Published June 6, 2012 - 11:07am
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You hear the decade-old cliché all the time that every game in the SEC is hard, and every team in the SEC plays the toughest schedules. While that is in fact true compared to other conferences week-in and week-out, some teams just have harder September schedules than others.
There are five weeks of football in September, while last year there were only four Saturdays that fell in the first month.
Here are the top five toughest September schedules in SEC football this year:
1. Missouri Tigers
Sept. 1 – SE Louisiana
Sept. 8 – Georgia
Sept. 15 – Arizona State
Sept. 22 – @South Carolina
Sept. 29 – @UCF
Missouri plays the toughest September schedule this year. We will know how Missouri will fare in the East after September, as the Tigers drew both SEC East favorites Georgia and South Carolina, with SC on the road. The Bulldogs get first rip at their new East foe in week two. And while SE Louisiana is a pushover, the Tigers play two other very quality opponents in Arizona State at home and Conference USA favorite UCF on the road. UCF will surprise some people in college football this year, much like South Florida did a few years back. Let’s not forget UCF did beat Georgia a couple years ago in their bowl game, albeit against a weak Georgia team.
Mizzou plays four very formidable opponents in September, with three – Georgia, South Carolina and UCF – most likely being ranked in the top 20 when it’s all said and done. That’s a brutal welcoming for any team in the very first month, and it will be a gauntlet for four straight weeks.
2. Auburn Tigers
Sept. 1 – Clemson (Atlanta, Ga)
Sept. 8 – @Miss State
Sept. 15 – Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 22 – LSU
Sept. 29 – Bye
I’ll be the first to tell you, it was hard putting Auburn’s September schedule as the second toughest schedule, because they only play four games in a five-week period, as every other team on this list plays five games in the month.
Auburn, however, plays the arguable ACC favorite Clemson week one in the Georgia Dome and turns around and plays a tough Mississippi State team on the road in week two. Week three presents a cupcake in ULM, but in week four LSU comes calling.
Three of Auburn’s four opponents could open the season in the top 25, with LSU being a consensus national championship favorite and Clemson opening as the ACC favorite, with FSU. Mississippi State will be on the border of opening and finishing as a top 25 team. We’ll see how it plays out.
3. Alabama Crimson Tide
Sept. 1 – Michigan (Arlington, TX)
Sept. 8 – Western Kentucky
Sept. 15 – @Arkansas
Sept. 22 – FAU
Sept. 29 – Ole Miss
Alabama gets the party started off right in week one against Big Ten foe Michigan at Jerry World. The Wolverines are a much better team than previous years past, though, and they will prove to be a formidable opponent for Alabama. Weeks two, four and five will produce W’s, but week three on the road at Arkansas will prove to be a very tough challenge for the Tide. Alabama-Arkansas is the biggest game in the month of September for the SEC.
Alabama’s five games in the month of September, with the top two being away from Tuscaloosa, will get you a top three schedule in the SEC for the month.
I hope Alabama scores at will against Michigan.
4. Ole Miss Rebels
Sept. 1 – Central Arkansas
Sept. 8 – UTEP
Sept. 15 – Texas
Sept. 22 – @Tulane
Sept. 29 – @Alabama
Overall, Ole Miss has the toughest schedule in the SEC this year, but for September, it’s arguably not the toughest. The Rebs could be licking their wounds after September, because their schedule is not for the faint of heart. Hugh Freeze has no time to get acquainted to his new team, as he will be playing two top 10 teams before finishing his first cup of coffee in Oxford.
Central Arkansas and UTEP should be wins. Ole Miss has also won 10 straight meetings over Tulane by an average of 17 points per game and has won five straight at the Superdome.
It’s weeks three and five where the Rebs will need to catch lightning in a bottle and have a whole lot of luck. Both Texas and Alabama are in national title talks to start the season. Ouch.
5. Tennessee Volunteers
Sept. 1 – NC State (Atlanta, GA)
Sept. 8 – Georgia State
Sept. 15 – Florida
Sept. 22 – Akron
Sept. 29 – @Georgia
Tennessee opens it all up on 8/31 against NC State. All eyes will be on Derek Dooley, but that’s for another hot seat story on another day. The Wolfpack are not a top 25 caliber team, but it will be a tough test for the Vols in week one and a decent draw with a team that will be competitive in the ACC. Weeks two and four are both W’s in Georgia State and Akron, while weeks three and five are why Tennessee fans breath in September.
The Vols host a top 20 Florida team at home for their annual bash, and Georgia has given Derek Dooley all he has wanted in his short career. The Gators and Bulldogs are 4-0 against Dooley in two years.
NC State, Florida and Georgia are all toss-up games, but Tennessee should be favored in one (NC State). Best case, Tennessee goes 2-1, with worst case 1-2 in those three. They won’t lose all three games. All will be good games.
If Tennessee survives September, it could be a strong surge for the Vols and help get them back to relativity in the East.
How would you rank the five toughest schedules of September?