Clear Your Schedule – SEC, 2013

By Brian Wilmer -
Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia has one of the toughest 2013 SEC schedules. Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

Those of you who are regular readers of the site know that we usually use this space to break down the games taking place around the SEC. With the release of the 2013 SEC football schedule, now is a great time to take a spin around the league and see who has the toughest road ahead next season. Yes, we should probably let the 2012 season end first, but I’m impatient. Join me, won’t you?

(Note: Ratings subject to change as non-conference schedules are finalized. The SEC Championship takes place 12/7/13.)


Program guide: Alabama dodges a bullet — several of them, to be exact — in 2013. Nick Saban takes his team to Atlanta to play in the kickoff classic against Virginia Tech. The only other two non-conference games on the slate are Georgia State and Chattanooga, an FCS team. One opening remains to be scheduled for next season, and another Sun Belt opponent may make sense here.

The toughest road test for the Crimson Tide next year is actually their first game on the road, as Texas A&M awaits in College Station in week two. Alabama will make their first trip to Kyle Field with the Aggies as an SEC member, and it will be fun to watch these two high-powered teams match up. Playing Mississippi State in Starkville may present a challenge, but Kentucky in Lexington and Auburn on the plains for the Iron Bowl look to pose little to no threat. Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU all make the trip to Bryant-Denny during the 2013 campaign. All of these games are compelling, at the least. Still, it would have been nice to see Alabama play South Carolina or Georgia.

Star rating (out of 5):  3 stars (***)


Program guide: The Razorbacks play two games in Little Rock in 2013. One of these is Samford (a top 25 FCS team as of this writing), with the other being an SEC game against Mississippi State. The Arkansas non-conference schedule is complete for next season, with UL Lafayette and Southern Miss making trips to Fayetteville and the Razorbacks returning the trip Rutgers made in 2012. Arkansas essentially does not have an open date for the first two months of the season, so that also bears watching.

Arkansas gets two of their tougher SEC opponents at home (South Carolina and Texas A&M), with another (Mississippi State) in Little Rock. Road games at Florida, Alabama and LSU are murderous, with a trip to Mississippi rounding out the games away from The Natural State. Auburn also makes a trip to Fayetteville to complete the home schedule. The notion of Arkansas starting their SEC schedule 0-4 is a very real one, though they could also set themselves up to go a very long way if they get past those first four games.

Star rating (out of 5):  4.5 stars (****.5)


Program guide: Former Auburn assistant Gus Malzahn gets to bring his Arkansas State team to the plains — assuming, of course, that he and his boss are both still in their current roles when the 2013 season begins. Jacksonville State and Washington State are also set to visit, although dates have yet to be announced. Auburn has one other non-conference opening, and one would imagine it will be a mid-lower level FBS opponent.

Auburn gets two of their tougher opponents in Jordan-Hare, with Georgia and Alabama making trips in November. In an SEC schedule first, Georgia will visit Auburn for the second straight year. The two Mississippi schools will also visit Auburn in 2013. The Tigers travel to Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas, and Tennessee, and they figure to be an underdog in all of those games. It is tough to make a final determination on Auburn’s 2013 outlook with the gap in their non-conference schedule, but the conference schedule appears pretty challenging.

Star rating (out of 5):  3 stars (***)


Program guide: Give Florida some credit. In an era where people often accuse the SEC of scheduling light out of conference, the Gators stepped it up a bit for 2013. Matt Campbell’s high-octane Toledo offense visits The Swamp to start the season, with a trip to in-state opponent Miami the following week. FCS power Georgia Southern and Florida State will also head to Gainesville. Will Muschamp clearly realizes how important recruiting remains in Florida, and games against the Hurricanes and Seminoles help his cause — particularly if his team wins both games.

The Gators don’t get much of a break out of conference either, with roadies to LSU and South Carolina. Kentucky and Missouri complete Florida’s road schedule. Florida will welcome Tennessee, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt for three very winnable home games, with the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party holding its traditional spot on the schedule. There is not much to challenge Florida in Gainesville in SEC play, but the rest of the schedule looks quite compelling.

Star rating (out of 5):  4 stars (****)


Program guide: Wow, Georgia will waste no time hitting the ground running in 2013. Three top-15 opponents (at least, as things currently stand) in the first four could make or break the Bulldogs’ entire season in the first month. Starting the season in Death Valley is no walk in the park. Georgia will also host multiple-time Sun Belt champion North Texas and multiple-time FCS national champion Appalachian State out of conference, while traveling to Grant Field for their annual installment of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.

Though the Bulldogs play South Carolina and LSU in 2013, they at least get them between the hedges. Missouri and Kentucky will also travel to Sanford Stadium. Georgia travels to Tennessee twice, with stops at Vanderbilt and Tennessee. A mid-November trip to Auburn, for the second season in a row, joins the annual game with Florida in Jacksonville to complete Georgia’s group of games. Keep an eye on Mark Richt in the first month of the season, as it could be a blessing or his — and his team’s — complete undoing.

Star rating (out of 5):  5 stars (*****)


Joker Phillips’ Wildcats (assuming, of course, that they are still Joker Phillips’ Wildcats by then) get to open the season at Nashville’s LP Field against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. This is turning into a pretty entertaining little series, with Western having defeated Kentucky 32-31 this year. Kentucky will host Miami (OH), Louisville and Alabama State out of conference next season, and 2-2 or 3-1 would be a solid result.

Kentucky hosts Florida, Alabama, Missouri, and Tennessee in Commonwealth Stadium, with trips to South Carolina, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Georgia. Even though Florida and Alabama are home games for Kentucky, it is tough to envision a scenario in which they win either game. 4-4 in the SEC seems like a dream season, which is tough to swallow for a Kentucky team that had enjoyed — until this year, anyway — a bit of a resurgence.

Star rating (out of 5):  2.5 stars (**.5)


Program guide:  The Tigers open with another big-name, big-dollar kickoff game, as they will face TCU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. TCU has gone from bucking the establishment to being a part of the establishment by joining the Big 12, and LSU could reinforce their assured high preseason ranking with a statement victory against the Horned Frogs. Kent State, UAB, and Furman finish off LSU’s somewhat pedestrian non-conference schedule, all in Baton Rouge.

LSU will welcome Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M, and Arkansas to Baton Rouge inside the conference. The Aggies’ first trip to Baton Rouge will be a marquee matchup. Johnny Manziel trying to take down the stingy LSU defense — hopefully on a Saturday night — would be incredible to watch. Florida is on the rise, and Arkansas appears to be rebounding a bit from their horrendous start. LSU’s road schedule includes some additional outstanding matchups, including trips to Georgia, the two Mississippi schools, and Alabama.  Georgia and Alabama will likely be two of the top five games played in the league in 2013.

Star rating (out of 5):  4 stars (****)

Mississippi State

Program guide: Speaking of high-dollar openers, the Bulldogs start the season with Oklahoma State in Reliant Stadium in Houston. The remainder of the non-SEC opponents are not as impressive, as Alcorn State, Troy, and Bowling Green will appear at Davis-Wade. The Bulldogs only play one SEC game in the first month of the season, making a trip to Auburn. That trip will be the only trip they make until November, when they make back-to-back voyages to South Carolina and Texas A&M.

The only remaining road game in the conference will take place at Arkansas (11/23), while LSU, Kentucky, and Alabama have games scheduled in Starkville. The Bulldogs will also host the 2013 version of the Egg Bowl (11/30). Mississippi State has one of the tougher back-to-back road trips you will ever see in having to go to Williams-Brice and Kyle Field, but a lot of the remaining schedule seems manageable. LSU and Alabama are both home games for Dan Mullen’s team, which is a big help.

Star rating (out of 5):  4 stars (****)


Program guide: Toledo gets to make a second trip to an SEC school, as they play at Faurot Field the first week of September. This game and a trip to Indiana (9/21) highlight the Tigers’ non-conference slate. FCS opponent Murray State will open the season at Faurot Field, with one game still yet to be scheduled.

Missouri travels to Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky, and Ole Miss next season, while Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas A&M will be home opponents. That home schedule looks tremendously tough, but the fact that they get these opponents in Columbia will help. The road trip to Georgia will be a return game for the beating the Bulldogs handed out to the Tigers earlier this year, but most of the rest of the road schedule looks fairly workable for the Tigers.

Star rating (out of 5):  3.5 stars (***.5)

Ole Miss

Program guide: Mississippi gets to start 2013 with a conference foe, as they head to Vanderbilt to kick off the season. Other highlights of the Rebels’ first month include a home game with FCS Southeast Missouri and two daunting road trips to Texas and Alabama. Those two trips are separated by a bye week for the Rebels, but the first month will set the tone in Oxford.

A trip to Auburn immediately follows the week after the Alabama visit, but the only remaining road game (Mississippi State) doesn’t take place for almost another two months. Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas, and Missouri will make the trip to Oxford. The Rebs close out their non-conference schedule with Idaho and Troy at home. The three non-SEC home games look uninspiring, but the trip to Texas trumps that.

Star rating (out of 5):  3.5 stars (***.5)

South Carolina

Program guide: We mentioned earlier that Arkansas had a long run of games to start the season without a break, but take a glance at South Carolina’s slate. They do not have a bye week until November 9. All of the Gamecocks’ SEC road trips (Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri) take place before that date, with the final three taking place on three consecutive weeks in October. A non-conference road game at UCF also awaits the Gamecocks before that break.

North Carolina and South Carolina State will play non-conference games at Williams-Brice, along with the annual Palmetto State battle with Clemson the final week of the season. Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Florida compose their SEC home schedule. Florida aside, this is one of the easier home conference schedules anyone will see in 2013. When you see the tour the Gamecocks will take in October, though, this seems justified.

Star rating (out of 5):  4 stars (****)


Program guide: Tennessee welcomes up-and-comer Western Kentucky to Neyland Stadium next fall, but that is by no means the most interesting non-conference game for the Vols. The third week of the season features a trip to Oregon’s Autzen Stadium. Austin Peay and South Alabama will appear at Neyland Stadium to round out the non-SEC portion of their schedule.

Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn, and Vanderbilt are the Vols’ 2013 home opponents, while trips to Florida, Alabama, Missouri, and Kentucky await Derek Dooley — if he’s still there, of course. Georgia and South Carolina appear tough, but Tennessee has always played the Gamecocks reasonably well in Knoxville. That game with the Gamecocks is also the middle game of a three-game trip for South Carolina, so it may be a possible spot for them to trip up.

Star rating (out of 5):  4 stars (****)

Texas A&M

Program guide: After playing a pretty tough road schedule in their first SEC season, the Aggies get a bit of a break (such as it is) in 2013. The Aggies “only” have to travel to Arkansas, Mississippi, LSU, and Missouri in 2013. Alabama, Auburn, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State will visit Kyle Field. Considering the tradition of Kyle Field, the first-ever SEC visit for Alabama will be one for the record books. If you are an SEC traveler, make your plans for 9/14 right now.

Rice, Sam Houston State, SMU, and New Mexico will all travel to A&M as non-conference opponents. None of those games look particularly tough, but the SMU contest will definitely be interesting. This is the same SMU team that just scored 72 points in a victory against Houston, and these two teams will certainly put on an offensive show.

Star rating (out of 5):  3.5 stars (***.5)


Program guide: Though Vanderbilt has struggled a bit in 2012, they will look to make some gains with their non-conference schedule in 2013. The Commodores will host Austin Peay, UAB, and Wake Forest in Nashville, while they will play UMass at Gillette Stadium. Though Vanderbilt and Wake Forest are familiar foes, each of these games should find Vanderbilt as a favorite.

Vanderbilt will face a quite tough road schedule inside the conference. The Commodores play at South Carolina, Texas A&M, Florida, and Tennessee. Any schedule with Tennessee as the “easy” game will obviously pose a considerable problem. Ole Miss starts the SEC season in Nashville, with Missouri, Georgia, and Kentucky also scheduled as 2013 home games. Vandy should be a large favorite against Kentucky, at the least.

Star rating (out of 5):  4 stars (****)

Brian Wilmer is a contributor to Follow him @sportsmatters.