Kevin Price commentary: Key games to determine SEC football championship contenders

kprice@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 21, 2011 

The winners of the Eastern and Western divisions of the Southeastern Conference will meet for the league championship Dec. 3 in Atlanta.

Before that happens, there will be 48 conference games played. But there are truly only about 10 of those games that will play a part in deciding the two teams at the Georgia Dome.

Here is a look at those 10 in chronological order:

10. South Carolina at Georgia, Sept. 10

This early season test features the two best teams in the East, so the winner of this game in Athens will certainly be the heavy favorite to go to Atlanta.

South Carolina won last year’s game in Columbia with the emergence of freshman sensation Marcus Lattimore.

The Gamecocks should roll over East Carolina in their opener, while Georgia faces a tough game against No. 5 Boise State.

9. LSU at Mississippi State, Sept. 15

Mississippi State could use this game in Starkville as a way to put itself in the mix for the West title, but while Dan Mullen has done a nice job building that program, the Bulldogs are probably not quite there just yet.

8. Arkansas at Alabama, Sept. 24

Two weeks ago, it was easy to look at this matchup as the two best teams in the West. But then Knile Davis broke his ankle, and that relegates the Hogs back to third best.

Alabama should be an easy 3-0 heading into the contest with cupcake games against Kent State and North Texas sandwiched around a trip to Penn State.

8. Alabama at Florida, Oct. 1

With a new coach in Will Muschamp, it is difficult to know just how fast he can turn around the Florida program.

The game being in Gainesville is the only reason to believe the Gators have a chance to upset the Tide.

6. Georgia vs. Florida, Oct. 29

Everyone knows the dominance the Gators have held in this series over the past two decades, having won 18 of the last 21 meetings in Jacksonville.

Several of those occasions, Georgia has gone into the game with the better team -- on paper -- as it will this time, barring a major injury.

5. LSU at Alabama, Nov. 5

Both teams have the Saturday off prior to this game. Since the winner of the West will be a huge favorite over whichever team emerges from the East, this game will likely decide the favorite for the SEC championship.

This game could also have huge implications for the national championship picture. If the SEC is to win a sixth straight national title, then its best hope will emerge from this contest.

4. South Carolina at Arkansas, Nov. 5

With its next game against Florida possibly to decide the East, the Gamecocks will need to avoid looking ahead. The fact that the game is in Fayetteville, Ark., should help the Gamecocks do just that.

3. Florida at South Carolina, Nov. 12

Steve Spurrier gets another chance to beat his alma mater. This is the Gamecocks’ final conference game as they end the season with The Citadel and Clemson.

2. Alabama at Mississippi State, Nov. 12

The Tide will be coming off either a big win or a crushing loss against LSU the week before. Plus, crazy things always take place in the Land of Cowbells.

1. Arkansas at LSU, Nov. 25

LSU gets this day-after-Thanksgiving Day battle at home. But it will be in the afternoon, when Death Valley is far less of a home field advantage than it is at night.

Kevin Price,, 706-320-4493

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