Early games tipping points for SEC football teams

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In a long season, losses hurt least when they come early. A loss in the first five Saturdays should not define a season or ruin Playoff chances for contending SEC football teams. But in the 2024 season, many, early games can mark the path to a strong season, or a disappointing one.

The late September contest between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs will be the biggest game of the SEC regular season. The winner will have overcome its most difficult obstacle before the postseason. But a loss will not derail Playoff chances for either team.

Other SEC football teams will pay a heavier price from an early loss. The pivotal early games for the SEC's other 14 teams are listed below.

  • Arkansas Razorbacks - According to ESPN Analytics, the Razorbacks are a five to seven-win team. Early wins should come over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and UAB, but two September road games against Oklahoma State and Auburn could be losses. Possibly at 2-2 on Sept. 28, the Hogs will have a must-win against Texas A&M or the Arkansas season could turn ugly.
  • Auburn Tigers - Even Auburn fans see a 2024 win ceiling of seven or eight games. Three wins should come early against Alabama A&M, Cal, and New Mexico. A home win over Arkansas would make the Tigers 4-0. After that another win may not come before November. The Sept. 28 home game against Oklahoma could start a three or four-game losing streak for the Tigers.
  • Florida Gators - The holder of college football's most difficult schedule will need opening game success against Miami because the second half of Florida's season is brutal.
  • Kentucky Wildcats - In the season's first five weeks, the Wildcats will likely be either 3-2 or 2-3. Beating South Carolina in week two is essential to reach 3-2, before taking on Georgia and Ole Miss in Oxford in September.