The most meaningful game in each Power 4 college football conference in 2024

Florida State v Clemson
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SEC: Alabama at Tennessee (Oct. 19)

This was tough for me, as while I knew my pick was going to involve Alabama (with the greatest college football coach of all time retiring, how in the world could it not?), I found that half of the challenges on its schedule had a case for this spot by at least some criteria. The following are games that I feel fall into that category: Georgia, at Tennessee, Missouri, at LSU, at Oklahoma, and Auburn.

As you saw in the subheading, I ultimately chose the Crimson Tide’s trip to Knoxville, and I’m sure that may be puzzling at first glance, so please allow me to explain. First, I’ll summarize my reasoning behind the other candidates not making the cut.

For starters, the Bulldogs would’ve likely been chosen by many to beat the Tide even with Nick Saban in charge, so with new head coach Kalen DeBoer taking the Bulldogs on instead, I highly doubt a loss to them would change much about how we’d view Bama football going forward.

Then we have the Missouri Tigers, a team with convincingly less “excusability” in losing to, especially with them being Alabama's Homecoming adversaries. But, to go with that, the Tigers lack the "rivalry" label, resulting in their game not making as big of a date on the calendar for fans, media outlets, etc. (not when compared to most of these other guys, that is).

After them, the rest of the opponents -- LSU, Oklahoma and Auburn -- simply fall within the middle ground; they’re not as strong as Georgia, yet it’d make more sense/hurt more to lose to them than Missouri. This can be said due to the teams' rivalry implications, how well they did in 2023, them having homefield advantage in 2024, how well they’ve performed against the Tide in recent years, or a combination of the factors.

That just leaves the Volunteers, a decent squad that will be at home for its date with Bama, but is below most of the other names we’ve covered in regards to formidability (at least as of last season). Secondly, their nail-biting victory over the Crimson Tide in 2022 is the only time they’ve prevailed in their rivalry since 2006.

Thirdly, with how Alabama’s schedule was crafted, the only threats bigger than the Vols to come before them on the calendar are the Bulldogs. Again, with how the two squads have done recently, which one winning would place more panic around whatever road the Crimson Tide is driving down?

In short, Tennessee is one of the least-impressive of the aforementioned bunch, has struggled against Bama more than all other rivals, and will be the best litmus test for Bama at the time of them facing off. For a Tide riddled with uncertainty, all of that makes the Volunteers paramount foes you can’t afford to lose to, but very well may.

Therefore, 2024’s "Third Saturday in October" should be insanely more impactful than the SEC hierarchy of late has us used to, and you just know I had to give the duel some love for that.

Next. Way-too-early Top 25 projections for 2024. Way-too-early Top 25 projections for 2024. dark