In the SEC, there's a game to watch just about every week.
And in many cases, there are three or four games to watch. The beauty of it is that sometimes the most compelling games aren't necessarily the ones we'd pick in August.
With that in mind, we'll take our shot at pinpointing those games in 2012 that you absolutely don't want to miss. And, yes, we reserve the right to add a few games once we get a month into the season.
Alabama vs. Michigan, Sept. 1: The entire country will be paying close attention to this top-10 nonconference matchup. The No. 2 Crimson Tide are hungry for a second straight national championship, and they know a convincing win over the No. 8 Wolverines to open the 2012 season would reverberate throughout the college football world.
Auburn at Mississippi State, Sept. 8: Like last year's matchup, this game could set the tone for both teams this fall. The Bulldogs never recovered from their heartbreaking loss to the Tigers on the Plains last year. This time, Mississippi State gets Auburn at home, in front of its own rowdy crowd, as Dan Mullen looks to beat his first SEC West opponent not named Ole Miss.
Georgia at Missouri, Sept. 8: It's Mizzou's first SEC game and that crowd will be beyond electric for a game coach Gary Pinkel has already labeled as "mammoth." We'll get to see firsthand if the Tigers' spread can withstand a tough SEC defense -- and Georgia has one of the league's best.
Florida at Texas A&M, Sept. 8: It was already a happening in College Station when the Aggies played a home football game, but that second weekend in September will be something to behold when Florida comes to town for Texas A&M’s SEC opener. It’s also a game that could go a long way toward determining whether the Gators will be a legitimate player in the Eastern Division race this season.
Alabama at Arkansas, Sept. 15: Nick Saban is 5-0 against Arkansas since taking over as Alabama’s coach in 2007. But the last time the Crimson Tide visited Razorback Stadium, they had to stage a second-half rally to escape 24-20 in 2010. This is a game the Hogs have been pointing to ever since that bitter loss. If they’re going to finally break through in the Western Division, they have to figure out a way to stem the Tide.
Florida at Tennessee, Sept. 15: This game is critical for both teams and could be a major momentum shifter for the winner and the loser. Both Derek Dooley and Will Muschamp are feeling the heat and a win for either would calm some of that. Tennessee's top-flight passing game meets what should be a pretty solid Gators secondary.
Georgia at South Carolina, Oct. 6: Steve Spurrier has reveled in all the firsts that have been accomplished on his watch at South Carolina. The Gamecocks could make some more history with a third straight victory over the Bulldogs, who overcame a second-week loss to South Carolina last season to make it to the SEC championship game. The game has been moved back later in the season this year, which Spurrier weighed in on back in the spring with his barb about preferring to play the Bulldogs early in the season because they typically had key players suspended. Nobody can ever accuse the coach of not speaking his mind.
Florida vs. Georgia, Oct. 27: The Bulldogs haven't beaten Florida in consecutive years since winning three straight from 1987-89, and with the battle for the East expected to be pretty intense this year, neither team can afford a loss here. Two of the league's top defenses will battle, and this one will likely come down to the very end … just like the past two years.
Alabama at LSU, Nov. 3: There’s not a bigger game in college football, and it has been that way for the past three or four seasons. The Tigers have been smarting ever since that 21-0 beatdown in the BCS National Championship Game last season. But they get the Crimson Tide at home this time and get them at night. Until Alabama’s three-touchdown win in the Big Easy in January, the previous five games in this series had been decided by a combined 28 points with two of those games going to overtime.
LSU at Arkansas, Nov. 23: This one had a playoff feel to it last season and could have that feel again this fall with a shot at the SEC championship game possibly on the line. The Tigers' vaunted defense shut down Arkansas' high-powered offense last season, but the Razorbacks will have the pleasure of playing at home this time. Like last year, everyone will be watching this one.