It’s maddening, but not all schedules are created equal.
Some SEC teams have an easier path through the regular season, snacking on nonconference cupcakes while enjoying easy divisional draws, while others must slog through ranked opponent after ranked opponent.
With that said, here’s an early look at three teams with easy paths to the conference championship game in Atlanta and three with hard journeys ahead.
Mississippi State: Just like it was this past year, one loss could mean the difference for the Bulldogs. Why? Because the nonconference schedule is that bad: Southern Miss, Northwestern State, Troy and Louisiana Tech. With Kentucky and Missouri from the East, the non-West portion of the schedule isn’t exactly daunting either.
Missouri: OK, so their nonconference portion of the schedule is better than last year. But while we give credit for scheduling BYU, who thinks the Tigers are going to struggle with Southeast Missouri State, Arkansas State or Connecticut? Throw into the equation that Missouri doesn’t have to face Alabama, Auburn, LSU or Ole Miss from the West, and you’re looking at a manageable lineup.
Texas A&M: The opener against Arizona State will be difficult, but even so the Aggies don’t leave the state of Texas until late October. With that, their East draws are manageable (South Carolina, Vanderbilt), the rest of the nonconference is a breeze (Ball State, Nevada, Western Carolina) and the week before playing Alabama they get a bye.
Florida: Rebuilding could have its growing pains for Jim McElwain and his staff. Week 1 against New Mexico State shouldn’t be an issue, but East Carolina and Kentucky won’t be gimmes. Throw in Ole Miss and LSU from the West and Florida State at the end of the regular season, and you’re looking at a schedule most any coach would run away from.
LSU: Opening with McNeese State will be a welcome reprieve from last season, but it doesn’t get much easier from there. Week 2 LSU has to go to Mississippi State, Week 3 it hosts Auburn and two weeks later it travels to Syracuse. Then, to end the regular season, it plays Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Texas A&M in consecutive weeks.
Ole Miss: Rest up, ye Rebels. You’re going to need your strength because you don’t get your bye until mid-November. Before that, you’ll face Fresno State and Memphis from out of the conference, along with West rivals Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn and Arkansas.