October, my favorite month. Especially at home here in the South. Sharp blue skies preside over autumn’s auburn hues. The comfortable coolness beckons you to don that sweater and break out your old chili or gumbo recipe. The air is crisp and so is the beer. What’s not to love about October?
A welcome lack of pressure marks October. No holidays, forced enthusiasm, awkward office parties or hassle. It’s just the fall. October.
The same cannot be said, however, for teams in the nation’s finest football conference. For them, October equals pressure. An SEC October exposes pretenders and reveals contenders. The SEC season truly begins this month with a calendar chock-full of pressure-packed matchups.
And we know what pressure does. It brings out the best or worst in people. It brings out the real you. Given these truths, what will pressure reveal about your favorite SEC team?
I’ll tell you who performed when the pressure was really on: Eddie Money. The former New York cop hit it big with his 1977 single, “Two Tickets to Paradise.” But paradise was short-lived for Money after several duds and a drug problem (I was shocked to hear it, too) pushed his career to the brink.
Facing the equivalent of October in college football — put up or shut up time — and needing another hit to resurrect his career, what did Eddie Money do? Only deliver one of the classic power rock songs of the 80s, “Take Me Home Tonight.” Eddie Money performed under pressure.
I am skeptical that any SEC team can live up to the lofty standards set by Eddie Money this first weekend of October. But four top-ten teams will try with Georgia visiting South Carolina and LSU at Florida in what’s being billed as “Separation Saturday.”
The Georgia Bulldogs travel to Columbia, S.C., for their annual tussle with Steve Spurrier’s Sakerlina squad. Gamecocks fans will be well-hydrated for the 7 p.m. kickoff and have Williams-Brice Stadium a rockin’. Georgia’s defense was gashed for 478 yards and 37 points last week against Tennessee, but SEC Banter says the Dogs’ D is up to the task of slowing down Marcus Lattimore and Conner Shaw. Not to mention the two-headed running back monster of Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley (love those “I’m a Gurley man!” signs). Georgia will stake its claim as the second-best team in the SEC and notch a “big ’un” over South Carolina.
In the other major conference clash of the weekend, LSU faces Florida in the Swamp. The Gators have awoken from a years-long slumber with solid road wins against Tennessee and Texas A&M. His team well-rested coming off a bye week, Will Muschamp seeks a signature win as Florida’s head man. LSU, on the other hand, has fumbled and bumbled its way to the most underwhelming undefeated record of any major college football team. Will the Bayou Bengals flip the switch Saturday in Gainesville and return to their dominant selves? SEC Banter is taking the Gators and boldly predicts that, during the game, Les Miles will do something very Les Miles-like.
Best of luck to your SEC team this opening October weekend. Meanwhile, my friend Eddie just offered me two tickets to paradise. I politely declined. After all, there’s a chill in the air. I’ve got a sweater on, a pot of chicken and andouille gumbo on the stove, and a crisp cold pop in my hand. I’ll take an SEC October over paradise any day.
Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for The Times. Follow him on Twitter @SECbanter or contact him at SECbanter@hotmail.com.