Let’s get one thing clear right away. There is no such thing as an “easy” schedule in the SEC.
When putting together Athlon Sports' college football preview magazines each year, a huge part of the process is scheduling. Non-conference games, crossovers, home-road splits and timing all play a role in determining order of finish.
And don’t forget that the College Football Playoff Committee made it very clear in its first season that it values scheduling.
So who has the toughest schedule in the SEC East this fall?
* - neutral site
Non-Con: Bowling Green, Oklahoma, W. Carolina, N. Texas
East Home: Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt
East Road: Florida, Kentucky, Mizzou
Crossover: Arkansas, at Alabama
Road trips to Florida, Missouri and Alabama will be downright nasty considering the way the Vols have performed against those programs. Oklahoma, Georgia and Arkansas at home are salty as well. There are three guaranteed wins on this schedule and even Vanderbilt and Kentucky have proven to be tricky for the Big Orange of late.
Non-Con: UL Monroe, Southern, Ga. Southern, at Ga. Tech
East Home: South Carolina, Mizzou, Kentucky
East Road: Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Florida*
Crossover: Alabama, at Auburn
The Dawgs have the toughest crossover schedule in the East with arguably the best two teams from the West on tap. Road trips to Tennessee and Georgia Tech are very tricky as well. But every home division game is very winnable and is why the Vols are No. 1 on this list.
Non-Con: North Carolina*, UCF, Citadel, Clemson
East Home: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida
East Road: Georgia, Mizzou, Tennessee
Crossover: LSU, at Texas A&M
Non-conference tilts with North Carolina and Clemson give the Gamecocks not one, but two tough OOC games. Road trips to Georgia, Mizzou, Tennessee and Texas A&M also figure to make it tough on the Gamecocks' chances of piling up wins away from Williams-Brice. Toss in home games with Florida and LSU and reaching a bowl game starts to look tougher and tougher.
Non-Con: ULL, E. Kentucky, Charlotte, Louisville
East Home: Florida, Mizzou, Tennessee
East Road: South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt
Crossover: Auburn, at Mississippi St
There is one SEC game that Kentucky has a shot to win on the road (Vandy) but the Wildcats have a handful of upset chances at home. Hosting Auburn and facing Mississippi State on the road will be tough in crossover play as will the in-state, rivalry matchup against Louisville.
Non-Con: New Mexico St, East Carolina, FAU, Florida St
East Home: Tennessee, Vandy
East Road: Kentucky, Mizzou, South Carolina, Georgia*
Crossover: Ole Miss, at LSU
The Gators play just two home SEC East games with Georgia in Jacksonville and the road slate in the division isn’t overly difficult either. Crossover dates against Ole Miss and LSU are salty and Florida State at the end of the year is always brutal. But this is a manageable slate for Jim McElwain in his first season in Gainesville.
Non-Con: W. Kentucky, Austin Peay, at MTSU, at Houston
East Home: Georgia, Mizzou, Kentucky
East Road: South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee
Crossover: at Ole Miss, Texas A&M
The Dores have the toughest division schedule as the worst team in the SEC East and crossover features a tough road trip to Oxford. But the non-conference slate isn’t overly difficult at all and getting Missouri, Texas A&M and Kentucky at home offer some chances at wins. And the Dores won their last two trips to Gainesville and Knoxville, for the record.
Non-Con: SEMO, at Arkansas St, UConn, BYU*
East Home: South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee
East Road: Kentucky, Georgia, Vanderbilt
Crossover: Mississippi St, at Arkansas
The non-conference slate is extremely manageable with BYU in Kansas City as the only semi-tough game. Facing Mississippi State and Arkansas could feature two teams in the bottom half of the West in crossover. And getting two easy road SEC East games (Vandy, Kentucky) helps the schedule as well. Three key swing games in the East come at home.