Friday, July 8, 2016

Week 1 SEC schedule highlights

While everyone enjoys the fruits of summer vacations across the country, the aroma of charcoal grills and tailgates on Saturday afternoons in the fall are closer than you think as the first full weekend of games begin on Sept. 1.

Here are some of the key SEC non-conference games to watch for:

Clemson at Auburn, Sept. 3, 8 p.m., ESPN

After losing to Alabama 45-40 in last season's national championship game, Clemson will have an opportunity out of the gate to take its frustrations against another SEC school in Auburn.

However, things will not be simple as Clemson must travel to Jordan-Hare Stadium in order to start the season on the right foot. A night game in an SEC is no laughing matter, ask Oklahoma from last season as it came from two touchdowns back to squeak by Tennessee on the road 31-24 in double overtime.

Auburn can use a big win against a top-tier program after finishing last season at 7-6 and more importantly, to keep coach Gus Malzahn off the hot seat this season.

LSU vs Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Sept. 3, 2:30 p.m., ABC

The highly touted SEC/Big Ten debate usually gets settled in head-to-head meetings during bowl season, but things begin right out the gate with the Tigers and the Badgers.

Throw in the bonuses of these two playing at legendary Lambeau Field in Green Bay and ESPN's College Gameday appearing on-site that day and we have ourselves a de facto New Year's Six game to start the season.

Despite 10 wins in 2015, the Badgers look to start 2016 on a good note after losing to another SEC school in Alabama 35-17 to begin last season.

After being ranked as high as No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings, LSU finished 2015 losing three of its last five games and calls for coach Les Miles to be fired.

Both teams have plenty to prove in the opener and a win will go a long way in impressing the pollsters across the country short-term.

USC vs Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Sept. 3, 7 p.m., ABC

In a weekend full of top-tier games, this one could stand out amongst all with two traditional powers meeting in Arlington.

The venue for the Crimson Tide has become a home away from home as they won both games last season (35-17 vs Wisconsin on Sept. 5 and 38-0 vs Michigan State in the College Football Playoff semifinal on Dec. 31).

With the interim tag removed, USC coach Clay Helton has the tough task of pulling a upset and monkey wrench in the early rankings of the AP and Coaches' polls.

UCLA at Texas A&M, Sept. 3, 2:30 p.m., CBS

Texas A&M opens its second straight season against a Pac-12 opponent and UCLA comes calling to Kyle Field.

After completing 60 percent of his passes and throwing for 23 touchdowns as a freshman, Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen will look to take things to the next level as a sophomore and what better place to begin a potential run at the Heisman Trophy than at an SEC site.