Five potential upsets in the SEC this season

A helmet sits on the podium as the the Southeastern Conference Media Days in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

 With the long summer months stretching out in front of us, this is the time of year when we really start yearning for college football. Now, with all the uncertainty, more than ever.

 There are so many things that draw so many to the sport — the passion, the rivalries, the tradition.

 And the upsets.

 They happen every year, teams that supposedly have no chance against highly ranked teams spring the stunning surprise.

 The 2020 season should be no different.

  So, as we all start mentally gearing up for, hopefully, the start of college football in September, here are five potential upsets in the SEC this season:

Auburn vs. North Carolina, Sept. 12, Atlanta

 The last time the Tigers played in Atlanta, they were thumped by upstart Central Florida in the Chick-fil-A bowl two years ago. Maybe that will be motivation to play better this time. Maybe it won’t. Either way, this promises to be a challenging opener for an Auburn team that surely will be ranked at the start of the season. Mack Brown has done a remarkable job, turning the UNC program around in just one season. And the Tar Heels have a quarterback — super sophomore Sam Howell — and an offense that can put up a bunch of points and keep the pressure on a favored team. If UNC pulls the upset, Gus Malzahn likely moves closer to the hot seat.

Florida at Ole Miss, Oct. 17

 When Lane Kiffin was at Tennessee, he had a way of getting under Urban Meyer’s skin, and making things interesting. He’ll certainly try to do the same to Dan Mullen. Kiffin has inherited enough talent, especially on offense, to give the Rebels a chance to spring the surprise. And this is a stadium the current Gators have no familiarity with. The Gators haven’t played in Oxford since 2007, and it was a struggle. UF came in ranked No. 3 in the nation against an unranked Ole Miss team and had to hang on for  a 30-24 win. The Gators have played in Oxford only five times since 1972, winning four of those games. But the loss — 17-14 in 2002 — came in a game where the Gators were ranked No. 6 in the country and the Rebels were unranked. So, there’s a little bit of history there, indicating an upset is certainly a possibility.

Alabama at Tennessee, Oct. 24

 You’re saying, no way, right? This legendary SEC rivalry is now owned by the Tide, which has beaten the Vols 13 years in a row. So, what makes anyone think the trend will change this season? Alabama will be talented and powerful and favored to win the West again. Tennessee likely will be picked to finish third (maybe even fourth) in the East. But the potential is there for the upset. The Vols have great momentum the way they closed out last season, winning their last five games to finish 7-6. Their second-half surge actually started in Tuscaloosa, where UT played the Tide toe-to-toe for much of that game. Trailing 28-13 midway through the fourth quarter, the Vols were about to make it a one-score game, driving to the Alabama 1-yard line. But quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, attempting to dive over the top, lost the ball and his fumble was returned 100 yards for a touchdown by Tide defensive back Trevon Diggs to secure the win. The Vols gained a great deal of confidence that night. And that confidence has only grown since then. That’s why the Tide will be on upset alert for this one.

Georgia at South Carolina, Nov. 7

 No one gave Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks a snow-ball’s chance in Athens last season, but they pulled off the biggest upsets in college football in 2019, absolutely stunning the No. 3 Bulldogs 20-17 in double overtime. No one saw that one coming, but upsets happen, and this was one of the biggest in the SEC in quite some time. So, if the Gamecocks can do it in Athens, they certainly are going to have a chance to go back-to-back with this year’s game being at home. USC won last year’s game on defense, and could do the same in 2020 against a Georgia offense that must replace a lot of proven firepower from last year.

South Carolina at LSU, Nov. 14

 On the surface, this seems like a real long-shot possibility for an upset. But look at it this way, the Tigers will be in a huge rebuilding/reloading year after losing all that talent to the NFL, and they don’t have a lot of familiarity with this team from the East. Muschamp, who coached at LSU under Nick Saban, knows all about Tiger Stadium and what kind of talent (even if a lot of it is young) his players will be going up against. If the Gamecocks play relaxed, keep their composure and come up with some turnovers, sure, they can pull off the upset.