So many marquee matchups are staring the SEC right in the face about half a year from now, ready to test the conference’s claim as the best in the country.

Florida State, Michigan, Georgia Tech, UCLA and NC State are the Power 5 teams (and don’t forget independent BYU) that await the league in the first slate of games, and some have asked whether this is the toughest opening week ever for the SEC.

Of course, it’s early and that’s tough to gauge without any of those opponents having a chance to prove themselves yet, but like you, we can’t help ourselves from looking ahead. One angle we can take is looking at how those teams did the previous season.

We went back to the turn of the century and compared the average winning percentage of all the SEC’s Week 1 opponents. Since one or two really good or really bad winning percentages can skew the average, we also looked at how many had a winning record and how many had exceptional seasons.

Note: In the case of an SEC vs. SEC matchup, we calculated the percentage of both teams.


As it turns out, the 2017 group of opponents can’t compare to last year’s, which did indeed get the SEC off to a rocky 6-6 start.

Clemson (vs. Auburn), Florida State (vs. Ole Miss) and Wisconsin (vs. LSU) all won highly-anticipated showdowns. West Virginia (vs. Missouri), South Alabama (vs. Mississippi State) and Southern Miss (vs. Kentucky) also dealt the league losses.

The combined win percentage of .607 was the best the SEC has faced in an opening week since 2000. Meanwhile, the five 10-win opponents were two more than any other year. Next season’s foes bring a .569 mark (fourth-best) and three 10-win teams (one of only four seasons with that many).

Two of those 10-win teams, Florida State and Michigan, faced one another in the Orange Bowl. The other, Appalachian State, took Tennessee to overtime in Week 1 this past season.

The 2008 and 2012 seasons were also higher. The SEC went 9-2 in 2012 (Texas A&M-Louisiana Tech was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac, and the Aggies won a 59-57 shootout with the Bulldogs on the Oct. 12 makeup date) and went 10-2 in 2008.

As for 2017, let’s take a look at the full schedule to kick things off.

Sept. 2AlabamaFlorida State10-3
Sept. 2ArkansasFlorida A&M4-7
Sept. 2AuburnGeorgia Southern5-7
Sept. 2FloridaMichigan10-3
Sept. 2GeorgiaAppalachian State10-3
Sept. 2KentuckySouthern Miss7-6
Sept. 2LSUBYU9-4
Sept. 2Ole MissSouth Alabama6-7
Sept. 2Mississippi StateCharleston Southern7-4
Sept. 2MissouriMissouri State4-7
Sept. 2South CarolinaNC State7-6
Sept. 2Texas A&MUCLA4-8
Sept. 2VanderbiltMiddle Tennessee State8-5
Sept. 4TennesseeGeorgia Tech9-4

Five of the season-opening opponents from last season are back again in Week 1: Florida State, Appalachian State, Southern Miss, South Alabama and UCLA. Three of those teams notched wins while the other two lost in overtime thrillers.

There were a handful of seasons in which the SEC faced a collection that didn’t even combine to go .500 the previous year, and three of those came consecutively from 2009-11.

The least daunting was in 2009 (.422 win pct.), which featured a Washington team coming off an 0-12 campaign in Tyrone Willingham’s final season with the Huskies. The SEC went 11-1 versus that bunch with the only blemish being Oklahoma State’s 24-10 win over Georgia.

It’s still anyone’s guess just how good next year’s Week 1 opponents will be, but if last year was any indication, the SEC has to be prepared.