Predicting every SEC team's first loss
Our annual Crystal Ball SEC game-by-game predictions won’t be revealed until August, but here’s a hint — considering each perceived elite’s volatile schedule, we’re not picking any squad in the SEC to finish unbeaten during the regular season.
With that being said, I’ll try and determine each team’s first loss this season without giving too much away … feel free to chime in.
Predicting every SEC team’s first loss in 2015
Alabama (at Georgia)
Facing the SEC’s toughest road schedule this season, the Crimson Tide will fall victim to Georgia between the hedges on Oct. 3. Early losses are survivable, as Alabama proved last season after falling in Oxford to Ole Miss before going on to win the SEC courtesy of eight straight wins pre-Playoff.
Arkansas (at Tennessee)
The neutral site rivalry battle against Texas A&M will be tricky for the Razorbacks on Sept. 26, but I’m not convinced the Aggies have enough strength on defense to combat the ferocious rushing attack Arkansas will impose (after all, the Razorbacks squandered a win in last season’s matchup). A road trip to Knoxville pre-Alabama poses an entirely different challenge, however.
Auburn (at Arkansas)
Navigating through the first six games of the season unscathed won’t be easy, but the Tigers have the firepower to do so. But when Auburn carries a Top 5 ranking into Fayetteville on Oct. 24, that early-season momentum will end. My upset of the year in the Western Division, I’m picking the Razorbacks to upend the Tigers and further complicate the SEC’s Playoff hopes.
Florida (vs. Tennessee)
If you can believe it, the Gators’ 10-game winning streak over their division rival Vols will finally come to an end this season. If SEC darkhorse Tennessee sets its GPS to Atlanta in December, this one’s a must-win for Butch Jones and Co. at The Swamp to stay on course.
Georgia (at Auburn)
I’m one of the writers who believes the Bulldogs are in for a truly special season as my SEC frontrunner, but running the table will be next to impossible with cross-divisional games against Alabama and Auburn. At best, Georgia will split those two and win its remaining games. The late-season trek to Jordan-Hare is less favorable.
Kentucky (at South Carolina)
Thanks to an epic comeback led by Jojo Kemp in last year’s matchup, Kentucky has bragging rights in this series. It won’t matter this season since the Gamecocks are 5-0 against the Wildcats at home under the Head Ball Coach with an average margin of victory of 20.6 points per game.
LSU (vs. Auburn)
The Tigers’ second SEC test in as many weeks will be a classic offense vs. defense showdown — Cam Cameron vs. Will Muschamp — and pushes the victor to the top of the early-season divisional standings. This might sound crazy, but since the game is played during the afternoon, I think that gives Auburn the slight edge. Death Valley at night cranks the threat level up a notch.
Mississippi (at Alabama)
After opening the season with a pair of convincing wins, the Rebels open their SEC slate in Tuscaloosa where first-year starting quarterback Chad Kelly will meet adversity for the first time. I don’t like Mississippi’s chances on the road against a preseason Top 5 with payback scribbled on the dry erase board in the locker room.
Mississippi State (vs. LSU)
The odds are slim the Bulldogs will escape September unbeaten with games against LSU and Auburn. After last season’s embarrassing loss at Tiger Stadium, I’d expect Les Miles’ team to come out with more fight this time around (despite the cowbells).
Missouri (at Georgia)
Vegas setting Missouri’s win total at 7.5 this season is a slap to the face of the two-time defending divisional champs. In fact, the Tigers’ schedule is so favorable that I would be surprised if Gary Pinkel’s team isn’t 6-0 and ranked inside the Top 15 by mid-October. Missouri’s toughest game is in Athens this fall, one that decides the East favorite going down the stretch.
South Carolina (at Georgia)
I’m not bold enough to pick an upset in the season opener against North Carolina in Charlotte, but the Gamecocks should be on alert against an uptempo offense that will cause problems for Jon Hoke’s new-look defense. South Carolina’s first blemish will come at Georgia in Week 3, perhaps Steve Spurrier’s final trip to Sanford Stadium.
Tennessee (vs. Georgia)
After a terrific 5-0 start catapults the Vols into the Top 15, Tennessee’s dream season is brought back down to Earth by the Bulldogs inside Neyland Stadium. The winner of this contest has an upper-hand in the Eastern Division, but I think Tennessee’s still a year away — primarily due to depth — from being a serious threat.
Texas A&M (vs. Arkansas)
The toughest SEC team to project this season, Texas A&M has the talent to win 10 games during the regular season and the treacherous schedule to win seven. There isn’t much in-between. I don’t like the matchup in the neutral site opener against the Sun Devils, a team that could win the Pac-12 this season, but I’ll side with Vegas and Gig ‘Em. The physical rivalry against Arkansas three weeks later knocks Texas A&M from the unbeatens.
Vanderbilt (vs. Western Kentucky)
For Derek Mason’s sake, I hope it doesn’t happen, but the Commodores’ opener at home against Western Kentucky isn’t as favorable as some may think. Expected to be a Conference USA contender this fall, the Hilltoppers won eight games last season including the wacky Bahamas Bowl shootout against Central Michigan. Considering Vanderbilt’s expected problems at quarterback heading into the first game, this one could very well end in disappointment.