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 West this fall?
* - neutral site
Non-Con: UTEP, Toledo, Texas Tech, UT Martin
West Home: Auburn, Mississippi St
West Road: Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Texas A&M*
Crossover: at Tennessee, Missouri
How about the toughest road schedule in the SEC: Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee and neutral field against Texas A&M in Arlington. Getting Auburn, Missouri and Mississippi State at home is nice but this SEC slate is brutal. The non-conference slate isn’t overly taxing but still features a Big 12 opponent (who can score points).
Non-Con: Wisconsin, MTSU, ULM, Charleston So.
West Home: Ole Miss, Arkansas, LSU
West Road: Texas A&M, Mississippi St, Auburn
Crossover: at Georgia, Tennessee
Crossover play for Alabama might be the toughest of any team in the West, and Wisconsin could be the best non-conference game in the division as well. With both Auburn and Georgia on the road, battles against the top two challengers to the Tide’s SEC title will come away from home. However, road trips to Texas A&M and Mississippi State could feature the worst two teams in the division. Huge swing games (Ole Miss, Arkansas, LSU) will come at home.
3. Ole Miss
Non-Con: UT Martin, Fresno St, New Mexico St, at Memphis
West Home: Texas A&M, Arkansas, LSU
West Road: Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi St
Crossover: Vanderbilt, at Florida
The non-conference schedule has two tricky, but beatable foes with Memphis and Fresno State on the schedule. Crossover play against Vanderbilt and Florida is, at worst, a split. The road slate in the division is what might keep Ole Miss from winning the West, having to visit Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State. Fans also get two big revenge games with LSU and Arkansas at home this year.
4. Texas A&M
Non-Con: Arizona St*, Ball St, Nevada, W. Carolina
West Home: Mississippi St, Alabama, Auburn
West Road: Ole Miss, LSU, Arkansas*
Crossover: South Carolina, at Vanderbilt
The Aggies-Sun Devils season opener is just awesome — but very difficult. Only having two true road games in the division helps. The best two teams in the league likely have to visit College Station (Alabama, Auburn) and crossover play with the Gamecocks and Commodores is the easiest of any team in the West. Texas A&M will leave the state of Texas just three times all year.
Non-Con: McNeese St, at Syracuse, E. Michigan, W. Kentucky
West Home: Auburn, Arkansas, Texas A&M
West Road: Mississippi State, Alabama, Ole Miss
Crossover: at South Carolina, Florida
The non-conference slate is very manageable and crossover play works in LSU’s favor as well this year with Florida visiting Death Valley. Three road games in the division to Starkville, Tuscaloosa and Oxford, however, keep LSU from having the easiest slate in the West. Add a marquee home schedule with two revenge games (Arkansas, Auburn) and cap it all off with Texas A&M.
Non-Con: Louisville*, Jacksonville St, San Jose St, Idaho
West Home: Mississippi St, Ole Miss, Alabama
West Road: LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M
Crossover: at Kentucky, Georgia
Louisville is a salty start to the season but this year’s Cardinals team doesn't have the look of a vintage Bobby Petrino squad. All four SEC road trips will take place against teams that are all likely picked well behind the Tigers in the preseason standings. The three biggest games of the season (Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia) all take place on The Plains.
7. Mississippi State
Non-Con: at So. Miss, Northwestern St, Troy, La. Tech
West Home: LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss
West Road: Auburn, Texas A&M, Arkansas
Crossover: Kentucky, at Missouri
The non-conference slate will once again offer up four should-be wins for Mississippi State. Crossover play could feature two bottom-half teams in the East. And three of the top four teams in the West will likely have to visit Starkville. There is no schedule that is easy in the West, but State gets the nod here for the purpose of this exercise.