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SEC nonconference schedule rankings: Lots of cupcakes as league eyes 2016 upgrade

South Carolina easily earns toughest non-conference schedule in the SEC with games vs. UNC, UCF and Clemson. The league mandates at least one Power 5 opponent every season beginning in 2016.

Outside of that one game that the state of Florida legislature forces upon the schools (they’d play it, anyway), the Gators will play New Mexico State, ECU and FAU. And that’s the second-best nonconference schedule in the SEC.


NON-CON RANKINGS: NationalACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-12

So live it up, Mississippi State. Have fun, Ole Miss. We’ll be waiting on the other side in 2016 when the real non-con games begin.

A sneak peak: Ole Miss plays Florida State next year in Orlando, and at California in 2017.


  • 1. South Carolina: North Carolina (Charlotte), UCF, The Citadel, Clemson

    2. Florida: New Mexico State, East Carolina, FAU, Florida State

    3. Tennessee: Bowling Green, Oklahoma, Western Carolina, North Texas

    4. Texas A&M: Arizona State (Houston), Ball State, Nevada, Western Carolina

    MORE: Top 10 SEC league games for 2015

    5. Georgia: Louisiana-Monroe, Southern, Georgia Southern, at Georgia Tech

    6. Alabama: Wisconsin (Arlington, Texas), Middle Tennessee, Louisiana-Monroe, Charleston Southern

    7. Arkansas: UTEP, Toledo, Texas Tech, Tennessee-Martin

    8. Auburn: Louisville (Atlanta), Jacksonville State, San Jose State, Idaho

    9. Kentucky: Louisiana-Lafayette, Eastern Kentucky, UNC-Charlotte, Louisville

    10. Ole Miss: Tennessee-Martin, Fresno State, New Mexico State, at Memphis

    11. Missouri: SE Missouri State, Arkansas State, UConn, BYU

    12. LSU: McNeese State, at Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, Western Kentucky

    13. Vanderbilt: Western Kentucky, Austin Peay, at Middle Tennessee, at Houston

    14. Mississippi State: at Southern Miss, Northwestern State, Troy, Louisiana Tech

    MORE: Top 15 program rankings since 2000


    Games against Power 5 teams: 11 of 56 (20 percent)

    Games against Group of 5 teams: 32 of 36 (57 percent)

    Games against FCS teams: 13 of 56 (23 percent)

  • Breaking down the Power 5 conferences (five of five analyzed)

    Games against Power 5 teams: ACC (38 percent), Big Ten (30 percent), Pac-12 (28 percent), Big 12 (27 percent), SEC (20 percent)

    Games against Group of 5 teams: Big Ten (57 percent), SEC (57 percent), Pac-12 (50 percent), Big 12 (46 percent), ACC (36 percent)

    Games against FCS teams: Big 12 (27 percent), ACC (26 percent), SEC (23 percent), Pac-12 (22 percent), Big Ten (13 percent)

    MORE: 12 teams with make-or-break September schedules

  • 1. Oklahoma at Tennessee, Sept. 12

    2. Alabama vs. Wisconsin, Sept. 5

    3. Arizona State vs. Texas A&M, Sept. 5

    4. Florida State at Florida, Nov. 28

    5. Auburn vs. Louisville, Sept. 5

    2015 PREVIEW: Top 25 | All-Americans | Top 25 conference matchups

  • 1. Southern at Georgia, Sept. 26

    2. SE Missouri State at Missouri, Sept. 5

    3. Charleston Southern at Alabama, Nov. 21

    4. Northwestern State at Mississippi State, Sept. 19

    5.McNeese State at LSU, Sept. 5

    MORE: SEC's most iconic player by school

  • — We’ll just call it a blip. LSU, annually one of the SEC’s best at scheduling meaningful non-con games, has one this fall. And even though it’s a road game at Syracuse, does it really count? Other than that, it’s FCS McNeese State, Eastern Michigan and Western Kentucky. Fortunately, LSU picks back up in 2016 and beyond, with future games against Wisconsin (2016), BYU and Syracuse (2017), Miami (2018) and Texas (2019-2020).

    MORE: Ranking the coaches, 1 to 128

    —When Texas A&M and Arizona State play in Houston in the season opener, ASU will get a firsthand look at the coach it wanted three years ago but couldn’t land. By all accounts, the Sun Devils did well in regrouping and hiring Todd Graham (28-12 in three seasons), and Sumlin’s record (28-11) is barely better than Graham’s (although in a much more difficult job). But imagine the impact of Sumlin’s offense — and his ability to recruit southern California — could have made at ASU in a conference that doesn’t necessarily play the best defense.

    HAYES: McElwain's renovation project begins at QB

    —It’s an anniversary season of sorts at Alabama, one that likely won’t bring back many good memories. The last time Louisiana-Monroe rolled into Tuscaloosa, the result was coach Nick Saban’s most embarrassing loss as a college coach. A few days later, Saban, in his first season at Alabama, would compare the 21-14 defeat to 9/11 and the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then he went out and built the most dominant program in college football. Was the Louisiana-Monroe loss a turning point? Saban refuses to say that, insisting only that the first season in Alabama taught the team what it took to win games.

    — Here’s the problem with all that Butch Jones has accomplished in two seasons at Tennessee (and considering where the program was when he arrived, he has made huge strides): expectations — his own, his team’s —now must be met. Or else. That’s what makes the home game against Oklahoma so critical. Whatever happens in Week 2 against the Sooners will, like it or not, affect the remainder of the season. That’s how big nonconference games work — especially for teams still trying to find themselves and develop winning habits. Beat Oklahoma, and the momentum and confidence just might carry the Vols to their first SEC East Division title since 2007.

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