SEC’s 5 toughest non-conference schedules

NCAA Football: SEC Media Day

Which SEC schools have the toughest non-conference schedules for 2014?

Related: SEC’s 5 easiest non-conference schedules in 2014

I would consider six SEC teams favorites for 2014 – Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Missouri and South Carolina, and three of the six have three of the top five toughest non-conference schedules for 2014. The SEC is usually hammered for its lack of non-conference strength, and we’ll see what type of effect it has during the coming playoff era.

Here’s a glance at the SEC’s toughest non-conference schedules for 2014, and they’re all East division teams:

1. Tennessee Volunteers
Teams: Utah State, Arkansas State, at Oklahoma, Chattanooga
Opponents winning percentage: .692 (36-16)
Buzz: Yet again, Tennessee has a brutal schedule overall, and they essentially trade Oregon for Oklahoma in 2014. Utah State, Arkansas State and Oklahoma are all worthy opponents for the Vols. All four non-conference teams won an SEC-high over 69 percent of their games in 2013.

Related: 2014 SEC Strength of Schedule

2. Georgia Bulldogs
Teams: Clemson, Troy, Charleston Southern, Georgia Tech
Opponents winning percentage: .667 (34-17)
Buzz: Georgia’s schedule mirrors how several around the country would hope the SEC moves toward. They are playing two legitimate teams in Clemson and Georgia Tech, and they are playing two easier games against Troy and Charleston Southern. Georgia opens the season with a bang against Clemson, this year in Athens.

3. Missouri Tigers
Teams: South Dakota State, at Toledo, UCF, Indiana
Opponents winning percentage: .647 (33-18)
Buzz: Mizzou plays nearly three legit teams in Toledo, UCF and Indiana. The Tigers play all four games like last year before any conference game. They’ll be well prepared to hit conference play running. UCF 2014 won’t be UCF 2013, but it should make for an interesting matchup.

MORE: 2014 SEC football schedules for every team

4. South Carolina Gamecocks
Teams: East Carolina, Furman, South Alabama, at Clemson
Opponents winning percentage: .673 (35-17)
Buzz: Everyone has that Carolina-Clemson game circled, especially Dabo Swinney. Carolina has won five in a row against the Tigers. All four non-conference opponents won over 67 percent of their games in 2013.

5. Kentucky Wildcats
Teams: UT Martin, Ohio, Louisiana-Monroe, at Louisville
Opponents winning percentage: .640 (32-18)
Buzz: Kentucky is playing one of the top five overall toughest non-conference schedules with UT Martin, Ohio and ULM on the schedule? It shows you how weak some of the other out-of-conference schedules really are. The Louisville rivalry will be interesting with Bobby Petrino now in charge, and these four teams combined to win 64 percent of their games.

Photo Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports



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  • If SC starts the season 5-0 they will be #1 in the Country. 1. Texas A&M. 2. East Carolina 3. Georgia. 4, Vanderbilt. 5. Missouri. I rest my case. Go Gamecocks. ;-) The good part is that Vanderbilt is the only road game.

  • Shouldn’t Florida be on this list just on the basis that they have the defending national champions on their schedule?

    • No. Florida actually has one of the five-easiest non-conference schedules this season. Yes, FSU, but Idaho, Eastern Michigan and Eastern Kentucky are so weak.

      • Aside from FSU, florida usually has a rather weak out of conference schedule. They always make up for it though with their brutal in conference schedule. Having LSU and Bama on their schedule will be quite the test for them this year.

      • Dem Gaytas are just glad they don’t hafta play them boys from Statesboro again.

  • If Tennessee is rated as the toughest out of conference schedule from all the SEC teams, then that is weak. Utah State is a mid-level no one. Arkansas State is a stepping stone for coaches to get a bigger job (see Freeze – Ole Miss, Mahlzan – Auburn, and Bryan Harsin – Boise State) usually after one year. Chattanooga is an in-state team that should be pounded. All three of these are teams that Tennessee should easily beat. Only the @OU game is the only one where Tennessee won’t be 2+ TD favorites.

    Arkansas plays Nicholls State Colonels (FCS cannon fodder), at Texas Tech Red Raiders (not an EZ win), Northern Illinois Huskies (12-2 last year), and UAB Blazers (mid-level cupcake). I wouldn’t put that schedule as the toughest OOC schedule, but it is, IMO, more difficult than Kentucky’s and Missouri’s

    • You are criminally underrating Utah State and Arkansas State. Moreover, NIU will fall hard this year with the loss of Jordan Lynch. I’d be surprised if they break .500.

      • I have to agree with Jecmoore, Utah State isn’t terrible and they will most likely give UT fits, and Arkansas State is a very good ball club, both of these teams are solid mid-level teams who always come to play. They always have nothing to lose and they sure as crap play like it.

      • This ain’t the “08 Wittingham-coached undefeated 2008” Utah State. This is the “2014 just came off a 9-5 MWC schedule with a new head coach and OC” Utah State.

  • I think Ole Miss has a decent non’conference schedule this season. They open up with Boise St at the Georgia Dome. I realize that they aren’t the Boise St of old, but they are still a good team. The other teams are ULL (Louisiana-Lafayette) is a decent team, Memphis and Presbyterian are the two cupcakes. So Ole Miss doesn’t have the toughest non-conference schedule, but not the easiest either. I’m happy that they have been scheduling at least one good non-conference game every season like Texas the last season.

  • You can’t really make this list based off opponent win%… Especially when FCS teams are included.. Bad statistical reasoning on your part..

    • Had you read all five you would have noticed it wasn’t based on winning percentage. South Carolina’s opponents had the second-highest winning percentage. They’re No. 4 on the list. I put the winning percentage there for a reference, but it wasn’t based primarily on the winning percentage.

  • I’m not sure rating the teams on last year’s win/lost record is the route to go to rate these teams, but I guess you got to start somewhere. I’ll say this…. Regardless of what the Pac12 moes are crying about, I don’t want to go to a nine game conference schedule and risk losing the USC/Clem5on game because of it.