For years now the SEC has been lauded as the best conference in college football. With its former BCS resume, and current College Football Playoff resume, the accolades are well deserved. The SEC has experienced a revolving door of dominance for well over a decade now and doesn’t seem to be slowing up any time soon. This dominance comes from many different areas of the sport, but the biggest area is the most obvious, every team’s conference schedule.
The “embrace the grind” mentality has been a focal point of consistent achievement throughout the conference’s history. The addition of an end-of-the-regular-season championship game in 1992 (something the sport had never seen before) put the SEC into an innovative category in college football as its focus was bent on succeeding more than the other conferences while keeping a competitive edge.
In the years that followed the 1992 season the concept of the conference championship game, and splitting the conference into geographical divisions, proved to be brilliant as other conferences eventually followed suit. Since 1992 the SEC has always performed at a high level in football and has provided great drama through the years across the college football landscape.
The 2018 season looks to be another example of this potent combination of competition, drama, and eventual success. So, in looking ahead, here’s the ten best SEC games for the 2018 season.
- Auburn vs Alabama (Nov. 24): Of course the Iron Bowl is number one on the list! The winner of this game has played in nine out of the past ten SEC Championship Games*, and the 2018 matchup looks to have the same implications. One of the greatest rivalries in all of sports, let alone college football, the 2018 edition of the Iron Bowl will be another matchup where both teams will have A LOT to play for.
- Auburn vs Georgia (Nov. 10): The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry will kickoff its 123rd edition with Georgia having won ten of the past thirteen meetings, the most recent being last season’s SEC Championship Game. Auburn hasn’t won in Athens since 2005, but this year they will rely on veteran senior quarterback Jarrett Stidham who had great success against the Dawgs in the first contest last season between the two squads. In terms of the College Football Playoff, recent history shows that “when” is greater than “who” in discussing losses, and a loss in this late season matchup could knock either team out of that discussion.
- Alabama vs LSU (Nov. 3): Recently, the SEC West champion has gone to the winner of the aforementioned Iron Bowl, but the matchup of the Tide versus the Tigers certainly impacts the division every year. Most likely this will be another night game in Baton Rouge, where anything can happen. Forget the stats, history, and recent Alabama success, this showdown in the bayou will be a fantastic game from start to finish. Both teams will be looking for leadership at the quarterback position, while both defenses will be retooled by this early November game. No matter the outcome, this game will certainly change the landscape of the SEC West.
- Georgia vs South Carolina (Sept. 8): Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks are arguably the most underrated team in the nation going into the 2018 season. The defending SEC champion Bulldogs will roll into Columbia for a showdown that will have major implications for the SEC East. A win for either team definitely gives the winning team a huge advantage in the division race going forward. Both teams will have to be in mid-season form going into their teams’ second game of the season. Quarterbacks Jake Fromm of UGA and Jake Bentley of USC will be tested, but this game will come down to which team plays better under the pressure. Look for this game to be very close throughout.
- LSU vs Auburn (Sept. 15): The 2018 renewal of the Tiger Bowl returns to the Plains where four of the past five times they’ve played in Auburn the game has been decided by an average of 4.75 points. With it being an early season game, and both teams’ first SEC game, all the Tigers will still be getting used to retooled offenses, and especially defenses. Whichever offense makes the least amount of mistakes will win this rivalry game, but no matter what, the Tigers should come out on top.
- Georgia vs Florida (Oct. 27): The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, The War for the Oar, The Showdown on the St. Johns, or whatever this rivalry will be called this year, should be closer than last year’s 42-7 job-ender that UGA dished out to former Florida head coach Jim McElwain and the Gators. New Florida head coach Dan Mullen will be reintroduced to this rivalry for the first time in ten years. He has a lot of work to do before this game in rebuilding the offense and defense, but a solid core of runningbacks gives him something to build upon. Both teams face big opponents in Tennessee and LSU before meeting up in their annual showdown. This game could potentially decide the East, and the 2018 edition of the World’s Largest Outdoor Family-Friendly Picnic will introduce us to a new rivalry, Kirby Smart versus Dan Mullen.
- Tennessee vs Florida (Sept. 22): This year’s edition in the Battle of Orange offers a handful of “firsts.” It will be Florida’s first road game of the season. It will be Jeremy Pruitt’s first SEC game of his head coaching career. It will also be the first time since 1992 where Tennessee has the chance to win back-to-back games against Florida in Knoxville. Both teams are definitely rebuilding, and the winner of this matchup may prove to be the team that has the better season in the end. This game has historically been close when the teams are evenly matched, and this year is no exception. Look for this game to be a four quarter slugfest.
- Georgia vs LSU (Oct. 13): This rare East versus West matchup in UGA and LSU puts Kirby Smart’s team in a great place to succeed in a hostile environment. Ed Orgeron’s team lost many key pieces to the NFL Draft, but given the midseason date of this game, LSU should be in a prime place to make this a very competitive test for the Dawgs. Georgia should be favored in this game, but always remember, anything can happen at night in Death Valley.
- Alabama vs Tennessee (Oct. 20): The Third Saturday in October is another Saban versus Former Assistant matchup. The Tide’s Commander-in-Chief is undefeated in these games and will most likely be favored heavily going into this year’s game. However, Jeremy Pruitt has some pieces to make this game competitive, the biggest piece being that the game is in Knoxville. An earlier season home game versus Florida will show how good or bad Tennessee can be in big games, but this matchup with Alabama will surely be the biggest game on the Volunteers’ schedule by far.
- Florida vs Mississippi State (Sept. 29): Dan Mullen travels back to Starkvegas in a rare meeting between the Bulldogs of the West and his new Gators. New Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead has a solid quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald that will test the Gators’ secondary early and often. If Mullen doesn’t have the right pieces in place, his homecoming may not be good for him and his Gators.
With another college football season just around the corner, it’s never a bad time to mentally prepare for the grind that is the SEC. As fans across the nation prepare for the season ahead, it’s important to never forget, that in the SEC, it just means more…
*The SEC Championship Game will be played on Saturday December 1st at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.