TUSCALOOSA | The Alabama-Michigan game to be played Sept. 1 in Arlington, Texas, as a matchup of highly ranked teams from different conferences, figures to be among the most anticipated games involving the Southeastern Conference this season.
But is it THE game on the calendar?
With Alabama-Arkansas looming two weeks later and Alabama-LSU circled in red for Nov. 3, it might not even be the biggest game on the Crimson Tide's own schedule.
"LSU and Alabama, I think it's become the staple as the big game in the SEC. When you look at the last few years, the winner of this game gets set up pretty nicely," said Chris Low of ESPN.com. "I think it's become the biggest game in college football. It's the one everyone circles."
But plenty of other matchups around the league will draw national interest as well.
They include LSU at Arkansas (Nov. 23), Alabama-Arkansas (Sept. 15) and South Carolina at Clemson on Nov. 24.
The Florida Gators close the regular season on the road at Florida State, where the Seminoles will enter the 2012 season with expectations higher than they've been since Bobby Bowden's best years there.
Then there are the crucial games expected to shape the race in the SEC East.
"The SEC East championship goes through that Georgia-South Carolina game," Low said.
The three-way tangle among Florida, Georgia and South Carolina won't begin to resolve itself until midseason, however.
The South Carolina-Georgia game, typically a mid-September tone-setter, has been moved to Oct. 6.
Florida-Georgia and Florida-South Carolina both come later in the season.
As for the league's newcomers, Texas A&M and Missouri will host their first SEC games as league members on Sept. 8, when the Aggies host Florida and Missouri welcomes Georgia.
Ole Miss plays host to Big 12 power Texas on Sept. 15.
Low compared the magnitude of the Alabama-LSU game with the Florida-Tennessee battles of the 1990s, when both teams were typically ranked highly and controlled the SEC East with a win.
"Those games were huge, but the difference there was that the Florida-Tennessee loser had more of a chance to recover because that game was in September," Low said.
A look at the top college football games involving SEC teams this fall:
Sept. 1 - Alabama vs. Michigan
Sept. 1 - Clemson at Auburn
Sept. 15 - Alabama at Arkansas
Oct. 6 - Georgia at South Carolina
Oct. 20 - South Carolina at Florida
Oct. 27 - Florida vs. Georgia
Nov. 3 - Alabama at LSU
Nov. 10 -Arkansas at S. Carolina
Nov. 23 - LSU at Arkansas
Nov. 24 - Florida at Florida State
Nov. 24 - S. Carolina at Clemson
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.
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