It is Preseason Prediction 101 to look at a team’s schedule during the summer when trying to determine what kind of a season to expect from that team. And while it’s important to see the key items on a schedule (where the Iron Bowl is being played, for example), there are usually some hidden notes in a team’s schedule that may go unnoticed.
Here is a note on each SEC team’s schedule that might be overlooked. These aren’t the most important notes from their schedules, just some under-the-radar observations.
Alabama will play just two games in an opposing team’s stadium over the first 10 weeks.
From their Sept. 2 opener against Florida State in Atlanta through the Nov. 4 showdown against LSU in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide’s only road games are at Vanderbilt (Sept. 23) and at Texas A&M (Oct. 7).
Arkansas is one of two SEC teams that won’t play a true road game in the first month of the season.
The Razorbacks’ first four games include two in Fayetteville, one in Little Rock, and one on a neutral field in Arlington, Texas. Missouri is the other SEC team that does not have to visit an opposing team’s stadium in the first month.
Auburn is one of two teams (Florida State is the other) in the FBS that will face both of last year’s national championship game participants.
The Tigers are expected to contend for the SEC West title this season, but the schedule is no picnic. In fact, they get to travel to take on the defending national champions, Clemson, in Week 2.
At least they get to host the Iron Bowl this season.
Florida plays just three true road games in the SEC this season.
Every SEC team will play at least four true road games this season, with the exception of the Gators. Florida will play at Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina, three teams with a combined record of 17-21 last season.
In fact, over the first nine weeks, the Gators will play in an opposing team’s stadium once – Sept. 23 at Kentucky.
Georgia does not play its first SEC game until Sept. 23 (vs Mississippi State).
Why is this interesting? The last time the Bulldogs waited this long to open their SEC season was 1987, when their first conference game came against Ole Miss on Oct. 3.
Kentucky is the only SEC team that plays two of its first three games on the road.
The Wildcats are one of three SEC schools that open the season on the road (Sept. 2 at Southern Miss). Texas A&M and Vanderbilt are the other two. But while the Aggies don’t play another true road game until Oct. 14, and the Commodores’ next road game is Sept. 30 at Florida, the Wildcats have to wait all of two weeks before their second trip to an opposing team’s stadium (Sept. 16 at South Carolina).
LSU opens its season away from home for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
Much is made of how Alabama is opening its season on a neutral field for the sixth straight season. But since 2009, the Tigers have gone on the road to begin their season all but once – 2012 vs North Texas.
It will be the second time in the last four years LSU is opening in Houston. In 2014, the Tigers defeated Wisconsin there, 28-24.
Ole Miss is the only SEC team to play at both Alabama and Auburn.
And, the Rebels get to do this in consecutive weeks (Sept. 30 at Alabama, Oct. 7 at Auburn). The only other school to even play these two teams in consecutive weeks is Arkansas, but it gets one of the teams at home (Oct. 21 vs Auburn).
Mississippi State is the only SEC team that plays both Alabama and LSU at home.
The schedule makers did not do the Bulldogs any favors. Their five September opponents all won at least eight games in 2016 and 10 of their first 11 opponents had a winning record last season.
But at least they get to host the Tigers and the Crimson Tide. No other SEC team will be that lucky this year.
Missouri is the only SEC team to open its season with four consecutive home games.
The Tigers, who struggled to a 4-8 season in 2016, should have an opportunity to better that mark this season. They do not have to play a road game until Week 6 at Kentucky.
The flip side to this great schedule early is the fact that Missouri plays five of its final eight games on the road, including back-to-back road games at Vanderbilt and Arkansas to end the regular season. Among SEC teams, only Texas A&M also ends its regular season with two straight road games.
South Carolina is one of two SEC teams that closes its regular season with three straight home games.
Many are expecting bigger things from the Gamecocks in Year 2 under Will Muschamp. And their season may come down to their November schedule.
After visiting Georgia in Athens, South Carolina hosts Florida, Wofford and Clemson to end the regular season. Among SEC schools, only Auburn also ends its regular season with three straight home games.
Tennessee’s first two FBS opponents won at least nine games last season.
The only other SEC school that can say its first two FBS opponents had at least nine wins last season is Florida (Michigan and Tennessee). Unlike the Gators, though, the Volunteers have to play each opponent away from home.
It is worth noting that between Georgia Tech and Florida, the Volunteers host Indiana State.
Texas A&M will play just two games in an opposing team’s stadium over the first 11 weeks of the season.
If the Aggies can’t improve on three straight 8-5 seasons, they won’t be able to blame the schedulers. After opening the season at UCLA, Texas A&M only plays on the road once before Nov. 18 — on Oct. 14 at Florida.
The Aggies also host Alabama and Auburn this season, and their first three non-conference opponents – UCLA, Nicholls State and Louisiana-Lafayette – were a combined 15-21 last season.
Vanderbilt will leave the state of Tennessee just three times this season.
The Commodores have a bit of an unusual scheduling quirk. They open and close the regular season in the state of Tennessee, but not at home. Vanderbilt’s season opener is at Middle Tennessee State and its last game of the regular season is against Tennessee in Knoxville.
Vanderbilt’s only trips outside the state are at Florida (Sept. 30), at Ole Miss (Oct. 14) and at South Carolina (Oct. 28).