The upset of the year last season in the SEC came in the very first week when Jacksonville State shocked Ole Miss, effectively ruining the Rebels’ season.
My ESPN.com colleague, Edward Aschoff, has picked his five upsets to watch out for this coming season in the SEC, and we agree on one.
LSU’s trip to play Mississippi State on a Thursday night the third week of the season has danger written all over it for the Tigers.
Here’s my complete list, although I reserve the right to change my mind as we get closer to the season:
1. LSU at Mississippi State, Sept. 15: Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs are going to get somebody big this season at home. They had eventual national champion Auburn on the ropes a year ago and simply couldn’t find any offense in the second half, losing 17-14. Two years ago against LSU, the Bulldogs were stopped just inches short of the goal line in the final minutes and lost a 30-26 heartbreaker. This should be Mullen’s best team yet at Mississippi State, and Scott Field will be rocking (and ringing) when the Tigers come to town for the Thursday night affair.
2. Navy at South Carolina, Sept. 17: Handling success hasn’t been South Carolina’s strong suit over the years. We saw it a year ago after the Gamecocks knocked off No. 1-ranked Alabama. The next week, they blew an 18-point lead and lost at Kentucky. Here’s a scenario to ponder for this coming season: The Gamecocks start out 2-0 with wins against East Carolina and Georgia and then come back home and stumble against Navy and its variation of the option offense, which is a headache to prepare for. Of course, just hearing Navy’s name gives a lot of South Carolina fans a headache. The 38-21 loss to the Midshipmen in 1984 still ranks as the most crushing loss in school history.
3. Arkansas at Alabama, Sept. 24: The Hogs were close to pulling it off last season against the Crimson Tide in what was an unbelievable atmosphere at Razorback Stadium, but couldn’t finish the job. Getting it done at Bryant-Denny Stadium will be even more difficult this season, and Alabama’s defense will be a load. The difference is that Arkansas will also have a veteran defense that it can lean on and a running game designed to protect leads and finish games. The Hogs had yet to unveil Knile Davis a year ago when they lost that second-half lead to the Crimson Tide.
4. Georgia at Tennessee, Oct. 8: There’s been something about Neyland Stadium recently that has brought out the worst in Georgia. The Bulldogs were routed 45-19 by the Vols during their last trip in 2009 and lost 35-14 in 2007. They come back to Knoxville this season and get the Vols a week after squaring off against Mississippi State at home. Tennessee is still probably a year away from competing for the Eastern Division championship, but don’t be surprised if the Vols win a game nobody sees them winning this season.
5. Florida vs. Georgia, Oct. 29: At this point, there’s really no way to know who will be favored in this game. But given the history of this series over the past two decades, any time Georgia manages to win, it has to be considered an upset. Florida has won 11 of the past 13 meetings and 19 of the past 21. But it’s about time the Bulldogs stopped some of the bleeding, especially with the Will Muschamp era just beginning at Florida. Beating the Gators would also make Mark Richt’s life a lot easier.