Phil Steele ranks six SEC teams in Top 25 toughest schedules
College football guru Phil Steele released his rankings for what teams have the toughest schedules for the 2014 season and six SEC teams fall within the Top 25.
According to Steele, his strength of schedule rankings are based on his own method, which is done by combining the nine sets of his power ratings with the amounts of home and away games for every team.
Here are the six SEC teams with a SOS in the Top 25:
No. 2) Tennessee Volunteers
Home games: Utah State (Aug. 31), Arkansas State (Sept. 6), Florida (Oct. 4), Chattanooga (Oct. 11), Alabama (Oct. 25), Kentucky (Nov. 15), Missouri (Nov. 22)
Away games: Oklahoma (Sept. 13), Georgia (Sept. 27), Ole Miss (Oct. 18), South Carolina (Nov. 1), Vanderbilt (Nov. 29)
Analysis: Seemingly every week will be a tough challenge for the Tennessee Volunteers in 2014. They open up their season against Utah State and Arkansas State, which are not your usual early season pushovers. Following those two weeks, the Volunteers will have three straight games against Oklahoma (away), Georgia (away) and Florida (home). After a brief break with a home game against Chattanooga, Tennessee faces another tough three-game stretch with Ole Miss (away), Alabama (home) and South Carolina (away).
No. 3) Arkansas Razorbacks
Home games: Nicholls State (Sept. 6), N. Illinois (Sept. 20), Alabama (Oct. 11), Georgia (Oct. 18), UAB (Oct. 25), LSU (Nov. 15), Ole Miss (Nov. 22)
Away games: Auburn (Aug. 30), Texas Tech (Sept. 13), Mississippi State (Nov. 1), Missouri (Nov. 28)
Neutral site games: Texas A&M (Sept. 27)
Analysis: I’m sure head coach Bret Bielema was hoping for an easier schedule after a 3-9 season in his first year the Razorbacks’ head coach, but such is life in the SEC. Coming in with the conference’s second-toughest schedule, Arkansas will face multiple tough tests throughout 2014. In addition to games against Alabama, Georgia and LSU, the Razorbacks are opening up their 2014 campaign with a road game at Auburn. It’s the first time they’ve opened up their season with an SEC opponent since joining the conference in 1992. Arkansas will also travel to Lubbock, Tx. to face Texas Tech for an early season non-conference matchup.
No. 5) Auburn Tigers
Home games: Arkansas (Aug. 30), San Jose State (Sept. 6), Louisiana Tech (Sept. 27), LSU (Oct. 4), South Carolina (Oct. 25), Texas A&M (Nov. 8), Samford (Nov. 22)
Away games: Kansas State (Sept. 18), Mississippi State (Oct. 11), Ole Miss (Nov. 1), Georgia (Nov. 15), Alabama (Nov. 29)
Analysis: For the defending SEC champion, it’s a mixed bag. Two of Auburn’s tougher SEC West opponents (LSU and Texas A&M) are at Jordan-Hare this season. Unfortunately for the Tigers, their two biggest rivalry games are on the road this season including the season-ending Iron Bowl. With a schedule this tough, Auburn will be hard-pressed to repeat last year’s success.
No. 12) Texas A&M Aggies
Home games: Lamar (Sept. 6), Rice (Sept. 13), Ole Miss (Oct. 11), UL Monroe (Nov. 1), Missouri (Nov. 15), LSU (Nov. 27)
Away games: South Carolina (Aug. 28), SMU (Sept. 20), Mississippi State (Oct. 4), Alabama (Oct. 18), Auburn (Nov. 8)
Neutral site games: Arkansas (Sept. 27)
Analysis: As they embark on their first SEC season without Johnny Manziel, the Aggies are handed no favors in their schedule. They’ll have to travel to face three SEC Championship contenders: South Carolina, Alabama and Auburn. Things quickly get tough for the Aggies as they’ll kick off their 2014 season against the Gamecocks at Williams-Bryce Stadium, one of the countries most underrated venues.
No. 15) Kentucky Wildcats
Home games: UT Martin (Aug. 30), Ohio (Sept. 6), Vanderbilt (Sept. 27), South Carolina (Oct. 4), UL Monroe (Oct. 11), Mississippi State (Oct. 25), Georgia (Nov. 8)
Away games: Florida (Sept. 13), LSU (Oct. 18), Missouri (Nov. 1), Tennessee (Nov. 15), Louisville (Nov. 29)
Analysis: The Wildcats will benefit from having two tune-up games before traveling to the Swamp to face the Gators, a series in which they haven’t won since 1986. Kentucky avoids Alabama and Auburn this year, but a cross-divisional road game at LSU won’t make things any easier on Mark Stoops in his second year as head coach.
No. 20) Ole Miss Rebels
Home games: UL Lafayette (Sept. 13), Memphis (Sept. 27), Alabama (Oct. 4), Tennessee (Oct. 18), Auburn (Nov. 1), Presbyterian (Nov. 8), Mississippi State (Nov. 29)
Away games: Vanderbilt (Sept. 6), Texas A&M (Oct. 11), LSU (Oct. 25), Arkansas (Nov. 22)
Neutral site games: Boise State (Aug. 28)
Analysis: The schedule for Ole Miss will bring some marquee games to Oxford this year. The Rebels will face SEC powerhouses Alabama and Auburn at home this year. Not to mention, the Egg Bowl against their dreaded in-state rival Mississippi State will be in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. With only four true road games, Ole Miss can consider themselves fortunate, but they’ll be tested with games at two of the toughest road environments: Kyle Field and Tiger Stadium.
Phil Steele’s Top 25 Toughest Schedules
- Notre Dame
- West Virginia
- Iowa State
- Texas A&M
- Oklahoma State
- Washington State
- Ole Miss
- Arizona State
The Pac-12 has the most teams in Steele’s Top 25 with eight teams. The SEC is second with six teams, followed by the Big 12 with five teams, the ACC with three teams and the Big Ten with two teams. Notre Dame claims the distinction as the team with the nation’s toughest schedule.