SEC: Ranking the Toughest Non-Conference Schedules in 2019

Texas A&M travels to Death Valley in early September to face the defending national champions

The SEC is the premier conference in college football and has been for quite some time. In 2019, the SEC will have half-a-dozen marquee matchups against out-of-conference foes that have been creating palpable buzz for months.

 

Florida will play Miami and Florida State. Georgia will host Notre Dame. Auburn and Oregon meet in Jerry's palace in Dallas. The LSU Tigers will visit the Texas Longhorns and Jimbo Fisher will return to Death Valley. These are just the top-tier, out-of-league games on the 2019 SEC slate. Here is how all 14 teams rank in respect to their non-conference slates for the upcoming season.

 

1. Texas A&M

Aug. 31 vs. Texas State

Sept. 7 at Clemson

Sept. 14 vs. Lamar

Nov. 2 vs. UTSA 

 

The Aggies will have three layups in non-SEC play in 2019 but a week 2 visit to Death Valley for Jimbo Fisher has vaulted Texas A&M to the top spot for this exercise. Last season, the Aggies gave Clemson all it could handle. Kellen Mond was brilliant. This time around, they meet the defending national champions on the road and are presented a mighty tall task. Slowing down Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne will not be easy.

 

2. LSU

Aug. 31 vs. Georgia Southern

Sept. 7 at Texas

Sept. 14 vs. Northwestern State

Oct. 5 vs. Utah State

 

The Bayou Bengals proved last year that they are primed for a return to being a threat in the SEC West. If Ed Orgeron and LSU want to show they are for real in 2019, week 2 is a great chance to catch the eyes of America as they travel to Austin for a matchup against the Texas Longhorns and their Heisman hopeful, quarterback Sam Ehlinger. 

 

3. Florida

Aug. 24 vs. Miami (Orlando, Fla.)

Sept. 7 vs. Tennessee-Martin

Sept. 28 vs. Towson

Nov. 30 vs. Florida State

 

Dan Mullen and the Gators will not face a team the likes of Texas or Clemson, like LSU and Texas A&M are, but opening the season against Miami on a neutral field and finishing the year with their annual tilt against Florida State is never a game of small stakes. The Gators have the pundits believing that Florida is on the verge of a return to glory. Figuring out a way to come up with bookending victories is a good place to start.

 

4. Auburn

Aug. 31 vs. Oregon (Arlington, Texas)

Sept. 7 vs. Tulane

Sept. 14 vs. Kent State

Nov. 23 vs. Samford

 

Another season and another year of debating whether or not Gus Malzahn is the right guy on the Plains. The Oregon Ducks have their quarterback, Justin Herbert. Mario Cristobal has to feel mighty good about his chances of winning at AT&T Stadium. Does Gus have his quarterback? If the Tigers are going to have a promising year and keep their head coach off the hot seat, a win in August would be a step in the right direction.

 

5. South Carolina

Aug. 31 vs. North Carolina (Charlotte, N.C.)

Sept. 7 vs. Charleston Southern

Nov. 9 vs. Appalachian State

Nov. 30 vs. Clemson

 

Will Muschamp and Jake Bentley will be challenged early and often in 2019. It gets started on the final day of August as Mack Brown makes his return to the sidelines for North Carolina. The non-conference schedule wraps up on the final day of November as the defending national champions invade Williams-Brice Stadium. 

 

6. Georgia

Sept. 7 vs. Murray State

Sept. 14 vs. Arkansas State

Sept. 21 vs. Notre Dame

Nov. 30 at Georgia Tech

 

Jake Fromm and the Dawgs will look for back-to-back wins in Atlanta this fall when they visit the Yellow Jackets and then hopefully represent the East in the SEC Championship Game. But before that, the Bulldogs welcome in Brian Kelly, Ian Book and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame for a week 3 showdown between the hedges in Athens. With Florida nipping at their heels, a win against Notre Dame in September is paramount for Kirby Smart.

 

7. Missouri 

Aug. 31 at Wyoming

Sept. 7 vs. West Virginia

Sept. 14 vs. SE Missouri State

Oct 5 vs. Troy

 

The Tigers have increased their win total under head coach Barry Odom each and every season. If they want to keep that trend going a home victory in week 2 against a Mountaineers team not led by Dana Holgorsen and Will Grier is a must.

 

 

8. Mississippi State

Aug. 31 vs. Louisiana

Sept. 7 vs. Southern Miss

Sept. 14 vs. Kansas State

Nov. 23 vs. Abilene Christian

 

The Bulldogs' non-conference matchups feature Southern Miss from Conference USA and Kansas State from the Big 12. Joe Moorhead's team is probably competing for third place in the SEC West, at best. Defeating the previously mentioned two programs would at least help Mississippi State in terms of bowl seeding within the conference.

 

9. Ole Miss

Aug. 31 at Memphis

Sept. 7 vs. SE Louisiana

Sept. 21 vs. California

Nov. 9 vs. New Mexico State

 

Matt Luke lost a ton of offensive talent from last year's team but has a very manageable out-of-conference slate this fall. A season-opening victory on the road against a Memphis team that has won 18 games over the past two seasons would be a great start. How Ole Miss handles its non-conference games could determine whether the Rebels get back to the postseason or not. 

 

10. Tennessee

Aug. 31 vs. Georgia State

Sept. 7 vs. BYU

Sept. 14 vs. Chattanooga 

Nov. 2 vs. UAB

 

Jeremy Pruitt's goal in year 2 in Knoxville is to get the Volunteers bowl eligible. A manageable non-conference slate should help UT accomplish this goal. BYU will present the lone challenge in non-SEC play, but the Cougars have to make the cross-country trip to Knoxville.

 

11. Alabama

Aug. 31 vs. Duke (Atlanta)

Sept. 7 vs New Mexico State 

Sept. 21 vs. Southern Miss

Nov. 23 vs. Western Carolina

 

Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are no stranger to playing football games in week 1 in Atlanta. This year, Alabama gets David Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils from the ACC. This game would be much more intriguing if Daniel Jones was still at the helm for Duke.

 

12. Vanderbilt

Aug. 31 at Purdue

Sept. 28 vs. Northern Illinois

Oct. 12 vs. UNLV

Nov. 23 vs. ETSU

 

Derek Mason and Vanderbilt return plenty of skill position talent and hope to light up the scoreboard with transfer quarterback Riley Neal running the offense. A week 1 road trip to Big Ten country is never easy and the Boilermakers should be a formidable foe in an intriguing game that Mason and company no doubt have circled. 

 

13. Kentucky

Aug. 31 vs. Toledo

Sept. 7 vs. Eastern Michigan

Nov. 23 vs. Tennessee-Martin

Nov. 30 vs. Louisville

 

Mark Stoops and the Wildcats have a very easy non-conference slate and that's a good thing when you lose talented program-changers like Benny Snell Jr. and Josh Allen. The annual battle with the Cardinals is the only stumbling block away from SEC play, and Louisville is in rebuilding mode under new head coach Scott Satterfield.

 

14. Arkansas 

Aug. 31 vs. Portland State

Sept. 14 vs. Colorado State

Sept. 21 vs. San Jose State

Nov. 9 vs. Western Kentucky

 

If head coach Chad Morris is going to improve upon a 2-10 rookie campaign running the table in non-conference play is a must. All four opponents must come to Fayetteville with Colorado State, who went 3-9 last season, appearing to be the stiffest competition.

 

— Written by Nick Kayal, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as a college football and NFL writer. Nick is a Morning Show Host in Nashville on 102.5 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @NickKayal.

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