My 9 biggest SEC upsets of 2020
Embrace the weird.
This year is going to get weird. It just will. With contact tracing quarantines and conference-only schedules, we need to be prepared for weird things to happen in this college football season. Massive upsets? Sure. Blowouts in games that looked like coin flips? Absolutely.
In a season in which so much seems unpredictable on a week to week basis from a personnel standpoint, be ready for anything and everything.
Well, I’m not bracing for Vandy to beat Georgia. Let’s not get too drunk, 2020.
But I am, however, bracing for no shortage of upsets. I already broke down every SEC game for 2020 based on the information that we have now. Those picks are, as always, not set in stone for 3 months from now. Certain things could change how we feel about teams, especially contenders, based on who’s playing and who isn’t playing.
These are my 9 SEC biggest upsets of the 2020 season:
9. Florida wins vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville)
Yeah, I think it finally happens. In addition to not being able to run the ball at all last year — I’m betting on Florida to be much improved up front to prevent another ground game dud in Jacksonville — the Gators were bit by the same thing that cost them the 2018 game. That is, an inability to get off the field on 3rd down. Georgia was a combined 20-for-32 in those spots in 2018 and 2019. Five of Georgia’s 6 touchdowns in those games came on 3rd down, too. Florida fans know this. Todd Grantham knows this. I have to think, given Florida’s sense of urgency and with so many new pieces on that Georgia offensive line and at quarterback with a new system, that narrative turns around. In a low-scoring, hard-fought thriller, the oft-injured Malik Davis winds up being the hero with a late rushing score to lift Florida to a 21-17 victory to take back the East lead and clear the Gators’ path to Atlanta.
8. Kentucky wins at Tennessee
Why would this be an upset? Mark Stoops is 1-6 against Tennessee, and at home, the Vols likely will be favored. Probably more significant is the fact Eddie Gran’s offense scored an average of just 10 points in the 2 matchups against Jeremy Pruitt’s defense. This game follows a somewhat similar script to last year’s physical, low-scoring battle. Sound defensive football shines. Both elite offensive lines do their part in what turns into a game of field position. But this time, Terry Wilson leads a late drive to set up a walk-off field goal for a 20-17 victory in Knoxville.
7. Mississippi State wins at Kentucky
I’m calling this an upset because I’m a big Stoops believer, and I especially believe in the talent he has returning in 2020. By this point, I believe Kentucky will be in the AP Top 25 after a 2-0 start. Mike Leach, back where he helped Tim Couch become the No. 1 overall pick, bounces back in a major way. Austin Williams eclipses the 100-yard receiving mark, and Osirus Mitchell makes a highlight-reel catch late to give MSU a surprising win in Lexington. After a rough start, Leach is officially on the board in the SEC.
6. Texas A&M wins vs. Florida
This will serve as a reminder to Florida after a 2-0 start that winning the SEC in a year like this is no joke. The Aggies’ defense knocks that Florida offensive line back down a peg after an encouraging start. Ultimately, a Gators squad that comes into College Station a touch too confident sees an offense that adjusts well to the speed in the front 7. This ends up being a day in which Kellen Mond makes multiple big plays with his legs to lead A&M to a statement win to avoid that dreaded 1-2 start.
5. Kentucky wins at Auburn
I’m not big on a team with major questions in the trenches having to go up against that Kentucky offensive line. It’s loaded with experience and proven talent. That’s the battle that I see the Wildcats winning in Week 1. Would I feel differently if this game were being played later in the year? Probably, and I also would have a different thought process if this was being played in a packed house at Jordan-Hare. It’s not. Give me the Cats to pull this one off whether Joey Gatewood is out there or not.
4. Arkansas wins vs. Mississippi State
Ummmmm, really? Leach is about to lose to Arkansas? Like, the Arkansas team that has a 19-game SEC losing streak? Yeah. Here’s my thinking. I’m guessing new Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom has had ample time to prepare for that Week 2 matchup against Leach’s Air Raid. That’s not to say he’s counting out the Georgia game, but MSU is a much more winnable matchup. Against a team that isn’t really going to push Arkansas around at the line of scrimmage — that’ll be the Hogs’ biggest weakness in 2020 — MSU’s new offense struggles to sustain drives against an experienced Arkansas secondary. A rough start to the Leach era, it is.
3. Ole Miss wins at Texas A&M
Let’s get weird. This year is going to inevitably have a few games that make us scratch our heads. Whether it’s a coach recognizing that an opposing team is depleted at a position group because of quarantines or just simply elite teams playing down to competition at times during a 10-game conference schedule, we’re going to get a handful of games like this one. A&M, a week removed from a physical game against Tennessee with perhaps an eye ahead to LSU, gets caught. Lane Kiffin’s young, fresh squad shows up to College Station and proves to be a nightmare to defend for 60 minutes. The Aggies fall behind early and can never quite flip the switch against what’s easily Ole Miss’ most surprising defensive performance of the year. A&M suffers a major letdown and Kiffin celebrates his biggest SEC win ever.
2. Georgia wins at Alabama
Want another bold prediction for 2020? I don’t think anyone in the SEC goes undefeated in the regular season. That includes Alabama. After 3 relatively comfortable wins, Kirby Smart catches Alabama at the perfect time. Georgia’s new-look offense with Todd Monken does the exact thing that Alabama’s defense hasn’t seen yet — it spreads things out with equal talent across the board. In a game that turns into a shootout somewhat reminiscent of the 2019 LSU game, Monken’s coming-out-party — with perhaps D’Wan Mathis starting at quarterback — leads Georgia to a monumental win at Alabama. Smart ends Nick Saban’s perfect record against his disciples as well as the 10-year winning streak against the East. Suddenly, the Dawgs’ national championship buzz is louder than ever.
1. Ole Miss wins at LSU
Wait, what? An LSU loss to Ole Miss? Here’s my thinking. I wonder how much motivation and gas will be left in the tank at this point for the Tigers. If LSU isn’t playing for a division title and with Playoff hopes dashed because of a Florida loss, 1 of 2 things could happen. Either LSU has a rash of key players sit to avoid an injury in an otherwise meaningless game or the Tigers are feeling the effects of a 10-game SEC schedule and not in the right place physically from a depth standpoint. This will be one of those “inferior team catches the superior team at the perfect time” games. Kiffin unloads the entire bag of tricks for a young team playing like it has nothing to lose and pulls off one of the weirder upsets of the 2020 season.