2016: Best SEC game of every week

The season is right around the corner. College football soon will fill our Saturday afternoons, evenings and nights.

While it will be fantastic to have college football back, not all games are created equal. For those in need of can’t-miss action, the SEC is the conference to watch.

Fortunately, there are 13 weeks of SEC matchups to sate your appetite for championship-caliber football. We’ve sorted through all 112 conference games to pick the best SEC contest each week, enjoy!

Sept. 1: South Carolina at Vanderbilt (7 p.m. ET, ESPN)

This matchup will open the college football season on Thursday night. It’s not the most compelling contest, we’ll grant you that, but it’s the first chance fans will get to watch competitive football this fall. It also marks the beginning of the Will Muschamp era at South Carolina, so that’s something worth watching.

Entertainment value: 1 out of 5

Sept. 10: Kentucky at Florida (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

On the surface, a game between Kentucky and Florida doesn’t seem like one worth watching. But history tells us that this might be a little closer than you think. In each of the past two seasons, the Wildcats have had a red-hot start. Starting 5-1 in 2014 and 4-1 last year, Kentucky’s only loss early in each season has come against Florida. Losing by less than a touchdown each time, including a thrilling 36-30 triple-overtime loss two years back, the Wildcats will come to the Swamp with revenge on the mind, trying to end their 29-game losing streak to the Gators.

Entertainment value: 2 out of 5

Sept. 17: Alabama at Ole Miss (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)

The first really compelling SEC contest is a doozy. Ole Miss’ road upset of Alabama was one of last year’s most memorable moments and greatest games. Now, the Crimson Tide head to Oxford to return the favor. Ole Miss has beaten Nick Saban two consecutive years. Nobody has beaten his Tide three times in a row.

Having two of the SEC West’s top contenders clash so early in the season makes this a crucial game for both teams. Neither wants to drop a division game three weeks into the season, especially Ole Miss, which opens with a tough matchup against Florida State, but that will only make this one all the more entertaining.

Entertainment value: 5 out of 5

Sept. 24: Florida at Tennessee

Another division matchup that could determine how each team’s respective season plays out. Add to that drama the fact that Florida has won 11 straight games against Tennessee, and this has the makings of a classic. The Volunteers are favorites to win the SEC East, something fans have been longing to hear since the end of Phil Fulmer’s run, and the Gators present quite possibly the team’s biggest hurdle. Florida players have been talking all offseason about the Volunteers. Played at Neyland Stadium, one of college football’s best atmospheres, this matchup is the epitome of what we love about SEC football.

Entertainment value: 5 out of 5

Oct. 1: Tennessee at Georgia

The second game in what could be a brutal stretch for Tennessee, this is another crucial battle for the SEC East. Outside of Florida, Georgia is the biggest challenger for division supremacy and there is no love lost between the Volunteers and the Bulldogs.

Last year’s matchup was exhilarating for Tennessee, which came back in the second half to steal a 38-31 win. Georgia won the previous two by a field goal. Tennessee’s game against Florida will color the storylines surrounding this game, but that should only add to the drama.

Entertainment value: 4.5 out of 5

Oct. 8: LSU at Florida

An October matchup between two of the SEC’s top programs sounds like heaven. Any time LSU travels to the Swamp for a matchup with Florida, it knows it’s in for a fight. This year doesn’t appear to be any different. Featuring two of the best defenses in the country, as well as star offensive players like Leonard Fournette and Antonio Callaway, this bout should be as good as any in recent memory.

Entertainment value: 4 out of 5

Oct. 15: Alabama at Tennessee

Remember that brutal stretch Tennessee has? This is the final game. If the Volunteers survive meetings with Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M, they will welcome Alabama as one of the top-ranked teams in the country. Because Alabama is, well, Alabama, this could be a Top-5 matchup if everything falls the right way.

Alabama has won nine consecutive in the series. It could be a preview of the SEC Championship Game.

This rivalry was originally known as the “Third Saturday in October,” named for the date it was annually played prior to 1992. It seems fitting that it will once again take place on the third weekend of October in 2016.

Entertainment value: 5 out of 5

Oct. 24: Arkansas at Auburn

Sure, Ole Miss traveling to Death Valley to face LSU is enticing, but if this year’s matchup is anything like last year’s, Arkansas-Auburn is the game to watch. The Razorbacks outlasted the Tigers 54-46 in a thrilling four-overtime masterpiece. Growing more competitive as the afternoon wore on, fans all around college football found themselves turning the channel to see which team would emerge victorious. Given the differences between these two run-based offenses, there should be a lot to enjoy for fans of smash-mouth football.

Entertainment value: 3.5 out of 5

Oct. 29: Florida vs. Georgia

One of college football’s greatest rivalries will look a little different without Mark Richt roaming the Georgia sidelines. How will Kirby Smart fare in his first game against Florida? This game usually has major SEC-East implications and is the beginning of the college football’s home stretch, where true contenders begin to separate themselves. If the division is going to be as close as many believe it will be, this game could be the deciding factor. Plus, it could be freshman quarterback Jacob Eason’s first Cocktail Party.

Entertainment value: 4 out of 5

Nov. 5: Alabama at LSU

The classic showdown of the past decade has lost a little bit of its luster recently. LSU hasn’t beaten Alabama since that memorable 9-6 contest in 2011. Still, there is hope for the Tigers this year. For starters, it’s going to take place in Death Valley, which provides a huge home-field advantage.

LSU still has major Heisman contender Leonard Fournette in the backfield and a defense capable of shutting opponents down. It’s never wise to count Nick Saban and Alabama out, but after losing so much talent in the draft, it’s tough to tell how they will look come November.

Entertainment value: 4 out of 5

Nov. 12: Ole Miss at Texas A&M

Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012. Since then, just two West programs have averaged 40 or more points per game in a season. The Aggies did it twice (2012 and 2013) and Ole Miss did it last year.

Last year’s 23-3 affair was a dud, but this year will hopefully be different. Chad Kelly returns for the Rebels, and there should be plenty of time to develop chemistry with new offensive weapons before this date.

For the Aggies, Trevor Knight provided stability at the quarterback position, and the Aggies return all of their outside weapons. The pieces are in place for this game to have plenty of fireworks.

Entertainment value: 4 out of 5

Nov. 19: Arkansas at Mississippi State

Cupcake week features just three SEC matchups. With all due respect to Missouri-Tennessee and Ole Miss-Vanderbilt, those will most likely be one-sided affairs. Arkansas’ trip to Starkville, however, should be entertaining. There might not be much left for either of these teams to play for, but we’ll be watching all the same.

Entertainment value: 2.5 out of 5

Nov. 26: Auburn at Alabama

This is one of those weekend’s in college football when it helps to have multiple TVs. While there will be some tremendous rivalry games, none has had the impact in recent years that the Iron Bowl has. Unless Auburn has a major turnaround in 2016, this may not be the most competitive matchup, but we’ve learned to expect the unexpected when these two play.

Entertainment value: 4 out of 5

William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.

Source: Saturday Down South

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