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Sallee: Top 5 SEC Games of 2011
Alabama running back Trent Richardson
Alabama running back Trent Richardson
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 26, 2011


CFN SEC columnist Barrett Sallee ranks the top five SEC games of 2011.

Reach me via e-mail at barrettsallee@gmail.com or on Twitter @BarrettSallee


Last week, I ranked the top five SEC out-of-conference games of 2011. This week, I take a look at the top five games within the conference. With three teams – Arkansas, Alabama and LSU – as legitimate national championship contenders, it’s shaping up to be another monster year in the SEC West. But the SEC East will be just as intriguing, but for vastly different reasons. Here are the top five games of the season in the SEC.

5. Alabama at Auburn - November 26
Auburn’s 24-point comeback in last season’s version of the Iron Bowl not only protected its national title hopes, but ratcheted up this rivalry to a level it has never seen before (see: Harvey Updyke). This season, the Tide will roll on to the Plains to close out the regular season with payback, and possibly a national title on their minds. Meanwhile, Auburn will have had plenty of time to break all of those new players into the starting lineup, and probably will be playing its best football of the season. Yet again, this game probably won’t decide the SEC West – something that we’ve been waiting on since the divisional split in 1992 – but with so much on the line for both teams, expect this one to be a classic. Prediction: Alabama 21, Auburn 17.

4. South Carolina at Georgia – September 10
This is routinely one of the most underrated games in the SEC, and almost always leaves you biting your fingernails in the fourth quarter. This season, South Carolina enters as “the hunted” – a position that it has never been in since joining the SEC. How will they handle it? Georgia certainly will stack up against Marcus Lattimore in the hopes of preventing him from matching or exceeding his 182-yard, two touchdown performance from last year’s matchup. Will that open the door for Stephen Garcia and Alshon Jeffery? For Georgia, this could be the most important game of the season, and possibly Mark Richt’s career. A win here, and Georgia vaults from SEC East also-ran, to SEC East favorite in a matter of just three or four hours. The Bulldogs miss Arkansas, Alabama and LSU this year; and get Auburn and Mississippi State between the hedges. The toughest road game? At Tennessee. In the past, that’s been a problem, but I don’t see it being one this year. A win over the Gamecocks almost certainly makes it “Atlanta or bust” for the fan base, and for Mark Richt’s job. Prediction: Georgia 20, South Carolina 13.

3. Arkansas at Alabama - September 24
Arkansas nearly pulled off an upset over the Tide in Fayetteville last fall, but still managed to make a BCS bowl for the first time in school history. Despite the loss of quarterback Ryan Mallett, the Hogs enter 2011 as a legitimate SEC and national title contender, thanks to the running ability of Knile Davis and one of the best wide receiving corps in the country. Aside from junior running back Trent Richardson, Alabama will be replacing virtually every playmaker on offense. So the fact that this game takes place in September is certainly an advantage for Arkansas. Just like last season, this one will go down to the wire; but the talent of Alabama’s defense will win out in the end. Prediction: Alabama 28, Arkansas 27.

2. Arkansas at LSU - November 25
The Battle for the Golden Boot routinely provides an exciting game, but rarely does it carry meaning for both teams. That changes this season. There’s a pretty good chance that both of these teams will still carry SEC West title hopes into this day-after-Thanksgiving tilt, which will put all eyes on Baton Rouge before the attention of the college football world shifts to the Iron Bowl the next day. Even without Ryan Mallett, the Arkansas offense should be one of the best in college football, and it will be going up against the always tough LSU D. Sign me up. Prediction: Arkansas 30, LSU 27.

1. LSU at Alabama - November 5
Two years ago in Tuscaloosa, this game was the slugfest of all slugfests, as the Tide outlasted the Tigers 24-15 in a game that was marred by a missed interception call late in the fourth quarter, when LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson clearly had possession in bounds. Last year, Les Miles got tricky, calling a reverse on a critical 4th and 1, which lead to the go-ahead touchdown. This season, these two teams will square off in early November with everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – on the line. This game will be old-school, smash mouth SEC football, featuring two elite defenses and coaches with championship pedigree. Can’t wait ($1 to Bart Scott). Prediction: LSU 17, Alabama 16.

Barrett Sallee covers the SEC for www.CollegeFootballNews.com. He can be reached at barrettsallee@gmail.com, or on Twitter at @BarrettSallee


2010/2011 Off-Season Column Archive:
Top 5 SEC Games of 2011 - June 27, 2011
Point/Counterpoint: Richt & UGA Need To Part Ways? - June 26, 2011
CFN Analysis: The NCAA Letter to UNC - June 23, 2011
Five Thoughts on the SEC DL - June 21, 2011
Top 5 SEC Out-Of-Conference Games - June 18, 2011
Five Thoughts on the SEC OL - June 13, 2011
CFN Analysis: Pryor Done at OSU - June 7, 2011
Five Thoughts on the SEC WR’s - June 6, 2011
Ranking The SEC Head Coaches - June 6, 2011
Point/Counterpoint: Oversigning In The SEC II - June 4, 2011
Point/Counterpoint: Oversigning In The SEC - June 2, 2011
CFN Analysis: Tressel Resigns – May 30, 2011
Five Thoughts on SEC RB’s – May 29, 2011
Ohio State & Tressel: The Hits Keep Coming – May 29, 2011
Five Thoughts on the SEC QB’s – May 23, 2011
CFN Thoughts – The Extra Stipend Debate – May 22, 2011
Ealey’s Transfer Leaves UGA In A Bind – May 9, 2011
Russell Wilson to the SEC? – May 5, 2011
SEC Draft Review – May 4, 2011
Five Thoughts on Janoris Jenkins – April 27, 2011
Muschamp Sets New Tone For Florida – April 26, 2011
Spring Lessons Learned – SEC East – April 24, 2011
Spring Lessons Learned – SEC West – April 20, 2011
Five Thoughts On Kentucky’s Spring – April 14, 2011
Five Thoughts On Bama’s Calloway – April 13, 2011
Stephen Garcia, Winning! – April 6, 2011
Stephen Garcia Suspended Indefintely – April 6, 2011
Five Thoughts On Ole Miss’ Spring – April 6, 2011
Five Thoughts On Auburn’s Spring – April 4, 2011
Real Sports Much Ado About… – March 31, 2011
Ainge’s Addictions, And What It Means For UT – March 29, 2011
Five Thoughts On Tennessee’s Spring – March 29, 2011
Tressel-Gate Has Only One Conclusion – March 26, 2011
Five Thoughts on Bama’s Spring – March 25, 2011
Five Thoughts on Vandy’s Spring – March 24, 2011
Five Thoughts on Florida’s Spring – March 23, 2011
Bama Star Arrested – March 20, 2011
Five Thoughts on South Carolina’s Spring – March 16, 2011
Five Thoughts on Arkansas’ Spring – March 15, 2011
Auburn Players Arrested, Dismissed – March 12, 2011
Five Thoughts on LSU’s Spring – March 11, 2011
CFN Analysis – The Too Busy Offseason – March 11, 2011
Five Thoughts on Georgia’s Spring – March 9, 2011
CFN Analysis – Should Jim Tressel Have Been Fired – March 8, 2011
Five Thoughts on Mississippi State’s Spring – March 6, 2011
Wheels On Newton Saga Keep Spinning – February 28, 2011
Six SEC West Spring Storylines – February 24, 2011
Kiffin and the Tennessee Issue – February 23, 2011
Six SEC East Spring Storylines – February 17, 2011
CFN Analysis – The SEC Schedule – February 10, 2011
Ealey Suspension Leaves Georgia In A Bind – February 9, 2011
SEC Signing Day Review – February 3, 2011
CFN Analysis – Signing Day 2011 – February 2, 2011
Dream Team Won’t Save Richt – January 31, 2011
Five Thoughts On Kragthorpe – January 24, 2011
Ridiculously Early SEC West Rankings – January 23, 2011
LSU Hires OC Four Years Too Late – January 20, 2011
Ridiculously Early SEC East Rankings – January 19, 2011
CFN Analysis: Cam Turns Pro – January 14, 2011
BCS National Championship Review – January 11, 2011
CFN Analysis: Cotton Bowl – January 8, 2011
Five Thoughts On Why Auburn Wins – January 7, 2011
Five Thoughts On Dan Quinn – January 5, 2011
Tuesday Question: Should Rich Rod Be Fired – January 4, 2011
Five Thoughts on Charlie Weis – January 4, 2011
CFN Analysis: Charlie Weis as the Florida OC – January 3, 2011
CFN Analysis: Outback Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Gator Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Capital One Bowl – January 1, 2011
CFN Analysis: Liberty Bowl – December 31, 2010
CFN Analysis: Music City Bowl – December 30, 2010
End Of The Season Accountability – December 27, 2010
Pryor Can’t Be Compared To Newton – December 23, 2010
Ranking The SEC Bowl Games – December 19, 2010
Malzahn Makes The Right Move – December 14, 2010
Five Thoughts on Muschamp – December 12, 2010
CFN Analysis: Florida Hires Muschamp – December 12, 2010
CFN Analysis: Cam’s Heisman Landslide – December 11, 2010
Five Thoughts On Urban Meyer – December 9, 2010
Meyer Leaves Legacy, Question Marks – December 8, 2010

Click here for the 2010 regular season archive

Click here for the 2010 Three & Out archive