Published June 8, 2012 - 11:00am
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September is all about hitting the ground running coming straight from fall camp. Players are just ready to hit someone else other than their own teammates.
Once September is over, things begin to shake out as to who the contenders and pretenders are. Teams are in the meat of their SEC schedule.
Some teams are just trying to survive, while others are weathering the storm and finding ways to win to eventually make a strong run in November.
Here are the toughest schedules in the month of October:
1. South Carolina
Oct. 6 – Georgia
Oct. 13 – @LSU
Oct. 20 – @Florida
Oct. 27 – Tennessee
I really like South Carolina’s returners on offense and defense, as well as the newcomers they added in their recruiting class. But the Gamecock’s October schedule is downright nasty. Four very tough SEC games fall back to back to back to back. It starts with Georgia, who happens to be the East favorite, and this game always turns out to be very entertaining and a must-win for both teams. Last year, there was nine lead changes. Usually, South Carolina would play UGA during week two, but thanks to expansion, it was moved to week six, which makes it that much more important. Next, it’s back-to-back road games at arguably the two toughest venues in the SEC in Death Valley and The Swamp. SC is 2-16-1 against LSU in its history, and the Gamecocks finally got their first win at The Swamp two years ago. And lastly, SC hosts a very offensively potent Tennessee team in Columbia. The Vols can put up points in a hurry.
I’m not sure any team in the SEC would be able to survive such a gauntlet. It’s the toughest four-game stretch of any team in the SEC this season and quite possibly the entire country. In back-to-back weeks, the Gamecocks are playing the two favorites in the East and West. I’m on board with South Carolina and their chances to win the East, but a brutal October schedule will certainly make or break those chances.
Oct. 6 – LSU
Oct. 13 – @Vanderbilt
Oct. 20 – South Carolina
Oct. 27 – Georgia (Jacksonville, FL)
If not for South Carolina having to play on the road at both LSU and Florida, the Gators would have the toughest October schedule. Florida hosts LSU this year, and it’s always a big draw for Florida because that game always sells out. LSU is the favorite out of the SEC to win it all, and Florida, along with Will Muschamp, will be gritting their teeth to punch back after a dismal showing last year in Tiger Stadium. Surely Florida won’t drop three straight to the Tigers, right? The Gators then travel to Vanderbilt, and this is not your granddaddy’s Vanderbilt, either. They are potent and played Florida very tough last year in The Swamp. The Gators have not lost in Nashville since ’88. The last two games of the month will be a gauntlet against two other top teams in the East. First, South Carolina comes to Gainesville before Florida goes to the annual drunken party in Jacksonville to tangle with Georgia in a border war.
With three top 15 teams – two top 10 teams – calling the Gators in one month, it could be a long one again if Florida does not improve on the offensive side of the football. The Gators were 0 for October last year.
Oct. 6 – Mississippi State
Oct. 1 – @Arkansas
Oct. 20 – Georgia
Oct. 27 – @Missouri
Kentucky’s four-game stretch with State, Arkansas, Georgia and Missouri is tough for anyone, much less a team with matchup problems against each. I can’t imagine being Joker Phillips facing those four games in the month of October. The September schedule is manageable for the Cats. But that turns sour real fast when the page flips to October. Mississippi State is traveling in back-to-back years to Lexington due to expansion. They have beaten the Cats the last three games and have three straight wins in Lexington. Kentucky is 4-1 in their last five against the high-pwered Razorbacks, but Fayetteville will be a very tough task indeed for the Wildcats to get a W. Kentucky finishes out October with two SEC East foes in favorite Georgia and newbie Missouri. Kentucky is 3-18 against Georgia and 2-0 in their only two meetings with Missouri. It could be a very long October for football fans in Lexington.
Oct. 6 – Bye
Oct. 13 – @Mississippi State
Oct. 20 – Alabama
Oct. 27 – @South Carolina
Any month featuring any four or five teams will make Tennessee feel better after the nasty gauntlet they ran against Georgia, LSU, Alabama and South Carolina in a four-game stretch last year, which produced four losses. This October, they have some breathing room as a bye creeps on the schedule before traveling to Starkville. State will give Tennessee all it wants, but the Vols have been quite successful against State, winning the last nine of 10 meetings and the last four of five in Starkville. The very next week, the Third Saturday in October comes calling, as Alabama travels back to Tennessee for this annual bitter rivalry. I must say, however, it hasn’t been much of a rivalry lately. And Tennessee intends on being competitive with the Tide this time around. Tennessee-South Carolina is always interesting because Steve Spurrier loves beating Tennessee no matter what team he’s coaching. UT has beaten SC like a drum over past years and holds a 22-6-2 all time record, but the Vols have dropped the last two, including a very frustrating appearance last year in a 14-3 loss.
Oct. 6 – Arkansas
Oct. 13 – @Ole Miss
Oct. 20 – @Vanderbilt
Oct. 27 – Texas A&M
Auburn’s September was brutal, and October isn’t much better. The Tigers play two West teams in the first two weeks of October, hosting Arkansas and traveling to Oxford. Auburn had an 11-game SEC winning streak until the Hogs snapped it last season snapped it. The Tigers also enjoy playing Ole Miss on the road because they are 9-2 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Next week, AU travels to Vanderbilt. Vandy beat them in their last meeting in 2008, snapping a 13-game winning streak. In the final game of October, Auburn plays host to new SEC member Texas A&M, and the Tigers have never beaten the Aggies (0-2).
What are you top October schedules?