Time to critique the SEC’s non-conference schedules, and college football’s top league clearly is divided into three camps. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all play two worthy opponents. Alabama, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Tennessee all play one worthy opponent. Auburn, Missouri, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt all play no worthy opponents. The only question is which camp does Arkansas fall in? The Razorbacks go to Rutgers.
1. Georgia: at Clemson, North Texas, Appalachian State, at Georgia Tech. At Clemson and at Georgia Tech. You’d think Georgia would try to get the rotation changed so that they get one of those traditional rivals a year at home, one on the road.
2. Florida: Toledo, at Miami, Georgia Southern, Florida State. What a fabulous schedule. Just like Georgia, even the automatic victories carry a little status. Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are traditional I-AA powers. And North Texas and Toledo are decent names.
3. South Carolina: North Carolina, at Central Florida, Coastal Carolina, Clemson. If someone wants to argue that the Gamecocks belong at No. 1, I wouldn’t put up much of a fight. I went with Georgia first because the Bulldogs have two monster road games. Florida has one. But South Carolina’s third-toughest game is at Central Florida. That’s three losable games. Who in the heck plays three losable games?
4. LSU: TCU at Arlington, Texas; Alabama-Birmingham, Kent State, Furman. The next six SEC teams are too close to call. You could put them in a hat, pull out a name and be just as accurate. I went with LSU No. 4 because the Frogs in their backyard won’t be easy, and KentState has become a decent mid-major.
5. Ole Miss: Southeast Missouri State, at Texas, Idaho, Troy. Idaho is terrible, else the Rebels would rank ahead of LSU.
6. Mississippi State: Oklahoma State at Houston, Alcorn State, Troy, Bowling Green. Troy and Bowling Green aren’t awful programs, which is why the Bulldogs are a fraction ahead of Alabama.
7. Alabama: Virginia Tech at Atlanta, Colorado State, Georgia State, Chattanooga. GeorgiaState and Chattanooga would be overmatched by Sun Belt teams, much less college football’s best.
8. Tennessee: Austin Peay, Western Kentucky, at Oregon, South Alabama. Going to Oregon is as good a game as a team can schedule. But Austin Peay, Western Kentucky and South Alabama are as weak a trio as a program can find.
9. Kentucky: Western Kentucky at Nashville, Miami-Ohio, Louisville, Alabama State. The Wildcats always have Louisville.
10. Arkansas: Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, Southern Miss, at Rutgers. Actually not a bad schedule. The only knock on the Hogs is that every SEC team above them has scheduled a power – Louisville, Oregon, Virginia Tech, etc.
11. Missouri: Murray State, Toledo, at Indiana, Arkansas State. Who blames Mizzou for going light?
12. Auburn: Washington State, Arkansas State, Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic. Four home games. Not one of them worth rolling out of bed for, unless you’ve got a thing for Mike Leach.
13. Vanderbilt: Austin Peay, UMass at Foxboro, Mass.; Alabama-Birmingham, Wake Forest. At leastVandy’s playing in an NFL stadium.
14. Texas A&M: Rice, Sam Houston State, SMU, Texas-El Paso. Who schedules for the Aggies? Texas Tech? This looks just like a Tech schedule. Play only Texas teams, but play no good ones.