We’ve already looked at how the SEC fared against other BCS conferences and independents in 2012, and ‘13 brings a whole new wave of great non-conference games.
August 31st will be a particularly massive opening weekend, with Georgia-Clemson, Alabama-Virginia Tech, LSU-TCU, Mississippi State-Oklahoma State and UNC-South Carolina.
Here are the top 10 non-conference games of 2013:
1. Georgia at Clemson, August 31st
The Bulldogs and Tigers will kick things off in Death Valley with two prolific offenses and two quarterbacks who will return to make a run at a national championship. A first-game loss will all but eliminate either team from championship talks. Clemson and Georgia will both be preseason top ten when the ‘13 season officially kicks off. Tajh Boyd vs. Aaron Murray sets up to make any UGA fan’s heart rate race, and we’ll finally get introduced to all those new Georgia defenders.
2. Clemson at South Carolina, November 30
Steve Spurrier owns Dabo Swinney, and this has turned into a lopsided rivalry in recent history, as the Gamecocks have won four in a row. Jadeveon Clowney will face his Palmetto state rivals one more time, and he dominated the Tigers last season with 4.5 sacks. What will he do for an encore? This is your classic ACC spread team with speed against your tough, in-the-trenches SEC team. This could be Clemson’s last chance – and Boyd’s first chance – to beat the SEC’s Gamecocks.
3. Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, August 31st (Atlanta)
Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, they face Alabama in the Chick-fil-A kickoff game in Atlanta against a team hoping to win their fourth national championship in the last five years. Virginia Tech returns quarterback Logan Thomas, but this isn’t your daddy’s Hokies. Frank Beamer is under a ton of pressure to win a big game, especially after just reaching .500 in the ACC this past season. Alabama hammered the Hokies back in 2009, and Thomas will have to be dynamic against the Tide.
4. Florida State at Florida, November 30th
This is your classic ‘brag at work for the entire next year game’, as in-state rivals once again clash in The Swamp. The Noles lose talent on both sides of the ball, and Florida is controlling the state after thumping the Noles 37-26 in Doak this past November. Both programs are getting back into the national spotlight, making this game more interesting by the year.
5. TCU vs. LSU, August 31st (Arlington)
JerryWorld is in TCU’s backyard, and it will be a virtual home game for the Horned Frogs. LSU lost 10 underclassmen in the NFL Draft, and the defense will look totally different in ‘13 with six starters gone. This could turn into a defensive dual, as both offenses have been nothing special.
6. Florida at Miami, September 7th
The Hurricanes and Gators don’t play too often, but when they do, it always makes for a great game. And Florida will be on the road against the Canes, and every Miami fan who never went to Miami will be wearing their jerseys. This will be a great test for Florida, who will kick off SEC play after a bye week to host Tennessee.
7. North Carolina at South Carolina, August 31st
The Battle of the Carolinas will ensue with two offensive-minded head coaches in Steve Spurrier and Larry Fedora. The border state battle is for bragging rights in the Carolinas and has ACC-SEC implications. This is just another great game on opening weekend.
8. Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State, August 31st (Houston)
Unlike 2012, MSU has a chance to face a legit non-conference contender against arguably the top team in the Big 12 for 2012 right out of the gate. Houston is fertile recruiting ground for both teams, and both programs are overachieving compared to history. If the Bulldogs can somehow upset the Pokes, we can stop asking ourselves, “Has Dan Mullen capped out at MSU?”
9. Tennessee at Oregon, September 14th
This game won’t be too tough for the Ducks and could turn into a blowout, but it will be Butch Jones’ first major test on the road against Chip Kelly. These two teams hooked up in Neyland Stadium back in 2010, and the Ducks put it on the Vols 48-13. This one could get ugly too if Tennessee isn’t careful. Nonetheless, we don’t see too many SEC-Pac-12 games.
10. Georgia at Georgia Tech, November 30th
The token battle of Georgia always makes it on the list because of the great rivalry. But it hasn’t been a rivalry at all in the last few years, as Georgia has dominated the series the last four years. But Tech finally got Paul Johnson a bowl win over Baby Kiffin and USC. “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate”.
Just Missed The Cut:
- Ole Miss at Texas, September 14th
- Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky, August 31st (Nashville)
- Western Kentucky at Tennessee, September 7th
Note: Bobby Petrino now coaches WKU
Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports