October will see the contenders separate from the pretenders in the Southeastern Conference football race. Here is a breakdown of the October schedule for all 14 SEC teams and who’s likely to go into November with a legitimate shot to make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
Schedule assessment: Alabama will find out in a hurry how good its run defense is with the Georgia and Arkansas games and the secondary will get its strongest test of the year on the road at A&M. The only laugher on the schedule is Louisiana-Monroe. The others could be white knuckles.
Nightmare scenario: The Bama front seven gets chewed up on consecutive weeks by the Georgia and Arkansas running games then the secondary gets taken to task in Aggie-land for the worst October for an Alabama team since 2003 when Mike Shula was the coach.
Prediction: Alabama takes care of business and goes 4-0.
Schedule assessment: The Hogs will find out just how good they are in October starting with back-to-back roadies at Tennessee and Alabama followed up by Auburn in Fayette-Nam.
Nightmare scenario: The Hogs go 0-2 out of the chute in October and have nothing left in the tank for Auburn.
Prediction: A 2-2 October will end any hopes the Hogs have of winning the SEC West.
Schedule assessment: Strange things happen on Thursday nights so the Tigers better not be looking ahead to Arkansas when they play Kentucky. Auburn might get a real break if Arkansas is still licking its wounds from its Alabama encounter. Ole Miss would be far more dangerous in Oxford.
Nightmare scenario: The Tigers fall victim to the Thursday night jinx and then go down for a second straight game at Arkansas.
Prediction: Auburn survives a couple of close encounters and goes 4-0 for the month.
Schedule assessment: There isn’t a gimme game on the schedule. To even win one game in October, the Gators are going to have to play superb football. A 2-2 October should be considered a real accomplishment.
Nightmare scenario: The Gators play well but lose to Ole Miss and Missouri and that carries over into the final two games for an 0-4 October.
Prediction: 0-4 is realistic; 1-3 is optimistic. If the Gators go 2-2 there should be dancing in the streets of Gainesville. Alas, it will be 0-4.
October 3: Alabama
October 10: at Tennessee
October 17: Missouri
October 31: Florida (neutral site Jacksonville)
Schedule assessment: The Bulldogs catch a real break by getting Alabama and Missouri in Athens but that game in between – the roadie against Tennessee – is going to be a war. Tennessee has had that game circled on the calendar since a 35-32 loss to Georgia in Athens last year. If Georgia can go 4-0, the Bulldogs will be in the hunt to win the SEC East and top 10 nationally.
Nightmare scenario: Georgia gets its doors blown off by Alabama, loses in highly-charged Neyland Stadium the next week and is too battered to offer much resistance against Missouri.
Prediction: Georgia will lose to Alabama and find a way to win the next three.
October 3: Eastern Kentucky
October 15: Auburn
October 24: at Mississippi State
October 31: Tennessee
Schedule assessment: There is a get well game with D1AA Eastern Kentucky to start the month but it is followed by three games in which the Wildcats will be heavy underdogs. Any hopes Kentucky has of turning this into a decent season will hinge on a Thursday night ambush against Auburn in Lexington.
Nightmare scenario: After ensuring this won’t be a winless season, the Wildcats go in the tank three straight games and head into November with a 1-7 record and with Mark Stoops on Countdown to Firing Day’s Dead Man Walking List.
Prediction: Any way you slice it, this is a 1-3 month.
Schedule assessment: This is a national contender’s dream October. LSU can mail in its win against Eastern Michigan and that’s followed by a tough, but winnable game against South Carolina in Columbia. Florida and Western Kentucky won’t go down without a fight but those games are in Death Valley.
Nightmare scenario: The Tigers snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against South Carolina and the hangover lasts an entire week resulting in a loss to the Gators.
Prediction: The South Carolina game will be the only close one but LSU will win and go 4-0.
Schedule assessment: This schedule has 3-1 written all over it. The only serious test will be the roadie to Texas A&M. Dak Prescott will have to have a great game for the Bulldogs to win that one.
Nightmare scenario: Texas A&M exposes a bunch of holes in the Mississippi State defense and the Bulldogs find a way to lose one of the final three games in October.
Prediction: The Bulldogs will make it close in College Station only to lose but they will rebound with three straight wins to close out the month.
October 3: South Carolina
October 10: Florida
October 17: at Georgia
October 24: at Vanderbilt
Schedule assessment: By the time October arrives, Gary Pinkel’s defense will start flexing its muscles and the Tigers will emerge for the third straight year as Eastern Division championship contenders. The Georgia game in Athens is the only one Mizzou will go into as an underdog.
Nightmare scenario: Steve Spurrier springs the upset and it takes the Tigers two more weeks to recover for a 1-3 October.
Prediction: Missouri will go 3-1 for the month and will have a division championship within its sights when November rolls around.
Schedule assessment: The Rebels are the only SEC team with a 5-game October schedule. It starts with two winnable games and then there is a trap game with a non-conference Memphis team that is capable of springing an upset followed by the Aggies and Auburn. Beating Memphis will be critical to finishing the month on a strong note.
Nightmare scenario: The Rebels take Florida lightly and lose, then two weeks later Memphis squeezes them at the Liberty Bowl and they don’t recover for a 1-4 October.
Prediction: The Rebels will go 3-2. Anything better will require more than a few breaks.
October 3: at Missouri
October 10: LSU
October 17: Vanderbilt October 31: at Texas A&M
Schedule assessment: After a tough September schedule things won’t get much easier for Steve Spurrie and the Gamecocks. Other than the Vanderbilt game, the Gamecocks probably won’t be favored in any of the four games.
Nightmare scenario: Depth is a problem and after getting battered and bruised by Mizzou and LSU, the Gamecocks lose to Vandy and complete the month at 0-4 in College Station.
Prediction: It’s going to be a tough month for the Head Ball Coach. A 1-3 is likely. A 2-2 should be cause for celebration.
October 3: Arkansas
October 10: Georgia
October 24: at Alabama
October 31: at Kentucky
Schedule assessment: Nobody in the SEC has a tougher three-game stretch in October than the Vols, who could play very well and still go 0-3 before a get well game with Kentucky on October 31. The Georgia game is prime for an upset.
Nightmare scenario: The Vols are so beaten up by the time they travel to Lexington they can’t put up any resistance.
Prediction: Reality says the Vols go 1-3, but their season could turn around if they ambush Georgia at Neyland.
October 3: Mississippi State
October 17: Alabama
October 24: at Ole Miss
October 31: South Carolina
Schedule assessment: The Aggies get three of four at Kyle Field so it’s a very favorable schedule. The only game in which the Aggies will be underdogs is Alabama.
Nightmare scenario: Dak Prescott does such a number on the Aggie defense that the hangover lasts the rest of the month and they go 1-3 or 0-4.
Prediction: It’s a second straight 3-1 month for the Aggies.
October 3: at Middle Tennessee
October 17: at South Carolina
October 24: Missouri
October 31: at Houston
Schedule assessment: Why schedule Middle Tennessee on the road? Dumb move because the Raiders are good enough to beat Vandy in Murfreesboro. The other three games on the October agenda will not be kind to the Commodores.
Nightmare scenario: Vandy loses to MTSU and goes 0-4.
Prediction: Vandy goes 1-3 and fans who got comfy going bowling for three straight years under James Franklin will be calling for Derek Mason’s head on a platter.
Florida 27, Georgia 0; November 10, 1984
The play everyone remembers is the 96-yard touchdown pass from Kerwin Bell to Ricky Nattiel that made it 24-0 but that was just icing on the cake. Florida’s defense came up with one of the great goal line stands in UF history, holding the Bulldogs out of the end zone four straight plays in final seconds of the third quarter when Georgia was threatening to stage one of those miracle comebacks. On first down from the two, several Gators stuffed Andre Smith at the one. On second down, Mark Korff met Cleveland Gary going over the top to force a fumble that was given to Georgia a half yard away. On third down, Alonzo Johnson blew in from the edge and stopped Tony Mangram in his tracks back at the three, then on fourth down Georgia tried Smith on a toss sweep to the right side but Roger Sibbald made the first contact at the two and Korff and Johnson cleaned things up to give the Gators the football. On third and eight from the four, Bell, a redshirt walk-on from Mayo, dropped into the end zone with perfect protection and launched a bomb to Nattiel, who caught the ball at the UF 44 and then sprinted the last 56 yards for the fork that signaled Georgia was done. Within two minutes Bulldog fans were clogging the exits at the Gator Bowl. Florida’s win ended Georgia’s hopes of a fourth straight SEC title. Florida won the 1984 SEC title on the field, but had it stripped after the season by a vote of the SEC presidents that was spearheaded by Roy Kramer and Vince Dooley. The Gators never gave back the SEC championship trophy and players still wear those championship rings proudly.
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