We're hitting the home stretch on our ultimate SEC road trip, and with just two weeks left in the regular season, this week’s games might as well be the calm before the storm.
The majority of the league’s elite teams scheduled easy nonconference games in preparation for their season finale the following week. Both Alabama and Auburn went the FCS route the week leading up to the Iron Bowl, and Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all have cupcakes coming to town before they square off against their in-state rivals.
If you're just now jumping on board, we at the SEC blog have been getting you ready for the coming season by plotting out our top destinations for each week of the season.
So far we’ve been to some of the usual spots (Athens, Auburn, College Station, Tuscaloosa), and a few outside of the SEC footprint in locales like Houston and Oklahoma. We've got 12 weeks down and just two more to go with conference title game right around the corner.
So without further pause, let’s take a look at the best options for Week 13:
Western Carolina at Alabama
Samford at Auburn
Eastern Kentucky at Florida
Charleston Southern at Georgia
Ole Miss at Arkansas
South Alabama at South Carolina
Missouri at Tennessee
Vanderbilt at Mississippi State
Greg Ostendorf's pick: Missouri at Tennessee
Can I save my trip this week and go to two games next week? Just a thought. But in all seriousness, I have yet to attend a game at Neyland Stadium on our road trip, and this game could have major bowl implications. I'm not kidding.
Missouri went through the SEC East gauntlet earlier in the season, and we’ll know after Week 8 if the Tigers are legitimate contenders. If they win two of their first three league games, we're talking about a return trip to Atlanta. Lose two or even three of those games, and this team might need a win against the Volunteers just to make them bowl eligible.
The stakes are even higher for a Tennessee program that hasn’t made the postseason since 2010. If it’s going to happen this year, the Vols have to win this game.
My question is how will the UT freshmen respond this late in the year? You saw Ole Miss fall off late last year, partially due to the youth and inexperience on the team. How can a Vols team that has more newcomers than any other team in the league finish strong down the stretch? Playing at home and having over 100,000 fans pulling for you will help, but this isn’t high school or junior college. This is the SEC.
As for the pregame atmosphere, I might try to talk my way on to one of the boats in the Vol navy depending on the weather and what time the game is. It’s one of the more unique tailgating experiences in all of college football and a perfect way to spend a Saturday.
Edward Aschoff’s pick: Ole Miss at Arkansas
It isn’t a thrilling week in the SEC, but there’s one game that really does intrigue me: Arkansas vs. Ole Miss.
I’ve been saying it all year, but I really do think that the Rebels are a legitimate dark horse to win the SEC West. Bo Wallace's shoulder is healthy, the offense is fast, fast, fast, and the defense is mature and pretty underrated at this point. But this game is no gimmie for the Rebels. Arkansas is an interesting team because we really aren’t sure what the Hogs are capable of this season. I don’t see the Razorbacks making it to a bowl game, but I think this team will frustrate its western counterparts all year. Arkansas wants to prove something in Year 2 of the Bret Bielema era, and this game is important for that.
If the Rebels want to show that they’re ready to take the next step under Hugh Freeze, they have to beat one of the top teams in the West, but they also have to win the games they’re supposed to. This is one of them, but it won't be easy. The Hogs are at home and will be fighting all year for respect. If Arkansas is going to make it to the postseason, the Hogs will likely have to win this game. Heck, if they want any momentum heading into next year, they’ll need to win this one.
Ole Miss wants to stretch the field and tire out opponents with its uptempo, spread offense, while Arkansas wants to punch you in the mouth on both sides of the ball. Something will have to give.
But don’t forget about some great tailgating, either. You get Ole Miss’ finest to mingle with some rowdy Razorbacks, and you’ll have yourself a good time.