We are only 33 days away from kickoff of the 2011 SEC football season. By only, I mean it’s still two eternities until the Thursday night Kentucky versus Western Kentucky game that will officially signal the beginning of the season at LP Field in Nashville. While we await September’s arrival like a child counting down to Christmas, let’s take a look at what may happen and what games will matter in 2011.
Biggest Upset – October 29 – Vanderbilt over Arkansas in Nashville
In a game overshadowed by the annual “No Longer Allowed to be Referred to as the World’s Largest Cocktail Party” in Jacksonville, Vandy gives Arkansas a crushing defeat and all but kills any chance the Hogs have at winning the West. Tim Brando stays busy for the first quarter of the Georgia-Florida clash with updates from the CBS Studios in New York. The ‘Dores do just enough to hang around and the Arkansas offense can never quite catch on fire as James Franklin gets an early signature win as Vanderbilt head coach. VU 21 ARK 19
Best Game – September 24 – Alabama over Arkansas in Tuscaloosa
Don’t be surprised if this game goes to overtime. These two teams played post-fourth quarter football in 2003 and 2006. Arkansas won both. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Wilson gets hot on a great Alabama defense. Alabama’s offense softens up Arkansas with the run and attacks through the air. Alabama uses three quarterbacks to pull out this CBS classic. BAMA 51 ARK 41
Best Game No One Will See But Will Talk About After Seeing Highlights on ESPN’s ‘College Football Scoreboard’ – November 5 – Ole Miss over Kentucky in Five Overtimes in Lexington
After Alabama and LSU play another physically exhausting game (even for the fans), only the die hards turn over to ESPNU to catch the Ole Miss-Kentucky five-overtime marathon. The other fans will quietly whisper aloud to themselves, “WHAT!?!? I CAN’T BELIEVE I MISSED THAT!!!!” so as not to wake anyone sleeping (everyone else in the house), when they flip over to College Football Scoreboard before going to sleep around 1:00 AM. Every man that agreed to watch a movie after the ‘Bama-LSU game missed the craziest game ever played in the history of ever. Isn’t that always the case? OM 73 UK 70
Don’t be Surprised if – Tennessee sneaks up and wins the East
The SEC East will more than likely pick up in 2011 right where they left off in 2010. South Carolina won the East with three losses, needing a win at The Swamp in November to clinch against a very mediocre Florida team. The week prior the Gamecocks were throttled by Arkansas 41-20 in Columbia. The East will beat each other up and if Tennessee can go 2-1 against Florida (on the road), Georgia (at home), and South Carolina (at home), they could very well back into Atlanta with as many as three conference losses. Smart money is on the Bulldogs, but it’s a four-team race in the East.
SEC Championship – December 3 – Alabama beats Georgia
I said don’t be surprised if the Vols found a way to sneak into Atlanta. I did not say they would do it. Highly touted freshman running back Isaiah Crowell drops Herschel Walker’s jaw and is even more impressive than the 2010 version of South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. Alabama’s dominating defense (less the Arkansas game) finds a way to stymie the Bulldog run and forces Aaron Murray into one off-balanced throw after another as the ‘Tide hoist another round SEC logo. Their second in three years. BAMA 34 UGA 21
Can’t Miss/ Most Hyped Game – January 9 – Alabama and LSU in New Orleans
It’s been the sports theme of EFS since day one. The SEC has been too dominating over the past six years not to allow the best conference to send its best two teams to duke it out for the BCS Championship. ‘Bama comes in 13-0 while LSU’s only blemish was a controversial 15-11 loss at the hands of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. LSU scored with :12 left in the fourth quarter to cut Alabama’s lead to 13-11. The Tigers went for the 2-point conversion and the tie. It appeared Russell Shepard scored on the quick end-around play to the left corner, but Mark Barron made contact with Shepard right as the ball appeared to cross the goal line. The ball was knocked loose and Dre Kirkpatrick scooped up the ball in stride and took off down the left sideline and into the end-zone for two points. No whistle was blown. Replay after replay after replay was conclusively inconclusive. FUMBLE. TWO POINTS BAMA. Oh, I forgot to mention that all this occurred following LSU’s Spencer Ware being called for taunting before scoring what appeared to the tying conversion. Due to the new unsportsmanlike conduct penalty rule for 2011, LSU had to set up again, but from just inside the Alabama 15-yard line. In years past, the penalty would have been assessed on the kickoff. LSU’s onside kick was unsuccessful and yet another classic was born in the Tuscaloosa dusk. The rematch? I don’t want to spoil it. Tune into ESPN on January 9th to find out.