.
Credit where it’s due: LSU is the one team in the SEC that we know isn’t afraid of Alabama.
Whether or not that equates to a second straight upset of the Tide remains to be seen.
3. Nov. 7th: Florida vs. Georgia (Jacksonville, FL), 3:30 pm ET
Why is this game so important? Oh, I don’t know. It has only produced the SEC East champion five straight seasons, and seven of the last nine. No big deal, right?
I’ll give you another reason beyond that too: Never forget that without the Big Ten and Pac-12 in college football this year, it opens one, and potentially two playoff spots (depending on what happens everywhere else in the country). And both these teams believe they’re good enough to make the College Football Playoff.
Which means that for the winner, it potentially puts them in position for that second spot. And for the loser, it means that they would probably have to win all their other games… and still need luck to make college football’s final four.
2. Oct. 17th: Georgia at Alabama, 8:00 p.m. ET
I’ve been as critical of Kirby Smart, but in a lot of ways I feel bad for Georgia here. The Dawgs again have a team good enough to make the playoff. They have had success against their toughest competition in the SEC East under Smart, who is 2-0 against Dan Mullen at Florida. And their cross-division rival Auburn is a bit down this year. Meaning that under all other scenarios we would be potentially be discussing, “Can Georgia get to the SEC title game undefeated and finally knock off Alabama?”
Instead, this just so happens to be the year that they not only need to beat Alabama to get to the College Football Playoff, but potentially need to beat them twice. And its not even like the first time would be in Athens either. Instead, it’s in Tuscaloosa.
That doesn’t mean that Georgia can’t beat the Tide and run the table.
But it does mean for whoever loses this game, it will be an uphill battle to get into the playoff conversation. Especially since they’ll likely see the other again in Atlanta.
1. SEC Championship Game
The SEC has produced three of the last five national champions.
The SEC champion has played in five straight title games.
One year, we even got two SEC teams in the championship game one year.
In this conference it just means more.
And no game means more than this one.
SEC football will be back before we know it, and it can’t come soon enough.