The 2012 SEC Dream Schedule
Six years ago I left on my Dixieland Delight tour. I started in Knxoville and finished in Atlanta with the Florida Gators winning the SEC championship over Arkansas. The SEC has won the national title every year since the 2006 season. So clearly I'm good luck. Five years ago the book was published and tens of thousands of y'all have read it since. As sports books go, Dixieland was about as successful as a non-Michael Lewis tome can be. Every year since Dixieland I've eagerly awaited the release of the SEC schedule because it's exciting to think about what might be. The games, the fun, the feeling of walking through a campus moments before a Southern kickoff.
Truly, there is nothing better in sporting life.
For those of us who were fortunate enough to be at last year's LSU-Alabama game in Tuscaloosa, we experienced a heavenly scene, the day when the South achieved college football perfection.
Sometimes, when the ball is teed up and both teams are lined across the field awaiting the kickoff, I have to pinch myself to confirm that I really do this for a living.
Back in 2006 I only had to make it to 12 SEC stadiums, this year Mizzou and Texas A&M join the conference making the Dixieland Delight tour much more complicated.
In 2006 I also did the entire fall's schedule for less than $5,000, tickets included. This year it will probably be a lot more expensive if you try to hit the big games.
I don't set my schedule months in advance -- except for Alabama at LSU which I've already booked a flight and hotel for and LSU at Texas A&M, which I'm also going to make sure I don't miss. So right now I've only made it through week three of my own personal schedule. But already it's a hell of a fall. I'll be starting off the season here in Nashville at South Carolina - Vandy, then heading down to Atlanta for N.C. State - Tennessee on Friday. As if that wasn't enough for opening weekend I'll then hop a flight to Dallas and watch Alabama - Michigan on Saturday.
The next week I'm at Mizzou-Georgia (with hopes for more than that. I'll keep you updated). The third week of the season I'll be at Florida-Tennessee and that's as far as I've made my schedule.
In the wake of Dixieland -- and with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri -- I get tons of questions from readers about which SEC venues to check out and which games to be there. So I decided to craft a dream schedule for an SEC fan this year. The goal was simple, pretend you're doing what I did in 2006, you're going to every SEC stadium in the same year.
What would be the ideal schedule for 2012 if you wanted to visit every away stadium? Could you do it in a 14 team SEC?
Here goes with my best work at a 2012 schedule:
Week one, August 30th: South Carolina at Vandy
This is the first game of the college football season in the SEC's best city. It can't get much better than that.
I'd suggest a double down here even though they're neutral site games. From Nashville you could easily drive down to Atlanta for to Tennessee - N.C. State on Friday and Auburn-Clemson on Saturday. Book a hotel room in Atlanta and this turns into a pretty fun weekend, lots of football, no driving, hell, you could bring along the wife or girlfriend and call this an anniversary weekend.
Week two, September 8th: Georgia at Missouri
If you're an SEC fan rooting for chaos in the SEC East, this is your best bet for the chaos to start early. If Georgia loses this game then 5-3 is in play to win the SEC East. How many SEC East teams could legitimately pull off a 5-3 conference record? Every team but Kentucky.
Yes, even Vandy.
Vandy should beat Ole Miss and Kentucky. Then it would have to split these six: South Carolina, at Georgia, at Missouri, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee. Is that likely? No. Is it doable? Certainly.
Week three, September 15th: Florida at Tennessee
The Saban Disciple Bowl
If Derek Dooley loses this game, it's going to be hard for him to keep his job.
Week four, September 22nd: Kentucky at Florida
Muschamp could be 0-2 in the SEC when the Wildcats roll into town with the nation's longest current losing streak.
Yes, this won't be pretty.
Week five, September 29th: Tennessee at Georgia
Georgia only has three home SEC games this year: Vandy, Tennessee and Ole Miss.
I doubt there has ever been an easier home slate for any team in the SEC.
Week six, October 6th: Mississippi State at Kentucky
Yeah, yeah, I know, it's Kentucky.
But I've put it on a Keeneland weekend.
So you can go watch horses too.
Week seven, October 13th: Auburn at Ole Miss
The Grove is heaven.
So it really doesn't matter who Ole Miss is playing or how good their football team is.
Week eight, October 20th: LSU at Texas A&M
Welcome to the SEC's next great rivalry.
I'm planning on being at this game and I can't wait.
Week nine, October 27th: Tennessee at South Carolina
In 2008 Phil Fulmer was fired the day after this game. Could the same thing happen to Derek Dooley? Stay tuned.
Week ten: November 3rd: Alabama at LSU
The game of the year in college football.
For the second straight year.
Can Baton Rouge match the Tuscaloosa wildness? I bet it can.
Week 11, November 10th: Georgia at Auburn
The South's oldest rivalry.
And thanks to a generous scheduler Georgia's only SEC west stumbling block to a division crown.
Week 12, November 17th: Arkansas at Mississippi State
Is anyone talking about the fact that Mississippi State has a pretty good shot of starting 7-0 this season? Not really, but the Bulldogs will be favored in each of their first seven games. Arkansas is the final of a brutal four game gauntlet -- at Alabama, Texas A&M, at LSU, Arkansas. Split these four games and Mississippi State fans would be ecstatic and have a great shot at 10-2, the best regular season record in school history.
Toss in a bowl game and Dan Mullen could win 11 games for the first time in program history.
So, yeah, this could be a massive game for State fans, who haven't won an SEC title since 1941.
Week 13: doubleheader
Friday after Thanksgiving, November 23rd: LSU at Arkansas
Every time LSU and Arkansas play, it seems like something amazing happens.
November 24th: Auburn at Alabama
Finish off your regular season with the best rivalry in college sports.
It's not a perfect schedule, but it's pretty damn close and it finishes really strong, with the best SEC West games at the end of the journey. You're also only seeing SEC teams play other SEC teams throughout the entire roster of games.
So now that I've crafted y'all a schedule, is anyone going to step up and accept my challenge?
Can you complete your own Dixieland Delight tour?