Power ranking all 52 of the SEC's nonconference foes
August is prime time for talking SEC football here at SDS, but sometimes you’ve got to talk non-SEC football. Like when you contemplate the nonconference schedules of SEC teams.
Obviously, everybody can’t play Little Sisters of the Poor 4 times a year, but nobody wants to get stuck with a murderer’s row nonconference schedule either. Aside from those motivations, sometimes teams back out (cough, Michigan, cough), and sometimes you just schedule badly. But how does it all shake down?
Here is our preseason power ranking of all the SEC nonconference foes. We start by breaking them down by their chance at an SEC upset.
Snowballs in, well … (no freaking way)
52. Tennessee-Martin (at Florida, Kentucky)
The 2-9 Skyhawks finished one spot out of the Ohio Valley Conference basement in 2018, lost to Mizzou by 37, and will get slaughtered by 2 more SEC programs this fall.
51. Western Carolina (at Alabama)
The Catamounts went 3-8 last year in the FCS Southern Conference. Alabama’s scout team would crush them.
50. Portland State (at Arkansas)
The Vikings were 4-7 in the Big Sky last season and lost at Oregon by 48. This isn’t this year’s North Texas for Arkansas.
49. Southeastern Louisiana (at Ole Miss)
The Lions went 4-7 in the Southland Conference last year and lost to LSU by 31. They’re no threat.
48. Murray State (at Georgia)
The 5-6 Racers finished in the middle of the Ohio Valley Conference and lost to Kentucky by 38 last year. No worries.
47. Charleston Southern (at South Carolina)
The 5-6 Buccaneers lost by 47 to Florida in last season’s opener. No chance.
46. Northwestern State (at LSU)
Coach O’s team lost by 52 at Texas A&M last year. A 5-6 FCS team last year in the Southland conference isn’t going to win in Tiger Stadium. This isn’t Troy.
45. San Jose State (at Arkansas)
Coach Brent Brennan’s team has gone 3-22 in his 2 seasons and there’s not much reason to expect a massive turnaround this year.
44. Georgia State (at Tennessese)
Coach Shawn Elliott’s Panthers slid to 2-10 in his 2nd season. In 2017, they lost to Penn State 56-0, and won’t do much better against UT.
43. Abilene Christian (at Miss. St.)
These guys went 6-5 in the FCS Southland conference last year. They lost to Baylor by 4 scores, and they’ll lose to State by more.
42. Chattanooga (at Tennessee)
A 6-5 FCS team that lost by 40 to South Carolina can expect more of the same in Knoxville. They’re 2-38-2 against UT in this oddly lengthy series.
41. Lamar (at Texas A&M)
The Cardinals were 7-5 in FCS last year and made the playoffs. They also lost to Texas Tech 77-0.
40. Towson (at Florida)
The Tigers went 7-5 in the CAA in 2018, but also lost their lone P5 game to Wake Forest by 31. Expect more of the same.
39. East Tennessee State (at Vanderbilt)
Former UT assistant Randy Sanders went 8-4 in Year 1 with the Buccaneers, although they did get skunked by UT, 59-3.
38. Kent State (at Auburn)
The Golden Flashes haven’t won 5 games in a season since 2012, and were 2-10 last year. They lost at Ole Miss by 21, and will lose by more at Auburn.
37. New Mexico State (at Alabama, Ole Miss)
They are now an Independent, went 3-9 last year, and have made 1 bowl since 1960. Fuhgeddaboutit.
36. Texas State (at Texas A&M)
State has been FCS for less than a decade, has never played in a bowl, and went 3-9 last season in the Sun Belt. Enough said.
35. UTSA (at Texas A&M)
The Roadrunners were 3-9 in CUSA last year, although their P5 losses were more respectable than most teams with those credentials.
34. UNLV (at Vanderbilt)
The Rebels have 1 winning season in the 2010s and went 4-8 last year. There’s not much reason for confidence for them.
33. Samford (at Auburn)
The Bulldogs went 6-5 in FCS’ Southern Conference last year, but Chris Hatcher’s team kind of underachieved … although they did lead at Florida State in the 4th quarter.
32. Southeast Missouri State (at Missouri)
SEMO went 9-4 last year and reached the second round of the FCS playoffs, but they lost stud RB Marquis Terry and shouldn’t challenge.
So you’re telling us there’s a chance (Lloyd Christmas specials)
31. Louisville (at Kentucky)
They make this category and not the 4th one because surely they can’t be worse than they were in 2018. A 2-10 season, Bobby Petrino getting fired midyear, and the Cards were smoked by Kentucky. But it is a rivalry game and a lot can happen in 12 months.
30. Colorado State (at Arkansas)
Mike Bobo’s team went 3-9 and surely Arkansas won’t sleepwalk through this game after blowing a huge 4th-quarter lead and the game last year in Fort Collins.
29. Western Kentucky (at Arkansas)
Despite being a WKU alum, this columnist harbors no illusions about the Hilltoppers, who are rebuilding with a new coach from a 3-9 campaign last fall.
28. Wyoming (vs. Missouri)
The Cowboys will host (?!?) Mizzou to open the season. They went 6-6 last year, but they also lost 27 in CoMo. The road trip makes this game that kinda, sorta maybe vibe.
27. Eastern Michigan (at Kentucky)
EMU won 7 games last year to make their 2nd bowl in 3 seasons. They gave Kentucky a tough game in 2017.
26. Arkansas State (at Georgia)
ASU has posted winning seasons each year since 2010, and went 8-5 last year. They also lost by 50 at Bama in 2018, and could replicate that at Athens this fall.
25. Georgia Tech (vs. Georgia)
Tech could be better than this … it often was under Paul Johnson. But on the other hand, new coach Geoff Collins will have to make a million adjustments, and Year 1 is likely to be kind of chaotic for the Yellow Jackets.
24. Kansas State (at Miss St.)
New coach Chris Kleiman has his work cut out. The Wildcats were 5-7 last year and were outgained 538-213 in last year’s 3-score loss to State in Manhattan.
23. Louisiana (vs. Miss. St. in New Orleans)
The artist formerly known as Louisiana-Lafayette went 7-7 last year, and get a New Orleans game with the Bulldogs after losing to the in Starkville by 46 last year.
22. Tulane (at Auburn)
Tulane went 7-6 in 2018, although that was its 1st bowl appearance since 2013, and they still got crushed by solid competition.
21. BYU (at Tennessee)
The Cougars are always hard to get a read on, but they can trip up decent teams — ask Mississippi State, which they beat in 2016. BYU went 7-6 last year and beat Wisconsin early in the year.
20. Southern Miss (at Alabama, Miss St.)
The Golden Eagles were 6-5 last year and played Kentucky and Tennessee tough in 2017. Not beating Bama though, and probably can’t give State much more of a game.
19. Duke (vs. Alabama in Atlanta)
Duke went 8-5 last year in the ACC, but lost QB Daniel Jones and plenty of others. Would take a miracle for them to hang with Bama.
18. UAB (at Tennessee)
UAB was one of the feel-good stories of the past 2 years, but the Blazers also can play. They were 11-3 last year. But they also lost to Texas A&M by 21 and lost a lot of their best players.
It’s not going to be easy
17. North Carolina (vs. South Carolina in Charlotte)
This game would be a tier or two easier … but the Tar Heels hired Mack Brown, and there’s an element of the unknown that makes this border rivalry much more interesting. UNC was awful last year, particularly on defense, but it’s a new day.
16. Northern Illlinois (at Vanderbilt)
NIU went 8-6 last year and has just 1 losing season in the 2010s. It is no stranger to big-time competition, taking Ohio State to the wire in 2015 and upsetting Nebraska in 2017. The Huskies have a new coach and some personnel losses, but this could get tough.
15. California (at Ole Miss)
In 2017, Ole Miss lost in Berkeley. The guess is that staying home while the Bears endure the cross-country travel helps the Rebs, but Cal did win 7 games last year.
14. Toledo (at Kentucky)
The Rockets were 7-6 last year, which was their 9th consecutive winning season. They scored over 40 points per game and could give Kentucky fits if their offense is humming.
13. West Virginia (at Missouri)
New coach Neal Brown probably wishes he still had Will Grier and David Sills, but this could make for an interesting Week 2 for the Tigers.
12. Purdue (vs. Vanderbilt)
There are big expectations around Purdue and its attacking passing game. It is worth noting that they split with Mizzou over the past 2 years, although Auburn did light up the Boilers in the Music City Bowl to end last year’s 6-7 campaign.
11. Appalachian State (at South Carolina)
ASU has won 41 games in the past 4 seasons, and averaged 5.4 or more yards per carry for each of the past 4 years. These guys are legit — hung with Penn State in 2018, hung with UT in 2016 … and everybody knows what they did to Michigan in 2007.
10. Florida State (at Florida)
These aren’t your older brother’s Seminoles. They’re 12-13 in the past 2 seasons and Willie Taggart isn’t exactly conjuring up the glory days. But surely a ton of big-time talent and a history of rivalry means they don’t lose by 27 this year. Right? Right??
9. Georgia Southern (at LSU)
They went 10-3 last season, and if LSU overlooks this game for Texas in Week 2, it could stay close for a while.
8. Troy (at Missouri)
Yes, it’s the same Troy team that won at LSU in 2017, although they have a new head coach (Chip Lindsey) and a lot of new faces at skill positions. They have won double-digit games in each of the past 3 seasons.
7. Memphis (vs. Ole Miss)
The Tigers have 5 consecutive winning seasons and host the Rebels in a local rivalry game. The last time Ole Miss went to Memphis (2015), they lost.
6. Utah State (at LSU)
This Aggie team was 11-2 in 2018, and their 2 losses were at Michigan State by 7 and at Boise State by 9. LSU could have its hands full.
Just another big boy football game, even outside the SEC
5. Miami (vs. Florida in Orlando)
If only Mark Richt were still coaching the Canes, right? These historic rivals don’t play much anymore (this is just their 3rd game since 2004), but you can expect some fireworks and flags.
4. Oregon (vs. Auburn in Dallas)
No, the Ducks aren’t quite what they looked to be a few years ago, but they’re an offensively potent team with a chance to stall the Gus Bus. Auburn’s key? Its daunting defensive front has to dominate and make life miserable for NFL prospect Justin Herbert.
3. Texas (vs. LSU)
The Horns went 10-4 in Tom Herman’s 2nd year and beat 3 ranked teams, including Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Is Texas back? Is LSU for real? This will be a good game.
2. Notre Dame (at Georgia)
Sure, Clemson showed up the Irish in the Playoff. But they showed up Alabama a week later. Georgia needed some big plays late to escape at South Bend in 2017, and this will be a challenging game this fall.
1. Clemson (vs. Texas A&M, at South Carolina)
Obviously, playing the defending national champ is a tough afternoon.