Skip to main content

SEC Football: Ranking the Toughest Schedules in 2020

SEC Football: Ranking the Toughest Schedules in 2020

SEC Football: Ranking the Toughest Schedules in 2020

Playing in the country's premier college football conference means that your team will undoubtedly face a myriad of tougher opponents compared to most teams across the FBS. Every SEC fan base knows that just comes with the territory, like it or not.

And if the SEC follows in the footsteps of fellow Power 5 brethren the Big Ten, Pac-12, and ACC, then this season will focus primarily, if not solely, on beating up one another. Because of the already announced decisions by those three conferences, several games, such as Alabama's season opener in Arlington, Texas, against USC, have already been removed from the schedule and it's entirely possible that some of the rivalry games with ACC teams are in jeopardy as well.

So with the caveat that we really won't know what this season is going to look like until the SEC's decision-makers make their intentions crystal clear, here are the teams that have the toughest road, as currently laid out, in the 2020 season.

Note: This article was originally published before the SEC announced it would pursue a 10-game, conference-only schedule.

1. South Carolina

Non-Conference: Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Wofford, at Clemson

East Home: Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia

East Road: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt

Crossover: Texas A&M, at LSU

Yes yes, we've seen this before. At this same time last year, in fact. For the second year in a row, the Gamecocks are staring down the toughest overall schedule in the SEC. What put them over the edge this time is the fact that they are scheduled to face preseason No. 1 Clemson and also have crossover games against Texas A&M and LSU. Yikes, that is a scary proposition. And that's not even taking into account the roadie at what should be a very good Florida team and playing UGA at home.

The only potential break for the Gamecocks comes early, and those non-conference games may not even happen. As it stands right now, November spawns a monster. Coming off a four-win season and with plenty of holes to fill, South Carolina is currently looking at a closing stretch of Georgia, at LSU, and at Clemson. Have a box of Band-Aids at the ready.

2. Georgia

Non-Conference: East Tennessee State, ULM, Georgia Tech

East Home: Vanderbilt, Tennessee

East Road: Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky
East Neutral: vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Crossover: at Alabama, Auburn

Like South Carolina above, the Bulldogs' high-ranking here is due to the fact that they have pulled a hyper-tough pair of SEC West Division crossover games, venturing into a volatile Bryant-Denny Stadium in September and also hosting the potentially dangerous Plainsmen in October. You almost can't get worse luck in the scheduling rotation.

That showdown at Alabama could be a precursor to what we'll see in Atlanta at the SEC title game, but it is also a bit early on the slate for what will be a brand new offense that is barely getting its sea legs underneath it. Advantage Tide. But after that, the schedule is more favorable with a pair of scrimmages (UL-Monroe and Vandy) to prepare the Silver Britches for Auburn and Florida in the weeks that follow. And even though it looks like a no-brainer on paper, keep that November trek to Kentucky in mind for a possible trap-door game. If the Wildcats get good quarterback play, they could be prickly.

One thing is for certain. Georgia is guaranteed to have a different season-opening opponent than was originally scheduled as the ACC officially canceled the Bulldogs' matchup with Virginia in Atlanta when the conference announced its modified schedule on Wednesday.

3. Auburn

Non-Conference: Alcorn State, Southern Miss, UMass

West Home: Texas A&M, Arkansas, LSU

West Road: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama

Crossover: Kentucky, at Georgia

The Plainsmen are one of the teams I am going to keep a keen eye on in 2020. They have the unique circumstance of having to replace a ton of starters and key contributors, also having a quarterback (Bo Nix) who was a knock-kneed freshman a year ago who was thrown to the wolves from the first snap, and, on top of that, facing a schedule that could allow them to race out to a 5-0 start when they make the trek to Athens in the second week of October.

So there is time for the Fighting Malzahns to work out the kinks with their newbies on the two-deep before they take on the SEC title-contenders. And that path got a little easier with the ACC canceling the scheduled Sept. 12 game against North Carolina in Atlanta. Auburn's final two games are gear-grinders, as the Tigers will host LSU and go to Alabama in a seven-day span. If they are still in the fight for the West Division, these two games will be titanic tilts. I like their chances better in these two finales since the games are late in the season.

4. LSU

Non-Conference: UTSA, Texas, vs. Rice (Houston), Nicholls State

West Home: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama

West Road: Arkansas, Auburn, Texas A&M

Crossover: at Florida, South Carolina

The Tigers will still be a very high-level team in 2020, and that might play a part in why their schedule might seem a little *easier* than others on this list. I mean, leave it to the Tigers to make a matchup with Texas look like a lock-sure win. Granted, the other three non-conference games will be pretty breezy, if any of them happen. The Rice game will be a de facto home game if fans are allowed, as Tiger fans are eager to fill NRG Stadium, even if it's in the Owls' home town.

The SEC portion will be pretty rigorous, as they will have to travel to a trio of hornet's nests on the road to Auburn, Texas A&M, and the crossover addition of Florida. Most teams would wilt in the eyes of those storms, but this is Coach Orgeron and the Boys. Look for the Tigers to have some bumps this year, but it can still be expected that the Bama game could very well decide the SEC West.

5. Tennessee

Non-Conference: Charlotte, at Oklahoma, Furman, Troy

East Home: Florida, Missouri, Kentucky

East Road: South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt

Crossover: Alabama, at Arkansas

Other than South Carolina above, no other team in the SEC has a more daunting task in non-conference play (that's technically still on the schedule) than the Vols and their early-season game at Oklahoma. Even without a Heisman Trophy heavyweight at quarterback, the Sooners will be the most talented team the Volunteers have played outside the SEC since going to Oregon in 2013.

Unfortunately for the Vols, the Crimson Tide are permanently affixed to their slate no matter what season it is. They can't get away from St. Nick and his Red Elephants no matter what. But the good news is that the Big Orange is ramping up their recruiting and should be more competitive against the SEC's big boys in the years ahead. For now, games like OU, Bama, at Georgia, and vs. Florida will be uphill battles, although beating last year's eight wins is possible.