Cupcakes for everybody: The SEC’s worst out-of-conference matchups for 2017 (and who they should play)
So we recently broke down the top 10 out-of-conference matchups in the SEC. Now, let’s take the other end of the spectrum. Here are the bottom 10 — the worst out-of-conference matchups, and who the schools should have played, instead of going for a cupcake so heavy that diabetics won’t tune in for the game.
10. Ole Miss vs. UT-Martin, Sept. 9: The Rebels should probably take things pretty easy, but FCS UT-Martin might be pushing the point. A better matchup? How about Southern Miss, which had fallen on hard times, but has bounced back to play in bowl games the past two seasons. Even if the game was ugly, Archie and Favre could have some kind of alumni matchup at halftime.
9. Auburn vs. Mercer, Sept. 16: Sure, the Tigers wanted an easy win between road games at Clemson and Missouri. But FCS Mercer, fresh off a 6-5 2016 campaign? A more reasonable alternative? One viable option would be South Alabama, which knocked off Mississippi State to open 2016 en route to its second bowl game. An intrastate rivalry besides Alabama would be more interesting than an FCS sleeper.
8. Florida vs. Northern Colorado, Sept. 9: With Michigan and Florida State on the out-of-conference slate, Florida deserves an easy game — but not a matchup with a 6-5 FCS team. How about another intrastate matchup — maybe against Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic? Are you telling me the Gators wouldn’t like to shut down Kiffin’s offense and make their easy win a little more interesting?
7. LSU vs. Chattanooga, Sept. 9: LSU’s non-conference schedule is pretty soft, and while UTC is a good FCS team, it’s not much of a fight. If LSU still wants an easy win but a more interesting opponent, they could take on one of the mid-major state schools — Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe or Louisiana Tech. Tech in particular plays an interesting, high-octane style that would be worth watching.
6. Missouri vs. Missouri State, Sept. 2: A productive opener would be good, but a 4-7 FCS team is a pitiful matchup. Drew Lock will throw for 500 yards by halftime, but it won’t mean a thing. What would mean something is going back to the Big 12 rivalry days for a minute. Kansas is both a border state and an FBS team. The Jayhawks are also terrible, so it’s still an easy win for Mizzou, but one that means at least a little bit more.
5. Vanderbilt vs. Alabama A&M, Sept. 9: Middle Tennessee and Auburn each beat A&M 55-0 last year. So why does Vandy play them? Granted, the Commodores otherwise have a tough out-of-conference schedule. A better matchup for the Commodores might be Duke, fellow power conference pincushion and academic bigwig. OK, so I’m partial to that matchup because my first Vanderbilt football game ended in Vandy beating Duke in overtime followed by a kid in a Skeletor mask hanging from the goalpost. So sue me.
4. Arkansas vs. Florida A&M, Sept 2: Everybody like an easy opener, but the Razorbacks are already playing first-year FBS member Coastal Carolina later in the season. So why a 4-7 FCS Florida A&M team? Who knows? A&M lost to Miami 70-3 last year. A more competitive game? Bring back the Texas rivalry! TCU was a good matchup last year, and if Arkansas’s annual game in Little Rock brought back some college football history, it would give them a shot in the arm instead of an early-season snooze.
3. Texas A&M vs. Nicholls, Sept. 9: Sure, Nicholls lost at Georgia by just two points in 2016. But they also went 5-6 and lost to McNeese State by 25. They’re not very good. A&M would do better to rekindle an in-state rivalry — Texas Tech, TCU, Texas, Houston— maybe rotate each of them once every four years. Sure, it’s a tougher game. But if A&M can’t hang around in its own state, how can it win the SEC?
2. Tennessee vs. Indiana State, Sept. 9: A 4-7 FCS team that lost to Missouri State by 21 points at home? Yuck. The Vols already have UMass, which is perhaps the most prominent FBS cupcake. So replace the FCS cupcake with a matchup with Memphis. The Tigers are good, but clearly weaker than the Vols, and the game would give Tennessee a recruiting boost in the western end of the state.
1. Alabama vs. Mercer, Nov. 18: Sure, Alabama doesn’t want a tough opponent for Senior Day. But Mercer? Yes, a 6-5 FCS team with losses to Samford, Wofford, Chattanooga and the Citadel. Give us a break. The Tide’s walk-ons could win that game. A better matchup? How about Western Michigan? Would still be an easy win for Bama, but give the mid-major boys a shot at a big dog. If it wouldn’t be must-watch TV, it would at least be better.