The 10 biggest games in the SEC football schedule for the 2021 season
Just when you thought there was a chance to catch your breath after the book on the 2020 college football season just closed, the Southeastern Conference had other ideas.
The league announced its schedule for the 2021 campaign Wednesday, giving fans across the region an opportunity make plans for the fall, including which bye weekends are now free to schedule weddings or other events.
In a conference that has won 11 of the last 15 national championship, there is going to be no shortage of significant games throughout the year. A look at the 10 best matchups for the upcoming season.
1. Georgia vs. Clemson - Sept. 4
Charlotte will host these two nearby rivals who have played 64 times, but only four meetings have been this century. The winner of this Week 1 showdown gets a huge non-conference resume boost. The Bulldogs are looking for a fast start after JT Daniels became the starter at quarterback and they won their last four games. The Tigers begin the post-Trevor Lawrence era with the motivation of another disappointing College Football Playoff loss. D.J. Uiagalelei looked good in his two starts when Lawrence was sidelined last year by COVID-19.
2. Alabama at Texas A&M - Oct. 9
If this is going to be the year the Aggies make a run at the SEC West title, you can't ask for a better situation. The Crimson Tide come to College Station and will be playing with a new quarterback -- expected to be Bryce Young. A&M does need to replace quarterback Kellen Mond, but Jimbo Fisher has been busy stocking his team with talent. Now it has to take the next step.
3. Georgia vs. Florida - Oct. 30
The winner of this game has represented the East division in the SEC title game for the past six seasons. This year should be no exception. The Bulldogs will be looking for a measure of revenge after the Gators broke their three-game win streak in the series. Florida will be aiming to prove it wasn't just a one-year blip and keep control of the division crown. Should be another fun time in Jacksonville.
4. Alabama at Florida - Sept. 18
A rare cross-divisional matchup of top contenders, this will be the first meeting between the schools in the regular season since 2014. The sides met in last year's SEC championship game with the Crimson Tide winning by six points, their closest game on the way to winning the national title. Both teams will be turning to new quarterbacks with the Gators having the advantage of being at home.
5. Alabama at Auburn - Nov. 27
One thing Gus Malzahn was able to do during his coaching tenure at Auburn was beat Alabama at home. He won three of the four meetings with the Crimson Tide on the Plains. His replacement, Bryan Harsin, will be experiencing his first Iron Bowl. What better way to generate goodwill with the fan base than to keep that streak of success going? It surely won't be easy.
6. Auburn at Penn State - Sept. 18
Before getting his first taste of the SEC schedule, Harsin will get tested with a road trip to Happy Valley. Having Bo Nix back as an experienced quarterback will help ease the transition, but improvement is also needed on defense to get the new coach his initial signature win. The Nittany Lions have enough talent to rebound from last season's disappointment that saw them start 0-5.
7. LSU at UCLA - Sept. 4
Not much went right for the Tigers as they dealt with COVID opt-outs, injuries and inconsistency after winning the national title in 2019. A trip west to face the improving Bruins in Week 1 provides an early look at how well Ed Orgeron and his new-look staff of assistants have the team set up to contend again in the SEC.
8. Alabama vs. Miami (Fla.) - Sept. 4
Another significant game on opening weekend sees the Crimson Tide poised for a potential challenge from the Hurricanes in Atlanta. One of the big questions will be the health of Miami quarterback D'Eriq King, who suffered a major knee injury in the team's bowl game. Will he be healthy enough to play and test the Crimson Tide with his running and throwing ability?
9. Mississippi at Mississippi State - Nov. 27
The Egg Bowl never disappoints as one of the heated rivalries in the SEC and across the country. The first matchup between coaching personalities Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach was close. This one should again be competitive with both teams wanting to throw early and often.
10. South Carolina at Tennessee - Oct. 9
This game likely won't be significant come conference championship weekend, but it could be important for two new coaches hoping to start their tenures on the right foot. Shane Beamer and his Gamecocks could use a win in Knoxville to create momentum for a bowl berth. Josh Heupel has a big rebuilding job with the Volunteers, so winning the winnable games at home is critical to generate buy-in.