Dean's List Conference Match-ups of 2014

Dean Legge reviews the top five SEC match-ups for Georgia in 2014.

1. Auburn

Georgia and Auburn don't hate one another the same way they hate other teams they play. Still, you would be hard pressed to find a conference matchup as intriguing as the Deep South's Oldest rivalry over the last decade.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, was more amazing than the ending of last season's Georgia-Auburn classic, which, I should remind you, ended in the shadows of Auburn's end zone – not with perhaps the most improbable play in SEC history.

Down a score, Aaron Murray and the Dawgs ran down the field and wound up one play short and lost a classic game between the two rivals. Auburn's maddening game-winning fashion against Alabama two weeks later was what the Tiger fans will remember about 2013, but it would have been meaningless without the miracle win over Georgia.

That's what this season's Georgia-Auburn fight might be one of the most anticipated in some time. The two schools are separated by only one game in the all-time series standings. And considering Georgia went to Auburn in back-to-back seasons, Georgia fans will be eager to get back to Athens to see just what they can do Between the Hedges.

2. Florida

Very rarely do I say that Florida isn't Georgia's biggest game of the season, but in 2014 the Gators will have to take a backseat to Auburn. Which game is more meaningful? Florida. That's always going to be the case. But only Alabama will have revenge on its mind more than Georgia against the Tigers.

Florida's 4-8 season last year was a major disappointment for the Gators – Georgia fans loved it… every game of it. The Bulldogs ride a three-game winning streak into Jacksonville this season, and a fourth win in a row over the Gators could spell doom for Will Muschamp. It is hard to imagine either team winning the SEC East without winning this game. The winner has gone on to represent the East every year but three since 2005.

They are the beasts of the East – even though each has had bad years since 2000. Tennessee isn't what it used to be, and South Carolina has absorbed too bad or odd losses (Kentucky in 2010 and Tennessee in 2013 as example) to be the same sort of thing the Vols once were.

Georgia-Florida is the premiere game of the SEC East. The game has plenty of hate – just not to the level of Auburn-Alabama. But almost no game in the SEC has had the drama of Georgia-Florida over the last three years.

Simply put, the game is must-see TV; there's almost nothing like it in college sports today. That's why CBS executives have said they will broadcast the game every year as long as they have the SEC contract.

3. South Carolina

The South Carolina-Georgia game has not been make or break when it comes to either team's championship hopes. In fact, one could argue that the outcome of the game is quite irrelevant in terms of if either team will arrive in Atlanta to represent the East.

The winner of the Georgia-South Carolina game has gone on to represent the SEC East once since 2007. Once. Maybe we should tone down how big this game is.

Still, these two programs have become two of the best three programs in the division since the turn of the decade. Georgia's double-digit win in Athens last year stopped South Carolina's three-game winning streak in the series. Georgia had won seven of the previous eight games before South Carolina's 2010 win.

The Gamecocks have a lot to replace – gone is all-world Jadeveon Clowney and clutch home quarterback Connor Shaw and a slew of starters on defense. The Cocks had a school-record run from 2010-13, but only managed to win the East once, and failed to win the SEC. Georgia, too, understands that they have a very manageable schedule if they can get a win in Columbia. It may be the only road game the Bulldogs will arrive as underdogs.

CBS will almost certainly pick this game to start its SEC broadcast season. The two teams might not be the favorites to win the conference, but there is no denying that since Carolina has elevated its play over the last four years this game has become a marquee East game.

4. Missouri

A lot has changed in halfway across the country – namely offensive firepower at Missouri has moved on. Quarterback James Franklin has been permanently replaced by Maty Mauk. Star receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is gone, too. Most of the Tigers' offensive line is gone as well.

Needless to say, Missouri will be rebuilding on offense. Still, Georgia's trip to Missouri comes at a time that's not ideal in the schedule. The early-October trip to Columbia is the first of back-to-back long trips to the middle of the country for Georgia. Obviously Georgia's game with Missouri is more important than the one the following week in Little Rock. But it will be important for Georgia to start playing on the road well as Georgia plays away from home five weekends in a row.

All of those road trips are very winnable, but the dates with Missouri and Florida stick out as important ones. It is hard to imagine Georgia winning the East without sweeping those contests.

5. Tennessee

Fresh off of one of the classics in the Georgia-Tennessee rivalry, the Vols return to Athens the on the final weekend of September. Tennessee has had a difficult past few years. Four coaches have taken the reigns in Knoxville since 2008, and the Vols have struggled overall and against Georgia in particular in that time.

But Georgia's last two wins have come on the last play of the game – the Dawgs have been cutting it close. Tennessee showed progress at times in 2013 (a win over South Carolina), and struggled at times (a second loss in a row to Vanderbilt).

Nonetheless, Georgia's path to Atlanta has never included a loss to the Vols – underscoring why this game is so important for the Dawgs.

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