The Ultimate Schedule: SEC East

August 31st, 2009

SEC Scheduling “Rules”:

-         Four non-conference games

-         Eight conference games (five within the division)

-         SEC Championship Game (December 5th in Atlanta)


Week 1: Georgia @ Oklahoma State (September 5th)


We’ll find out early whether or not Georgia has any hopes of challenging Florida for the SEC East title. Oklahoma State has one of the nation’s most explosive offenses, led by the trio of QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter and WR Dez Bryant. The biggest development for the Cowboys: the hiring of Bill Young as defensive coordinator. Young was last in the Big 12 in 2007, when he helped lead Kansas to a 12-1 record and a victory in the FedEx Orange Bowl. It’s not every year that a non-conference team with the pedigree of Georgia visits Stillwater, so expect a frenzied atmosphere. If the Bulldogs run the ball efficiently they can control the clock and avoid a shootout; if not, they may be in some trouble.


Other Game Considered: South Carolina @ NC State (9/3)


Week 2: UCLA @ Tennessee (September 12th)


Played Labor Day weekend last season, this meeting was a harbinger of things to come for both teams. The Bruins won despite serious quarterback issues, something that caught up to them as the season progressed. The same went for Tennessee, who found that they were sorely lacking at the position in the season’s first game. Both are looking to rebound, and this game is the starting point for both. The Volunteers will be extremely young at wide receiver, and the Bruins have one of the nation’s best corners in Alterrraun Verner. With he on one side and Eric Berry on the other two likely first-round draft picks will be in Neyland Stadium. Seems like a good reason to tune in.


Other Games Considered: South Carolina @ Georgia (9/12), Vanderbilt @ LSU (9/12)


Week 3: Tennessee @ Florida (September 19th)


Back with the Volunteers, this time for their trip to Gainesville. Things got interesting on National Signing day when Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin accused Florida of cheating in the recruiting of WR Nu’Keese Richardson. Of course that was inaccurate, earning a reprimand from the SEC, but Urban Meyer isn’t a coach you want to give ammunition to. Georgia did in 2007 and the Gators paid them back by using all three of their timeouts late in the fourth quarter, to make sure the Bulldogs didn’t miss one second of the beating. What will be on tap for the Volunteers should things get out of hand? Who knows.


Other Games Considered: Georgia @ Arkansas (9/19), Louisville @ Kentucky (9/19)


Week 4: Arizona State @ Georgia (September 26th)


The Bulldogs will have a very good idea of which direction their season is headed in once the Sun Devils visit Athens. Georgia will either be right in the thick of things nationally or looking at this game as a possible “season saver”. Dennis Erickson will start an inexperienced senior in Danny Sullivan at quarterback, and the goal for Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez will be to pressure him as they did Rudy Carpenter last season. The key for Arizona State will be how well they run the football. One of the worst rushing offenses in the Pac-10 last season, ASU struggled offensively due to their lack of balance.


Other Games Considered: Ole Miss @ South Carolina (9/26), Vanderbilt @ Rice (9/26)


Week 5: LSU @ Georgia (October 3rd)


Arguably the toughest five-week stretch for any team in the country comes to an end when the Bulldogs host LSU. Georgia put up more than fifty points in Baton Rouge last season, exposing the Tiger defense in the process. LSU’s defense didn’t end up as advertised in 2008, and that’s a reason why John Chavis is now the defensive coordinator. While a loss won’t necessarily kill either team’s chances at winning their respective divisions it certainly won’t help since both aren’t the favorites to end up in Atlanta.


Other Games Considered: Auburn @ Tennessee (10/3), Ole Miss @ Vanderbilt (10/3)


Week 6: Florida @ LSU (October 10th)


These two programs have combined to win the last three national titles, and their meeting in Baton Rouge may also be the stiffest test the Gators face on their quest to repeat as national champion. Florida’s defense could make it a long day for Jordan Jefferson and company, while the Tigers will have their hands full with Tim Tebow and company. Last year the Gators ran for 265 yards in the 51-21 beating, holding LSU to eighty yards on the ground in the process. The difference between those numbers needs to become smaller if the Bayou Bengals are to entertain any thoughts of pulling the upset.


Other Games Considered: Georgia @ Tennessee (10/10), Kentucky @ South Carolina (10/10)


Week 7: Georgia @ Vanderbilt (October 17th)


The Bulldogs struggled in their last trip to Nashville, needing a Brandon Coutu field goal late in the fourth quarter to beat the Commodores. Head coach Bobby Johnson has a better team in 2009 than he did in 2007, making them all the more dangerous this time around. If Georgia doesn’t come out focused, thinking that this is the same Vanderbilt team that was a shoo-in to finish in the SEC East cellar they could fly back home with a loss. Last year’s game was a struggle for the Bulldogs as well, winning by ten (24-14) in an otherwise sloppy performance. Vanderbilt may need to win one game they’re not expected to in order to ensure bowl eligibility, and this may be that game.


Other Games Considered: South Carolina @ Alabama (10/17), Arkansas @ Florida (10/17)


Week 8: Tennessee @ Alabama (October 24th)


Just when you thought that the resignation of Phil Fulmer would take away some of the luster of this rivalry, along came Lane Kiffin. He’s taken some shots at the Crimson Tide, adding fuel to what is already one of the more heated rivalries in college football. Alabama was in control from start to finish last season, shutting down the Volunteer offense in a 29-9 win. Tennessee’s offense may be better this time around, but a lot of the young faces on Alabama’s defense are now a year older and a year wiser. The Volunteers rushed for just thirty-six yards and managed just ten first downs in last year’s game. We’ll find out if the offense has improved.


Other Games Considered: Vanderbilt @ South Carolina (10/24), Florida @ Mississippi State (10/24)


Week 9: Georgia vs. Florida (October 31st in Jacksonville)


2007 featured a touchdown celebration that sparked a Bulldog victory; 2008 featured the payback. Georgia will be a decided underdog this season, with many looking at the rivalry game as the last roadblock between the Gators and another trip to Atlanta. Georgia actually outgained Florida in last year’s game but four turnovers started them on the road to a 49-3 deficit. Final score: 49-10. If Joe Cox and company do not take care of the football another blowout could be the end result.


Other Game Considered: South Carolina @ Tennessee (10/31)


Week 10: Bye Week (November 7th)


An extremely light week on the schedule before the stretch run. By this weekend we’ll know who’s in the driver’s seat for a ticket to Atlanta, and the most intriguing game on the schedule for SEC East teams will likely be Vanderbilt visiting Florida. Good idea to take this weekend off.


Week 11: Florida @ South Carolina (November 14th)


This is Florida’s final conference game, and it also comes with a bit of intrigue. Tim Tebow fell one vote short of being a unanimous First Team All-SEC selection this summer. That one dissenting vote (for Jevan Snead) was sent in by South Carolina. Although it was “corrected” at SEC Media Days it could be a source of motivation for the senior quarterback and his teammates. When you give Florida bulletin board material bad things can happen. Whether or not the Gators show any mercy, especially when dealing with an alumnus, remains to be seen.


Other Games Considered: Auburn @ Georgia (11/14), Kentucky @ Vanderbilt (11/14)


Week 12: Vanderbilt @ Tennessee (November 21st)


Last season’s meeting was a sloppy affair that featured six combined turnovers. Tennessee couldn’t pass the ball (21 yards) while Vanderbilt couldn’t run the ball (25 yards). Tennessee scored twenty points, all in the second quarter, in winning 20-10 in Nashville. Despite a dreadful season the Vols were able to knock off both Vanderbilt and Kentucky in 2008. The Commodores should be much improved offensively, ranking dead last in the SEC in total offense last season. Vandy ended a 22-game losing streak in the series in 2005 with a win in Knoxville and they’ve got a chance to win at Neyland Stadium again.


Other Game Considered: Kentucky @ Georgia (11/21)


Week 13: Georgia Tech @ Georgia (November 28th)


This rivalry was a clear sign that things had changed under Paul Johnson, with the Yellow Jackets ending a six-game losing streak to Georgia in last season’s 45-42 win. Running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones combined for 358 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, gashing the Bulldog defense in a 26-point third quarter. The option offense, no matter what you call it, is one of the hardest systems to prepare for since so few teams use it. And when you combine the strategy with the ability of players such as Dwyer, Jones and QB Josh Nesbitt you could be in for a long afternoon. If Georgia can’t get the Jackets off of the field it may be another long day for the Bulldog defense.


Other Games Considered: Florida State @ Florida (11.28), Clemson @ South Carolina (11/28), Tennessee @ Kentucky (11/28)


Week 14: SEC Championship Game (December 5th in Atlanta)


The pick here is that Florida defends their SEC title, beating Ole Miss in the Rebels’ first appearance in the championship game.