SEC Football Upset Alert
By Jeremy Hillman
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With so many tough games on each SEC team’s slate, it is easy for players to overlook the underdogs.
With less than two months until we kick off the 2012 SEC football season, fans of each program are gearing up for the season and hoping for good things from their teams. The one thing they do not want to see is a loss to a highly inferior opponent, which is never fun. However, recent SEC football history has shown us that it is not that uncommon for a major underdog to step up and bring down a heavy favorite.
Just consider these six major upsets from the past eight seasons:
1. Louisiana-Monroe 21 Alabama 14 (2007)
2. Jacksonville State 49 Ole Miss 48 (2010)
3. Maine 9 Mississippi State 7 (2004)
4. UCF 10 Georgia 6 (2010)
5. Louisiana Tech 27 Ole Miss 7 (2011)
6. Ole Miss 31 Florida 30 (2008)
Also, recall just last season that, while the SEC team ending up winning each of these ball games, Utah State had Auburn on the ropes, East Carolina and Navy were scaring South Carolina late, and Arkansas was losing to Troy in the second half. Not to mention BYU defeated Ole Miss in week one and Vanderbilt came within a score of beating Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee.
Therefore, before you go and instantly count a win on your team’s schedule, remember what history has shown us: any team can lose on any day. No one would have picked the upsets or close games listed above, and there are likely upset landmines in the upcoming 2012 schedule.
Which games could be trouble for SEC teams this fall? Here is my list of the ten biggest upset alerts for the approaching Southeastern Conference football season:
1. Missouri at UCF
Missouri will be focused on a tough schedule of SEC opponents this season. However, they better not overlook their road trip to Orlando to face UCF. The Tigers are just 3-2 on the road against non-BCS conference teams under Gary Pinkel. The Knights proved they can beat an SEC team when they up-ended Georgia just two seasons ago, and are the favorite to win C-USA in 2012. The upset alert is sounding loud in this matchup.
2. Georgia at Missouri
The Bulldogs are many people’s favorite to repeat as SEC East Division champions. The biggest obstacle to that may be the week two game at new SEC member Missouri. With multiple suspensions, including many of their top defensive players, for this game against the Tigers, and with the loss of star running back Isaiah Crowell, favored Georgia will face a tough challenge in beating an upset-minded Mizzou on the road. Not to mention, the home Tiger fans, coaches, and players will be amped up big-time for the first SEC conference game ever.
3. Ole Miss vs UTEP
Ole Miss has lost seven straight home games against FBS teams. While they are likely to destroy Central Arkansas in week one, a game against a Mike Price lead UTEP team that would love a signature victory against an SEC opponent will be a challenge. After losing to La Tech and BYU last season, do not be surprised if a struggling Rebel’s team has trouble putting away the Miners in the second week of the season.
4. South Carolina at Vanderbilt
South Carolina will be nationally ranked when the season begins. They will face arguably the biggest upset-minded team in the nation in Vanderbilt in the very first week of the season. Commodore coach James Franklin has his team believing they can play against the big teams (as evidenced in their success last season) and will have them ready for the Gamecocks. To add to the upset alert, this game is on Thursday night as a part of the kickoff of the entire college football schedule and will have a national spotlight. How the teams handle that spotlight may determine which team makes headlines.
5. Mississippi State at Troy
The Bulldogs will be trying to take another step towards building a consistently competitive program under Dan Mullen this season. While big conference games will take center stage in that quest, State cannot afford to overlook Troy. It is possible that Mississippi State will be coming off a loss to Auburn and can’t allow themselves to be down and flat coming into the game against the Trojans. Troy is 1-1 versus the Bulldogs in this series, and the Trojans lost to #14 Arkansas by just 10 last season and played Oklahoma State to a 3-point game in 2012, giving them confidence that winning this game is achievable.
6. South Carolina vs East Carolina
South Carolina will be in the mix for the SEC East title again this season. However, they shouldn’t overlook their game against East Carolina in week two. Last season, the Gamecocks came out flat against the Pirates and almost lost the ballgame, as they were down by 10 in the second half before coming from behind to win. As a matter of fact, South Carolina is just 3-5 all-time against East Carolina and their last home non-conference loss was to ECU in 1999. Cue the upset alarm.
7. Arkansas vs Rutgers
Arkansas will be trying to stay in the mix for the SEC West title this season and have several big conference games throughout the schedule. One game that could be troublesome is the Rutgers game that is sandwiched as a potential trap game between a game against Alabama and a road game versus Texas A&M. This is the definition of a trap game and could be a challenge for the Hogs. Rutgers won nine games last season and returns 15 starters in 2012. It will not be an easy win for Arkansas and the upset alert will be out.
8. LSU at Auburn
LSU is the preseason favorite to win the national championship by many prognosticators. With several games on their schedule, that could be a challenge. The one game that jumps out the most for its upset potential is the road game at Auburn. Main reason: the visiting team in this series has lost 11 of the last 12 games. Auburn has the talent and the home field advantage to potentially sound an upset on the Plains in week four.
9. LSU at Texas A&M
Another challenge for the Tigers could be when they face off against conference newbie Texas A&M in October. The home Aggie crowd will be rocking and LSU will need to be ready for a hard fought contest. LSU has lost four straight games in College Station and will need to play well to avoid the upset bid.
10. Texas A&M at La Tech
In another Thursday night season opener, the Aggies must head to Shreveport to face off against Louisiana Tech. The Tech Bulldogs beat Ole Miss 27-7 last season and would love to add another SEC victory to their scorecard. Tech is favored to win the WAC again in 2012 and will be a good football team. This will not be a cake walk at all for the Aggies and new Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin will work to have his team believe that in off-season workouts and practices.
Honorable Mentions: Auburn at Vanderbilt, Alabama vs Michigan, Tennessee at Vanderbilt, LSU at Florida, Ole Miss at Tulane
With so many tough games on each SEC team’s slate, it is easy for players (and fans) to overlook the underdogs. That is a good way to get bit.
In September, we will begin to see who avoids the underdog landmines and who takes care of business. Let the upsets begin.