Perfection is fine to chase but virtually impossible to attain.
It has been 10 years since an SEC team finished an entire season with a perfect record. Twice since then, Alabama reached 14-0 before falling in the national title game.
Obviously, most teams suffer their first loss much, much earlier. With Georgia opening at Vanderbilt, one SEC team is guaranteed to lose in Week 1. A couple of others might, too.
Here’s a look at when we think each SEC will suffer its first loss in 2019.
Alabama should be embarrassed about its nonconference schedule. Yes, the SEC West is the SEC West, but there are 30 teams that could go 4-0 against Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Miss and Western Carolina. A couple of those teams might even play in the American Athletic Conference. Odds are so favorable that Alabama goes 12-0 in the regular season for the fifth time under Nick Saban that the over on its win total is 11.
Arkansas: Week 2 at Ole Miss
The Rebels’ offense is undergoing wholesale changes, but that hasn’t seemed to matter. Whoever plays QB in that offense will put up prolific numbers. These games tend to be shootouts, but in Week 2, Ole Miss will have the better chance to get to 40.
Auburn: Week 4 at Texas A&M
Auburn’s opener against Oregon is no joke. The Ducks have an NFL-caliber QB in Justin Herbert and will open the season in the top 10. Auburn will be starting a first-timer at QB. Regardless, until proven otherwise, I’m going to trust Auburn’s physicality to control both lines and deliver an early statement. The Tigers better, anyway. If they lose to Oregon, there’s a very good chance they’re staring at a 2-2 start. A&M should have beaten Auburn last year on The Plains but gave up 2 TDs in the final 6 minutes to lose.
Florida: Week 6 vs. Auburn
Nearly halfway through the season, Auburn QB Joey Gatewood should be hitting his stride, even if Tigers stumble early and Gus Malzahn arrives in Gainesville fighting for his buyout. The Gators could be 5-0 with emotion-filled victories over rivals Miami and Tennessee. They get a breather against Towson before Auburn visits on Oct. 5. It’s a dangerous game for the Gators, who travel to LSU the following week.
Georgia: Week 10 vs. Florida (Jacksonville)
Notre Dame visits in Week 4. It’s a GameDay candidate. It’ll be billed as a Game of the Year featuring 2 Heisman candidate QBs in Jake Fromm and Ian Book. Both will be firmly in the top 10, and the Irish might even be a trendy upset pick. Not here.
The Bulldogs have gone 11-1 each of the past 2 seasons, both times suffering their lone loss on the road against an SEC West team. They’ve won 13 consecutive games against SEC East teams. If that pattern holds, the logical choice is Week 12 at Auburn. Who knows what those Tigers will look like. They could have 3 losses and be looking for a new coach by then.
The Cocktail Party is always a candidate. A Florida upset would be the best storyline in the SEC East this season. Could it happen? Sure. The Gators were right there last year until Georgia pulled away late.
By the time they meet, Florida might only be playing to ruin Georgia’s Playoff hopes.
Kentucky: Week 3 vs. Florida
Kentucky ended its 31-game losing streak last year, at Florida no less. As long as Florida can contain Lynn Bowden, the Gators will start another one. (Just don’t expect it to reach 31 again.)
LSU: Week 2 at Texas
This is a huge statement game for both programs, both conferences. Texas mauled Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. If it handles LSU for a second consecutive victory over an SEC blue blood, suddenly we’ll be talking about whether 2 Big 12 teams are deserving of Playoff spots.
Mississippi State: Week 5 at Auburn
The Bulldogs ease into 2019 before playing their first true road game at Auburn. Mississippi State embarrassed Gus Malzahn’s offense last season, holding Jarrett Stidham and Co. to a scant 3 field goals. I expect the Tigers’ revamped offense to have a big day against the Bulldogs’ revamped defense.
Missouri: Week 4 vs. South Carolina
The Gamecocks beat Drew Lock each of the past 3 years — and topped 30 points every time. Last year, South Carolina won with backup Michael Scarnecchia outplaying Lock and throwing for 3 TDs.
Lock is gone, and some of South Carolina’s key offensive components return, including, presumably, a healthy Jake Bentley.
Ole Miss: Week 1 vs. Memphis
Memphis is a dangerous opening opponent. The Tigers’ return a 3,000-yard passer (Brady White) and a 1,200-yard rusher (Patrick Taylor, and he was the second option). Ole Miss’ revamped defense will be tested immediately.
Patrick Taylor Jr 70 yards to the HOUSE 🔥 pic.twitter.com/vE9tznoITY
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) December 1, 2018
South Carolina: Week 3 vs. Alabama
I put South Carolina on upset alert in the opener against North Carolina. That’s how much I believe in Mack Brown and the staff he has assembled.
But let’s say the Gamecocks win that and start 2-0.
Short of Stephen Garcia and Alshon Jeffery suddenly gaining some eligibility for the Gamecocks, Alabama is going to erase the angst of its 2010 trip to Williams-Brice.
Tennessee: Week 4 at Florida
In the case of Jarrett Guarantano vs. Feleipe Franks … I’ll take Franks every time.
Texas A&M: Week 2 at Clemson
It’s fun to dream, but let’s not forget that Kelly Bryant started for the Tigers in last year’s way-too-close game at Kyle Field, which A&M still lost. Let’s also not forget that Kelly Bryant is not Trevor Lawrence.
Kellen Mond played out of his mind — 430 yards and 3 TDs — both numbers far surpassing what Tua Tagovailoa managed against that same Tigers secondary in the national title game.
This Clemson team is on another level — and there isn’t a QB in America who is on Lawrence’s level.
Vanderbilt: Week 1 vs. Georgia
Vanderbilt beat Georgia in 2013 … and 2016 … and, no, the 3-year pattern will not continue in 2019.