Recently, we took a look at the “swing games” for the SEC East?
What are swing games you? Well, these are the stretch of games that swing the season for your favorite team. Maybe your team meets the challenge each week for these games and cruises to a better bowl than last year. Or, maybe your team is crushed by this stretch and a once promising season becomes a nightmare. These are the games that determine how your team’s season will be viewed.
Let’s take a look now at the swing games for the SEC West.
Alabama – Two well placed bye weeks divides the Tide’s schedule into three sections. The first includes West Virginia and Florida, the second includes a stretch of four straight SEC games, and the third includes LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn, though West Carolina High School is also in there as well. This looks fairly manageable for an SEC schedule. One could argue the four straight SEC games in October is the toughest patch, but Tide fans know that every season boils down to what happens in October. Bama may stumble somewhere during the first eight games, but what happens against LSU, State and Auburn will decide the season.
Arkansas – This is a nasty schedule, one that almost makes you feel sorry for the Hogs. Almost. The record may swing on games against Texas A&M and State, but whether or not second-year coach Bret Bielema’s team takes a step forward will be based on the last three games of the season: LSU, Ole Miss and Missouri. These back-to-back-to-back games in November will tell us if the Hogs quit or how big of a step forward they take.
Auburn – On paper, this isn’t an easy schedule. But with the Tigers, you never know what will happen. Gus Malzahn’s team lost the national title in the last minute to Florida State last year. Obviously, this is a motivating factor for 2014, but a trip to the playoffs will most likely be decided by the meat grinder that commences on October 25th. South Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, Samford and Alabama comprise a six-game stretch that could break almost any team.
LSU – This is a transitional year for Les Miles and his Tigers. Tons of talented players have left over the course of the last couple of seasons and tons of new talent has arrived. Whether this season is considered rebuilding or reloading, though, will likely be determined beginning with the four games starting on September 27th. Road trips to Auburn and Florida will be followed by home games against Kentucky and Ole Miss. LSU is more talented than all of these teams, but the SEC is a grind and we’ll see if Miles’ gang can stay focused.
Mississippi State – Playing in the SEC West means State’s schedule will always be tough. It could be worse in 2014, though. The Dogs draw Kentucky and Vanderbilt from the East and that makes Dan Mullen’s job a good deal more manageable. Mullen has pulled together four winning seasons in a row in Starkville and that’s no small feat. The Dogs will most likely add number five to that streak, but improving on last season’s 7-6 record will come down to the three games following the off week against UT-Martin. State closes with Alabama, Vandy and Ole Miss. Winning seven, eight or nine games will be based on how the results of these three games.
Ole Miss – Some folks are predicting big things from the Rebel Black Bears and the schedule looks fairly manageable for Hugh Freeze. The opening game against Boise State will be a challenge and the Egg Bowl to end the season is obviously a big game, but the five game stretch beginning on October 4th against Bama will determine if this is a good or great season. Following the Tide, the Rebs have Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. Again, a meat grinder. Freeze’s bunch could lose all four, win all four or do something in between those extremes.
Texas A&M – Kevin Sumlin’s third year in College Station will be without the Johnny Manziel show. But while that may ease the media circus in town, it certainly won’t help with the schedule. The Aggies have a tough opener against South Carolina and then follow up with a four game SEC stretch beginning on September 27th that includes Alabama and Ole Miss. But the Aggies season will ultimately come down to their last three games: Auburn, Missouri, and LSU. Sumlin’s team lost four games last season with the uber-talented Manziel. That’s not good enough, long-term, for the Aggie faithful and those four losses included losses to the three Tiger teams at the end of the schedule.