My 10 biggest upsets involving SEC teams in 2021
It’s gonna get weird in 2021. I can feel it.
I’ve been saying all offseason that in the SEC West, it feels like we’re in for a year reminiscent of 2014 — upsets galore, a bunch of teams in the top 15, Katy Perry, etc. Once every 7 years, it feels like the SEC loses its mind (there will never be another 2007). That means we’re due in 2021.
Even though I don’t think the East will have quite the madness and unpredictability of the West, I do think we’ll see a handful of upsets that make us wonder who the No. 2 team is (Georgia should lead the division from start to finish).
After breaking down every game involving an SEC team in 2021 with our SDS Crystal Ball series, I ranked my 10 biggest upsets. That’s not entirely based on what a point spread will be, though that’s part of it.
Here’s how I ranked my upset predictions:
10. Memphis beats MSU
Memphis dealt with COVID issues throughout last season, and it still wound up going 8-3. In other words, the Tigers are legit. Yeah, there are questions about replacing Brady White with Arizona transfer Grant Gunnell. But I’m a Mike MacIntyre believer, and I think his defense is ready to roll for this one. They return 8 starters, including Jacobi Francis and Quindell Johnson in the secondary. I think Will Rogers takes one too many chances and Memphis wins a 1-score game to end MSU’s early Top 25 bid.
9. South Carolina beats Kentucky
If you’re going to be a second-place team in the East, this is the game you cannot afford to lose if you’re Kentucky. But I can’t help but think Shane Beamer, with his offensive players perhaps back and full healthy, has his best win of 2021. Kentucky’s run defense struggles to handle the 2-headed monster of Kevin Harris and MarShawn Lloyd, and Luke Doty keeps the chains moving on 3rd down with conversions to Nick Muse. The Wildcats’ defense gets worn down and South Carolina holds off a late push for an upset win in Columbia.
8. Florida beats LSU
Hold up. Didn’t LSU go into The Swamp and beat a Playoff-hopeful Florida team last year? Yes, and Marco Wilson’s shoe toss into the fog was as an infamous a moment as we’ve had in college football in recent memory (Elijah Moore’s Egg Bowl TD celebration might be the only thing that holds a candle to it). Assuming Todd Grantham doesn’t insist on sending corner blitzes at Max Johnson again, I think the Florida defense has a big redemption showing in Death Valley. Emory Jones picks up his first signature victory and the Gators keep their East hopes alive while LSU’s West chances take a massive hit.
7. MSU beats Auburn
In a way, Auburn has the secondary depth to handle the Air Raid well. And Zakoby McClain and Owen Pappoe are excellent at tracking down ball-carriers in the open field, which could negate those check downs to running backs that Mike Leach’s Air Raid often yields. But I think Zach Arnett’s defense shows up on a mission to force turnovers. TJ Finley, who replaces Bo Nix midseason, has another tough week and throws a couple of interceptions into the arms of Martin Emerson and Emmanuel Forbes. In a field-position game, that proves to be the difference.
6. Arkansas beats Texas
I’m pretty sure that if Nick Saban went to coach Texas, the Longhorns would still find a way to lose a nonconference game in September. So no, I don’t think Steve Sarkisian prevents the Longhorns from continuing that embarrassing trend. This is a bad matchup for an offense trying to learn a new system. Arkansas’ experienced defense, which should have no shortage of time to prepare for Texas with such a favorable opener, will force 3 turnovers and the college football world will belly laugh at Texas’ SEC future.
5. Vanderbilt beats Mizzou
Hey now! In a game that the Tigers are expected to win comfortably, they instead fall victim to a sleepy start and a Vandy defense that’s ready to roll. Connor Bazelak sees too much pressure and instead of taking sacks, he has a 3-interception day in Nashville. Even though Vandy’s offense struggles to sustain scoring drives, it’s turnovers that fuel a wild win for the Commodores. Clark Lea is on the board in the SEC and Eli Drinkwitz is wondering how his team came out of the bye week so flat. Vandy, however, goes to the bye week with its first SEC win in 2 years.
4. MSU beats LSU
Shades of 2020? Not quite. Remember, my 2021 SEC West outlook is that it’ll have a very 2014-like feel to it. That is, upsets galore. That includes this one, but it won’t have the feel of last year’s shootout. MSU might not break 30 against a much-improved LSU defense. But this ends up being a game in which LSU fans really wish they had lured Arnett from MSU. That’s not a slight at Daronte Jones, but Arnett’s defense confuses Johnson and LSU becomes a bit too one-dimensional on the road. MSU wins the turnover battle and spoils LSU’s SEC opener once again.
3. Mizzou beats Florida
I have this weird feeling that once a year, Eli Drinkwitz is gonna have one of these “how do you like me now” games. It’ll always be at home, and it’ll be when his team is a 2-score underdog to an SEC power. Last year was LSU. This year is Florida. With their East hopes dashed, Florida comes out sluggish in Columbia. Drinkwitz, who had some fun at Dan Mullen’s expense, throws the kitchen sink at Florida. Trick plays, 4th-down conversations, onside kick out of halftime … you name it. Mizzou plays like a team with nothing to lose and Florida plays like a team that doesn’t want to be in Columbia in late November. The Tigers clinch bowl eligibility in glorious fashion.
2. Arkansas beats Texas A&M
Wait, really? An upset of A&M? Yes. Remember, things are gonna get weird in the West. This would qualify as things getting weird. Once again, it’s turnovers that fuel Arkansas. I think Barry Odom confuses Haynes King enough to finally end the 9-game losing streak to the Aggies. Jalen Catalon winds up with a pair of interceptions, including the one to seal a nail-biter victory. Fire up the jukebox because the Hogs are FIRING out of the gates.
1. Texas A&M beats Alabama
Yep. I think it finally happens. That is, Saban loses to a former assistant. Why? Didn’t Jimbo Fisher poke the beast when he said that he plans on beating Alabama’s a– while Saban is there? Perhaps. And hasn’t Fisher’s teams only led for 6 minutes and 29 seconds in 4 career games against Saban’s Alabama teams? Yep. But what’s also true is that this is the 4th game in 6 weeks to start off the season against potentially-ranked foes. I think that takes a toll on the Tide, who might not be able to overcome that A&M front with DeMarvin Leal and Jayden Peevy. A 60-minute, back-and-forth thriller is decided on a Caleb Chapman touchdown to lift the Aggies past Alabama, sending the college football world into a frenzy. A&M controls its fate to Atlanta.