There are really 11 primo non-conference games in 2014, and it’s tough just ranking the top 10. So, I threw in a bonus below between Kentucky and Louisville, which could get interesting with Kentucky’s newfound talent and the exit of Charlie Strong.
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Anyway, here are the SEC’s best non-conference games of 2014:
1. Clemson at Georgia, August 30th
Georgia lost a heartbreaker at Clemson to open 2013, and something tells me Todd Gurley and company have revenge on the brain. Both quarterbacks from a year ago are gone, and Sanford Stadium will be loud and proud to open the 2014 season between two ranked opponents.
2. South Carolina at Clemson, November 29th
South Carolina-Clemson is quickly becoming one of the best rivalries in all of college football. A rivalry means the two teams trade wins, but there hasn’t been any winning by Clemson in five years. The Tigers will get another chance this year in front of the home crowd on rivalry weekend. But do we really think the outcome will be any different?
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3. LSU vs. Wisconsin (Houston), August 30th
Wisconsin is quickly becoming a program that will challenge Ohio State and Michigan State in the Big Ten, and LSU is rebuilding on both sides of the ball. This could be a College Football Playoff elimination game right out of the gates. The Tigers need a hot start against a very worthy opponent in Wisconsin, and it will give us a preview of what’s to come for the new-look Tigers.
4. Auburn at Kansas State, September 18th
Auburn will play one of the SEC’s few Thursday night non-opening weekend games. The SEC and Big 12 should increase the number of future games played, and perennial contender K-State will be a tough match for Auburn, especially on the road. This game will feature two spread offenses doing work.
5. UCF at Missouri, September 13th
Had this game been played in 2013, it could have been the top game on the entire non-conference schedule. Still, UCF will have another good team, and Mizzou isn’t going anywhere in the SEC. Both teams lose key parts and players from big-time seasons, and this could turn out to be a much more interesting and intriguing game than you think.
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6. Tennessee at Oklahoma, September 13th
Tennessee is playing one of the conference’s toughest regular season schedules, along with one of the toughest non-conference schedules. The Vols aren’t afraid of playing anybody. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. The Vols traveling to Norman should create an interesting matchup, especially should Tennessee be 2-0 going in. It’s a tough place to play against a team that could achieve greatness in 2014.
7. Florida at Florida State, November 29th
The Sunshine State’s annual rivalry game should be much more interesting than this past season’s, where Florida didn’t stand a fighting chance against the national champion Seminoles. Jameis Winston is back for another year, and Florida has revenge on their minds in Doak Campbell Stadium; Florida throttled the Noles two years ago in Tallahassee.
8. Alabama vs. West Virginia (Atlanta), August 30th
This game had the potential to be great…two or three years ago. Now, it’s almost as if Alabama just needs to show up to win. Dana Holgerson vs. Nick Saban will be intriguing, and I wonder how many Red Bulls Holgerson will drink leading up to this one. All kidding aside, this has a chance to be a big-time beat down.
9. Arkansas at Texas Tech, September 13th
The Hogs and Red Raiders last met in 1991 when Arkansas played its last year in the Southwest Conference. This will be the first of a two-game series between the former Southwest Conference rivals. The Red Raiders have a high-flying and explosive offense; Arkansas has a very pro-style, conservative offense. It makes for a clash between two totally opposite teams. I wonder if Kliff Kingsburry and Bret Bielema will discuss the 10-second proposal prior to the start of the game?
10. Ole Miss vs. Boise State (Atlanta), August 28th
One of the biggest college football questions I have is whether the Boise State golden era is over. With Chris Petersen gone to Washington, there’s a chance Boise’s on the downswing, and Ole Miss can deliver a knockout blow to the new-look Broncos. Ole Miss is one of the SEC’s most interesting teams in 2014, and an opening week win against Boise would be spectacular.
Kentucky at Louisville, November 29th
Now that Charlie Strong is gone from UL, does the talent influx at Kentucky start to play a part? The bad news is Louisville may have upgraded with respect to their head coach. Bobby Petrino will be looking for blood, and he beat the Cats and Stoops at Western Kentucky last season.
Georgia Tech at Georgia, November 29th
They call it Clean, Old-fashioned Hate, but it’s a new-fashioned butt kicking. The Bulldogs have won five straight and 12 of the last 13 – poor Yellow Jackets.
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