Saturday, July 29, 2006

10 Biggest Conference Games

Every year, the ACC and SEC shape the national title race with some of the most thrilling games of the year. This year should be especially good in the SEC where East favorites Florida must play Auburn, LSU, and Alabama from the West. With the season a little more than a month away, I take a look at the conference games having the biggest impact on the season.

10. Georgia Tech @ Clemson October 21
You will not find two more evenly matched teams over the last 10 years in the ACC. One team will get a boost to their season and have visions of Jacksonville after this game while the other will begin wondering if they will be playing in a bowl or not this season.

9. Georgia @ South Carolina September 9
After comfortably defeating Western Kentucky in their opener, Georgia will have to travel to Columbia for an important East Division battle with South Carolina. South Carolina has played Georgia very tough at home recently and this year should be no different. This game will let us know in Week 2 whether South Carolina can compete for the SEC East Title and how confident Georgia can be in their QB. Even though Spurrier’s Fun n’ Gun will be in year 2 of deployment; I expect this game to be low scoring with a late turnover deciding the outcome.

8. Clemson @ Florida State September 16
Bowden Bowl VII will shape the Atlantic Division of the ACC very early in the season. Clemson is receiving lots of praise coming in this season after another one of their late season runs including a stomping of FSU in November. However, Clemson has not beaten FSU in Tallahassee since the Seminoles joined the ACC.

7. Florida State @ Miami September 4
The ACC does not waste any time in showcasing their two best teams in what could be a rematch in the ACC Championship. The Hurricanes were a very young team last year and Kyle Wright now has a full year under his belt. Miami’s big question lies on the offensive line and whether or not they can protect Wright. FSU lost a lot of talent on defense and…. oh who am I kidding; this game is going to be a low scoring, defensive slobber knocker with speed all over the field. The beauty of this game is that the loser is not out of the ACC or even national title race.

6. Florida @ Tennessee September 16
This is round 1 of the SEC East elimination derby. The loser has an uphill battle to make the Championship Game. Urban Meyer’s club cannot afford an early season loss with UGA, South Carolina, LSU, Auburn, and Alabama all on the schedule later on in the season. The Vols need this game to regain their footing near the top of the SEC East.

5. Virginia Tech @ Miami November 4
This November match up will likely decide the representative for the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship. Both teams will be coming off tough games the week before with Miami having to play at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech meeting Clemson.

4. LSU @ Florida October 7
The Gators will play the Tigers the week after Alabama and the week before Auburn. Both teams will need this game to maintain their hopes of winning their own division. If Florida makes it out this game and is still undefeated they have to be considered a serious national title contender.

3. Florida @ Auburn October 14
The third game in the row versus the West for Florida and a possible preview of the SEC Championship between the
SEC East and West favorites. These two have not met since the days when Terry Bowden roamed the Auburn sidelines. If Auburn makes it through this game and is still undefeated then they make be able to make a run at a national title.

2. Florida vs Georgia October 28
The Game
formerly known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will more than likely decide the SEC East. Once again, Florida will have a bye week before this game while Georgia will not (they play Mississippi St). Could Georgia reverse their fortune and beat the Gators while the likely underdogs?

1. LSU @ Auburn September 16
The last two games between these teams have been epics. The 2004 edition saw a late Auburn comeback and a re-try of the extra point for the winning score. 2005 saw another kicking mishap, this time by Auburn though. Last year, was also the coming out party for Kenny Irons as he ran wild in Baton Rouge. Both teams have potent offenses and solid defenses. This game may ultimately decide the SEC West Title. I expect this game to provide some scoring and may come down to kicking for the third straight year.

Just off the list....
Georgia @ Auburn November 11
This game is huge in bragging rights, but as we saw last year usually does not have a huge impact on the standings as Georgia was still able to win the East despite a loss.

South Carolina @ Florida November 11
Spurrier returns to the stadium he nicknamed the Swamp for the first time. Check out the ticket prices on eBay the week of the game.

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