Each and every year in the SEC, we take pride in smashing other schools from lesser conferences. We laugh when our DEs run down their RBs from behind. Sound familiar? It’s part of SEC pride; it’s a lifestyle in the South. This year is no different, and 2012 will feature some big-time out of conference games. But none of them are any bigger or have any better national championship implications than Alabama-Michigan at JerryWorld.
Here are the top 10 SEC out-of-conference games in 2012:
1. Michigan vs. Alabama (Arlington, Texas), September 1st
This is, no doubt, the biggest non-conference game of the year in the SEC and possibly for the rest of the country as well. I want nothing more than for Alabama to mop the floor with Michigan at JerryWorld. The Wolverines are having a hard time even raising enough money to send their band to Texas, but I just think they don’t want to witness an SEC grinder. This one has all the makings of a huge game with national championship implications, as both teams will likely enter ranked in the top 10, and there is buzz surrounding this Michigan program right now. However, you know I’m a sucker for good defenses, and the SEC just has a different kind of defensive lineman running around than the Big 10 – or any other conference for that matter.
2. Clemson vs. Auburn (Atlanta, Georgia), September 1st
While I think South Carolina-Clemson might be a better matchup because of the historied rivalry at stake, this is one of the first games of the year and part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. The whole country will be watching this game, particularly all of the ACC to see if one of their best teams can matchup with a middle-of-the-pack SEC team right now. There is a ton of conference pride in this game, as its in the middle of the South in the SEC hub of Atlanta. Auburn waxed UVA last year in their bowl game as well; so, they have fresh ACC blood on their hands.
3. South Carolina at Clemson, November 24th
While this hasn’t been much of a rivalry in the last three years, Clemson is in the top portion of the ACC. And South Carolina can be viewed as a favorite to win the SEC East, barring any unforeseen injuries. I like South Carolina’s team that is returning, and I like them to take care of business against the in-state rivals in November.
4. Florida at Florida State, November 24th
This game was just dreadful last year, as both offenses were putrid, but Florida was more putrid. Check that, John Brantley was more putrid; however, Brantley is gone, and both FSU and Florida return much talent from a year ago. This game will be in Tallahassee, so Florida fans will get to see that beautiful state capital…minus the beautiful part.
5. Washington at LSU, September 8th
This is an interesting matchup to say the least but not a head scratcher. The Huskies are a program on the rise, and LSU returns a running game that any team would envy. Again, I go back to tough, physical SEC defenses in sexy out-of-conference matchups such as this. Washington comes into Death Valley, and they will leave wishing their flight was cancelled.
6. Rutgers at Arkansas, September 22nd
I like interesting, out-of-conference matchups such as this one. A northern team that has somewhat of a recent winning tradition playing an up-and-coming SEC team that has a lot to lose. I like the Hogs to give ‘em what they’re looking for, but it creates an interesting game for New Jerseyans to get a feel for how we do it in the South: we take no prisoners.
7. Georgia Tech at Georgia, November 24th
This hasn’t been much of an in-state rivalry lately, mainly because the Dawgs have just simply dominated, winning 10 of the last 11 ball games. However, it is fun to watch Tech’s option offense against what could be the best defense in the SEC. These teams and fan bases hate each other, and that is not changing anytime soon.
8. Texas at Ole Miss, September 15th
Texas visits Oxford for the first time ever, and these two teams will play again in 2013 in Austin. I love this matchup. It’s not the sexiest; it’s not the most-hyped; it might not get a lot pub, but it’s a very noteworthy game. If Ole Miss can somehow pull this one off, it would be an upset heard round the college football world. Hotty Toddy!
9. Arizona State at Missouri, September 15th
This is game happens to fall during week three, and Missouri could be coming into this one limping because the Georgia Bulldogs are on the schedule the week before. The Dawgs’ defense will leave the Tigers bruised, and ASU will have a good shot catching the Tigers when they’re down. However, I like Missouri at home. Represent the SEC, Mizzou! You’re part of something special in the SEC, and we will be pulling for you that weekend, something you will not find in other conferences.
10. Tennessee vs. NC State (Atlanta, Georgia), August 31st
I like Tennessee this year, but this game has the potential to scare Tennessee fans. NC State could catch Tennessee at a good time early in the year before the Vols really find themselves as a cohesive unit. With seven new coaches, it will take some time for this team, along with the coaching staff, to gel. My money is on Tennessee simply because they have the potential to be an offensive freak show. I will say this: Derek Dooley is almost in a must-win game in game one.
Just missed the cut: Vanderbilt at Northwesten, Kentucky at Louisville, ECU at South Carolina
How would you rank the out-of-conference games in 2012?