The defending national champs will play host to Texas in a rematch of last season's barn burner
We are still a few months away from the start of the college football season. However, it is very much upon us with programs around the country set to kick off spring practice over the next couple of weeks. So, with that in mind, now seems like as good a time as any to take a glimpse into the future at some of the more intriguing SEC non-conference matchups for the upcoming season.
The 2020 SEC slate isn't chock-full of must-see games against non-conference foes. But there are certainly some marquee matchups worthy of your attention, particularly during the first two weeks of the season.
10. Arkansas at Notre Dame, Sept. 12
The Razorbacks make their way to South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish for the first time in school history. This may not be a great matchup from a competitive standpoint, but anytime Notre Dame lands on an SEC schedule, people are going to take notice. Adding to the intrigue will be newly appointed Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman facing the first of many big tests next season.
9. Mississippi State at NC State, Sept. 12
This ACC vs. SEC matchup would have been far more compelling a couple of years ago when both teams were at the height of their success. But intrigue remains, as new Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach faces his first real test on the road against Dave Doeren's Wolfpack. It should be interesting to see what "The Pirate" has in store for the Bulldogs' new-look offense against an NC State team looking to bounce back from a down 2019 season.
8. Kentucky at Louisville, Nov. 28
Kentucky dominated in-state foe Louisville last season en route to a 45-13 victory in Lexington. And despite the departure of do-it-all athlete Lynn Bowden Jr., Mark Stoop's Wildcats appear poised for another solid campaign in 2020. Meanwhile, Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield clearly has the Cardinals trending in a positive direction with a potential top 25 team returning for the upcoming season. This year's "Governor's Cup" is shaping up to be a good one, and pride probably won't be the only thing on the line this time around.
7. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 28
This annual end-of-season in-state rivalry has fallen on hard times in recent years. But it didn't take long for Florida head coach Dan Mullen to reverse the Gators' fortunes after arriving in Gainesville. And if new Florida State head coach Mike Norvell can do the same for the Seminoles, one of college football's greatest rivalries could return to prominence sooner than expected.
6. Baylor vs. Ole Miss (Houston), Sept. 5
Lane Kiffin has some work to do to build Ole Miss into a contender, but there is talent in place. The first stop for the "Lane Train" comes in Houston, as the Rebels open the season against a potential top-25 Baylor team led by former LSU defensive coordinator and first-time head coach Dave Aranda. This matchup should not lack for excitement.
5. Virginia vs. Georgia (Atlanta), Sept. 7
Virginia and Georgia will meet for the first time since 2000 in this ACC vs. SEC showdown in Atlanta. Kirby Smart's Bulldogs will lean on a standout defense and Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman at quarterback in hopes of returning to top form in 2020. Virginia will look to build on a historic 2019 season which culminated in an ACC Coastal Division title and a trip to the Orange Bowl. However, there are some question marks for Bronco Mendenhall's Cavaliers heading into the 2020 season, and replacing star quarterback Bryce Perkins will be no easy task.
4. USC vs. Alabama (Arlington, Texas), Sept. 5
It's always intriguing when two historically rich college football programs square off on the gridiron. The Trojans and Crimson Tide certainly fit that bill as they kick off their respective 2020 seasons inside AT&T Stadium. Alabama begins the post-Tua Tagovailoa era reloaded with top-level talent (as per usual). USC returns 17 starters from last year's 8-5 squad, including quarterbacks Kedon Slovis and JT Daniels. Let's just hope this one is more competitive than their 2016 meeting inside "Jerry World," which resulted in a lopsided 52-6 victory for the Crimson Tide.
3. Tennessee at Oklahoma, Sept. 12
Lincoln Riley's Sooners could be slightly vulnerable in the early stages of breaking in a new quarterback to replace Jalen Hurts. And Tennessee appears to be a team on the rise under third-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt after closing out the 2019 season with six straight wins. That being said, it will be a very tall order for the Vols to come away with the upset against the perennial playoff contenders on the road in Norman.
2. North Carolina vs. Auburn (Atlanta), Sept. 12
What's not to like about an early-season ACC vs. SEC clash between potential top-25 teams inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium? Mack Brown has the Tar Heels trending in the right direction and will go in search of a signature win against a potent Auburn team poised to make its usual strong run in 2020. The dominant storyline — a pair of rising sophomore quarterbacks in North Carolina's Sam Howell and Auburn's Bo Nix.
1. Texas at LSU, Sept. 12
Tom Herman's Longhorns took the eventual national champions to the wire last season in Austin before falling short in a 45-38 loss. Texas returns 16 starters from that squad, including quarterback Sam Ehlinger. Ed Orgeron's Tigers have plenty of big shoes to fill — chief among them Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. But there is no shortage of talent in Baton Rouge. And there may not be a tougher atmosphere in college football than Death Valley. This one has the makings of another barn burner.
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.