Biggest cupcakes on the SEC schedule in 2015
The SEC schedule is brutal.
Every team plays eight conference games, sometimes against seven or even eight bowl-bound programs.
But outside of the conference, despite some high-profile neutral-site games, SEC teams face plenty of pushovers. Here are a few of the biggest “cupcake” games in the conference this year.
For the purposes of this story, we’ll define “cupcake” as an FCS team or a Group of 5 or Independent FBS program that won four or fewer games in 2014.
Sept. 5: McNeese State at LSU
Sept. 5: Tennessee-Martin at Ole Miss
Sept. 5: SEMO at Missouri
Sept. 12: Jacksonville State at Auburn
Sept. 19: Northwestern State at Mississippi State
Sept. 19: Western Carolina at Tennessee
Sept. 19: Austin Peay at Vanderbilt
Sept. 26: Southern at Georgia
Oct. 3: Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky
Oct. 31: Tennessee-Martin at Arkansas
Nov. 14: Western Carolina at Texas A&M
Nov. 21: Charleston Southern at Alabama
Nov. 21: The Citadel at South Carolina
Analysis: Florida is the only SEC school that won’t face an FCS opponent in 2015. We’re also still one year away from the rule mandating each team face one power-conference opponent. The good news? The league is doing away with its second bye week. That seems to have impacted the Saturday prior to rivalry week: last season, that spot on the schedule featured five SEC vs. FCS games as opposed to just two this year. That means fewer snoozers the week before the most exciting slate of games. The downside? September now features eight SEC vs. FCS matchups.
Sept. 5: Mississippi State at Southern Miss (3-9)
Sept. 5: New Mexico State (2-10) at Florida
Sept. 5: Louisiana-Monroe (4-8) at Georgia
Sept. 19: Connecticut (2-10) at Missouri
Sept. 26: Louisiana-Monroe (4-8) at Alabama
Oct. 3: San Jose State (3-9) at Auburn
Oct. 3: Eastern Michigan (2-10) at LSU
Oct. 10: Troy (3-9) at Mississippi State
Oct. 10: New Mexico State (2-10) at Ole Miss
Nov. 14: North Texas (4-8) at Tennessee
Nov. 21: Idaho (1-10) at Auburn
Nov. 21: Florida Atlantic (3-9) at Florida
Nov. 21: Charlotte (5-6 in ’14 as FCS Independent) at Kentucky
Analysis: Three teams play two games against FBS-level “cupcakes”: Auburn, Florida and Mississippi State. Four teams don’t play an FBS-level “cupcake”: Arkansas, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The records listed above are from the 2014 season. Louisiana-Monroe is on our list by default, but did won three conference games last season and played LSU, Kentucky and Texas A&M during the non-conference portion of the schedule, so it barely counts.
This year, 26 of the SEC’s 56 non-conference games qualify as “cupcake” opponents by our definition. In case you don’t have a calculator handy — or you’re not Joshua Dobbs — that’s 46.4 percent.
Two teams — Auburn and Mississippi State — play three “cupcakes” in four non-conference games. Auburn does face Louisville of the ACC, while the Bulldogs and Missouri Tigers do not face a single power-conference team.
As far as the overall SEC schedule, Sept. 5 features six “cupcake” opponents, while Nov. 21 features five. (So much for the original theory I mentioned during the FCS section.) At least during the opening week of the season we get to watch matchups like Alabama-Wisconsin, Texas A&M-Arizona State and South Carolina-North Carolina.
Teams that advance to the SEC championship or College Football Playoff can face brutal schedules, with as many as three extra games against Top 10 opponents. But several SEC teams essentially play nine regular-season games and three glorified exhibitions, and even less for Missouri if Vanderbilt turns out to be a near-automatic win.
We all should salute Steve Spurrier and South Carolina for facing North Carolina, Clemson and a game UCF team during the non-conference portion of the schedule. And to think that the Gamecocks turned down a game with Florida State on top of that.
Personally, I’d like to see more games against programs like UCF, East Carolina and Louisiana Tech — capable FBS programs that should become wins for good SEC teams, but won’t roll over and become snooze fests by halftime. But SEC fans can’t complain too much about the schedule, as there are some terrific conference games every single week.