Offsides

Beginning the first week and continuing thoughout the whole season the SEC is attacking big time out of conference opponents from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East and the PAC10.

In week one Mississippi State visits the PAC10 when they tangle with the Ducks of Oregon. The Ducks are a season removed from seriously contending for the national title and aspire to make quacks out of the critics who say they can't do it again this year. Former Vol Onterrio Smith will lead the Ducks against Sherrill's Bulldogs.

Another former Vol also appears in week one, as quarterback A.J. Suggs and the Ramblin Wreck welcome Vanderbilt to the capital of the South.

A Sunday match-up will feature the LSU Tigers VS the Hokies of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. This top 10 match-up could eliminate the NC hopes of the first place runner-up.

The Tigers of Auburn and their trusty War Eagle will descend on Southern California giving the SEC a legitimate chance to even the tally against the PAC10. The Plainsmen hope to conclude the holiday weekend with a laborious task for the tarnished Trojans.

The second week of the youthful college football season will feature two teams of national championship significance – The SEC's own Florida and Miami of the Big East.
The two teams will meet for the first time in years. The winner of this game will have the inside track to Tempe were it not for a later visit to Knoxville. The loser can only hope that a convoluted triangular victory over sunshine state power FSU will propel them back into contention. Oh, well the loser still has a matter to attend to in Knoxville as well.

Alabama can't win any titles this year due to probation but they can earn national respect with a victory over the Sooners of Oklahoma. Back in the 70's this would have determined the national champion. For Bama this game is all about the pride and the respect. For Oklahoma it's just one of 12 games they have to win if they hope to be a part of the NC picture come January.

Later in September the SEC meets the Big12 when Mississippi visits Texas Tech. The Kentucky Wildcats even get into the act by hosting Indiana of Big 10 fame. Auburn shows up against another quality opponent when they entertain the Orangemen of Syracuse completing a home and home with Big East contender.

The November 9th meeting of Tennessee and Miami in Knoxville could match unbeaten top 5 programs in one of the most anticipated games of the season. At that late juncture of the season, the loser will likely be out of the picture leaving the winner to ponder the pleasantness of Arizona in January.

South Carolina wraps up their season against traditional, in-state rival Clemson on the 23rd of November. If the Gamecocks want to solidify their contender status as a national power, they need to beat the Tigers in Death Valley.

The final week of the season is a spectacle of fine Southern football, twice matching the SEC against the ACC in state rivalry contests. Florida travels to Tallahassee for a game that could determine the state champion of Florida and yield the eventual national champion. The Bulldogs of Georgia close 2002 by hosting the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech from across the way. If the team in the Silver Britches wins this one, they could be playing in January.


Honorable Mention
Conference USA and the Sunbelt might not have established themselves as premier conferences yet but still, some feisty teams have risen to the competitive ranks with the big boys. Just ask Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Alabama or even Tennessee.

While Kentucky can't be lauded for scheduling a smart in-state match-up against Louisville, the meeting is against a quality opponent. The Cardinals of Louisville could repeat as Conference USA champions. Southern Mississippi, also from Conference USA takes on Alabama and Memphis meets up with Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Middle Tennessee shows up on four SEC schedules; Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. The Blue Raiders are picked to win the Sunbelt conference. Finally, Troy State does battle with Arkansas and Mississippi State. Troy state shocked the Bulldogs in 2001.


Final Thoughts
There are no less than 15 games in 2002 pitting the SEC against the likes of the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East and the Pac10. In fact, 11 of the SEC's 12 teams are represented in the pairings.

Arkansas stands as the lone team of the South Eastern Conference not to play an opponent from one of the other major conferences in 2002 – choosing instead to compete against powerhouse programs like; Boise State, South Florida, Troy State and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Interesting
Alabama plays all of it's non-conference foes right off the bat opening in Birmingham against MTSU then traveling to Oklahoma followed by a home stand against North Texas and Southern Miss in Tuscaloosa.

8-31 Miss State at Oregon
8-31 Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech
8-31 Kentucky at Louisville
8-31 Georgia Vs Clemson
9-1 LSU at Virginia Tech
9-2 Auburn at USC

9-7 Alabama at Oklahoma
9-7 South Carolina at Virginia
9-7 Florida Vs Miami

9-14 Ole Miss at Texas Tech
9-14 Kentucky Vs Indiana

9-28 Auburn Vs Syracuse

11-9 Tennessee Vs Miami

11-23 South Carolina at Clemson

11-30 Georgia Vs Georgia Tech
11-30 Florida at FSU


Louisville Vs KY 8-31
Memphis Vs Ole Miss 9-7, Vs Miss State 10-19
MTSU Vs AL 8-31, Vs TN 9-7, Vs KY 9-21, Vs Vandy 10-12
Southern Miss Vs 9-21
Troy State Vs Miss State 10-2, Vs Arkansas 11-2


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