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Watching Only One SEC Football Game Each Week: Part Two

A little over a week ago, I introduced this idea. What if, for some terrible reason, I could only watch one SEC football game each weekend this season? Which games would I watch? Part one featured my picks for weeks one through six of the SEC football season. Here are my picks for the remainder of the season.

Week 7: #1 Alabama @ #10 Tennessee

This is probably the one game I’m most excited to watch all season. The Crimson Tide may have lost some key pieces to their championship team but they have plenty of recruits from their past few classes that can fill in those gaps. They also have Bo Scarbrough to replace Derrick Henry, and he definitely cannot be ignored. On the other hand, Butch Jones and Tennessee didn’t really lose important pieces to their puzzle at all. They return experienced players on both sides of the ball. The defense will be solid, and the offense has the potential to be explosive. If Josh Dobbs can pass for more than ten yards this season, the Volunteer offense will be hard to stop.

This game was a close one in Tuscaloosa last year, with Alabama obviously being the eventual victor. This year the two teams meet in Knoxville and I’m sure Neyland will be rocking. I don’t know that I’m right about this but I think the Vols will have a good chance to get a win at home over the Crimson Tide. And I’d be laughing at Lane Kiffin the whole time. He might have to block me on Twitter if they lose.

Week 8: #12 Ole Miss @ #6 LSU

There are a few Ole Miss games that will definitely have my attention this season. This game in Death Valley is liable to be one of the most exciting SEC West games we’ll get to watch all season. I’ve talked about him plenty in Part One of this duo of lists, but Chad Kelly will be huge for Ole Miss this season.

The Rebels lost Laquon Treadwell to the NFL at the end of last season, but Damore’ea Stringfellow has the potential to be just as important to their offense. Playing opposite Treadwell last year, he already put up some pretty impressive stats (36 catches, 503 yds., 5 TDs) for the Rebels. LSU returns Fournette who was mostly a force to be reckoned with last season. More importantly, their quarterback Brandon Harris now has more experience and can hopefully help balance Fournette’s rushing attack with his passing attack.

These two offensive powerhouses meeting in Baton Rouge should make for a fantastic, explosive football game. The winner? Whichever team has fewer turnovers.

Week 9: #25 Florida vs. #16 Georgia (at EverBank Field)

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will always draw my attention as a Gator. Heading into this season, both teams are expected to be strong but both have some pretty big question marks. The Gators need to actually move the ball on offense and they need to choose a quarterback to do that…again. Their defense will be as solid as ever as they retain the title “DBU.”

Georgia will have running back Nick Chubb again and an exciting new coach in Kirby Smart. That combination could prove to be very dangerous. As far as SEC defenses go, theirs may be pretty average. But an average Bulldog defense might overpower a below average Gator offense. At the end of the day, I’d give this one to the Gators. But I don’t say that with much confidence.

Week 10: #1 Alabama @ #6 LSU

Alabama and LSU are the two highest-ranked SEC West teams in the preseason coaches poll, making this game an easy choice. Last season, the Alabama defense shut down Heisman hopeful running back Leonard Fournette in this matchup. The question is whether or not they’ll be able to repeat that feat now that LSU has a more experienced quarterback with Brandon Harris returning.

For LSU, containing the Alabama offense will be a must. Last season, they allowed them to outgain the Tiger offense by about 250 yards. If they allow Alabama to gain over 400 yards again, they’ll be hard-pressed to win this game. Fournette and Harris will be a destructive duo, but I expect the Alabama defense to be able to contain them pretty well. And for this reason, I anticipate Alabama winning this game, despite LSU’s home field advantage.

Week 11: Auburn @ #16 Georgia

I honestly have no idea what to make of Auburn at this point. Last season I expected them to be solid but I would consider their 6-6 regular season record anything but solid. Surprisingly, they only lost to Georgia by a touchdown. That team they played a close game with was not the same team that Georgia has this season. Mark Richt was replaced with a shiny new head coach straight from Alabama, Kirby Smart. And since running back Nick Chubb is returning from his injury, the Georgia offense will undoubtedly be more difficult to stop.

The Auburn defense under Will Muschamp’s replacement, Kevin Steele, will be what decides this game. Steele has worked with a number of impressive programs: Alabama, Clemson, and LSU, to name a few. Whether or not he’ll be able to resurrect a defense that struggled during most games last year remains to be seen. Because of my doubts for Auburn’s defense and my faith in Georgia’s offense, I give them the clear advantage in this game. But I don’t expect a blowout.

Week 12: Arkansas @ Mississippi St.

Arkansas is in a similar position to Tennessee this season, even though their outlook isn’t quite as favorable as that of the Volunteers. Head Coach Bret Bielema is entering his fourth year here after a decent season last year. In theory, he should finally have his players and his system in place.

Meanwhile, Dan Mullen has had to return to the drawing board for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs lived and died by quarterback Dak Prescott the past two years. Last year, they had pretty much no offensive production unless Prescott was involved. Now that Prescott is gone, Mullen is going to have to completely revamp their offense if he wants any chance of surviving in the SEC West. Since Arkansas seems to be on more of an upward trend here, I see them winning this game at Mississippi State.

Week 13: Rivalry Week

Sorry guys, but I really can’t pick just one this week. There are far too many interesting rivalry matchups.

All rankings listed are according to the Preseason Amway Coaches Poll, released on August 4th, 2016. Featured photo courtesy of wikimedia via user Neomrbungle.

E-Mail Kristen at kristen.botica@campuspressbox.com or follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

SEC East Showdown in Jacksonville

This week, SEC East fans will get to enjoy one of the best rivalries on this side of the conference. The Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators will face off in Jacksonville on Saturday. It’s more than a football game, it’s the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Trust me…I know…I’ve been. And while I’m sure it was a fantastic experience, much of it is a blur. This year will no doubt be the same for all those in attendance at the game while viewers at home may be surprised to see a pretty decent matchup.
Yes, I said the game with the #9 Bulldogs playing the unranked (3-3, should be 4-3) Gators will be a decent matchup. That’s because this is more than just football, folks…this is a HUGE rivalry. Anybody that knows football knows that rivalry games are beasts like no others. They cannot ever be predicted. And although it looks like a pretty obvious guess to say that Georgia will absolutely go to town on Florida this year, nobody really knows what will happen this Saturday in Jacksonville. To prove that point, let me take you back to 2003…a time when I wasn’t even a Gators fan, let alone a real college football fan.
These days, Gator fans have been adamant that their head coach be fired and that he’s the worst thing since Coach Ron Zook…possibly even worse than Zook at this point. Funny thing about that is, Coach Zook led the Gators into that 2003 game as a 3-loss team as well. That team was also lead by a promising freshman quarterback in Chris Leak. And for those of you that didn’t know, Chris Leak is currently a part of the Gators coaching staff. I know I sound like a delusional Gator fan and maybe part of me is, but there’s also a glimmer of hope for Gators when you examine the history of this rivalry. With Will Muschamp’s job really on the line, older players coming to his defense, and a freshman quarterback taking over the starting job this may just be the perfect storm for one of the biggest upsets in Florida-Georgia rivalry game history.
No, I’m definitely not saying I believe the Gators will win this Saturday. That really would be delusional. But that being said, the Gators have a shot at leaving Jacksonville victorious. There are all sorts of emotions brewing in Gainesville that change things for this team. There are also so many lurking variables in any rivalry game that can lead an underdog to victory over a much better opponent. And regardless of what happened two weeks ago in the Swamp, the entire team looks better when Treon Harris is on the field. With Harris finally getting to start this week, there’s no telling what kind of Gator squad will show up at EverBank Field.
One thing that seems pretty evident is that a good Georgia squad will be there on Saturday regardless. With or without Todd Gurley, the Bulldogs have asserted their dominance in the SEC East. Their only loss this season came at South Carolina, who was ranked at the time as well. Even without long-time QB Aaron Murray, Georgia is averaging the 9th most points for an FBS team in the country with 43.4 points per game. On top of that, the Georgia defense is only allowing an average of 20 points against their team which is an also impressive 19th rank in the nation. It is clear that the Bulldogs are talented both offensively and defensively and are a challenge to any SEC East team they face. They also beat their first SEC West opponent of the season, Arkansas the weekend before last without Todd Gurley on the field. And that was after putting a massive beating on a solid Missouri Tigers team.
There are a few signs of weakness from Georgia, though. Their passing game is very subpar which means they rely heavily on their running backs to get yards and put points on the board. If the Gators defense can find a way to disrupt their running game, the Bulldogs will be forced to rely on Hutson Mason. And though he’s been acceptable to this point, Mason is no Aaron Murray. He hasn’t proven himself to be the kind of leader that could rally the team from a deficit to beat a huge rival like the Gators. And there’s also that Tennessee game earlier this season that the Bulldogs only won 35-32. Of course Florida and Tennessee are two totally different teams but that game reminds the Gators that there is a chance of taking down the dawgs.
For Georgia, this game is more about pride than anything. But for the Gators, this game is everything. It means they can win this year and it helps them gain momentum heading into key match ups against South Carolina and their ultimate rival, Florida State. For Muschamp to have any chance whatsoever at keeping his job, he has to win this game. Even if he does win this game, he still had a lot of work to do. This game would just be another W on the schedule to the Bulldogs, hopefully moving them up the rankings. But to the Gators, this game would be turning a corner and entering a new part of the Will Muschamp era, a part with at least a little bit of hope. Win or lose for both teams, this will still prove to be an entertaining show for all fans and I’m more than positive that it’ll rightfully maintain its place as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. If I had any advice for fans this weekend, it would be to have those cocktails ready!
For more Florida Gators delusions and SEC history lessons, make sure to follow @KBoticaSports on Twitter. If the Gators win, I’ll be sure to follow back!