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SEC Football: Ranking the Conference's Best New Matchups for 2020

Kellen Mond, Texas A&M Aggies Football

Kellen Mond, Texas A&M Aggies Football

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many changes to the 2020 college football schedule, including the SEC’s shift to a conference-only slate this fall. The kept its original eight games and added two opponents to play 10 league matchups in 2020. The new contests were announced earlier this month, with the full schedule slated to be released this week.

The SEC’s new schedule features some interesting new matchups, including Florida-Texas A&M, Texas A&M-Tennessee and Tennessee-Auburn. However, the slate also features likely one-sided contests between LSU-Vanderbilt and Georgia-Arkansas.

Athlon Sports has ranked all 14 of the SEC’s new matchups from best to worst for the 2020 season:

SEC Football: Ranking the Conference's Best New Matchups for 2020

1. Florida at Texas A&M

The Gators didn’t get Alabama in the revamped schedule, but a trip to College Station is certainly intriguing. Florida’s first trip to Texas A&M came in 2012, which marked the Aggies’ debut in the SEC. Considering this game should feature two of the league’s top teams and two of the better quarterbacks in the conference, there’s no doubt Florida at Texas A&M is the best matchup among the added games.

2. Texas A&M at Tennessee

Texas A&M hasn’t played in Knoxville as a member of the SEC, so the revamped schedule is helping the Aggies cross off some new road trips within the conference. Adding Texas A&M to the 2020 schedule means Tennessee catches arguably three out of the top four teams from the West Division. That might make it tough for third-year coach Jeremy Pruitt to show marked improvement in the win column.

3. Tennessee at Auburn

The last time Tennessee traveled to Auburn, coach Jeremy Pruitt’s team pulled off an 30-24 upset over the Tigers. However, that’s the only win over Auburn in the Volunteers’ last seven matchups in this series. Catching both Texas A&M and Auburn adds to a challenging schedule for Tennessee but also represents a good opportunity for Pruitt’s program. The Tigers are breaking in several new pieces up front on both sides of the ball and need a big year from quarterback Bo Nix to challenge in the SEC West.

4. Ole Miss at Kentucky

If you are looking for two teams that might be able to cause some chaos in their respective divisions this fall, Ole Miss and Kentucky would be a good place to start. The Wildcats get quarterback Terry Wilson back from a season-ending knee injury and feature one of the nation’s top offensive lines. The Rebels feature a new coach (Lane Kiffin) and are led by a dynamic one-two punch on offense between quarterback John Rhys Plumlee and running back Jerrion Ealy.

5. Kentucky at Alabama

These two teams have only played three times since 2009, but Alabama has won all three games by at least 18 points. And needless to say, winning in Tuscaloosa will be an uphill battle for coach Mark Stoops team in 2020. Kentucky’s standout offensive line against Alabama’s front seven on defense should be an entertaining battle to watch.

6. Auburn at South Carolina

Auburn and South Carolina haven’t met on the gridiron since 2014. Additionally, the Gamecocks have never defeated the Tigers as a member of the SEC. Ending that streak in 2020 won’t be easy. Auburn’s defense is reloading but still expects to rank as one of the best in the SEC. South Carolina’s hire of new play-caller Mike Bobo was one of the top coordinator hires of the offseason, and the former Colorado State head coach has to find a way to get more consistency out of the quarterback position and generate more production out of the ground game.

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7. Mississippi State at Georgia

Kirby Smart’s defense against Mike Leach’s offense is intriguing. The lack of a spring practice could hurt Mississippi State’s transition to the Air Raid, but Stanford transfer K.J. Costello is a capable quarterback and running back Kylin Hill is one of the SEC’s best playmakers. Georgia also features a revamped offense behind new coordinator Todd Monken and transfer quarterbacks Jamie Newman (Wake Forest) and J.T. Daniels (USC).

8. South Carolina at Ole Miss

The Gamecocks and Rebels have met only once in SEC play since 2010. However, that meeting produced a 48-44 thriller in Oxford. Let’s hope for more fireworks when these two teams meet in 2020.

9. Alabama at Missouri

This will be the fourth time Missouri and Alabama have met as SEC opponents. If history (and preseason rankings) hold up, this meeting isn’t likely to be close. The Crimson Tide have defeated the Tigers by 29 points or more in each of the three contests in SEC play since 2012.

10. Missouri at LSU

Missouri did not get an easy draw in the revamped schedule with new matchups against Alabama and LSU. Missouri has played only once in Baton Rouge before, losing 42-7 in 2016. LSU has to replace Joe Burrow and a handful of key players from last year’s team that won the national title. However, plenty of talent still remains for coach Ed Orgeron to build around in 2020.

11. Georgia at Arkansas

Georgia is among the nation’s top-10 teams, while Arkansas hasn’t won a SEC game since Oct. 28, 2017. While this matchup is likely to be a one-sided affair on the scoreboard, there’s some intrigue with former Georgia assistant Sam Pittman taking over at Arkansas this fall.

12. Vanderbilt at Mississippi State

Any game with Mike Leach on the sidelines usually has some interesting moments. However, Vanderbilt was ranked at the bottom of the SEC by Athlon Sports in power rankings for 2020 and enters the fall with plenty of uncertainty at quarterback. Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello – a transfer from Stanford – is one of the SEC’s top impact newcomers.

13. Arkansas at Florida

The Gators are expected to be a heavy favorite in this one. Coach Dan Mullen’s squad could be the team to beat in the SEC East, as quarterback Kyle Trask and a standout defense are poised to push Georgia for the top spot. Arkansas is in full rebuild mode under new coach Sam Pittman, and the going isn’t going to be any easier with the lack of spring practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One intriguing storyline to watch: Former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks transferred to Arkansas and is expected to start this fall.

14. LSU at Vanderbilt

These two teams played in 2019 and it wasn’t pretty for Vanderbilt. LSU posted 66 points and averaged 8.1 yards a snap. Joe Burrow is taking snaps for the Bengals, but the Commodores are still going to have their hands full trying to slow down LSU’s offense.