Like it is:

UA schedule tough, Georgia's is tougher

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, June 22, 2014
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema works with his team before the start of a football scrimmage Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema works with his team before the start of a football scrimmage Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

It is never too soon to think about the upcoming SEC football season and how difficult it is to compete in the nation's toughest football conference.

A big part of that is scheduling.

Strength of schedule is something ESPN and Commissioner Mike Slive have been concerned about for two years, and something that will change beginning next season, but it isn't easy for some SEC schools to get nonconference opponents who are willing to go on the road and get their heads handed to them.

Scheduling has a lot to do with bowl eligibility, so here is one man's opinion of the SEC's toughest schedules. Keep in mind, the Western Division is tougher than the Eastern Division, but this prediction is based on each entire schedule.

  1. GEORGIA -- The Bulldogs open the season with Clemson, then go to South Carolina after an open date. They also have to go to Missouri. They are the only SEC team with two nonconference opponents (Clemson and Georgia Tech) from the Big Five conferences.

  2. ARKANSAS -- The Razorbacks' schedule includes 10 teams that went to bowls last season. They open the season at Auburn and two weeks later go to Lubbock to play Texas Tech. They come home to host Northern Illinois, which lost its star quarterback but returns a team deep at every skill position. Getting Alabama and LSU at home is not much of a plus. And Arkansas goes to Mississippi State, gets Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas, and closes out on the road at Missouri.

  3. TENNESSEE -- The Vols have a nonconference game at Oklahoma, plus they play at South Carolina, Georgia and Ole Miss. It might be a big rivalry, but Tennessee's home game with Alabama looks like a Crimson Tide road victory.

  4. LSU -- The Tigers open the season in Houston looking for karma against Wisconsin. The rest of their nonconference schedule is a cakewalk, but they do play at Florida, Auburn and Arkansas, which is never a predictable game. Plus, they travel to Texas A&M. All of that without a proven quarterback.

  5. FLORIDA -- The Gators open up with gimmies but will close with Florida State. In between they go to Alabama and Tennessee; they might have had a tougher schedule but they are at Vandy and get LSU at home.

  6. KENTUCKY -- The Wildcats have a rough road to travel. They are at Louisville (where a certain new coach will want to make a statement), LSU, Florida, Missouri and Tennessee.

  7. SOUTH CAROLINA -- The Gamecocks play at defending SEC champion Auburn and Orange Bowl winner Clemson, but they are also at Florida, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

  8. AUBURN -- Last season's surprise team is playing at Kansas State in nonconference and has tough conference road games against Georgia, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Auburn also has to play South Carolina, but at home.

  9. ALABAMA -- Some offensive questions remained unanswered in the spring, but the Crimson Tide will beat some Owls and Eagles easily. They may find a bigger challenge against West Virginia in Atlanta. Road games include Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU.

  10. TEXAS A&M -- The Aggies biggest challenge is finding a replacement for Johnny Manziel. If they do, everything else is copacetic.

  11. OLE MISS -- The Rebels should go 4-0 in nonconference; their toughest road game, by far, is at LSU.

  12. VANDERBILT -- The Commodores are their own biggest challenge, so no game will be easy.

  13. MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The Bulldogs look to be better, plus they have a schedule that has four nonconference victories and only two tough road games, Alabama and LSU.

  14. MISSOURI-- The Tigers lucked into a great SEC schedule with their toughest game at South Carolina.

Sports on 06/22/2014