10 games that could impact SEC championship race in 2016
What makes SEC football so great is that every game within the conference is a big one. Of course, some are bigger than others, but it’s rare where a week goes by that doesn’t include an SEC matchup with postseason implications.
With that in mind, we go through the schedule week-by-week to find 10 SEC games that could be the biggest as far as deciding who plays in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 3 in Atlanta.
Sept. 17 — Alabama at Ole Miss: We kick off with a game that Alabama hasn’t been able to win in the last two meetings, yet each time has been able to overcome on its way to the SEC championship. Ole Miss looks to make it three in a row and if the Rebels pull it off, particularly at home, it can no longer be considered an upset.
Sept. 24 — Florida at Tennessee: In what figures to be a showdown of SEC East favorites, the Vols get the home field advantage. That hasn’t made much difference lately. Tennessee has lost the past five games to Florida at Neyland Stadium and the past 11 games overall in this series. This game starts a pivotal four game stretch for the Vols, who travel to Georgia and Texas A&M before returning home to face Alabama.
Sept. 24 — Georgia at Ole Miss: The Rebels get Georgia the week after facing Alabama. Those two weeks could make or break their season. Ole Miss hasn’t had much success over the years vs. the Bulldogs. Georgia has won the past 10 meetings and holds a 32-12-1 advantage all-time. The Rebels haven’t beaten Georgia in Oxford since 1995, an 18-10 triumph.
Oct. 1 — Tennessee at Georgia: In a rivalry that has gone back and forth over the years, the Vols turned it in their favor last season, breaking a five-year slump against the Bulldogs in Nick Chubb’s final game of 2015. The Vols hold a 22-21-2 all-time edge in the series and another notch for Tennessee is a must if it hopes to be playing in Atlanta in December.
Oct. 8 — LSU at Florida: The Tigers have the experience and talent to challenge for an SEC title. Florida is trying to defend its SEC East title and wants another shot at the SEC Championship Game. Their paths cross again in this annual battle.
LSU has won the past three meetings and five of the past six. Each has lost to the other before winning its respective divisions that same season. LSU lost to Florida (19-7) in 2003 and went on to win the SEC West, the SEC and national championship. Florida lost to LSU last season (35-28) before winning the SEC East.
Oct. 15 — Alabama at Tennessee: The Third Saturday in October brings us this traditional rivalry once again. The defending national champion Tide bring a nine-game win streak over Tennessee as they visit an upstart Vols team that likely will be the SEC East favorite. Vols coach Butch Jones looks to get a signature victory in a huge home game that could be an SEC Championship preview.
Oct. 22 — Ole Miss at LSU: Both teams have aspirations of unseating Alabama. To do that, a victory in this game is a must. It’s a matchup that potentially features two of the most experienced quarterbacks in the conference. Chad Kelly looks to have another big season under center at Ole Miss while Brandon Harris looks for improvement as he leans on Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette.
Oct. 29 — Florida vs. Georgia (Jacksonville): While Tennessee likely enters the 2016 season as the SEC East favorite, Florida won’t concede easily. And in his first season as head coach, Kirby Smart has the necessary talent to be a challenger for that crown as well. Mark Richt beat Florida just five times, so a Smart victory in Year 1 would be a significant step.
Nov. 5 — Alabama at LSU: This annual grudge match has gone Alabama’s way the past five times, beginning with the 2011 BCS national championship game. LSU hasn’t scored more than 17 points in any of those five losses.
The Tigers have the talent and experience to snap that skid, especially at home. An SEC Championship game berth is usually on the line, and the 2016 version looks to be no different.
Nov. 26 — Auburn at Alabama: The past seven meetings have produced the SEC champion, with Alabama winning five of those. Six of the past seven winners have played for a national championship. The other one, the 2014 Alabama team, advanced to the College Football Playoff semifinals.