Auburn could find itself on both ends of an upset in SEC play this fall
In the giant quilt that is our collective college football experience, upsets make up a very large part of the fabric of our game. They happen every weekend, whether we like it or not. In other words, whether it happens to your favorite team or happens FOR your favorite team, upsets are in the DNA of our sport, as much as drunken tailgates and obnoxious fans. We love them. We hate them. We have to live with them.
In the high-profile SEC, where there is no lack of quality teams, upsets are a way of life. Nobody is immune to them. Even Alabama finally showed it was human when the Tide got taken to the woodshed by Clemson in the national championship game last January. Lest we forget, Bama was a five-point favorite in that game, only to lose by 28.
Even though you KNOW there are going to be upsets galore throughout the conference, pinpointing them can be a little bit dicey. Sure, you can say top-ranked Alabama will get upset at some point this season, but with the Tide's emerging high-powered offense that upset pick could very quickly turn into a 56-0 win for the Red Elephants and leave the prognosticator eating crow.
Despite that, I still have to put on a more-than-brave face to write this column. So here are the top 10 upsets to watch for in the cut-throat SEC this season.
10. BYU over Tennessee, Sept. 7.
The Big Orange has suffered through two straight losing seasons but are a trendy pick to make some noise in the SEC East this season. But the Cougars welcome back 14 starters including star-in-the-making QB Zach Wilson and will be facing a defense that gave up four touchdowns a game last year. BYU took down No. 6-ranked Wisconsin last September, so facing off against Power 5 teams in hostile environments is no biggie to the Cougars.
9. Miami over Florida, Aug. 24
Man, too bad these two don't battle each other every season, instead of just on the recruiting trail. The last time the Hurricanes and Gators lined up face-to-face was in 2013. The Canes went 2-5 down the stretch last season, including an ugly loss to Wisconsin in their bowl game. But 2019 will see The U sport one of the best front sevens in the country, who should have an advantage in this matchup vs. the Gators offense. And you know new head coach Manny Diaz wants to make a big statement here. Look for some gadget plays to make a difference in the season opener in Orlando.
8. Auburn over Texas A&M, Sept. 21.
This is a great SEC opener for both teams, who will face off against Oregon and Clemson respectively in key early-season games before this one. The Tigers have won three of the last four in this series, including the last two in College Station. In addition to that, the underdog in this series has won four of the last six showdowns. Redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood is a Cam Newton-sized dual-threat QB and will have three games under his belt before this big road test. Look for Gus Malzahn to open up the offense more.
7. Ole Miss over Auburn, Nov. 2
While we laud Auburn above to pull the upset in College Station, this will be another up-and-down season on the Plains. This matchup with the Rebels will be against a team that will be replacing a lot of offensive talent, but this game will be in the 10th week of the season, so the kinks should be worked out for redshirt freshman QB Matt Corral and Co. This is also one of those situations where the Plainsmen will tussle with LSU the week before while the Rebels have a bye week to prepare for this one.
6. Southern Miss over Mississippi State, Sept. 7
The Eagles have put together four straight winning seasons, the last three coming under Jay Hopson. This year should be Hopson's best team, coming in as one of the ten most-experienced teams in the country. The Bulldogs lost a ton of defensive talent and will take a few games to gel. That's where the Eagles' ultra-accurate Jack Abraham (73 percent completion rate in 2018) will take advantage to pull off a mild upset against their in-state big brothers.
5. Arkansas over Kentucky, Oct. 12
Man alive, the Razorbacks were really terrible last year. Like, colossally bad. This game at Kentucky won't be a high marquee matchup, but the Hogs have a pretty workable early schedule that should build up their confidence in the first few weeks. The Wildcats will miss Benny Snell Jr., their four top receivers as well as defensive stud Josh Allen and other NFL-caliber talents on that side of the ball. This may be more stunning than simply picking this upset, but I'm thinking the Razorbacks get out to a winning record after six games.
4. Troy over Missouri, Oct. 5.
This one is just a feeling-in-my-gut type of upset pick. The Tigers will be replacing QB Drew Lock and will need time to find cohesion. The Trojans will have one of the more experienced teams in the FBS and have won games at LSU and at Nebraska in the past two seasons. QB Kaleb Barker and RB B.J. Smith will operate behind a hyper-experienced offensive line. Look for the Trojans to have a big season in the Sun Belt. This will be a springboard.
3. Appalachian State over South Carolina, Nov. 9
Oh you thought Troy was a tough Sun Belter? Try going up against the Mountaineers on a random Saturday in November in a game that will mean absolutely nothing to the Gamecocks. The Mountaineers have the most experienced team in the Sun Belt and also are no strangers to giving Power 5 teams fits (the stunner at Michigan in 2007 notwithstanding). Last year they were a missed field goal on the last play of regulation from beating Penn State (they lost in OT). Standout QB Zac Thomas and Co. will get it done in Columbia.
2. Auburn over Georgia, Nov. 16
Here we are with our resident roller-coaster team — the Auburn Tigers — figuring into another upset, this time as the perpetrator and not the victim. The Tigers will have an open date before this showdown as well as home-field advantage. In case you don't recall, the Plainsmen took down the Silver Britches the last time they played in Jordan-Hare Stadium, dashing their unbeaten season. It could happen again here. But worry not Dawg fans; you'll still be headed to the SEC title game. This will just be your chuck-hole in the road.
Annnnnnnd the No. 1 upset of 2019 in the SEC will be...
1. LSU over Alabama, Nov. 9.
Yep, calling my shot now. Tigers over Tide in T-town. Oh there are plenty of reasons not to pick the Purple & Gold, most obvious being that they haven't beaten Bama in nine years and have scored an average of just nine points in those games. But for the first time in seemingly decades the Tigers have a quarterback. Yes, Joe Burrow came to Baton Rouge with moxie and has taken control of this team. His steady play and having top-10 units on both offense and defense will be a big reason for optimism. Plus, Clemson gave everybody the blueprint on how to beat the Tide. I know it's a crazy call, but take heart Crimson Tide fans, something tells me you guys will get your revenge in the College Football Playoff on the way to another national title.
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.