SEC football competition does not take a week off. With 12 of the league’s teams reaching a bowl last season, every conference game means teams face nationally-relevant squads.
That many elite matchups produce many opportunities for mayhem in a conference schedule. Just last year, Vanderbilt upset Tennessee in the regular-season finale to earn the title of state champs. On the same day, Mississippi State bested Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl to knock the Rebels out of a bowl spot.
Here are 13 upsets that could happen in 2017, one for each week of the season.
Week 1: Texas A&M at UCLA – Sept. 3
Funnily enough, this game was on our list last season. While the Aggies ended up with the better record (and the victory) in 2016, UCLA likely will be favored at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. The Bruins are also a different team with Josh Rosen in the lineup. That said, it would be classic Texas A&M to come out strong and make a statement in Week 1 on national television.
Week 2: Auburn at Clemson – Sept. 9
Auburn travels to Death Valley to take on the defending national champions in the second week of the season. The timing just might be right for the SEC opponent to make a major statement in the battle of the Tigers. Granted, Clemson will feature its typical fearsome defense, which should make Jarrett Stidham’s night brutal. However, Clemson’s offense will be breaking in new starters at a number of skill positions. If Auburn’s defense can force mistakes and Stidham and Kamryn Pettway can capitalize, Auburn might do the unthinkable.
Week 3: Mississippi State vs. LSU – Sept. 16
LSU comes into the 2017 season a new team. The Tigers are revamped thanks to new coach Ed Orgeron and offensive coordinator Matt Canada. But in the third week of the season, the Tigers face off against one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. Nick Fitzgerald blew through the competition over the final six games, averaging 363.5 total yards and accumulating 24 touchdowns. Coming against a retooled defense, it might be early enough in the year to pull an upset.
Week 4: Kentucky vs. Florida – Sept. 23
Florida’s win streak over Kentucky is the longest in the history of the Southeastern Conference. The Wildcats have not won a single game since 1987. However, this might be the year they finally do it. Tennessee broke its losing streak to Florida last season, and the Gators replace several pieces on defense. Kentucky returns most of its starters on both sides. This game might just be another blowout, but it could be early enough that Kentucky jumps Florida’s new lineup.
Week 5: Mississippi State at Auburn – Sept. 30
Auburn lost several of its top defensive playmakers and must replace them with inexperienced parts. That’s not great news when going against Nick Fitzgerald, one of the most dynamic players in the conference. Fitzgerald will need one of his best games to beat Auburn, but he has that kind of ability.
Week 6: Texas A&M vs. Alabama – Oct. 7
Texas A&M won’t beat Alabama. Then again, what if it did? This is an exceedingly young Aggies squad, but chock full of top talent. Expect Kellen Mond to start, and he has experience playing against elite talent at IMG Academy. Of course, nothing prepares you for the University of Alabama, still the best college football program in existence. However, if the youth on Texas A&M’s roster turns into irrational courage, things could get wild.
Week 7: South Carolina at Tennessee – Oct. 14
Maybe by the time this game comes around, South Carolina won’t even be a true underdog. The Gamecocks could be one of the most improved teams in the conference. Tennessee, conversely, desperately needs to take care of business, but replaces many of their top playmakers on both sides of the ball. South Carolina returns almost its entire roster, including stud quarterback Jake Bentley. This would be a major win for Will Muschamp and crushing loss for Butch Jones.
Week 8: Arkansas vs. Auburn – Oct. 21
This game will be one of the best quarterback battles of the season. Austin Allen led the conference in passing yards last season, and Jarrett Stidham is my pick to lead the conference in passer rating this year. Arkansas will need a few weeks to develop some new skill position talent, but this might be the week things come together.
Week 9: Kentucky vs. Tennessee – Oct. 28
The Volunteers lost their leading rusher, passer and receiver in the same offseason. Plus, top defenders Derek Barnett, Cameron Sutton and Jalen Reeves-Maybin are gone to the NFL. That does not bode well against what should continue to be one of the best running games in the conference.
Week 10: LSU at Alabama – Nov. 4
Last season, LSU and Alabama played in one of the most stressful games of the season. The Crimson Tide eventually scored in the final quarter to break a scoreless game, but LSU still played one of the best defensive games in school history. Both teams replace several first-round picks, but the Tigers should once again be seriously prepping for this game. This would be the perfect opportunity for offensive coordinator Matt Canada to unveil some new tricks.
Week 11: South Carolina vs. Florida – Nov. 11
Florida’s defense is elite. The offense is a work in progress. Maybe the Gators will have it figured out by this game, but there are several question marks. South Carolina boasts one of the youngest offenses in the league, but rising sophomores Jake Bentley, Rico Dowdle and Bryan Edwards proved to be future stars. If the group flashes their massive potential against the SEC East’s most consistent team, maybe it will be enough.
Week 12: Kentucky at Georgia – Nov. 18
Obviously, we’re pretty high on Kentucky. The Wildcats rank third in the nation with 17 returning starters per Phil Steele, including much of the defense. Georgia also returns 17 starters, but there are still many questions on offense, especially the line.
Week 13: Florida at Florida State – Nov. 25
Nick Saban previously said Florida State might be the No. 1 team in the nation. It’s hard to argue with their roster. Last season, the Seminoles were just an offensive line away from being really, really dangerous. However, Florida’s defense should continue to play at a high level, and the offense actually might be good. Whether it’s Malik Zaire or Feleipe Franks behind center, the line and running game will perform at a high level. The receiving corps, headlined by Antonio Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland, will challenge Florida State’s highly-touted defensive backfield. Florida can knock Florida State out of the College Football Playoff with a win.