It’s rivalry week around the SEC, and yes the games really do mean more

Winning rivalry games comes with bragging rights and other rewards, but Alabama coach Nick Saban knows what losing them brings.

“If you don’t have success in this game, I don’t care what else you accomplish in the season, there’s always a ‘but,’” Saban says. “And what comes after ‘but’ usually isn’t good.”

Southeastern Conference teams have plenty at stake entering rivalry week, including No. 3 Alabama. Avoiding that eternal “but” addendum on a season is just one of them.

Yes, it’s time for the Iron Bowl, the Egg Bowl and the assorted other rivalry games involving SEC teams.

But for all the hype, Lane Kiffin, the coach for No. 8 Ole Miss, has a splash of reality for fans and media placing larger than life importance on rivalry games.

His Rebels can’t suddenly “practice more or try harder” just because it’s Mississippi State week. There’s not even a full week of preparation ahead of Thursday night’s Egg Bowl in Starkville.

“I know you want to hear that we’re going to do some magic this week because we’re playing Mississippi State but we’ve just got to prepare very well,” Kiffin says.

But, to rip off the SEC’s ubiquitous motto, it just means more. To the fans. To the players. To the coaches who want to hold onto their jobs.

Alabama visits Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Saturday hoping to keep its playoff chances firmly intact—and the alumni happy.

Kiffin and his Rebels would produce their first 10-win regular season if they can get past the Bulldogs.

Florida has bowl eligibility on the line against Florida State. So does LSU against Texas A&M. That says a lot about why both teams are seeking new coaches.

South Carolina is seeking to snap a six-game skid against in-state rival Clemson. Kentucky faces Louisville and is seeking its first nine-win season since 2018.

Vanderbilt is seeking to wrap up coach Clark Lea’s first season by snapping a 20-game SEC losing streak when it faces Tennessee.

Missouri and Arkansas, like LSU-Texas A&M, is more of a border rivalry than a traditional one, with each trying to secure .500 SEC records and improve their bowl destinations. Georgia-Georgia Tech is the biggest apparent mismatch, but the top-ranked Bulldogs don’t want a slipup of any sort ahead of the SEC championship game against Alabama.

Read the full story for a look at the traditional rivalries and what they mean for and to each SEC team.