SEC East Swing Games

UGA’s Todd Gurley

The conference schedule for SEC teams can be a meat grinder.  Win that big game against your divisional rival and the next week you’re on the road heading into an ambush.  The week after that?  Another conference foe is ready to take you down.

That’s one reason why it’s so impressive for an SEC team to run the table with an undefeated season.  It’s also a reason why a one loss (and occasional two-loss) team can play for a national title.

As teams move through their schedule, though, there’s usually one stretch of games that define the season.  For some teams, that stretch determines whether it will be a championship season.  For others, it means the difference between bowling and staying home.  For some, it might decide the fate of the coaching staff.

So let’s take a look at the toughest stretch of games for each SEC team.  These group of games will likely determine the overall outcome of each team’s season.  We’ll start with the SEC East (in alphabetical order).

Florida – The schedule isn’t kind to the Gators this season and they’ll have a lot of work to do to move past their 4-8 2013.  Alabama and Florida State dot the schedule, but the October stretch against Tennessee, LSU and Missouri is the most important stretch for the Gators.  Win two of three and Florida moves to .500 or better for the season and Will Mushchamp likely makes it back for 2015.

Georgia – Clemson and South Carolina in September are tough, but there’s a bye week in between and a loss to either (or both) doesn’t wreck the Dawgs’ hopes for an SEC title.  Beginning September 27th, the Dawgs begin a four game stretch against Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri and Arkansas that will either propel UGA toward a title in the East or send folks screaming for Mark Richt’s head.

Kentucky – There’s nowhere to go but up for the Wildcats, and they will likely be improved. For the Cats, though, the five game stretch also beginning on October 18th will tell us just how bad things will get.  LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee form a murderer’s row for Kentucky that will tell us how much fight is in Mark Stoops’ team.  Will they quit or take a step forward?

Missouri – The defending SEC East champs don’t have a horrendous schedule.  It comes in bite size chunks that Gary Pinkel’s team looks to swallow for a return to Atlanta.  The key stretch, however, begins on October 11th against Georgia and continues with Florida, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.  The UGA and Florida games could go either way, but can the Tigers keep their intensity through all four games.

South Carolina – The Gamecocks have several high profile match-ups sprinkling their schedule, but the four game stretch beginning on September 13 will tell us if Steve Spurrier can reach double-digit wins for four straight years.  Georgia, Vanderbilt, Missouri and Kentucky fill the stretch before the Carolina’s first by week and while the Dores and Cats don’t strike fear on paper, no one expected a loss to a weak Tennessee team last year.

Tennessee – The Volunteers have four straight losing seasons.  Adding a non-conference game against Oklahoma certainly won’t help Butch Jones break that streak.  Getting to six wins may come down to the last week of the season, so that makes the last three games the most critical stretch for the Vols.  It’s entirely possible that the Vols will have to sweep Kentucky, Missouri and Vandy to go bowling.

Vanderbilt – If there’s a team expected to make a leap backwards this season, it’s Vandy.  The Dores may scratch out six wins this year, but it’s an early season stretch against South Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia that will tell us how together Derek Mason has his team.

 

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Yahoo! Sports Picks Tide as No. 3 Team

No surprise here, I guess, as Yahoo! Sports has Bama No. 3.  Check out this blurb concerning the offensive line:

There are no concerns about the line. None. Zero. Zilch. In C Barrett Jones, G Chance Warmack and massive T D.J. Fluker, the Tide has three players who seem certain to be drafted no later than the second round in the 2013 NFL draft. Jones is on his third position and he was an All-American at the first two – at guard in 2010 and at tackle last season, when he won the Outland Trophy. He moved to center during spring drills and adapted quickly. Fluker is relatively svelte at 6 feet 6 and 335 pounds; he weighed upward of 350 pounds as a high school senior. He is heading into his third season as the Tide’s starting right tackle and is an absolute road-grader as a run blocker. Warmack is the last member of the line’s “holy trinity.” He frequently is overlooked, but will be a three-year starter and also is a road-grader as a run blocker.

That’s good, right?

Roll Tide.

2011 Alabama Season Preview

The season kicks off in a little more than a week, so it’s time to go on the record with a forecast for this year. I’m on record already predicting an 11-1 regular season for the Tide. Let’s take a look at how we get there…

Bama 45 Kent State 3 – This should be a name-the-score type game, though Nick Saban’s alma mater isn’t a bad team. The Golden Flashes are no strangers to playing major schools and even played at Penn State last year, losing 24-0. If Bama’s new quarterbacks don’t struggle, this game won’t be close.

Bama 34 Penn State 10 – Penn State has a salty defense returning and this one will stay close until Bama’s running game takes over in the second half.

Bama 50 North Texas 6 – Another cupcake for the Tide. Playing two quarterbacks keeps the pressure on and the score up in this one.

Bama 27 Arkansas 20 – The Hogs come to town hungry after playing three cupcakes. Bama gets up early and hangs on in this one.

Bama 28 Florida 16 – The Tide takes it’s second road trip of the season to take on the Gators. Bama’s ground game continues to grind and pulls off another win.

Bama 30 Vanderbilt 7 – Vandy comes to town after a week off and plays the Tide tough for a half. Once again, the Bama ground game wears out an opponent in the second half.

Bama 17 Ole Miss 10 – Houston Nutt’s teams always seem to play Bama close. This year is no different. Bama pulls this one out late.

Bama 30 Tennessee 24 – Bama makes it five in a row over the Vols, but this one has some drama.

Bama 14 LSU 17 – The Tigers make life rough for the new Bama quarterbacks. The Tide slips for the one and only time in 2011.

Bama 41 Mississippi State 24 – The Bulldogs catch the Tide on the rebound and get drilled.

Bama 56 Georgia Southern 0 – The Tide cruises in a tune up for Auburn.

Bama 45 Auburn 28 – The foot doesn’t come off the gas pedal as the Tide rolls and avenges last season’s debacle.

3SIB.com Season Preview

From 3SiB.com:

The dog days of summer are almost over and all the talk will finally subside to make way for actual football. What better way to kick off fall practice than to take a game-by-game look at Alabama’s 2011 schedule? We won’t be splitting the atom or analyzing the depth chart by any means. It’s just another opportunity for many ‘Bama fans to see a light at the end of a tunnel that’s been void of light since April 27.Go ahead Tide fans. Put on your crimson colored glasses and look into the future to see what it’s going to take for Nick Saban to hoist the crystal football and be number one once again.

via 2011 Alabama Football Schedule – Preview and Predictions – 3SiB.