10 Most Intriguing SEC Non-Conference Games of 2019

Texas A&M will travel to the other Death Valley to face the defending national champions

Spring football practice has already begun or will soon begin; meaning spring games are just around the corner for schools across the country. In the SEC, Vanderbilt will get things started with its spring game on March 30 and these will continue throughout the conference through G-Day in Athens on April 20.

 

But while those games don't really count, here's an early look at the most intriguing non-conference matchups involving SEC teams on tap for this fall.

 

10. Tennessee vs. BYU, Sept. 7

The Cougars are coming off of a seven-win season, including a bowl victory, and are set to make a rare visit in SEC country as they come to Knoxville in week two. Volunteer fans would certainly seven wins and a bowl victory in year two under Jeremy Pruitt.

 

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

Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley returns for his senior year and Mack Brown returns to the sidelines at North Carolina. You could do worse than a Carolina border war matchup for the opening weekend of the college football season.

 

8. Mississippi State vs. Kansas State, Sept. 14

The Bulldogs are coming off of an 8-5 season but will enter 2019 having lost QB Nick Fitzgerald as well as a pair of defensive stars (Jeffery Simmons and Montez Sweat) to the NFL. The Wildcats will debut head coach Chris Klieman, who comes from FCS power North Dakota State following the retirement of Bill Snyder. Klieman led the Bison to four national titles over the last five seasons.

 

7. Missouri vs. West Virginia, Sept. 7

Barry Odom has improved his win total in each of his three years at Missouri, including eight in 2018. Drew Lock has graduated but the Tigers are relying on former Clemson QB Kelly Bryant to take control of the offense. Dana Holgerson and Will Grier are no longer with the Mountaineers, but WVU looks to keep things going with Neal Brown, who won 35 games in four seasons at Troy, now in charge.

 

6. Alabama vs. Duke (Atlanta), Aug. 31

Alabama returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a place the Crimson Tide have enjoyed great success. Nick Saban's and company are looking to make a statement early after their poor showing in the national title game loss to Clemson. David Cutcliffe has led his Blue Devils to eight wins or more in four of the past six seasons, including last year, but has several key players to replace, including quarterback Daniel Jones and linebacker Joe Giles-Harris.

 

5. Florida vs. Miami (Orlando, Fla.), Aug. 31

The Gators and Hurricanes face off in the Camping World Kickoff as Dan Mullen has the Gators dreaming of a return to glory similar to the days of Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. The U will be breaking in new head coach Manny Diaz, after the unexpected retirement of Mark Richt.

 

4. Auburn vs. Oregon (Arlington, Texas), Aug. 31

The Ducks and The Tigers meet at AT&T Stadium as Oregon QB Justin Herbert kicks off his senior season leading an Oregon team hungry for a Pac-12 title. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn will look to stave off more hot seat rumors as he breaks in another new quarterback following the departure of Jarrett Stidham.

 

3. Georgia vs. Notre Dame, Sept. 21

Kirby Smart's Bulldogs limped to the finish line last season but should have no trouble getting up for this marquee matchup with the Fighting Irish. Ian Book and Jake Fromm could very well put on a quarterback clinic in this late September showdown between the hedges.

 

2. LSU at Texas, Sept. 7

Ed Orgeron silenced his doubters with a 10-win season in 2018. The Bayou Bengals will be tested very early when they visit Tom Herman, Sam Ehlinger and a Longhorns team eyeing a Big 12 championship and a College Football Playoff berth.

 

1. Texas A&M at Clemson, Sept. 7

Jimbo Fisher may have left the ACC but he hasn't escaped Dabo Swinney. The Aggies almost knocked off the Tigers in College Station last season and have had this date circled on their calendar ever since. But this time the game is on the defending champs' turf and it's now Trevor Lawrence's (and Travis Etienne's) team.

 

— 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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