Is playing Georgia on the road the same thing as drawing Kentucky at home?
It’s a ridiculous question, right? True, but it’s precisely the difference between two SEC West teams’ cross-division schedules in 2015.
Where Mississippi State draws Kentucky in Starkville and then travels to Missouri, Alabama will hit the road to play Georgia between the hedges and then hosts Tennessee in Tuscaloosa.
So, while both teams are in the same conference and the same division, their SEC schedules aren’t necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison.
Remember that SEC teams have “permanent cross-division rivals”, opponents they will play each and every season. So in reality, teams only get one opponent from the other division on a rotating basis.
Here’s a look at the SEC cross-division opponents from the easiest to most difficult, both for the West and the East. It’s another lesson in how all schedules are not created equal and therefore, one team’s 8-5 record is not the same as another’s 8-5 finish.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: Kentucky
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: at Missouri
The Bulldogs scored big by landing Kentucky as their permanent dance partner from the East, beating the Wildcats six straight and seven out of the last eight tries.
Mississippi State will travel to Columbia to face Mizzou this season, where it’s only visited once previously, in 1984, losing 47-30. The Tigers are 14-4 in SEC play since 2013, but curiously both of their regular-season losses have come at home.
6. Texas A&M
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: South Carolina
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: at Vanderbilt
The Gamecocks will be looking for revenge when they show up in College Station for the first time in history, the memory of the 52-28 beat down from last season still raw and festering.
Though we don’t know whether 7-6 South Carolina from 2014 or the 11-2 version from the year before will turn up, it’s safe to say that Texas A&M should be able to handle a Vanderbilt team that is fresh off a 3-9 finish.
5. Ole Miss
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: Vanderbilt
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: at Florida
The other lottery winner from the West in cross-division partners, Ole Miss gets Vandy every year, a team it’s won two straight against, scoring a 41-3 thrashing last season in Nashville.
Things get dicier with Florida on the road. The Gators may have slid to a 7-5 finish in 2014, but they have a new coach and as much talent as any team in the country. The Rebels have won two straight in the Swamp (2003 and 2008), but before that hadn’t won there since 1989.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: Georgia
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: at Kentucky
In 2015, Auburn has a best-case scenario in its cross-division slate, combining its difficult permanent fixture with Georgia, arguably the best team from the East, with Kentucky, arguably the weakest.
The Tigers have only fallen to the Wildcats once in the last 17 years, a 21-14 loss in 2009 in Auburn. They haven’t lost in Lexington since 1966.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: Missouri
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: at Tennessee
Though Mizzou/Tennessee might not look like a knock-out punch, at 18-9 the two hooked up for the best combined record of any duo from the East in 2014.
Add in that Arkansas’ back-to-back wins over LSU and Ole Miss last season where it’s first SEC victories since 2012 and you get the picture: These games won’t be a picnic for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas hasn’t faced Missouri since losing the 2008 Cotton Bowl, it hasn’t played a regular-season game vs. the Tigers since 1963. The Hogs haven’t squared off with Tennessee since 2011 and have dropped six straight in Knoxville, last winning there in 1992.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: Tennessee
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: at Georgia
For now, it seems like Alabama has dodged a bullet by drawing Tennessee as its permanent fixture from the East. But if the Vols continue to improve under Butch Jones, posting a bowl-eligible record in 2014 for the first time since 2009, all bets are off.
The Crimson Tide have won eight straight vs. Tennessee, last falling in 2006 in Knoxville and last losing in Tuscaloosa in 2003.
Alabama hasn’t met Georgia in the regular season since 2008, a game it won 41-30 in Athens.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: Florida
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: at South Carolina
Other than Auburn who meets Georgia annually, the other West school which will continue to work against a stacked deck is LSU, forced to face Florida on a year-in, year-out basis.
The Tigers have won four of the last five vs. the Gators, but again, Florida is one of the most dangerous teams in the country.
Add in a road trip to South Carolina, and it’s a lethal combination.
The good news is, LSU hasn’t fallen to the Gamecocks since 1994, one of only two all-time losses. It’s worth mentioning that the last two games, in 2008 and 2012, where decided by a total of nine points.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: at Arkansas
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: Mississippi State
Even though Arkansas looks to be an up-and-coming program, it’s still been the weakest link in the West for several seasons running. That, for now, gives Mizzou what’s technically the easiest permanent fixture.
The Tigers have never lost to Mississippi State, but the two teams have only met twice previously, in 1981 and 1984.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: at Ole Miss
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: Texas A&M
The SEC West is arguably the toughest division in all of college football, meaning that after the Arkansas-Mississippi State combo that Missouri drew, it’s splitting hairs ranking the next six slates.
Vandy’s permanent foe from the West is Ole Miss, a team it’s lost two straight to, but before that scored three consecutive victories. Though the Rebels won’t be easy, it’s certainly not Alabama or LSU.
In 2015, the Commodores get Texas A&M in the rotation, a school it’s only faced once in history, a 56-24 loss in 2013. Again, though the Aggies aren’t anywhere near a pushover, it’s also not like squaring off with Nick Saban and friends.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: at Texas A&M
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: LSU
The reason South Carolina’s cross-over slate is rated one step below Florida’s is twofold. First, they get Texas A&M instead of Ole Miss. Yes, the Aggies did embarrass the Gamecocks last season, but on paper the 9-4 Rebels were one game better than 8-5 A&M was in 2014. Plus, this year’s game is in late October, so don’t look for an early-season surprise.
Next up, South Carolina gets LSU, the common opponent between the two schools, at home in Columbia as opposed to in Baton Rouge.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: at LSU
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: Ole Miss
Florida’s attempt to return to national prominence under new head coach Jim McElwain will be hampered by its permanent status with LSU, a team it’s dropped two straight to and four of the last five.
Other than that in 2015 its Ole Miss, a squad the Gators have surprisingly lost three of the last four to. That said, keep in mind that they’ve not met since 2008.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: at Alabama
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: Arkansas
Despite drawing Arkansas in its rotation game, Tennessee earns the No. 3 slot in the East by virtue of its road trip to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama, a team it has lost eight straight to. The last time the Vols won on the road vs. the Crimson Tide was 2003.
Tennessee is another team whose attempts to right the ship will be seriously hamstringed by the concept of a permanent cross-division rival, a foe that in this case just so happens to be Alabama.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: at Mississippi State
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: Auburn
Can Mark Stoops get Kentucky to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010? Well, it’s a job that will more difficult with a road trip to Mississippi State and a home match with Auburn.
The Wildcats have lost six straight to the Bulldogs, last winning in 2008 in Starkville. As for Auburn, Kentucky did beat the Tigers as recently as 2009, but that was the sole win in almost 50 years. The Wildcats are 1-16 vs. Auburn since 1967.
Permanent Cross-Division Rival: at Auburn
Additional 2015 Cross-Division Game: Alabama
If Georgia makes it back to the SEC title game for the first time since 2012, it will likely have to knock off both Auburn and Alabama.
The Bulldogs are 3-2 vs. the Tigers since 2010 and won in Auburn as recently as 2012. Georgia hasn’t faced Alabama in the regular season since 2008 and haven’t scored a win at home vs. the Tide since 2007.
No matter how you slice it, at 20-7, the Bulldogs won’t only play the two cross-division teams with the best record of any team in the East, they’ll play the best duo in the entire SEC.
Amy Daughters is a contributor to FBSchedules.com.