It seems every year one school has a legitimate gripe with the scheduling within its conference. This year it may just be Alabama, which will surely cause many to break out the tiny violins for Nick Saban and company. Four of Alabama’s opponents this year will have the benefit of a bye week leading up to their respective match-ups with the defending SEC champions, including three within the SEC. Another school will get a few extra days to prepare for the game, while two more will be coming off virtual bye weeks against FCS opponents before facing Alabama.
Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt Conference, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and LSU all have a bye week before facing Alabama. In the case of LSU, Alabama also has a bye week before hosting the Tigers in Tuscaloosa. Mississippi State will be coming off a Thursday night game (at Missouri), so Dan Mullen, Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs will have a couple of extra days to prepare for Alabama. Georgia plays an FCS opponent the week before hosting Alabama. Auburn will host Idaho the week before playing the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Here are some other brief thoughts on the schedules in the SEC this upcoming season.
Much to the disgust of some, the back-end of the SEC schedule is once again loaded with cupcakes. Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and South Carolina each finish the season with a game against either an FCS or Sun Belt opponent the week before taking in their in-state ACC rivals. Alabama and Auburn each dive into the FCS or Sun Belt pool before the Iron Bowl. Alabama and Auburn counter those late cupcakes with a filling main course in week one. Alabama faces Wisconsin in Arlington and Auburn takes on Louisville in Atlanta in week one.
We will be sure to hear gripes about this SEC scheduling practice, just as we seem to every season as the season draws to a close. The advantage of scheduling lightweights later in the season comes in helping to save teams from a late loss to keep rankings in order. Complaints from the Big Ten and Pac-12 fans may come, but there is nothing stopping their conferences from doing the same. Hey, that sounds familiar.
Florida and Georgia each get a bye week before facing each other in Jacksonville for The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (not sorry, I’m still calling it that). It will be the third straight game that sees Florida playing outside of Gainesville.
How many power conference opponents will the SEC play this season in non-conference play? The SEC East will play seven games against power conference opponents, including Missouri’s game against BYU in Arrowhead Stadium (the SEC will recognize BYU as a power conference opponent by the way). The SEC West has five games scheduled against power conference opponents, with three of those taking place in big spotlight neutral site venues in the opening week. In total, the SEC has 12 games scheduled against power conference opponents. The ACC has 21 games thanks to the addition of Notre Dame on a rotating schedule. The Big Ten has 19 power conference opponents, followed by the SEC’s 12. The Pac-12 has 11 power conference opponents and the Big 12 has eight (although each conference has smaller membership compared to the ACC, Big Ten and SEC).
Biggest non-conference upset alert game for the SEC? Tossing those neutral site games and ACC rivalry games to the side, keep tabs on Tennessee’s season opener in Nashville against Bowling Green. The Falcons have some work to do to make a return trip to the MAC championship game but the offense is developing into the mold of the Oregon Ducks. If Tennessee stumbles out of the gate, Bowling Green may be able to pull an upset if the defense doesn’t fall apart. That would put a rising Tennessee program in a difficult spot with Oklahoma coming to Knoxville the following week. South Carolina’s home game against UCF could get interesting as well.