The Daily Gamecock

Tough games dominate SEC schedules

Late-season games could determine division winners, conference champion

Starting off the season in Clemson, Georgia leads the way with the toughest game of the first week of the season. The Bulldogs choose not to play a cupcake team for an easy win to begin the year. This game also hosts the first week of College Gameday, so across the country, people will be looking for the SEC to whoop up on an out-of-conference opponent, no matter their ranking. Look for Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray to be fighting to start their senior seasons off with a bang.

Georgia receives no mercy as they host the Gamecocks “Between the Hedges” for the first of the games revealing who the SEC East should belong to. The Gamecocks have won the past three games against Georgia, but as they seek to extend this streak to four consecutive wins, they stand against a bitter Bulldog squad with an older team who wants perfection in their SEC record. Jadeveon Clowney will be the key player in this game, as he and the Gamecock defense try to stop the Bulldogs in their tracks.

September 14 — ALABAMA @ TEXAS A&M
Alabama fell to Johnny “Football” Manziel and the rest of the A&M squad last year at home, and now they are heading west to face not only the Aggies, but also the “Twelfth Man” at College Station. However, Manziel has lost his main targets and been in a media frenzy over the summer, and the game is early enough in the season for Alabama to take advantage of these shortcomings before A&M can settle into a rhythm.

September 21 — TENNESSEE @ FLORIDA
Last year’s game was a Volunteer’s nightmare, especially after the hype of Gameday and a rousing first half just to be crushed by the Gators by the end. However, Florida might overlook UT towards USC and Georgia, which new Tennessee coach Butch Jones could take advantage of as a first-year coach with unknown tendencies. On the flip side, Tennessee’s lack of talent could be enough for the Gators to roll over the Vols without a blink of an eye.

September 28 — OLE MISS @ ALABAMA
Coming off of a bye week, the Rebels will be rested up and ready to head into Tuscaloosa to begin climbing their way back up the SEC ladder. Ole Miss famously headlined their incredible recruiting class with Robert Nkemdiche, and the Tide could be the first strong opponent to witness the toughness of the newcomers on the Rebel squad. With the game against the Rebels bookended by matchups with Colorado State and Georgia State, Alabama will have time to focus on the Rebels and their new team.

Mississippi State does not make much noise in the heavy SEC West, but they can hope to capitalize on a distracted LSU team looking towards the Gators. LSU is also just coming off another away game in Athens against a hungry Georgia team, so these maroon Bulldogs can hopefully use their September 28 bye week to rest up and study where Georgia is hitting LSU the hardest to further exploit that weakness and tiredness. Tough schedules for the big teams can be the saving grace of teams like Mississippi State looking for a big win at home.

October 12 — FLORIDA @ LSU
Any Saturday night at Death Valley is going to be a tough game, no matter who the opponent, and Florida will have to deal with a raucous crowd in Baton Rouge. The loss of seven defensive starters for the Gators will be exploited most heavily in this game, especially because of the offensive players LSU has returning to their team, such as quarterback Zach Mettenberger, receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., and runningback Alfred Blue.

Missouri certainly did not show up to play last year in the SEC, but do not count them out yet. Florida coming off of a tough LSU game just to travel to another away game could be used by the Tigers to finally prove themselves in their new conference. Mizzou will be fighting to exploit any weariness in the Florida team to move out of the bottom feeder and get in the talk with the big teams of the best conference in the nation.

Coach Butch Jones has a couple of games during his first season as head coach to set a new standard for the recently crumbled Tennessee program, and Alabama is the biggest one of all. Alabama coach Nick Saban knows Tennessee is a premier team and it is only a matter of time before they break the Crimson Tide’s winning streak of six consecutive victories over the Vols. Tennessee gave Alabama a run for their money during the first half of the 2012 matchup, and they hope that it can be extended to an entire game in 2013. While talent cannot carry the Vols over the Tide, Tennessee will hope that pure will can make a miracle in Tuscaloosa.

November 2 — GEORGIA @ FLORIDA
Playing in a “neutral” site of Jacksonville, Florida, these two teams go head to head in what will surely been seen as an important game for the SEC East championship. After last year’s Bulldog victory, the Gators will surely be looking to redeem themselves and begin the trek to head to Atlanta in December. However, last year’s offensive debacle of six turnovers does not lend Florida much slack in preparation for this crucial game.

November 9 — LSU @ ALABAMA
After the Tigers and the Tide faced each other in the national championship two years ago, the entire nation has been looking at the game as a representation of the SEC at its finest. LSU is in a “rebuilding” year and Alabama runs a tight ship to ensure they are always in the talk for the national championship, so this year the game could look more lopsided than usual. However, you can always count on these high-profile teams to put on a real show for the rest of the country.

This has the potential to be the biggest game of the season for both of these teams coming so late in the season after both have already played Georgia. Florida embarrassed the Gamecocks in the Swamp last year, and Williams-Brice does not often overlook the past. Jeff Driskel at quarterback for the Gators could turn into a bloodbath if Jadeveon Clowney can get his number, but never overlook the tendency of South Carolina to crumple at the end of a season.

November 23 — TEXAS A&M @ LSU
By this late in the season, Texas A&M will have either proven they are a serious SEC contender with head coach Kevin Sumlin leading them to another double-digit victory season, or they will have crumpled against the weight of the SEC defenses and Johnny Manziel’s shenanigans. Death Valley could be the saving grace of this LSU team to provide them with a win down the backstretch against a potentially-successful Aggie squad.

The Clemson rivalry might be lessened depending on the weight and outcome of the Florida game for Gamecock fans, but nothing finishes off a season quite like beating Clemson. Clowney is already targeting Boyd, and the hype of the season for these top-10 teams will not lessen as time ticks down towards November. Both teams have the potential for incredible season, and a loss for either one in the last game could be disastrous for their post-season goals. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney will be looking to finally prove himself against the Gamecocks, while we all hope Spurrier earns us another year to join him in talking smack against the Tigers.


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