Summer offers us so much fun. The sun is shining. Beaches are packed with vacationers. The bells of the ice cream man jingle in the distance. And, of course, we salivate at the prospect of football returning in a few short weeks.
The Southeastern Conference has been a one-man band in recent years, with Alabama winning four of five before Georgia took home the belt in 2017. Alabama got the last laugh, though. All together, Alabama’s 26 SEC titles doubles up the next closest program; that’s Georgia and Tennessee who both have 13 titles.
The SEC is a pro factory, and the NFL is littered with pro talent, including ten first round picks coming from SEC schools in 2018. It’s the most talented conference in the country, and it figures to be one of the most competitive this upcoming season. New head coaches, neutral site games, and one reigning national champion with a massive target on its back all call the SEC home.
Here’s a preview of the biggest games to watch out for in 2018 SEC football schedule.
It’s Jimbo’s debut in College Station, Tennessee testing itself against West Virginia, the likes of Washington and Miami testing SEC opponents, and mid-major schools like Coastal Carolina, Middle Tennessee, Austin Peay, and Central Michigan hoping to spoil the SEC party on opening weekend.
Right out of the gate, we’re locked and loaded with potential playoff-shifting games. Check out a lineup of these Five Games to Kick-Off the 2018 Season.
Georgia vs. South Carolina
- The top two finishers in the SEC East get to tangle early in the season. Georgia’s first week on top of the college football standings in 2017 pitted them against the Gamecocks, where they prevailed 24-10. The winner of this game carries a ton of momentum going forward in 2018.
Kentucky vs. Florida
- Last season, Kentucky squandered a 13-point, fourth quarter lead at home to lose 28-27 to the Gators. Expect this game to be all about redemption for the Wildcats.
LSU vs. Auburn
- Early mistakes dug them a hole, but LSU rallied from 20 points down to upset 10th ranked Auburn 27-23. Maybe it was ESPN’s Peter Burns laid on the bad luck:
- Yeah, now they’re 0-4. This early SEC West matchup winner potentially holds the keys to knocking off Alabama and winning the conference.
Texas A&M vs. Alabama
- Alabama handled Jimbo Fisher’s Florida State Seminoles in Week One last season. Expect this new look Aggies team to come out hungry for an upset of Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide.
Arkansas vs. Auburn
- Auburn got smoked at home by Arkansas last season 52-20. New head coach Chad Morris could score big bonus points for his university if they can pull this one off on the road. If not, the Razorbacks have Texas A&M, Alabama and Ole Miss in consecutive weeks after this.
Tennessee vs. Georgia
- The Volunteers finished dead last in the SEC East in 2017, including a 41-0 blowout at home at the hands of Georgia. This would be big statement for Jeremy Pruitt’s team to play a quality game against the Bulldogs.
Auburn vs. Mississippi State
- At almost his same time last year, No. 13 Auburn clobbered No. 24 Mississippi State at home 49-10. It was Mississippi State’s second straight road game, the first being a loss to Georgia. Don’t expect such a lopsided contest again.
Georgia vs. LSU
- These two haven’t played since a 2013 shootout that ended with No. 9 Georgia prevailing 44-41 over No. 6 LSU. Both teams are re-tooled in 2018, so expect this to be another classic SEC showdown in Baton Rouge.
Florida vs. Vanderbilt
- This home game for Vanderbilt is their only one in a five game stretch, including three in a row over the four weeks after this one. If the Commodores can’t win this one in the middle of the season, it could mean another long second half of the season in Nashville.
Alabama vs. Tennessee
- Former Alabama defensive coordinator and new Tennessee head man Jeremy Pruitt has to be licking his chops for this one. The opportunity to knock off Nick Saban would be program-making. Problem is, Saban is 12-0 coaching against former assistants with a total score of 456-134. Good luck, Jeremy.
Florida vs. Georgia
- The game is being played at TIAA Bank Field (where the Jacksonville Jaguars play), and the stakes couldn’t be higher for the Gators. Georgia beat them last season 42-7 to hand Florida its worse loss of the year, and smack dab in the middle of a five-game losing streak. Quarterback Jake Fromm let Florida fans know how he felt following last season’s win:
- Dan Mullen takes on his first full season as head coach in Florida, where he won two national titles with Urban Meyer from 2005-08. Following this bout with Georgia, Florida gets three straight home games and a chance to challenge for the SEC East crown.
Alabama vs. LSU
- Everybody loves a good heavyweight fight. Here comes another installment. Alabama has won seven meetings in a row, but you know Ed Orgeron’s Tigers will be ready to host the Tide. Expect a prime-time game. Expect a sellout. Expect it to loud in Baton Rouge.
Georgia vs. Kentucky
- The only road game of Georgia’s final five comes through Lexington. Kentucky will be playing for a bowl berth at this point, so expect them to throw everything including the kitchen sink at the Bulldogs.
Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M
- On their way salvaging a broken season, Ole Miss went into halftime last year up 24-21 over A&M. The Aggies held the Rebels scoreless in the second half to win 31-24. Ole Miss will not bowl eligible again in 2018 following a two-year ban imposed by the NCAA. If Jimbo’s Aggies aren’t prepared, Ole Miss could spoil their season late in the year.
Missouri vs. Tennessee
- This should be a battle for bowl eligibility. Both programs are playing to climb back into contending roles in the SEC East, and this game could be one that breaks the winner through into that next tier.
Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss
- Ole Miss knocked off No. 14 Mississippi State to win the 2017 Egg Bowl 31-28 and finish their season 6-6. Ole Miss won’t be playing for a postseason berth, but Mississippi State and Joe Moorehead will be. Mississippi State knocked off Lamar Jackson and Louisville last season to end the year on a high note. Expect the same kind of finish in 2018.
Auburn vs. Alabama
- Auburn handed Alabama it’s only loss of the 2017 season, taking care of the Crimson Tide 26-14 at home. Saban has a career 132-20 record at Alabama, so you know each loss sticks with him. War Eagle or not, Alabama will show no mercy in the Iron Bowl.