Despite limping through bowl season, the SEC is still the closest thing to the NFL when it comes to college football. In fact, the SEC West's overall poor performance in bowl games could be attributed in part to the physical gauntlet those teams trudged through the regular season.
As good as the West was last season, it might be even better in 2015. Add in the fact that the SEC East is beginning to resurface and you get a regular season chock-full of intense matchups on a week-to-week basis.
Here is a slew of games that will have SEC fans glued to their TV sets in 2015.
1. Georgia at Auburn (Nov. 14)
Why not start with two teams expected to meet in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game? The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry will feature arguably the SEC's two best teams, both equipped with a stable of running backs. Georgia destroyed Auburn 34-7 in 2014, but there's a good chance the Bulldogs haven't forgotten the "Prayer in Jordan-Hare," which took place a year earlier.
2. Alabama at Auburn (Nov. 28)
Two weeks after hosting the Bulldogs, Auburn will be met with another immense challenge when the Crimson Tide head east approximately 156 miles. Alabama could take a step back in 2015 but it won't matter in this bitter rivalry. Just as Georgia remembers its ill fate to Auburn two years ago, Alabama will be looking to avoid another "Kick Six."
3. Alabama at Georgia (Oct. 3)
The Bulldogs and Crimson Tide look similar on paper heading into the season. Both have questions at quarterback and receiver and both have heavy, capable offensive lines leading the way for an NFL-caliber running back. Defensively, both teams are very good up front. It should be an interesting matchup when these two SEC powers collide for the first time since the classic 2012 SEC Championship Game.
4. Georgia at Tennessee (Oct. 10)
Despite being atrocious the last several years, Tennessee has been within a possession of beating Georgia every year since 2011. Now, the Vols are climbing the SEC food chain and finally have a roster that might be able to get them over the hump. The Bulldogs and Vols will be coming off physical contests against Alabama and Arkansas, respectively, the week before, so they could be sore when they square off in Knoxville.
5. Texas A&M at LSU (Nov. 28)
One could argue this game is too high on the list, but the national media may be overlooking the potential of the Aggies and Bayou Bengals. LSU has pquality depth everywhere besides quarterback and A&M brings back a multitude of starters on both sides the ball. Throw in the fact that former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis will be returning to Baton Rouge with the Aggies and this could have the makings of a showdown.
6. Arkansas at Tennessee (Oct. 3)
This is last year's Mississippi State/Ole Miss. Arkansas and Tennessee are two teams that have dwelled near the bottom of the conference standings recently, but are now poised to compete with the SEC's elite. The key matchup will be Arkansas' bruising offensive line against Tennessee's talented front seven. The Vols lead the series all-time 13-4 but Arkansas won the last meeting, 49-7 in Fayetteville in 2011.
7. Auburn at Texas A&M (Nov. 7)
A stumbling A&M team stunned Auburn 41-38 last year giving the Tigers their second loss of the season. Both programs have upgraded on defense with the hires of Chavis at A&M and Will Muschamp at Auburn. This game could have major implications in the SEC West race come November, especially if those upgraded defenses have these two teams near the top of the standings.
8. Arkansas at Alabama (Oct. 10)
If this game weren't being played in Tuscaloosa, Arkansas would probably hold a slight edge. Expect lots of physical football as the Hogs and Tide try to wear each other down. In 1962, Alabama beat Arkansas 10-3 in the Sugar Bowl. This contest might not look all that different. The Razorbacks were a PAT away from overtime against the Tide last year, eventually losing 14-13.
9. Ole Miss at Alabama (Sept. 19)
The 2013 class signed by Hugh Freeze is one of the biggest recruiting wins in recent history. The Rebels have since molded those players into SEC stars on the brink of a potential championship. Fans tore down the goal posts in Oxford after upsetting Alabama last year, a memory that likely still haunts Nick Saban. The Tide will be motivated and Ole Miss hasn't won in Tuscaloosa since 1988.
10. Auburn at Arkansas (Oct. 24)
Gus Malzahn knows the state of Arkansas well, having coached high school football there from 1991-2005. The atmosphere in Fayetteville is usually electric when Malzahn is in town and it should be no different this year. The SEC West will be up for grabs when these two tangle midway through the season. Malzahn is 2-0 vs. Bret Bielema.
11. Missouri at Georgia (Oct. 17)
The narrative with Mizzou is that they never get enough love and respect from their SEC brethren. It's too bad, but obviously the Tigers have been doing just fine as the underdog, having won back-to-back SEC East titles. Still yet, many believe Georgia and Tennessee are the division's two best contenders. Mizzou will have something to prove when they face the 'Dawgs in Athens. Fun fact: the road team has won this game the past three years.
12. Alabama vs. Wisconsin (Sept. 5 in Arlington, Texas)
If this game doesn't scare Alabama fans a little bit, then well, it should. Wisconsin is coming off an 11-win season, including a bowl win over Bama's evil nemesis, Auburn. Albeit, the Badgers have a new coach, but they also return eight starters on defense. With the Crimson Tide breaking in a new quarterback, expect this to be a battle. Anything can happen in week one.
13. Texas A&M at Ole Miss (Oct. 24)
Bo Wallace led the way as Ole Miss punished the Aggies 35-20 last year in College Station. The 2015 matchup is more intriguing because it will showcase an improved Ole Miss offense and an improved Aggie defense. With A&M's ability to put points on the board and the Rebels' losses in the secondary, the advantage might be with Texas A&M, even on the road.
14. Oklahoma at Tennessee (Sept. 12)
Are the Vols for real? We're going to find out quickly when the Sooners visit Knoxville in early September. Oklahoma won last year's game 34-10 in Norman, but Tennessee is on the rise and some would say Oklahoma is on a descent. The Vols match up well here with an experienced defensive line and secondary. For an Oklahoma team trying to get back to the Air Raid offense, that could spell a victory for the Big Orange.
15. Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Sept. 26 in Arlington, Texas)
As stated above, we'll find out early if Tennessee is for real, but is Arkansas? The Razorbacks will face their first true test of the season in "Jerry's World" against the Aggies. They came close to knocking off A&M last year, and in fact, probably would have won the game if not for a late tripping penalty. Two completely different styles will make this an exceptional clash early on.
16. LSU at Alabama (Nov. 7)
Ok, so it's not 2011 but this is still a huge game. Any time the purple and gold meet up with the crimson and white there's bound to be a classic football game. It would be more exciting if this one were played at night in Death Valley, especially considering the fact Alabama blew out the Tigers the last time they visited Tuscaloosa. However, we'll take what we can get. Alabama-LSU is must-see TV.
17. Mississippi State at Missouri (Thursday, Nov. 5)
A Thursday night SEC game in November will have a national audience. After all, what else is there to watch on a Thursday night in November, Survivor? As much as Mizzou complains about not getting respect, how about Mississippi State? The Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2014, yet are picked by most to finish last in the SEC West. There will be plenty at stake here as these two teams meet for the first time since 1984.
18. Georgia at Georgia Tech (Nov. 28)
Everyone talks about the way Ohio State and TCU finished the season in 2014, but there might not have been a hotter team at the end of the year than Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets won three of their last four against Clemson, Georgia and Mississippi State. The Jackets return 14 starters and should be anxious to get their hands on Georgia again late in the season.
19. LSU at South Carolina (Oct. 10)
How could we possibly not include the Ol Ball Coach and South Carolina on the list? That's what makes this matchup most fascinating. College football fans get to see Steve Spurrier and Les Miles match wits for the first time since 2008 when LSU beat the Gamecocks 24-17 in Columbia. What will Spurrier dial up against LSU's salty defense?
20. Florida at Kentucky (Sept. 19)
It's no secret Jim McElwain has his work cut out for him in trying to revive a dormant Florida offense. The Gators have some weapons, but it's year one. Kentucky is more experienced all around and has the luxury of hosting the Gators in Lexington. If Florida doesn't come ready to play, the Wildcats are more than capable of beating them. Kentucky will be looking to avenge a poor finish to the 2014 season.
Best of the Rest:
21. Ole Miss at Auburn (Oct. 31)
22. Tennessee at Alabama (Oct. 24)
23. LSU at Ole Miss (Nov. 21)
24. Florida vs. Georgia (Oct. 31 in Jacksonville, Fla.)
25. Missouri at Arkansas (Friday, Nov. 27)
26. Auburn at LSU (Sept. 19)
27. Arkansas at LSU (Nov. 14)
28. Arkansas at Ole Miss (Nov. 7)
29. Tennessee at Florida (Sept. 26)
30. Alabama at Mississippi State (Nov. 14)
31. Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (Sept. 5 in Houston)
32. Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 28)
33. Florida State at Florida (Nov. 28)
34. Kentucky at Vanderbilt (Nov. 14)
35. Ole Miss at Memphis (Oct. 17)