Toughest nonconference schedules in the SEC
June 10, 2009 9:00 AM
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low http://myespn.go.com/blogs/sec/0-7-3...n-the-SEC.html
Who in the SEC lined up the cupcakes for this coming season?
Truthfully, there are always a few on every nonconference schedule, but one SEC team in particular should be ashamed. Here's a look at how the nonconference schedules rank in 2009 from toughest to easiest:
1. Georgia: Remember when the criticism of the Bulldogs was that they didn't play anybody outside the SEC? Well, they open the 2009 season at Oklahoma State and end the season against Georgia Tech on the road, two top 15-caliber teams. Arizona State also comes to Athens next season. Whew!
2. South Carolina: The Gamecocks face three teams that went to bowls a year ago, including North Carolina State on the road to open the season in a Thursday night game. Having that Clemson game on the tail end of a grueling SEC slate is also anything but ideal.
3. Alabama: Granted, there are three sure wins on Alabama's nonconference schedule, but the Crimson Tide make up for it by playing a top 10 team (Virginia Tech) at a neutral site to open the season. The Hokies will be one of the best defensive clubs in the country.
4. Mississippi State: It's not that Mississippi State's nonconference schedule is dotted with great teams, but the Bulldogs face three very losable games. They get Georgia Tech and Houston at home, two bowl teams from a year ago, and have to play at Middle Tennessee, one of those nothing-to-gain, everything-to-lose contests.
5. Florida: The next time the Gators leave the state of Florida to play a tough nonconference game will be the first time. They get a little bit of a pass, though, because they face Florida State every year. The Seminoles have to come to Gainesville in 2009, as does a Troy team that should be even better than the one that almost knocked off LSU last season.
6. Auburn: While the Tigers don't have to leave the comfy confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium to play a single nonconference game in 2009, West Virginia and Ball State are hardly pushovers. Of course, it helps that Pat White has finally moved on.
7. Vanderbilt: It certainly isn't the best year to be playing Georgia Tech, which brings its triple-option attack to Nashville on Oct. 31 -- a week before Vanderbilt has to travel to Florida. The Commodores also have to go on the road to face Army and Rice.
8. Arkansas: The Razorbacks' SEC schedule is so difficult that anything else would pale in comparison. But their nonconference schedule isn't what you would call easy. They play Texas A&M in the Cowboys' new stadium and face a very capable Troy team that will be thinking upset come Nov. 14.
9. LSU: At first glance, the trip to Washington looks ominous enough, but then you remember that the Huskies went 0-12 last season. There's also a "trip" to Tulane. Throw in home games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech, and it's a nonconference schedule that has 4-0 written all over it.
10. Tennessee: The Vols have always been pretty good about playing one big intersectional game a year, and UCLA comes to town next fall. But other than the Bruins, who will have to make the cross-country trip, there's not much to Tennessee's nonconference schedule in 2009.
11. Kentucky: Louisville's program isn't what it used to be, which hurts Kentucky when it comes to schedule strength. All in all, this nonconference schedule looks a lot like the one last season, one that features four built-in wins.
12. Ole Miss: For a team that's supposed to be loaded, the Rebels have a ridiculously cushy nonconference schedule. They're the only team in the league that will play two FCS schools (Southeastern Louisiana and Northern Arizona) in 2009. That should never happen in the SEC.