Dec 31, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Odell Beckham (3) is tackled by Clemson Tigers safety Rashard Hall (31) in the first half during the 2012 Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

SEC Preview: Top SEC Non-Conference Games

The count down to August 31, 2013 is in full swing as we look ahead to the 2013 season. For the SEC, the 2013 non-conference slate is built with some marquee match ups from the start to the finish. Here is look at my top-10 non-conference games from the SEC that you can’t miss.

No. 10 – Kentucky vs. W. Kentucky & Western Kentucky vs. Tennessee

The story lines entering these two contests may be bigger than what the games turn out to be, but the return of Bobby Patrino to SEC games is going to be a big part of these. Western Kentucky may be the favorite entering if not one, but both of the non-conference show downs. The Hilltoppers are a bit underrated and the Volunteers and Wildcats are looking to bounce back from underachieving in the last few years.

No. 9 – Tennessee at Oregon (Sept. 14)

Sometimes you turn on a late night show just because one of your favorite names is a guest that night. That will likely be the case here. Two big name programs are going to go head-to-head in one that should be over by halftime. The Ducks just look too good and the Volunteers are, well, not. But this may be one of those games that is suggested to just switch to from whatever other game you are watching when it goes to commercial. You can at least see what the “post-Kelly” Oregon show looks like.

No. 8 – Georgia at Georgia Tech (Nov. 30)

The first of a few SEC-ACC games that are on the “must watch” list in 2013. Georgia Tech got a big bowl win that should carry some momentum into the 2013 year. By the time these two play in November there is no telling what may be at stake here. The bragging rights for state supremacy will be there, but national implications may be at stake for the Bulldogs.

No. 7 – Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State (Aug. 31, Houston, Texas)

I have and will always love a good neutral site contest between big name teams. Both of these guys look scary good on paper going into 2013. OSU is up there on many boards as a Big 12 favorite and MSU is a team that everyone is looking out for on their schedules. This one is going to be played in Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas and should prove just how good either team is.

No. 6 – Ole Miss at Texas (Sept. 7)

Sept 15, 2012; Oxford, MS, USA; Texas Longhorns running back Johnathan Gray (32) advances the ball for extra yardage and is tackled by a host of Mississippi Rebels during the game at Vaught Hemingway Stadium. The rematch is one of the top SEC non-conference games of 2013. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

These two teams have proven to not like each other over the last few years. The Longhorns smashed the Rebels 66-31 in 2012 in Oxford and revenge has to be on the mind of Ole Miss going to Austin, Texas. Ole Miss looks to be improved and the Longhorns are wanting to prove that its ranking is not just based on it names when it meets the Rebels.

No. 5 – Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 30)

Clemson could play a big role in deciding the fate of some of the top SEC East teams and national title implications. The Tigers look really good on paper and the Gamecocks are one of three teams in the East that are wanting to find their way to the National Championship. The Palmetto State battle is a late November clash that could have both teams with either a loss or possibly undefeated. This one is a must watch.

No. 4 – Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Aug. 31, Atlanta, Georgia)

On many boards this one is at the top of must watch games from the opening weekend, if not the entire season of non-conference games. But, I am not as high on this one as some. The reason is simply that the Crimson Tide just look too good. Much like their 2012 blowout of Michigan, this one may not be close. There are going to be a few other games going on at the same time that I think may be better for viewing. However, if this one gets to the third with Virginia Tech down by single digits, it may be worth turning over to.

No. 3 – Georgia at Clemson (Aug. 31)

Clemson is back again on the SEC non-conference list with another game with implications that are far greater than just a good ol’ fashion top-10 game. Both will be in the preseason top-10 heading into this season opener and its the first of a few opportunities for Clemson to show it belongs. Georgia knows it belongs and have their eyes on the National Championship trophy. Get past this one, and you have one landmark done on the path to Pasadena.

No. 2 – LSU vs. TCU (Aug. 31, Arlington, Texas)

The intrigue of story lines bring us to Jerry World for a very big season opener for both of these teams. Both teams have questions all over the field, off the field, around the field and anywhere else you can think of. LSU lost nearly a dozen top-talent players from 2012 and are already a team that many mention with being able to dethrone Alabama of its dynasty. TCU on the other hand will be playing in its back yard with a quarterback that had off season issues in 2012. If Pachall does go through the season without off-the-field problems, he could be a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft.

No. 1 – Florida State at Florida (Nov. 30)

Nov 24, 2012; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp meets with Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher before the game at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

From No. 5 through this game, any of them could be the top game to watch in a tough non-conference slate for the SEC. However, I really like the potential of this game and what it could do to the national title race. The Seminoles do not have a tough non-ACC schedule till this point and could very well be undefeated. Florida has a tough schedule but could also be undefeated going into this one too. If, and that might be a big if, these two enter undefeated into the final game of the regular season, the winner of this could have an inside track into the National Championship Game if it gets through its conference championship game.

Tags: Florida Gators Georgia Bulldogs Ole Miss Rebels South Carolina Gamecocks Tennessee Volunteers

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