There’s no doubt that there will be plenty of big games in the SEC for the 2017 college football season. That’s true every year. But which ones stand out as the most meaningful?
Sports Illustrated lead college football writer Andy Staples published his list of the top “pivot point games” for the 2017 season, and four notable SEC matchups are mentioned. Staples describes a pivot point game as:
It’s the game upon which a team’s season might turn. It isn’t necessarily a team’s biggest game. It might be an early-season matchup that predicts the future. (Think the Texas loss to Cal last September.) It might be an odd spot in the schedule. (Think Alabama playing at a fresh-off-an-open-date South Carolina at the end of a tough stretch in 2010.) Or it might simply be the most important game on the schedule.
Here are the SEC games that Staples thinks are the biggest pivot points:
Sept. 16 – Tennessee at Florida (pivot for Tennessee)
Writes Staples: “At the very least, the Volunteers need to compete for the East title deep into November—if not win it outright—to soothe a fan base tired of hearing about five-star hearts who become Champions of Life.”
The Vols need a win in the Swamp if they want to compete for the East title. A loss here and that essentially makes a matchup with Georgia two weeks later in Knoxville a must-win. Which leads us to…
Sept. 30 – Georgia at Tennessee (pivot for Georgia)
Writes Staples: “The Bulldogs’ September could set them up for the kind of success Kirby Smart was hired to bring to Athens. Or it could put Georgia in a hole…The Bulldogs open SEC play on Sept. 23 with a visit from Mississippi State, which could be the SEC West’s surprise team thanks to quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. After that, Georgia heads to Knoxville for a game that should help define the SEC East title race.”
If Georgia can start hot and pick up a revenge win against the Vols after last year’s Hail Mary loss in Athens, the schedule sets up well with its remaining SEC East games all at home.
October 14 – Texas A&M at Florida (pivot for TAMU)
Writes Staples: ” Just looking at the schedule, it feels as if whichever team ends this game with the most players upright will win. If Texas A&M is coming off a loss to Alabama, the Aggies will need this one. A loss here means Texas A&M would have to go 3–1 or better against Mississippi State and Auburn at Kyle Field and against Ole Miss and LSU on the road to avoid going 4–4 or worse in SEC play for the fifth consecutive season.”
Finishing at or below .500 again will certainly turn the heat up on coach Kevin Sumlin’s seat in College Station.
Nov. 4 – LSU at Alabama (pivot for both)
Writes Staples: “We should have a pretty good feel for how Ed Orgeron’s LSU team plays by this point. The Tigers’ three-game October stretch against Florida (away), Auburn (home) and Ole Miss (away) should indicate whether Matt Canada’s new offense has finally unlocked all LSU’s playmakers. But this is the game Orgeron was hired to win…The Crimson Tide’s toughest game in the regular season might be the season opener against Florida State in Atlanta. But LSU will be the most athletic team Alabama faces in conference play, and it might be the Tide’s only true test between the Seminoles and the Iron Bowl.”
Pretty much spot on. LSU has lost seven straight games to the Crimson Tide and the fan base is getting restless. A win could be the signature moment in Orgeron’s career, and could help wrest away control in the SEC West from Alabama, at least for a year. A loss, and well, it’ll be same as it ever was in Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa.