No sooner does the calendar turn to August than Facebook lights up with “Finally, football season!” and similar sentiments. Posts of “Roll Tide!” and “GBO” dot the social media landscape as rivalries heat up in the days leading up to the very first kick-off. If you’re not too SEC-savvy, make sure you check out our “SEC Beginner’s Guide,” and you’ll be caught up on the basics. For those who are hardcore SEC fans or who simply want to play the part, here’s your guide to the 2017 season — latest news, players to keep an eye on, most widely contested games and the like.

The Latest News of the 2017 SEC Season

Pre-Season Rankings

According to a recent poll done by the Associated Press, Alabama is ranked No. 1 out of all college football teams. Though several SEC teams were included in the top 25, the next in line was Auburn at No. 12. This perceived gap leads to the inevitable question of whether or not another SEC team will be able to close in on the Tide as the season progresses.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is Open!

The brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is open and ready for the two season opener games it is hosting this year. Alabama vs. Florida State and Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech are the two highly anticipated games taking place September 2 and September 4, respectively. With all four schools within 275 miles of the stadium, it’s no surprise that both games are sold out, making for a pretty fun experience for those who attend.

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is officially open. While it’s the official home of the Atlanta Falcons football and Atlanta United soccer, it will host two SEC football games to launch the season. Image: atlutd.com

SEC No Longer Top Dog

Say it ain’t so! CBS just declared that the ACC is now the top dog when it comes to college football. They cite Florida State’s win in the Orange Bowl and Clemson’s National Championship win over Alabama as two of the big reasons for this change. Though recent stats might point to this being true, the SEC has proven itself time and time again, including capturing seven straight national titles. We might be slightly biased on the topic, but here’s to hoping the SEC can reclaim its title during this upcoming season.

Players to Watch

Kamryn Pettway, Auburn running back

Kamryn Pettway proved his true talent last season across four games against Mississippi State, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, where he ran for 770 yards and scored six touchdowns. This season, Pettway has his sights set on claiming Auburn’s single-season rushing record, which is currently 1,816 yards. He has been very vocal about this being his individual goal of the season, so it should be interesting seeing him on the field trying to achieve this feat.

Jalen Hurts, Alabama quarterback

As the first true freshman to earn a starting spot as quarterback for the Crimson Tide since 1984, Jalen Hurts is a superstar athlete who dominates the field. He racked up many accolades after his first year on the team, including winning the conference’s “Offensive Player of the Year” award after accounting for nearly 250 yards of total offense per game and 36 touchdowns. In addition to his many awards, he also took the team to yet another National Championship. Even though the last-second loss to Clemson surely stung, he still showed amazing potential for where he can help take the team in the coming years.

Jalen Hurts | Image: University of Alabama

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama quarterback

Considering how phenomenal Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts is, it is amazing that Tua Tagovailoa is garnering this much attention his first year on the team. A coveted five-star recruit from Honolulu, Hawaii, Tagovailoa should be very interesting to watch this season even though he is just the backup QB. Head Coach Nick Saban has not been shy about the fact that Hurts will be the starting quarterback for the 2017 season, but it still will be fascinating to see how he splits up the playing time between the two.

Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt running back

With a total of 3,342 career rushing yards, Ralph Webb not only ranks 20th in SEC history for most yards rushed, but he also set a school record. As a redshirt senior with one year of eligibility left, he has a probable shot at becoming the eighth player in the conference’s history to exceed 4,000 yards!

Shea Patterson, Ole Miss quarterback

Last season when Ole Miss’s starting quarterback Chad Kelly went down with an injury, Shea Patterson rid himself of his redshirt in an attempt to recover bowl eligibility for his team. Though the Rebels did not make it very far in those games, Patterson proved his worth throwing 880 yards and six touchdowns. This season it will be interesting to see how he grows and improves in his first full year as a starter.

Highly Anticipated Games of the 2017 Season

Regardless if you are an actual fan of either of the teams playing in these games, the atmosphere on game day is a sight to behold. Here are some games you do not want to miss this season:

Tennessee vs. Florida

September 16, 2017 @ Florida

Not only are these two teams big rivals, but this is also an important game for both of them. After failing to come out on top of the SEC East last year, Butch Jones, Tennessee’s head coach, knows that a loss to Florida would not be good for his team — or his career. However, this is also a very important game for Florida as a loss to their rival on their home field would put them behind in the race to the top of the division. It’s safe to say that there is a lot riding on this game for both teams.

The UT vs. Florida game on September 16 is not to be missed. Image: Joel Kramer via Flickr CC

LSU vs. Florida

October 7, 2017 @ Florida

This might be one of the most dramatic games of the season. With Florida scheduling LSU, a conference rival, as their homecoming opponent, there is bound to be a lot of tension in the air come game day. Not to mention, due to Hurricane Matthew, last year’s game was forced to be moved to Baton Rouge, so the Gators are eager to get back on their home turf, and the Tigers are hoping to overthrow them during Florida’s own homecoming.

Alabama vs. Auburn

November 25, 2017 @ Auburn

There is nothing like two teams from the same state battling it out on the field in order to prove their dominance. Though Alabama has won five out of the last six times these two teams have faced off, who can forget that amazing 101-yard run in the 2013 Iron Bowl on the last play of the game, causing Auburn to come out on top 34-28? With this memory always looming in the back of everyone’s minds every time these two teams play, it’s obvious that the environment will be electric on game day!

Enjoy the SEC season, and may your team be the winningest of them all!

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