A team’s schedule obviously plays a role in its won-loss record. Heck, who wouldn’t rather play Florida International, Eastern Michigan and Louisiana-Monroe than Florida State, Michigan and LSU?
At the same time, it can be dangerous to think of games as “tough” or “easy” three months out. What can look to be an easy game in mid-May can end up being tough in October or November.
For instance, Georgia played host to Vanderbilt in mid-October last season. Last May, that looked like a gimme win. Instead, the Commodores pulled the upset on their way to a bowl game. And last May, it seemed inconceivable that presumptive East Division titlist Tennessee could lose on the road to South Carolina. Alas, it happened.
That brings us to this: We attempt to gauge the toughest and easiest home and road schedules in the SEC. In addition, we’ll weigh in on the easiest and toughest division crossover games.
THE SEC’S TOUGHEST HOME SCHEDULE: Florida
The skinny: Florida gets visits from three tough opponents (LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M), as well as Vandy, which has played the Gators mighty close of late. LSU and Texas A&M are in back-to-back weeks, and all four of those home games come in a five-week stretch from mid-September through mid-October. (There’s also a visit from Florida State, which, as a non-conference game, doesn’t count for this but is difficult nonetheless.)
Also considered: Texas A&M has Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and South Carolina, and the Aggies have all four in a six-week period. The other game during that period? A visit to Florida. That is a difficult stretch. The two weakest teams are Mississippi State and South Carolina, and both have quarterbacks who should vie for All-SEC honors.
THE SEC’S TOUGHEST ROAD SCHEDULE: LSU
The skinny: One SEC team has five league road games – and it’s LSU. New coach Ed Orgeron has made it clear he’s appreciative of AD Joe Alleva for giving him the job, but Orgeron has to be cursing Alleva under his breath for having to travel to Florida this season and next. The game in Gainesville is a direct result of last season’s brouhaha over the Florida-LSU game being postponed by a hurricane. Alleva basically mandated that the game be played in Baton Rouge, and the league office basically gave in. The flipside: LSU has to play at Florida in 2017 and 2018. (And remember that Florida won at LSU last season, thanks to a dramatic last-second goal-line stand.) That trip to Gainesville this season means LSU hits the road to play Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee. The one saving grace: None of them are on back-to-back weekends.
Also considered: Don’t expect Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze to shed many tears about LSU’s road schedule. Ole Miss’ road schedule: Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky and Mississippi State. The toughest part is that Alabama and Auburn are back-to-back early in the season (September 30 and October 7). Given the Rebels’ self-imposed bowl ban, you wonder what happens to the team’s psyche if it loses both. Mississippi State has it tough, as well, with trips to Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia and Texas A&M; the Bulldogs have Georgia and Auburn in back-to-back weeks in late September.
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