- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ultimate SEC road trip is back. The best games. The best venues. The best atmospheres. If you could pick your destination every Saturday, where would you go?
This year, we're taking two road trips, both hypothetical of course. Our writers might end up at the same game some weeks, but this should allow us to see more teams and more campuses across the SEC.
Let's check in on what's in store for Week 3.
Road trip 1: Ole Miss at Alabama
Can you have a sneaky good week on the schedule? Because this feels like one of those under-the-radar slates with compelling games beyond the obvious headliners of Auburn-LSU and Ole Miss-Alabama. I wouldn’t mind spending my time at South Carolina-Georgia, Texas Tech-Arkansas or Florida-Kentucky. The first SEC game of the Jim McElwain era could be a good indication of what lies ahead, after all.
But if I’m making travel plans today, I’m figuring out how to get to Tuscaloosa for Ole Miss-Alabama. Not only do you have two programs with national championship aspirations, you have the issue of the Crimson Tide seeking revenge after losing last season in Oxford. You can bet that the week of the game will be filled with videos and pictures of Ole Miss fans storming the field and carrying the goal posts out of the stadium. It may not be the “Never Again” game of 2011 when Alabama sought revenge against Auburn, but it should be close.
On top of that, the sheer level of draft-eligible talent on the football field in Bryant-Denny Stadium will be absurd. NFL scouts may outnumber the media in the press box.
Just look at the defensive line where Alabama’s A'Shawn Robinson and Ole Miss' Robert Nkemdiche represent two potential high first-round draft picks. The Rebs could hear Nkemdiche, Tony Conner, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil all have their names called on the first day of the draft next year. The Tide, meanwhile, have future pros in Robinson, Jonathan Allen, Jarran Reed, Reggie Ragland and Derrick Henry. With breakout seasons, Kenyan Drake and O.J. Howard could be in that mix, too.
With so much talent, such high expectations and the subplot of last year’s game, what’s not to like?
-- Alex Scarborough
Road trip 2: Auburn at LSU
There should be no shortage of drama in Tuscaloosa this weekend, but I wouldn't mind heading down to the Bayou to check out Auburn and LSU. Last year, this was a disaster on the Plains for LSU, as the Bayou Bengals mustered just seven points while giving up 41 points to Auburn. Rookie quarterback Brandon Harris wasted his first -- and only -- start of the season on a 3-for-14 passing performance with just 58 yards.
A year later, and I just have a feeling things will be a lot more exciting when these two packs of Tigers meet inside Death Valley. Auburn is the early, trendy favorite to win the SEC, but LSU could be a quarterback away from challenging those Tigers. LSU still has one of the nation's best running backs (Leonard Fournette), a host of talent at receiver and one of the SEC's best returning offensive lines. However, with John Chavis gone, LSU has new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to watch over the reigning top statistical defense in the SEC.
That might sound easy enough, but LSU is still searching for some pass-rushers and it'll have to tangle with an Auburn defense that should be even more balanced with Jeremy Johnson under center. Also, can LSU stop what will no doubt be another incredibly potent Auburn rushing attack? And on the flip side, how much better will Auburn's defense be with Will Muschamp in charge and Carl Lawson back on the edge?
This early-season matchup will have major SEC West implications, which means it'll also have major playoff implications.
-- Edward Aschoff
11dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf