You can’t win a national championship in the month of September but you can certainly lose one. As we enter year two of playoff football in Division I, it has never been more important to get off to a fast start in September. It’s not impossible to lose in September and play for a national title – just ask Ohio State – but an early loss almost requires running the table the rest of the way. Here is a breakdown of the September schedule for all 14 SEC teams and who’s likely to go into October with a perfect 4-0 record.
Schedule assessment: The season opener with Wisconsin will get a lot of hype but Alabama will be favored by at least a touchdown. The SEC opener with Ole Miss on September 19 is worth circling since the Rebels figure to field one of the nation’s most ferocious defensive units.
Nightmare scenario: Alabama loses either to Wisconsin or Ole Miss, forcing the Crimson Tide to run the table the rest of the season to stay in the College Football Playoff hunt.
Prediction: Alabama heads into Athens on October 3 unbeaten and ranked in the top four nationally.
Schedule assessment: The season begins with three straight very winnable games followed by the showdown with Texas A&M at Jerry’s World, a game that could have serious long term implications for both teams.
Nightmare assessment: The Hogs get caught looking forward to the Aggies and lose to Texas Tech.
Prediction: The Hogs will grind through September with a 4-0 record and threatening to break into the nation’s top 10.
Schedule assessment: If Auburn can make it through September unbeaten then the Tigers will begin October in the conversation for teams with a realistic shot at the College Football Playoff. The only gimme game in the first month is D1AA Jacksonville State. Circle that game at LSU. If Auburn drops that one, the Tigers could be vulnerable on September 26 against Mississippi State.
Nightmare scenario: Auburn starts out the SEC portion of its season 0-2 and is out of the SEC race before October.
Prediction: Auburn goes 3-1, losing to LSU in Baton Rouge.
Schedule assessment: It starts out easy with New Mexico State and then gets progressively difficult. East Carolina can’t be taken lightly and Kentucky’s season will hinge on beating the Gators at night in Lexington. Then comes Tennessee, which is determined to snap a 10-game losing streak to UF.
Nightmare scenario: The Gators lose to Kentucky for the first time since 1986 then go 0-2 in the SEC by losing to Tennessee the next week.
Schedule assessment: The only game on the first month calendar that is a concern is September 19 with the Gamecocks. Anytime Georgia is highly regarded in the preseason, Steve Spurrier licks his chops. The Bulldogs are 1-4 against Stevie Wonder since 2010.
Nightmare scenario: Georgia loses to South Carolina, which puts an inordinate amount of pressure on a team that you know will lose at least one more conference game.
Prediction: Georgia heads into its October 3 showdown with Alabama in Athens with a 3-1 record.
Schedule assessment: The schedule is challenging and there are no gimme games. Three of the games are at home and the roadie is with South Carolina, which the Wildcats beat last year. A 2-2 September would be an accomplishment.
Nightmare scenario: Kentucky loses its season opener to a very good Louisiana-Lafayette team then drops three SEC games in a row.
Prediction: Kentucky will be vastly improved and still finish September 0-4 with Mark Stoops making the Endangered Species List for Countdown to Firing Day.
September 5: McNeese State
September 12: Mississippi State
September 19: Auburn
September 26: at Syracuse
Schedule assessment: Starting the SEC schedule with back-to-back games with Mississippi State and Auburn is a serious challenge. That’s the bad news. The good news is both games are in Death Valley where the Tigers rarely lose.
Nightmare scenario: The Tigers go 0-2 out of the SEC chute which prompts alums to start calling for Les Miles’ head on a platter.
Prediction: Leonard Fournette and LSU head into a relatively easy October with a 4-0 record.
September 5: at Southern Miss
September 12: LSU
September 19: Northwestern State
September 26: at Auburn
Schedule assessment: This looks like a 2-2 September and an 0-2 start to the SEC schedule any way you cut it. Mississippi State will be really good this year, just not good enough.
Nightmare scenario: It’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs winning either the LSU or Auburn games. The nightmare would be if Dak Prescott is injured.
Prediction: Mississippi State could be really good this year and still go 7-5 or 8-4. They’ll go 2-2 in September.
TOP 10 SEC RECEIVERS
Schedule assessment: Nobody in the SEC East has an easier September than the Tigers, whose toughest game will be at Kentucky on September 26.
Nightmare scenario: The Tigers lose at Kentucky and the hangover from that loss spills over into October when they face South Carolina, Florida and Georgia on consecutive weeks.
Prediction: Missouri goes 4-0 and becomes the team to beat in the SEC East.
September 5: Tennessee-Martin
September 12: Fresno State
September 19: at Alabama
September 26: Vanderbilt
Schedule assessment: The only game that should be difficult is September 19 when the Rebels go to Tuscaloosa to face an Alabama team that hasn’t forgotten losing last year in Oxford.
Nightmare scenario: Ole Miss gets so beaten up by Alabama that it loses the next week to Vandy.
Prediction: The Rebels will emerge from September with a 3-1 record, 1-1 in the SEC East with a make-or-break game the first week of October with Florida on the road.
Schedule assessment: There isn’t a gimme game in the entire month of September and the Gamecocks are breaking in a new quarterback. That September 12 game with Kentucky is the key. South Carolina has to go to Athens with a 2-0 record. That UCF game on September 26 is going to be very tough.
Nightmare scenario: South Carolina is upset by North Carolina in game one and it snowballs with the Gamecocks going 1-3 or 0-4.
Prediction: Stevie Wonder still has some rabbits in his hat and the Gamecocks emerge from September with a surprising 4-0 record.
Schedule assessment: The only gimme game is the one with D1AA Western Carolina. Bowling Green is a game the Vols should win but the Falcons are good enough to give them fits in the season opener. Oklahoma might have its best team in five years and the last time the Vols beat Florida was 2004.
Nightmare scenario: The Vols start the season 0-2 and go to Gainesville 1-2 to face the Gators in the heat where they are road kill. For a team that finished fast last year, a 1-3 start would be a disaster.
Prediction: Tennessee’s high hopes will be reassessed after a 2-2 September.
Schedule assessment: The first three games are very winnable. It’s that game with Arkansas that will be pivotal for the Aggies. With a brutal SEC West schedule looming, they can’t afford to go into October 0-1 in the SEC.
Nightmare scenario: The Aggies lose to Arizona State to start September and to Arkansas to end the month.
Prediction: This has the making of a 3-1 September. The Aggie defense will be improved this year with John Chavis calling the shots but not good enough to stop the Arkansas running game.
September 5: Western Kentucky
September 12: Georgia
September 19: Austin Peay
September 26: at Ole Miss
Schedule assessment: The only two winnable games are the season opener with Western Kentucky of the Sun Belt Conference and Austin Peay, a D1AA bottom feeder.
Nightmare scenario: Western Kentucky hoses the Commodores in the opener and they finish September 1-3 with buzzards circling head coach Derek Mason, who will be on the Endangered Species List heading into October.
Prediction: 1-3 with the only win over D1AA Austin Peay.
Florida 53, Florida State 14; December 3, 1983
As bad as this one looked on paper, it could have been worse – much, much worse. This was Wilber Marshall’s last home game and it was against the Seminoles, who he absolutely despised. As a prelude of things to come, Wilber Marshall stood at midfield during warmups and taunted the poor Seminoles. No one, not Gators nor Seminoles, was about to confront him and tell him to cool it. Wilber looked like a man possessed and he played like it that day. Marshall taunted FSU All-America tailback Greg Allen and then backed it up by separating him from the football twice with tackles that can only be described as decleaters. With Wilber leading the way, Florida’s defense played like a pack of rabid dogs, swarming and playing with a scary level of ferocity. In addition to the two Allen fumbles, the Florida defense picked off four FSU passes and held FSU’s high powered offense to a measly 257 yards, of which 60 came against the scrubs and walk-ons in the final few minutes. By game’s end the Seminoles were down to their third quarterback. Wilber had knocked the first two out of the game. Over on the offensive side, it was Wayne Peace’s final game as a Gator. He led the Florida offense to 297 first half yards as Florida controlled the ball for 21:46 of the 30 minutes. By the time it was over, the Gators had 509 yards and 53 points and FSU was looking for a new defensive coordinator. Bobby Bowden fired Jack Stanton after the game. When the game ended, Marshall raced over to the East stands and stood on top of the dugout roof (dugout is no longer there). Florida fans engulfed him. Wilber loved on them and they loved on Wilber, a memory he still cherishes. This was the third of six straight Florida wins over FSU.
Tim Tebow still hasn’t made the Philadelphia Eagles’ regular season roster but his #11 jersey was the 16th best seller at NFLShop.com in June. Tebow’s jersey sold more than jerseys for Seattle running Marshawn Lynch or Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.
Austin Nichols, who chose Memphis over Florida in the basketball recruiting class of 2013, has decided to transfer out after two seasons. Memphis has not responded to the request by Nichols, who averaged 13.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last year. Nichols’ father says he will hire a lawyer if necessary to get a release. If he is still interested in Florida, the 6-9 Nichols would be a perfect fit for Mike White’s offense.
The NFL has signed a 10-year deal to play at least one game a year in London at the new 61,000-seat Tottenham Hotspur stadium, which will open in 2018. The stadium features a retractable roof with an artificial surface that can be put in place just for the NFL games. This contract is being greeted with much enthusiasm in London. Can an NFL franchise for London be far behind?
Rory McIlroy’s injured ankle won’t hold up so he’s officially withdrawn from the British Open. Without McIlroy in the field, all eyes will turn to Jordan Speith, who will be going for his third leg of golf’s grand slam. It will be Speith’s first time to play St. Andrews.
Which SEC team do you think will experience a nightmare scenario for the month of September?
Mayer Hawthorne grows on you. He can’t seem to figure out if he wants to be a rock star, soul singer or a hip hop artist. The one thing that is certain is he’s really talented. Hawthorne is currently touring while touting his 2015 album “Tuxedo,” his fifth album since 2009. Today’s music is Hawthorne’s 2011 album “How Do You Do” which features “The Walk,” perhaps his most critically acclaimed song.