Published June 15, 2012 - 11:10am
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November signals in rivalry month, and we certainly have some fine and formidable rivalries in and out of the SEC. In our looking ahead at the 2012 schedules and monthly schedules, we’ve looked at the biggest games in September and October. But this is the biggest month of them all.
Trust me, by November, we’ll all be scratching our heads wondering where football season went. Don’t hold your breath or take any of it for granted because it will be gone very quickly.
Here are the biggest games in the SEC for November:
1. Alabama at LSU – November 3rd
There is not greater game in the country than this one that falls on November 3rd. The two best teams in 2011 could very well be the two best teams in 2012. For the second straight month LSU plays the toughest game of the month. In fact, they play the two other best teams in the SEC. Last year’s defensive grudge match must have been a tough one to watch from members of other conferences that don’t play much defense because they made their criticisms heard: “boring”, “turned it off”, etc. All the nonsense was then raised again when the BCS once again featured the two top dogs in New Orleans. Why do we think it will be different this year? Last year’s regular season saw LSU win on the road 9-6 in Tuscaloosa. It was an incredible feat but a poorly executed offensive game on both sides – but that’s hard to justify because the defenses were so nasty. This year, the Tigers get the Tide in Baton Rouge, and you have to think everyone in Louisiana has this one circled. These teams stack up very evenly, and this game will once again be the premier game, not only in the SEC, but in the rest of the country, too.
2. LSU at Arkansas – November 23rd
LSU fans have no time to hold their breath or lick their wounds from November 3rd. Following Alabama, LSU will take on Mississippi State and Ole Miss before traveling to Arkansas. Arkansas, meanwhile, takes on South Carolina and Mississippi State on the road before this one. Both teams will have so much to gain from winning this football game. Obviously, the rest of the regular season will be the main factor, but whoever holds this head-to-head win could potentially represent the West in Atlanta. The home team has won the last four, and LSU has not played well on the road at Arkansas either. Not counting last year, but in the previous four years (2007 to 2010), the average margin of victory is 3.5 points per game. Last year was an anomaly with LSU running the Hogs out of town, but I expect this year to be different. Arkansas wants that boot trophy back, badly.
3. Florida at FSU – November 24th
Florida-Florida State is always a good game, no matter how bad the two schools are. So much is on the line, from recruiting to full-out bragging rights in the workplace. Both have plenty of talent, but both have struggled mightily and played well below their expectations the last few years. Some have picked Florida to win the East, and some have picked FSU to win the national championship. Again, this isn’t a sexy 90’s matchup, but as both teams continue to improve, the rivalry will rekindle. This one could potentially have some national championship aspirations on the line. The last time in Tallahassee, it marked Florida’s worst loss since 1988, when they lost 52-17.
4. Auburn at Alabama – November 24th
Auburn-Alabama is always a bloodthirsty, historied rivalry in the SEC and in the state of Alabama. The whole state shuts down in anticipation, and after winning the last three national championships, deep down every Alabama citizen knows what’s on the line. You either roll with the Tide or you bleed orange and blue. That’s just the way it is in Alabama. It runs deep. You think it’s going to change this year? No way. Auburn travels to T-Town this year, hoping to win a miracle on the road like in 2010. The surprising thing about this rivalry is that the home team has lost the last three. I’m not sure if that streak will live on this year, though.
5. South Carolina at Clemson – November 24th
Don’t think there is more blood on the line in the Iron Bowl than in the Battle of the Palmetto State. Clemson fans loathe Carolina, while SC fans are laughing at Clemson for giving Dabo Swinney (0-3 against SC as a head coach) a contract extension. Swinney has only defeated the Gamecocks as an Interim Head Coach in 2008, and Steve Spurrier is determined to not let that happen this year. While Clemson is a more sexy team with flashy players, Carolina is just a “keep plugging and we’ll beat your flashy” type of ball club. There’s a ton of fight, heart and no quit, not to mention one of the premier running backs in the country in Marcus Lattimore and one of the best defenses in the conference. Carolina has won three straight, and my money is on the Gamecocks for four in a row.
6. Georgia at Auburn – November 10th
Thankfully, this rivalry will be preserved in the future even with expansion and schedule arguments. Auburn has dropped five of the last six games in the series but won the last time in Jordan-Hare. Georgia is considered by most to be the premier team in the East, while Auburn has more talent and experience back from last year. Georgia will be favored, but in a rivalry game on the road, anything can happen. We all know this. Last year, Auburn forgot to get off the bus, losing in Athens 45-7.
7. Arkansas at South Carolina – November 10th
This rivalry will be no more after this year, thanks to expansion. Both teams would rather move on, especially Carolina, who has lost three straight in this series by 16-plus points. Moving forward, Arkansas will play Missouri every year in a border-state war, and SC will take on Texas A&M. So, besides the rivalry ending, this game will potentially have a lot on the line for both teams in respect how they finish the season. This game will be Carolina’s last SEC game, and it will be a must-win in order to get to Atlanta. Arkansas will be getting SC after thumping Tulsa the week before. The Hogs and the Cocks will be in “must-win” mode.
8. Georgia Tech at Georgia – November 24th
This hasn’t been much of a rivalry in the last 11 years because UGA has run the state, winning 10 of the last 11 games, including three straight. Tech’s gimmicky offense will be facing one of the premier defenses in the country in their house. The Bulldogs will eat the triple option up. Is it just me or is Mark Richt and Paul Johnson the antithesis of a good rivalry? Georgia will dominate this game.
9. Mississippi State at Ole Miss – November 24th
What’s not to like about the Egg Bowl? Sure, if you’re not from Mississippi, you may not care too much. Mississippi State has controlled the state for all of Dan Mullen’s tenure. He has three wins in as many years, and Ole Miss and new head coach Hugh Freeze will try to reverse that streak. State’s average margin of victory is 17.7 per game since Mullen took over. He vowed he would never loose to the Rebs again. On paper, State has yet another advantage this year, but we all know the game is not played on paper. The last time MSU won four straight Egg Bowls was from 1939 to 1942. People, we’re talking about 70 years here!
10. Missouri at Texas A&M – November 24th
This game features the one and only battle of the SEC newbie’s in 2012. With both teams splitting and taking on new rivalries for 2013 and beyond, this is a one-time deal. So, get amped about it, would you? The two fan bases are the only ones amped for this game. But it will turn into an SEC love fest, and what’s not to like about that? After all, TAMU has lost three straight to Missouri, who will be no pushover for any SEC team.
What will be your favorite game in November?