Ranking the 14 new SEC football games in 2020 in terms of importance
This is a whole new world.
Yeah, we know. Not exactly a news flash. COVID-19 seemingly has affected every single facet of existence — both in the sports world and outside of it. Unless you’re, say, a forest ranger in Nepal, chances are your life has been touched in some way by coronavirus.
College football, as with all sports both amateur and professional, is not immune to what 2020 hath wrought. This week, the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they won’t play football this fall.
The SEC seems intent to try. Last week, the SEC sent out a teaser releasing 14 additional games that pit non-divisional opponents against each other. The full schedule could be released this coming week.
Some teams, like LSU and Alabama, were quite pleased with their draws. Others (we see you, Arkansas…) were less pleased. The Razorbacks, Missouri and Tennessee were the only three teams in the league to each have 2 teams ranked in the preseason coaches’ poll added to their schedule.
“We already owned the nation’s strongest 2020 football schedule and with these additions to our SEC only schedule, we now own the most challenging schedule in the history of college football,” Arkansas athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement.
Look, part of the reason Arkansas folks feel their schedule is so darn difficult is simple: their team is just so darn lousy. Same for Mizzou. Tennessee, well, it doesn’t help that pretty much the entire SEC West is ranked in the Top 25 already.
Some coaches reportedly voiced their frustration Thursday at the secretive selection process.
Sources: The SEC coaches call on Thursday became contentious. At least five SEC coaches expressed frustration over the lack of transparency regarding the inability to produce a "formula" for how the two additional league opponents were chosen.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 14, 2020
We’re just happy there’s some football to discuss.
Let’s look at the 14 additional SEC football games, ranked from No. 14 to No. 1, in order of importance:
14. LSU at Vanderbilt
The handful of games at the top (or bottom, wherever we are right now …) are real laughers. The Commodores will likely be at least a 3-touchdown underdog at home, and LSU fans will likely outnumber Vandy fans 3-1 at Vanderbilt Stadium or Broadway, wherever they’re allowed.
13. Alabama at Missouri
Another virtual pay-for-play game within the same conference, one has to look back to nearly the stone ages to see the last time Missouri beat Alabama (well, 1975 …) And the Tide have never lost in Columbia. It won’t happen here, either.
12. Arkansas at Florida
Florida is borderline great. Arkansas is borderline awful. This is a game that, back in the day, would be the 11:30 a.m. Three Daves Special on Jefferson-Pilot. Potential intrigue: Arkansas QB Feleipe Franks takes on his old team.
11. Missouri at LSU
Poor Mizzou. Get Alabama at home, and also catch a piece of the defending national champions in Baton Rouge? If this game kicks off at night, LSU could perhaps win this game by 100.
10. Georgia at Arkansas
Is it possible to feel badly for an SEC football coach who makes $3 million a year? To directly quote Sam Pittman: “Yessir!” Pittman’s Razorbacks are roadkill for Georgia here.
9. Kentucky at Alabama
This game could actually be borderline interesting, especially if Mark Stoops gins up a defense that can slow down the Crimson Tide’s rushing game. Then again, Alabama at home is borderline unbeatable.
8. South Carolina at Ole Miss
The Lane Kiffin Experience will be welcoming in Coach Boom in perhaps the most Odd Couple-like contrast of coaching styles. Like most observers, seeing what Kiffin can do with the talent (no pun intended) in Oxford will be most entertaining.
7. Ole Miss at Kentucky
Taking the Lane Kiffin Experience on the road will be cool, too, and Kentucky is just the kind of tweener SEC squad that will make this game competitive.
6. Vanderbilt at Mississippi State
Ditto for Mike Leach, who steers the proverbial pirate ship at home against a Commodores team that has shown the slightest glimpses of respectability in recent years. The nautical themes here will abound.
5. Auburn at South Carolina
Williams-Brice Stadium is a raucous sideshow of a football stadium when the home team is playing well. It’ll likely be a different atmosphere this season, but figure Will Muschamp will have South Carolina amped up for the Auburn Tigers. The latter is a potential SEC title team but will need to go through the Gamecocks.
4. Texas A&M at Tennessee
The clock is ticking on Jimbo Fisher in College Station, and this trip to Neyland Stadium is a game that could hasten his departure if it goes the wrong way. Jeremy Pruitt has the Vols on an uptick. Watch out …
3. Mississippi State at Georgia
On paper, this looks like a mismatch. But this is actually a game that could sneak up on Georgia. Mike Leach is a certified genius/lunatic, and his Bulldogs could well reflect the former and pull off an upset between the hedges.
2. Tennessee at Auburn
Why this isn’t an annual game escapes us. We just talked about Pruitt’s Vols surging. Auburn will be largely reloaded this year. This is must-see TV.
1. Florida at Texas A&M
Dan Mullen vs. Jimbo Fisher. If the Gators and Aggies both play to potential, this could well be the SEC Championship Game disguised as a regular-season game.