The SEC is once again the most compelling conference in college football. Alabama, the defending national champion, is once again the team to beat, but there is an emerging power in the East (hint: they play in Athens, Georgia) that is poised to challenge Alabama as the top program in the league.
There are intriguing matchups to watch every week on the 2018 schedule. We’ve done our best to identify the top 15 that you’ll absolutely want to see.
1. Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 24)
The defending national champions visit the defending SEC West champs in the latest installment of the top rivalry in college football. Once again, a trip to the SEC Championship Game could be on the line.
Fun fact: Auburn’s 26-14 victory over Alabama last season was its most decisive over the Tide since a 49-26 win in 1969. Amazingly, each of the Tigers’ previous 20 wins in the series came by 10 points or fewer.
2. Auburn at Georgia (Nov. 10)
Auburn captured the SEC West title last season on the strength of impressive wins over Alabama and Georgia — at home. Now the Tigers hit the road for the two most difficult games on the 2018 slate.
Fun fact: Georgia’s rushing attack improved by 517 percent from its regular-season loss against Auburn (46 yards) to the SEC Championship Game win over the Tigers (238).
3. Auburn vs. Washington (Sept. 1 in Atlanta)
You can make a strong case that this is the most impactful non-conference game of the season. It means more to Washington — which likely would need to run the table in the Pac-12 to make the CFB Playoff if it lost this game — but Auburn would love to start its 2018 campaign with a big win over a top-10 opponent.
Fun fact: This is the first meeting between the two schools. Auburn last played a Pac-12 school in the 2013 season opener — a 31-24 win over Washington State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
4. Florida vs. Georgia (Oct. 27 in Jacksonville, Fla.)
Most media outlets are picking South Carolina to finish second in the SEC East, but we have tabbed Florida for the No. 2 spot. That’s only one reason why this game is so high on the list. Another? It’s the first Florida-Georgia game for first-year Gator coach Dan Mullen, and it’s always nice to beat a rival in Year 1.
Fun fact: Florida has completed a total of 36 passes in its last four games against Georgia — and the Gators are 3-1 in that stretch.
5. Georgia at LSU (Oct. 13)
It’s difficult to find too many landmines on Georgia’s 2018 schedule, and while this is far from a vintage LSU team, no trip to Tiger Stadium is easy.
Fun fact: Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno were the starters at quarterback and running back, respectively, the last time Georgia made the trip to Baton Rouge — in October 2008.
6. Alabama at LSU (Nov. 3)
Not long ago, this was the premier game on the entire college football schedule. Now, it doesn’t even crack the top five in the SEC. LSU is talented enough, especially on defense, to make Alabama sweat, but the Tigers have not defeated the Crimson Tide since the 2011 regular season.
Fun fact: LSU has not scored more than two touchdowns in any game against Alabama since a 24-21 win over the Tide in November 2010.
7. Mississippi State at Alabama (Nov. 10)
First-year coach Joe Moorhead takes the Bulldogs into Tuscaloosa for what he hopes will be an important game in the SEC West race. Mississippi State is obviously not as talented as Alabama but is very good at two important positions — quarterback and defensive line.
Fun fact: Mississippi State was one of only three teams that held a lead in the fourth quarter against Alabama last season, joining Auburn (which beat the Tide) and Georgia.
8. Georgia at South Carolina (Sept. 8)
South Carolina has a great opportunity to create chaos in the SEC East when Georgia comes to down in Week 2.