Picking the most important game in the 2023 Alabama football season is an easy task. It must be Nov. 4 in Bryant-Denny against the LSU Bengal Tigers. Likewise, it should be the most important game of the LSU season as well. There is very little reason to believe any team other than the Crimson Tide or LSU will advance to Atlanta.
Picking the most important game for the other five SEC West teams is far from easy. There is no crystal ball and I make no claim of being a soothsayer. So everything that follows comes from a combination of team research and guessing how the games will play out.
Traditional rivalries were a factor in picking the most important games but ended up being the choice with only two games. I could not divine enough clarity to pick just one game for three of the schools.
Alabama Football Most Important Game
If the Tide’s most important game ends up not being LSU, it will mean a major surprise evolved with another SEC team, like Texas A&M or Ole Miss. Texas was not the choice because the Longhorns winning in Tuscaloosa, while disappointing, would not derail any of Alabama’s championship goals.
LSU Most Important Game
Like Alabama vs. Texas, for LSU, beating FSU in their opener is not a make-or-break game. Most important for the Tigers is another win over Alabama Football.
Auburn Tigers Most Important Games
I predict the Aubies will struggle to become bowl-eligible. As such, the Tigers should have late October and early November must-wins. Mississippi State comes to Jordan-Hare in October and the following week the Tigers travel to Nashville. Of course, if Auburn has five wins or less going into the Iron Bowl, it will be the ‘save-face’ most important game of its season.
Arkansas Razorbacks Most Important Game
The Razorbacks should start 3-0, before losing to LSU in Baton Rouge. The annual tussle with Texas A&M, played in Arlington, TX will be next for the Hogs. The two games that follow for Arkansas are at Ole Miss and at Alabama. A 3-0 season could turn into a 3-4 season if the Hogs lose to the Aggies.
Mississippi State Bulldogs Most Important Games
Logically, in Zach Arnett’s first full season as head coach, the Bullies mostly get a pass. From that perspective, beating Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl would be the most important game. But the Bulldogs could have a tough time becoming bowl-eligible unless they beat Kentucky on Nov. 4 in Starkville.
Ole Miss Rebels Most Important Game
To have an acceptably good season, Lane Kiffin’s team needs to win at home against Texas A&M on Nov. 4 and also beat Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Kiffin cannot lose the Egg Bowl two seasons in a row. Added fuel to the Rebels vs. Aggies contest is Kiffin again pointing a finger at Jimbo Fisher’s war chest NIL deals.
Texas A&M Aggies Most Important Game
The Aggies are the most difficult prediction. They could bounce back in a big way or struggle to reach seven wins. To get to eight or nine wins, which I am guessing is their ceiling, they must beat Ole Miss in Oxford. Otherwise, Jimbo’s team will have to win against at least one of Alabama, Tennessee in Knoxville, or LSU in Baton Rouge.
Fall camps may provide added information to revisit these predictions, but once is enough.