It’s SEC competition week, and they mean more
Wins in rivalry games come with bragging rights and other bonuses, but Alabama coach Nick Saban knows what losing her brings.
“If you don’t make it in this game, I don’t care what you also score in the season, there’s always a ‘but’,” Saban said. What comes after “but” is usually not good. “
Southeastern Conference teams face a lot of risks entering competition week, including the #3 ranked in Alabama. Avoid adding the eternal “but” for a season it’s just one of them.
Yes, it’s time to play Iron Bowl, Egg Bowl, and various other competitive games involving SEC teams.
But despite all the hype, Mississippi State’s No. 8 coach, Lane Kevin, has a splash of reality for fans and the media who are placing more importance than life on competitive games.
His rebels suddenly can’t “train more or try harder” just because it’s Mississippi State Week. There isn’t even a whole week of preparation before Thursday night at the Egg Bowl in Starkville.
“I know you want to hear we’re going to do some magic this week because we’re playing Mississippi State but we just have to prepare really well,” Kevin said.
But, to strip the SEC logo all over the place, it just means more. for the masses. for players. For coaches who want to keep their jobs.
Alabama visits Auburn in Iron Bowl Saturday in hopes of keeping its playoffs chances intact — and delighting the graduates.
Kiffin and Rebels would produce his first regular season with 10 wins if they could get past the Bulldogs.
Florida has the bowl eligibility on the line against Florida. So does LSU against Texas A&M. This says a lot about why both teams are looking for new coaches.
South Carolina is looking to slip into six games against rival Clemson. Kentucky faces Louisville in its first nine-win season since 2018.
Vanderbilt seeks to end coach Clark Lea’s first season by ending a 20-game losing streak when he faces Tennessee.
Missouri and Arkansas, like frontier competition LSU-Texas A&M more than traditional rivalry, are trying to secure 0.500 SEC records and improve their destinations. Georgia-Georgia Tech is the biggest obvious mismatch, but the #1 ranked Bulldog doesn’t want a slip of any kind before the SEC Championship game against Alabama.
Here’s a look at traditional competitions and what they mean for each SEC team:
Alabama-Auburn: One of the most popular rivalries in college football, it could be a year-round obsession in this state without the major professional sports. New Auburn coach Brian Harsin learned that quickly.
“The first question I was asked after I did my (introductory) Christmas Eve press conference was about the ‘pot of iron’, which I believe was about 340 days away at the time,” Harsin said.
“So that made it clear how important this is,” he added.
Florida – Florida. Gators deals with the repercussions of firing coach Dan Mullen. They’ve won the last two games by 50 points, but Florida is ranked 15th and faces an unranked Seminole in both games.
—Georgia-Georgia Tech: The Bulldogs were so good they might not have to win these playoffs if they beat Alabama in Atlanta. But it would be a massive surprise if they don’t because Georgia is a 35 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
The Bulldogs have won three consecutive times over their in-state rivals and nine out of 11.
“When I got here, there was a strong, firm belief that you had to beat your in-state rival,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. But importance is not something he should knock at home with his players “because it loses its potency if you use it all the time.”
—Mississippi State-Mississippi: This one matches up with two sophomore coaches—Kevin and Mike Leach—and two teams that have improved a lot. They’ve won 17 team matches already.
Rebels Running Back Jerryon Ealy’s message to fellow young men venturing into Starkville for the first time is to beware the cowbells.
“It will be loud. You will hate the sound of cowbells,” Eyali said. “You will probably hear cowbells for about two weeks after the match.”
– Kentucky – Louisville: Kentucky is seeking to achieve its third consecutive victory in the Governor’s Cup and the fourth in five seasons over its rival Louisville, as the series resumes after a one-year hiatus.
The win also gives the Wildcats nine wins for the first time since the 2018 season that ended with a Citrus Bowl victory over Penn State.
Kentucky has won twice in a row but entered with Louisville as a minor underdog. That adds intrigue about who can lift the massive 85-pound trophy made of marble, crystal and metal.
South Carolina-Clemson: The Gamecocks’ seventh straight loss would equal their longest streak of 1934-40.
The Tigers’ take down will cement a post-season destination in South Carolina along with ending a streak of absurdities in the series that is Palmetto State’s biggest sporting event each season.
Tennessee Vanderbilt. Vandy and Tennessee have met 114 times since 1892 at the Battle of I-40. Volunteers mostly dominated, winning twice in a row, but Vandy won five of the last nine.
Clark Leah, a first-year Commodores coach, has more personal relationships than many SEC coaches, who did not grow up related to their current school. He is a native of Vandy Alum, Nashville.
“It’s about being Nashville and being a Vanderbilt fan since I was a kid,” Leah said. So this game has always meant more and it was something that we celebrated, and obviously I grew up black and gold and the bravest Commodore. So when I played in the game, she obviously had a strong sense of meaning to me.”
Associated Press sports writers Teresa Walker, Pete Iacobelli, Gary Greaves, Charles Odom and Mark Long contributed to this report.
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