Ranking the 2016 SEC football schedules from easiest to hardest. We take a look at which Southeastern Conference team has the toughest road ahead.
It’s not a total walk in the park – mainly because Vanderbilt can’t play Vanderbilt – but the Commodores miss most of the big boys from the SEC West and get Florida and Tennessee at home. The non-conference games against Middle Tennessee, at Georgia Tech, at WKU and Tennessee State aren’t bad considering what the rest of the league has to deal with.
What more could the Bulldogs ask for? They have to go on the road against Ole Miss, but Missouri, South Carolina and Kentucky is like scheduling Christmas. There’s no Alabama or LSU to deal with, and Tennessee is at home. Yeah, North Carolina begins the season and Georgia Tech ends it, but those will be in front of home crowds.
The early game against TCU is difficult, but the rest of the non-conference schedule is easy, and overall it’s not a horrible run over the first half of the season. Getting Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU at home helps, but closing out at Mississippi State and Missouri on the road is dangerous after facing Florida.
There’s no excuse. The Vols always have to play Alabama, but it’s in Knoxville along with the showdown against Florida. The non-conference slate is quirky with the speedway game against Virginia Tech in Bristol and interesting games against Appalachian State and Ohio, but those won’t be an issue. The SEC road games – Georgia, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Vanderbilt – are fine for a team with CFP aspirations.
10. Texas A&M
The Aggies have to go to Alabama in the middle of the season, and they start out against UCLA, but there’s no real complaint with everything else getting Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU at home, and with four of the last five games in College Station. Every SEC team would be happy with road games at Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State – relative speaking.
9. South Carolina
Starting out with three road games in the first four weeks at least gets several road contests out of the way, and they’re not all that bad – Vandy, Mississippi State and Kentucky. Getting Georgia and Tennessee at home is a plus. The Gamecocks need secure wins early with a road game at Florida and the date with Clemson in the last few weeks.
8. Mississippi State
There’s no complaining with South Carolina and Kentucky to play from the SEC East, and BYU is the toughest non-conference game on the schedule. So what’s the problem? LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss are all on the road, and the dates with the Crimson Tide and Rebels wrap around Arkansas. 2016 SEC West Champion T-shirts shan’t be printed.
Starting out in a charged-up environment against Wisconsin in Green Bay is rough, but the Tigers get a whole slew of positive breaks the rest of the way. The road games at Florida and Arkansas aren’t easy, but combine with trips to Auburn and Texas A&M, that’s a relative kiss on the cheek with Ole Miss and Alabama in Death Valley.
Kentucky’s away SEC football schedule stinks, having to go to Florida, Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee. On the plus side, there’s no LSU to play, but having to close up against Louisville on the road stinks, and starting out against Conference USA favorite – most likely – Southern Miss is a trap.
Finishing up with Florida State is always awful, and it’s on the road this season – that makes up for a layup of a first three non-conference games. Facing LSU is a bad break, but at least it’s in The Swamp. Here’s the problem – Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas are all away from home. The Gators have to at least split with the Vols and Dawgs and can’t blow any layups along the way.
It’s a sneaky-tough slate with the unfortunate bad break of having to go on the road to face LSU from the SEC West. The next game? At Florida, but at least there’s a week off to prepare. Going to Tennessee and finishing up against Arkansas all but kills hopes of winning the SEC East. The non-conference slate isn’t awful, but opening at West Virginia is rough.
3. Ole Miss
Opening the season against Florida State is brutal, but the Alabama game is in Oxford. The Rebels get a break playing Vandy from the East, but they also face Georgia – and that comes after Bama. The big problem is a run of four road games in six weeks going to Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The body blows will add up.
As if starting out the season facing Clemson wasn’t bad enough, the Tigers – as always – have to close with Alabama. That’s on the road, along with dates against Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Georgia over the second half of the season. Getting Vanderbilt from the SEC East is a break, but winning early home games against Texas A&M and LSU is a must considering that back half of the slate.
As always, Alabama gets everyone’s best shot, this year with most teams coming in rested. Ole Miss gets a week off against Wofford the before Bama comes to town. Auburn gets Alabama A&M, Arkansas gets Alcorn State, and Texas A&M and LSU have bye weeks. Throw in the tough opener against USC and the four road games at Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU, and good luck going 11-1 – or better.