ESPN recently ranked the non-conference schedules for every major FBS program, taking into account the next five years.

The SEC? Well, ESPN’s formula ranks the conference last.

Ranking the 64 power-conference teams based on future non-conference schedules, only one SEC team — South Carolina at No. 18 — breached the Top 20. (The Big Ten and ACC each placed six teams in the Top 20. The Pac-12 claimed five, while the Big 12 accounted for No. 1 overall Texas and No. 5 Oklahoma.)

Wrote ESPN:

The main reason for the conference’s ranking is the insistence on a “cupcake weekend” in late November. Many would argue that SEC teams needs a week off to recover, which is a valid argument. Even with the weak non-conference slate, the SEC’s full schedules are expected to be among the toughest in the nation next season, according to ESPN’s 2015 SOS projections.

Strength of schedule has become more important, at least theoretically, as the College Football Playoff takes root (avoiding losses remains most important, as Florida State show us last season). Even with the new mandate that every SEC team play at least one power-conference opponent, the league lags behind with non-conference scheduling.

Still, the SEC schedule is more than tough enough to cover for that flaw. But, if you study the national landscape objectively rather than dismissing the ESPN findings as an emotional SEC fan, it’s accurate. A lot of big-time programs in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 close the strength of schedule gap on SEC powers due to a willingness to occasionally face two power-conference FBS teams in a single year, or to avoid FCS opponents altogether.

Here are the rankings (out of 64) of every SEC program.

No. 18 South Carolina
No. 21 Georgia
No. 27 Florida
No. 38 Vanderbilt
No. 43 Alabama
No. 44 Texas A&M
No. 46 Arkansas
No. 47 Mississippi State
No. 48 LSU
No. 49 Auburn
No. 51 Kentucky
No. 57 Ole Miss
No. 59 Tennessee
No. 60 Missouri

That’s one reason the Gamecocks rank so high: in addition to the annual game against Clemson, South Carolina must face North Carolina, a second power-conference opponent, and UCF, a respectable FBS team. And that’s despite the fact that the team declined an apparent offer from Florida State to play this season as well.

Overall, it’s not a huge hinderance to the SEC, as ESPN referenced with the overall 2015 strength of schedule projections. But it would be nice to see one or two more programs like South Carolina willing to play an additional power-conference opponent, especially schools like Auburn, Georgia and Florida that already have a built-in high-profile rival outside of SEC play.

There are, however, several juicy non-conference games set up by SEC teams. We’ll leave you with a few of the best scheduled within the next three years.


Sept. 5: Alabama vs. Wisconsin
Sept. 5: Texas A&M vs. Arizona State
Sept. 12: Tennessee vs. Oklahoma


Alabama vs. USC
Arkansas vs. TCU
Auburn vs. Clemson
LSU vs. Wisconsin
Ole Miss vs. Florida State
Texas A&M vs. UCLA


Arkansas vs. TCU
Auburn vs. Clemson
Florida vs. Michigan
Georgia vs. Notre Dame
Texasa A&M vs. UCLA