Sure the games are tentative and we are months from the start of the season, but that won't stop me from breaking down week-by-week of what to watch for in the SEC.
Sept. 4: Opening weekend of the season. If you want to get excited about Alabama playing San Jose State or Florida vs. Miami (Ohio), go ahead, but I'll be watching LSU vs. North Carolina in the Kickoff Classic in Atlanta. LSU's offense was horrendous last season, while North Carolina's defense was one of the best. So with Jordan Jefferson having a full season under his belt at quarterback, things have to get better for the Tigers, right? North Carolina is one of my teams to watch as it returns a ton of starters and will ranked in the preseason Top 20.
Sept. 11: Two huge out-of-conference matchups highlight this huge day in sports. Not only do we have Michigan at Notre Dame, Stanford at UCLA, Florida State at Oklahoma, Miami at Ohio State, but three key games involving SEC schools. No. 1 -- Oregon at Tennessee: Pac-10 vs. SEC matchups don't happen very often. Can Oregon put offseason issues behind them or will Derek Dooley earn his first big win as coach? No. 2 -- South Florida at Florida: Last year when USF beat Florida State they put up billboards claiming it is now part of the Big Four. Is this the year USF shocks the Gators in The Swamp? John Brantley's first real test. No. 3: The biggest of them all -- Penn State at Alabama: These two teams have had some epic history. The 1979 Sugar Bowl and 1989 blocked field goal game come to mind. The teams haven't played since 1990, so expect this to be one of the biggest games of the year.
Sept. 18: Florida at Tennessee. Urban Meyer vs. Lane Kiff ... Oh what could have been a great rivalry between the two coaches. Either way this one is always huge. Both schools and fans don't like each other very much no matter who is coaching. Two other games to watch ... Arkansas at Georgia. Last year's game was won by Georgia 52-41. Ryan Mallett's first really big game of the season to see how legit the Razorbacks will be this year. Clemson at Auburn: For two schools only four hours apart this will be the first time they meet in the regular season since 1971. ACC vs. SEC is always fun.
Sept. 25: West Virginia at LSU. It's hard to believe, but these two schools have never played each other. By this point, we'll know how good LSU is and if it can be a real contender in the SEC. This will be the Mountaineers real first game. Gotta love those LSU night games with the hostile crowd welcoming in the opponents. Make sure you are in front of the TV for this one. Alabama at Arkansas: If the Razorbacks get past Georgia, this one will be their biggest game of the season, especially since they get the defending champions at home.
Oct. 2: Florida at Alabama: Seven of the last 11 times these teams have met was in the SEC Championship game, but the two haven't played in Tuscaloosa since 2005. Could be a conference title game preview. If both teams are ranked in the Top 10, this might end up as one of the games of the year in college football. Tennessee at LSU: Another classic east vs. west division matchup. The last three games have been classic -- Tennessee 30-27 (2005); LSU 28-24 (2006) and LSU 21-14 (2007). At this point, we'll know if either team has a chance to win the SEC.
Oct. 9: LSU at Florida: Another huge West vs. East division game. LSU has lost three of the last four in the series, including last year's 13-3 game in Baton Rouge. This is a tougher task for the Tigers as they go to Gainesville, but expect this game to be another classic matchup.
Oct. 16: Mississippi State at Florida: With the Bulldogs on the up swing and only losing 29-19 last year, this could be the year Mississippi State gives the Gators a real run for its money ... or it could be a 42-10 blowout by the Gators.
Oct. 23: Alabama at Tennessee: Remember last year's 12-10 win by Alabama that featured two blocked field goals? Get ready for another defensive battle, this time the Vols get the defending champs at home. Georgia at Kentucky: The Wildcats shocked Georgia 34-27 in Athens last year, so this game has a little more meaning than a usual SEC matchup. Georgia would love a little payback, while Kentucky looks to cap a three-game home stretch (Auburn on the Oct. 9 and South Carolina on Oct. 16).
Oct. 30: Florida vs. Georgia. It doesn't matter what the records are or who is playing at quarterback, get to Jacksonville to experience The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Nov. 6: Alabama at LSU: At this point of the season, we'll know who is challenging Alabama in the West. Arkansas? Auburn? Or LSU? If it's LSU, get ready for an epic SEC game.
Nov. 13: Georgia at Auburn: Auburn's final home game of the season before it takes on Alabama. While this is Georgia's last road game before it gets Georgia Tech at home the final week. Georgia has won four in a row in the series, including 31-24 at Athens last year.
Nov. 20: South Carolina at Troy: Troy loves taking on SEC teams, but usually is on the losing end. But this time, the Trojans get South Carolina at home and just might be able to pull off the upset. Also if South Carolina loses this one and is sitting at 6-5, get ready for the "Fire Steve Spurrier" chants.
Nov. 26: Auburn at Alabama: The annual Iron Bowl is always one of the best traditions in college football. No explanation needed.